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What To Do & See in San Francisco and Area.

(41 Posts)
suedonim Sat 16-Jun-07 22:38:15

I'm hoping the American based MN nightcrew will see this and give me the lowdown on the 'must-do's' in SF and wider area, as dh has a hankering to go there this August.

I've spent a w/end in SF so have seen a little bit of it but I want to know what to do if spending two weeks in Northern Ca. So, over to you!

triplets Sat 16-Jun-07 22:55:07

Go over to Sausalito and up the coast, stunning scenery. Go inl and to wine country, stay in Sonoma, fab place, stay in Calistoga, great place for relaxing, spa treaments, also brill to hire a bike and cycle the Silverado trail and call at the wineries for a little tasting, the Mumm champagne one is great. We are flying into San Fran on the 26th July and touring for 4 weeks! This will be our fourth trip and just love it all!

foxinsocks Sat 16-Jun-07 22:56:27

I've never been but was watching House on Telegraph Hill on Film4 this afternoon - has fab old pics of San Fran in it (if you're interested)!

BigGitDad Sat 16-Jun-07 23:10:30

Yosemite 4 hrs drive away, heaven on earth. Whitewater rafting is aplenty near SF.
The old gold mining towns are excellent.
A good book to get is 'Moons' guide to California, a brilliant travel book.
Additionally eat here Just make sure you get here at 8am or you will be queueing a long time.
Walk up to Coits tower from the Quay side, you walk past loads of beautiful houses up god knows how many steps.
Alcatraz a must, as is the Tram ride.
One of my favourite cities.

triplets Sat 16-Jun-07 23:15:43

How long has Coits tower been there? Don`t remember it from the 90`s? We are staying on Columbus St and have a room with a view of the tower! Tell me more please!

suedonim Sat 16-Jun-07 23:24:22

Great stuff, thanks! We won't be taking the biking option as two out of the three of us can't ride a bike. The wineries sound v appealing.....

I don't think I know that film, FIS, but I do like old SF. The one time I've been there I was lucky enough to stay with friends who showed me all the bits off the beaten track, gorgeous old houses etc. They live in a v old house themsleves though it's been modernised so they have a lift from their garage that goes to every floor of their house! Only in America....

suedonim Sat 16-Jun-07 23:34:01

I've done Coit's Tower but didn't do Alcatraz last time but I expect dh would want to see it. I was certain I was going to an exciting death (to quote Bill Bryson) on the tram but loved it. I made ds1 drive that bendy curvey road with the hedges twice, that was such fun!

Do people to book a package deal or can you just book a couple of nights somewhere to begin with and then go with the flow? We want to meet up with ds1 at some point.

Tbh, I ought to be posting this in the AIBU section as I'm not that keen to go. Because we're expats we seem to spend a lot of time on planes and I don't know if I can face yet another long flight.

BigGitDad Sat 16-Jun-07 23:39:43 t_tower.html
It's been there blardy years!! Good views of the city at the top.
Castro is a place to go, if you are not homophobic. It is a real eye opener, it is next to an area called The Mission which has lovely Spanish Architecture in the churches and other buildings.
Also worth going to Lombard Street
I think here is some fantastic views of the city
The book is Moon's Northern California, just checked my copy!

suedonim Sat 16-Jun-07 23:48:18

BGD, I just looked at the Mama's link and I've been there! I didn't know what it was called but instantly recognised it, lol.

If we decide to go to SF I'll look for that book when we get back to the UK in July.

BigGitDad Sat 16-Jun-07 23:51:14

We always booked out flights and hotels ourselves and found we could get better deals. You can if you wish drive you car to one place and leave it somewhere else as long as it in California. We used Holiday Autos who were very competitive.
If you go to Yosemite go to Mariposa Grove where the redwoods are, stunning trees. Glacier Point Angel point is not too far and is stunning

RosaLuxembourg Sat 16-Jun-07 23:55:25

In San Francisco itself the Exploratorium is fab - funky science museum and further down the coast do not miss Monterey Aquarium - just amazing.
Alcatraz certainly worth doing, and Sausolito.

BigGitDad Sat 16-Jun-07 23:57:10

The book covers Northern California so if you have two weeks it will give you plenty of info. I have travelled aroung the USA alot and swear by these books as they cover so much. Usually there is a book for each state if you see what I mean, and they list almost every town, places to see, eat and stay.
Hope you have a great time, you can do so much in two weeks.

elkiedee Sun 17-Jun-07 00:10:23

suedonim, is the 3 of you you, dh and a child? What age? I have spent several weeks in San Francisco, usually a week there combined with a week somewhere else. I hope to get back there soon and find out what it's like with a new baby.

You should be able to book somewhere to stay at fairly short notice, I first booked into a Travelodge branch with a few days' notice but have returned there regularly with much more advance booking. I would assume though that August will be more expensive than September and February/March, so would have a look sooner rather than later.

Particularly at the moment, if you book direct with hotels/chains online you'll probably save money because of the exchange rate between pound and dollar (assuming pounds are what your income is in). You'll also gain flexibility, if you change your mind about what you're doing you can cancel direct bookings up to as much as 24 hours without financial penalty.

I use tripadvisor to get some sort of picture of where I'm booking, there are always people who hate places I've found acceptable but I've always preferred to spend money buying books than on luxury accommodation. tripadvisor also has city forums including a lively one on San Francisco with lots of info.

