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visiting San Francisco...

So, I have a question for the ol' flist out there...

In less than a week, I'll be visiting San Francisco for a couple of days. (Almost literally.) I've been consulting guidebooks, and I have a guide while there, but the trouble of course is that it would be very easy to spend a week or two in San Francisco, let alone a little over 48 hours. So I need to narrow things down.

That's why I want to ask: if you have ever been to San Fran, what were your favorite things to see/do there? What are your top recommendations for "don't miss this, if you have a limited amount of time"? (Fantastic eating options also a plus.)

I realize I'll probably still end up with a longer list than I can manage, and I'm okay with that. I think it'd be nice to have a range of options that I can choose from according to my mood.

So hit me with your best thoughts, flist!



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 19th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)
Ghirardelli Square. :D

There is also a nice little aquarium on the wharf, within walking distance of Ghirardelli.
Aug. 19th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
It really depends on what you're into, where you're staying, and how you plan on getting around! XD There is SO MUCH to see and do in San Francisco. Here is what I'd recommend:

* Fisherman's Wharf, to include Ghirardelli Square. Easy to get to via cable car or the vintage F-Market streetcars. Lots of good eating, entertaining kitsch, small aquarium and I believe a museum, lovely views of the Bay and the Marin Headlands.

* Japantown. Take the 38-Geary bus to get there (they run frequently and have stops all along Market Street downtown). Lots of shops and delicious foods, all decidedly Japanese.

* Just wander around Downtown and South of Market. San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the country, and there's something cool or interesting or funky or delicious down almost every street.

* Or wander around the Castro District. Easy to get to via the F-Market streetcars. Lots of shops and eateries, lovely houses, awesome vibe. ^_^

* Or wander around the Haight. The 7-Haight bus gets you there. Still a lot of the old flavour of Haight-Ashbury there, despite the influx of chain stores like Gap (*twitch*). Lovely old Victorian houses, quirky shops, some really good cheap eats.

* Golden Gate Park, to include Ocean Beach. Check MUNI's website for public transit there, I can't remember which buses go there. XD Gorgeous trees, the new deYoung Museum, the Museum of Science, the Japanese Tea Garden, the Dutch Windmill, and on the far end you can cross the Great Highway and dip your toes in the Pacific Ocean. ^_^

Choose your preferences, of course -- these are just a few of the things I've enjoyed about San Francisco, both living there and visiting. ^_^
Aug. 19th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Were I visiting, I would take an afternoon to wander downtown and eat from the street vendors in Chinatown. Or maybe have dim sum. Thence to Fisherman's Wharf for views of Alcatraz and Ghiradelli chocolate, etc. You have the opportunity to ride streetcars somewhere from there too.

It's probably requisite to check out the Golden Gate bridge from the park, though Cofax took Kres and I to an awesome viewpoint on the other side of the bridge, in what I want to say was Marin Headlands State Park? Or something?

Take a sweater! Or, if it's a nice day, take a blanket and some cheese and sourdough bread. Yeah.
Aug. 19th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Food wise, if you like garlic, hie thee to the Stinking Rose. G was most disappointed, on telling me of this garlic restaurant he knew of in SF, to learn that I'd already eaten there - he topped me on his visit by going for the icecream - I'd stuck to the first two courses.

See about walking tours and yes, definitely, take a ride on a cable car.
Aug. 20th, 2010 01:52 am (UTC)
I've been to SF a few times and I really enjoy a ramble down super-alternative Valencia Street, from where it meets Market Street. Home of Good Vibrations, Osento all-women's bathhouse (which is fantastic and fastidious), a pirate store, all kinds of fun boutiques. Some great restaurants and an organic ice-cream place (Bi-Rite Dairy) are nearby. It's a pleasant 2 hours and you wind up in the Mission.

