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Tell me about San Francisco

We're tossing around the idea of doing a weeklong trip to San Francisco sometime this summer. It's just me and MH and we've never been to the West Coast. What are your favorite SF-area things to do? 

Stuff we like: MH likes craft breweries and particularly wants to visit Russian River, which is about an hour north of SF. We're not hikers but we like to walk around city neighborhoods. Interesting, casual places to eat would be nice. We're very local to New York City so we'll be skipping stuff that's "generic big-city stuff" (theater and museums that aren't super-specific to the location, etc.)

We would like to fly into San Francisco, explore the city for a few days, then rent a car and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and then fly home from another airport. Our home airport is Newark, NJ. 

MH also really wants to see the giant sequoia trees ... I looked on the map and it's a five-hour drive on Rt. 99 East. Is there anything else on the way that's worth seeing, so that we could make it a one-day side trip?

Thanks for any input!

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Re: Tell me about San Francisco

  • We went to Sf last year. We loved Alcatraz.  There is a park just passed the Golden Gate bridge that has big trees too.  Only 20 min out of SF 

    There is a huge park  golden gate park and it is lovely.  We rented bikes. And we legt the park and went to the Ashbury and Haight area ..birth of flower power (approx) big record store there.  Famous record store. 

    We drove south along the coastal highway to Monterey. Gorgeous highway drive.

     

  • My parents did a brewery tour recently and loved it. They drive you all around so you can really taste everything.

     http://www.bayareabrewerytours.com/

    Also, 21st Amendment brewery has a great brew pub and off the menu beer tasting. 

    I'd go to Muir Woods instead of to see the sequoias, it's much closer and really pretty. 

  • Muir Woods is great, it was dh's favorite part of our trip.  We rented a car for one day and toured the Jelly Belly Factory (don't judge, I loved it), and then went to Muir Woods on the way back.  We stayed in the city the rest of the time, but we just did a weekend trip.

    We did a tour of the city, nighttime Alcatraz tour, explored the wharf and North Beach neighborhoods.  Went to the farmer's market at the Ferry Building (Cowgirl Creamery has AMAZING cheeses).  

    our best meal was probably at Slanted Door.   

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    Gretchen Evie, born 7/8/2012 at 35w5d
  • DH and I did a trip from Portland down to San Fran, along the coast, it was great.  We stopped in a new place every night, and hit Sonoma for a few days toward the end. It was great.  Avoid the Winchester house.  I saw a show on it, and insisted on going, it was by far the low point of the trip.  

    We are going to just San Fran in July again.  We have both been there a number of times, I have relatives there, and DH has done work there, so hit most of the tourist stuff, but I look forward to seeing others suggestions for places to visit.  I can't wait to take DD on the ferry boat to Sausalito and go to the Presidio.

  • I pretty much just ate (in my defense I was there for work). I ate at Cafe Claude, Scoma, Slanted Door, Boulevard, Sons and Daughters, and multiple places in the ferry building. I didn't eat anything bad, and my best meals were boulevard and Soms and Daughters. 
    Emma - March '08 Quinn - August '11
    Need help with high fat food ideas? Chunky Monkey
  • Ditto Muir woods and Alcatraz! 

    Id do 4 nts in SF, 3 nights in wine country. That's really plenty for both. Sausalito is a nice lunch trip. For restaurants I loved Chaya and Michael Mina, and Mustards in Napa.  

  •  

     If you like to walk and explore shops in different neighborhoods some great areas are 

     

    Haight Street, still has a slightly hippy vibe, with cool retro t shirt and consignment shops, Amoeba records is cool to check out (there is a restaurant called Cha Cha Cha that is great cuban inspired tapas that is fun and casual, but delicious. 

     

    Cow Hollow/Marina Higher  end "boutiquey" shopping and some good restaurants. (A16 is delicious)

     

    China Town is great to walk around as well. 

     

    If you want casual and beer, try Park (or beach)  Chalet. They are in the same building one upstairs, one down stairs. They brew their own beer, and the building  is historic and has a mini museum about golden gate park in it. There is also the remains of the Sutro baths which is really interesting to see.

     Also take a stroll around the ferry building there is great little (main food) shops there and you can walk along the embarcadero, which is really fun. It also contains Slanted Door restaurant, which is really delicious.

    I think even if it's touristy you MUST go to Alcatraz. It really is interesting. 

     

    I'd also just spend some time in Golden Gate park. There is a lot to see and do there as well. Academy of Sciences is really cool ( I know you said no museums, but this one is totally different than anything you've seen before) They also do (not sure if they are still doing it) Night life there where they open it to adults only and have music and cocktails all evening.

     

     

    I second Amelia on going to Muir woods instead of driving to the sequoias, especially if you are trying to get to Russian River as well. 

     

    I have a lot more places to eat, but need more specifics on what you'd want. :) 
     

    IMG_1373 Cool Winston
  • Thanks very much! Great suggestions. That's fantastic that Muir Woods is so close :)

    MH really liked the brewery tour link. 

    image CarFar:
    I have a lot more places to eat, but need more specifics on what you'd want. :)  

    We're not very picky. Offhand, the only thing that really doesn't interest us is seafood ... I mean, we'll eat a cup of chowder, crab cakes, or some calamari or other small appetizer-y things like that, but we really have no desire for a big fish dinner, KWIM?

    A "nice restaurant" to us is maybe $100 for the two of us, and that'd be maybe 2-3 times tops on a week-long vacation for us, but if there's something absolutely fantastic we'd be willing to spend up to $200 total for a one-time nice meal. Not super-fancy places, though. Somewhere where MH could just wear nice jeans and a polo shirt.

    Typically, though, we try to find quirky and unique places when we're in other cities ... hot dogs, burgers, diners, ethnic foods, city-specific foods (sourdough?). Think "Diners Drive-Ins and Drives" types of places.

    image
  • The Alcatraz night tour is my favorite touristy thing I have ever done anywhere. I  highly recommend it.

     

    Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing...Harper Lee
  • image LibGrl:

    The Alcatraz night tour is my favorite touristy thing I have ever done anywhere. I  highly recommend it.

     

    I enjoyed it until i went upstairs to see the hospital ward, then I was freaking the eff out and wanted OFF THAT ISLAND.   

    image
    Gretchen Evie, born 7/8/2012 at 35w5d
  • You will love Cha Cha Cha ! I totally recommend it for what you describe. 

    Boulevard and sons and daughters ( mentioned by pp) are both really really good, but more pricey Ryan what you are looking for. 

     

    Also Straw is delish. "carnival food with a twisty" it's totally quirky and fun.

    Don't remember the pricing but Epic roast house is also good. 

    You can have a drink at the top of the mark in the Mark Hopkins. 

    If you do wander to the embarcadero, pier 23 has great casual seating on the pier and yummy bar food. 

    IMG_1373 Cool Winston
  • Drive down to Santa Cruz and take surfing lessons!!!  SO fun!  
  • If your H likes beer, you have to hit the Toronado in the Haight!!!
  • Maybe one of the locals knows the name - but a coworker mentioned that he went to a tasting room (beer) right by our hotel (Hyatt embarcadero) that had awesome flights of beer and good food. 
    Emma - March '08 Quinn - August '11
    Need help with high fat food ideas? Chunky Monkey
  • Ditto CarFar that Alcatraz is definitely worth doing, even if you don't like touristy stuff.  You need to make reservations far in advance, so as soon as you know when you are coming, you should book it.  I recommend the night tour.

    I also really love the sea lions at Pier 39, as touristy as they are, I think they are awesome.

    Russian River Brewing Company is amazing.  There are wineries in the Santa Rosa area if you are interested.  Santa Rosa is also close to downtown Healdsburg, and the Bear Republic Brewing Company is there (they make Racer 5).  Downtown Healdsburg is adorable and has amazing food - go to Bovolo and get sandwiches.  There's nice shops and wineries have tasting rooms there.  That and RRBC would be a good day trip.

    As for restaurants in SF - in your price range, A16 is a really good bet.  I also recently ate at Bar Tartine, and I can't stop thinking about it.  It may be the best meal I've had in SF.  Depending on how much you drink, you could probably expect a $125ish tab there.  They also serve brunch, which I haven't tried but also looks amazing. If you were going to do one splurge meal in the $200 range, I'd go to Bar Tartine and order everything and just eat and eat and eat.   I have also enjoyed really enjoyed Sons & Daughters, AQ, and SPQR.  I have not been to Flour + Water, but it's getting rave reviews and is probably a good bet for $100ish, but apparently the waits are insane.

    For cheap, Mission Street Chinese is awesome.  So is Burma Superstar (though I've only been to the Oakland location which apparently is superior to the SF location)

    Finally, I recommend getting the dessert tasting menu at Michael Mina.  You can just go any time and sit at the bar and order it.   And that tasting menu is fuckingincredible and only $15. It's five or six little 1-3 bite desserts.   It's a good way to get a taste of high end SF restaurant without having to pay the giant price tag.

     

     

     

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  • It's cold there in the summer.
  • Great call about Michael Mina dessert tasting! I think I need to eat with esf because I heart bar tarting too! ! 

     Beretta is also good, at least when I went, it's been a while since I was there, but it was tasty. 

     

    Another cool thing ( kinda touristy) but, i enjoy going is to climb coit tower. 

     

    Also there is  a  Fortune cookie factory in china town. Maybe not your thing either but I thought it was kinda fun and it doesn't  take long :) 

    also bourbon and branch is good for really well made, artisan type drinks ( reserve on line and get a password as its a speakeasy)  

    IMG_1373 Cool Winston
  • image mbcdefg:

    We would like to fly into San Francisco, explore the city for a few days, then rent a car and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and then fly home from another airport. Our home airport is Newark, NJ. 

    If you are looking to see the coast, you can drive down to Santa Cruz, Monterrey, Big Sur and Cambria and fly out of San Jose. If you take Highway 1 to Santa Cruz before you cut inland to the airport will generously take 2 1/2 hours - allowing for traffic and the one way sections.  Add another hour if you go as far south as Cambria. If you go any further south, San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara, LAX is closer. There are no major airports between San Jose and LAX. There are several smaller airports on the central coast and around the LA area but your flights will probably be more limited and require a connection.

  • image jen&L:
    It's cold there in the summer.

    The last time I was there in the summer it was 96 degrees, so not always. 

  • This has more great links!

    Thanks ESF for reminding me that I need to book Alcatraz tour. 

  • image AmeliaPond:

    image jen&L:
    It's cold there in the summer.

    The last time I was there in the summer it was 96 degrees, so not always. 

    SF itself will likely be cold in the summer.  Plan on 50s and 60s in June or July.  But as