If you have two weeks, I'd recommend considering a day or two in Monterey, about 150 miles south of SF. It's a small coastal town, you can walk around and look at seals and other wildlife, go for meals out etc, there's an aquarium just up the road, or there's nearby Carmel which is touristy though I found it kitsch and preferred both central touristy Monterey and the more residential part of town with its secondhand bookshops, the town just made both dp and myself feel quite relaxed. Neither of us drive, and you could get there by a shared airport shuttle for about $20 per person in Sept 2005 (quite reasonable imo) and get around the immediate area by public transport.

Back im SF, there are touristy ferries and ordinary ferries that you can use to visit other towns across the bay.

I quite like just wandering round the different areas of SF - we've been to some of the tourist attractions but never made it to others and only once gone to some.

suedonim Sun 17-Jun-07 16:52:07

Elkiedee, it would be dh and me and 11yo dd going on the trip. All you mention sounds great esp that you did it all on public transport. I had assumed driving was a necessity but obviously not!

We're not fussed about posh hotels, we're happy with a Travelodge style place as long as it's clean and comfy.

What's the weather like in August? I don't really do heat (It makes me complain a lot! ) and because we currently live in the tropics I don't really want to be boiled on my holiday as well.

RosaLuxembourg Sun 17-Jun-07 17:38:25

Weather in August is not always that hot, especially on the Peninsula. I have been there in August and needed a jumper.
If you have an 11-year-old, as well as the Exploratorium you need to go visit the waterfront - lots of tourist tat down there but there are some old sailing ships you can go round that are really interesting (and kids love the tourist tat anyway).

francagoestohollywood Sun 17-Jun-07 17:55:23

I went with dh for 5 days before Easter. It was cold! I second Sausalito, it's gorgeous. And food food food. There's an amazing farmer's market every saturday at the ferry building .

francagoestohollywood Sun 17-Jun-07 17:59:14

fantastic brunch . Expect long queues though

Alibobster Sun 17-Jun-07 20:31:59

Suedonim, SF is my favourite place on earth, I'm very envious. Things worth doing: alcatraz (although book tickets on net before you go as you'll probably find it's fully booked when you get there. Do the audio tour), trip to saulsalito, Ghiradelli square for fantastic chocolate sundaes, motorised cable car tour, boat tour around the bay, fisherman's wharf. Lots of good shops too. A couple of places I can recommend for eating are Max's and The Daily Grill. They're almost across the road fom each other on Geary Street, which is only 2 minutes from Union Square. For some good fun go to Lefty O'Douls piano bar

Mrbatters Sun 17-Jun-07 21:22:09

Agree that public transport is fab in San Francisco. The trams are really fun . Alcatraz a must - it's a national park (I hadn't realised that), and the surroundings are breath taking. We bought our tickets in person about 2 days before.

We did a London open top bus tour (!) which was really good fun, as we had less than a week there so really had a lot to do in not much time.

Fisherman's Wharf sort of like a Covent Garden by the sea. We went there a lot. Loads to do and see and eat and shop.

Really enjoyed the city. But the flight did for us - 12 hours I think .

elkiedee Mon 18-Jun-07 11:24:36

If you're not bothered about posh the motel strip on Lombard Street is imo a good place to stay, fairly safe but better prices than Union Square, and lots of buses that will whizz you to Union Square/BART links/ Fisherman's Wharf/North Beach/all the areas with interesting independent shopping and neighbourhood cafes. Our usual Travelodge is near the corner of Lombard with Van Ness

When we were last there I was about 10 weeks pregnant and feeling quite tired and sick most of the time so pacing ourselves and stopping for food which helped alleviate morning sickness were important, and I had to prioritise my favourite places. We ate in Chinese restaurants a lot, but you can get a wide variety of food - including a range of styles of burger bars and diners, Italian food (particularly in North Beach), Mexican and other Hispanic (the Mission district, a rougher less touristy area but one I'm always drawn back to)

I'm a moochy tourist and serious bookworm who is often more interested in visiting the local thrift stores and secondhand shops in a city than the conventional tourist attractions. Though I do like the SF Museum of Modern Art - don't know how your dd is about museums and galleries as I can imagine that I would have liked it then but not every 11 year old would.

I dislike really hot weather and SF tends to be a lot more reasonable than most places, I don't know about August but in early Sept 2005 we travelled from heatwave Chicago to Monterey which was quite cool and SF was warmer than Monterey but nothing like Chicago.

suedonim Mon 18-Jun-07 16:32:50

Loads of info, this is fab, thank you. I'm especially pleased about the weather. It was chilly in early November, we needed gloves.

I'm still not convinced I want to travel all that way at the moment but you're tempting me, hehe! I'll report back if we decide to make the trip; it is dependent on ds1 being able to fit us into his busy schedule, anyway.

triplets Mon 18-Jun-07 19:56:23

5 weeks until we go, yippee! We are staying the first 2 nights at the Columbus Inn Motel on Columbus Ave, got very good reviews on Tripadviser, got free parking too!

radcliffe Mon 18-Jun-07 20:01:55

We liked Muir Woods just outside SF, full of giant redwoods. Also if you drive down the coast a bit there is a state park on the beach where there are loads of elephant sea lions which is something to see. Sorry can't remember the name of the park.

Califrau Mon 18-Jun-07 20:08:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Califrau Mon 18-Jun-07 20:12:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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