Edited at 2010-08-20 01:52 am (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
Unfortunately Osento closed. :-( But Valencia is still very groovy!
Aug. 20th, 2010 03:30 am (UTC)
Fisherman's Wharf is heavily touristy (i.e. residents don't go there much because of all the frakkin tourists ;) so I don't really place it high on the list, except the Musee Mecanique is now there and that's a Must See. Bring quarters. Be sure to put your hand in the fortune teller face that looks like it's from "Roman Holiday." It's an evil fortune that tells you all the bad stuff that will happen. Also look for the TWO different mechanical executions!

There is a nice view of the bridge from the park near Fisherman's Wharf. Also you get a chance to ride a cable car to get there.

ETA: Take pictures of Alcatraz, but unless you're hard core into the history of the place, the tour is not worth it. Time consuming and not especially impressive unless you're an Alcatraz buff.

If you have a car I would say driving over the Golden Gate to the overlook on the north end is a must, especially at night. Also if you either have a car or want to explore Golden Gate park, the Cliff House is on the water at the end of the park. Slightly pricey, but we used to go there for drinks and watch the sunset (and if we were lucky surfer boys changing along the side of the road). The Musee Mecanique used to be there, which was why we always took visitors out there.

If you're into diner food, Mel's is a must. There are a number of them around the city, some in better shape than others.

I found Haight Ashbury incredibly depressing. The intersection now features a Gap store. It's trendy yuppie more than anything now. Japantown and Chinatown however are worth a visit. Downtown SF (in the business district) is much like many other major cities. If you can get a glimpse of the Opera House, though, it's worth seeing, as is Lombard Street.

Lastly Coit Tower is interesting, but not the easiest place to get to.

Edited at 2010-08-20 03:31 am (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
Call Osento the awesome women's bathhouse and see if they're still open. Hippie luxury.
Aug. 20th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
I second Musee Mecanique, if you're going to Fisherman's Wharf (also adding that Fisherman's Wharf is very touristy -- t-shirt shops everywhere -- so I don't find it very charming).

Tour of Alcatraz. Or at least the ferry ride to Alcatraz. The ferry ride isn't hugely long, and it's a great way to see the bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, etc. IIRC, you can get the ferries from Fisherman's Wharf. I liked the tour of Alcatraz, too. Lots of historical stuff I had no idea about (and there is/was a really pretty garden there). And you get great views of San Francisco from Alcatraz.

Golden Gate Park is a must-see in my book. The only warning here is everything to go inside (tea garden, museums, conservatory) costs $$ and the prices can be a little steep. But the park outside of those things has lots going for it, too. My rec is to check out the website, check out the admission fees, pick one that's up your alley and zero in on that, then wander around in the park for free.

I like Coit Tower because it's a small cool tower with great views (esp. if the air is clear). And Depression-era murals inside (I can't remember if they're WPA or just from the same era). I prefer getting there by bus because the line of cars waiting for the tiny number of parking spaces is pretty awful. By bus you also get some exercise, because you walk up the hill. *g*

I don't make it up to the city often enough to be current with the food situation, but there are great restaurants everywhere, so it shouldn't be hard to find one. When I met a friend in SF recently, I found some good restaurant tips in the Michelin guide.

I'm going to echo miera_c about the Haight. It's kind of like the current Kenmore Square: a plain old shopping street with chain stores. If you only have a couple of days, I say skip it.
Aug. 20th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
There are a lot of things to do in SF. I'm out there once a year, so pretty much have seen them all. Here are two cool things off the beaten track

* The Columbarium. It has to be seen to be believed. Over a 100 years ago, when the city dug up and moved all the bodies in the cemeteries to make more room for the expanding city, they built a massive mausoleum memorial where the graveyard was. This memorial is still active and people's ashes are kept there. It's open to the public and north of Golden Gate Park.


Kelly has some fantastic photos of the place:


*Smuggler's Cove. This is San Francisco's newest tiki bar and it's incredible. Very close to the corner of Gough and McCallister.


Again, Kelly has some photos:


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )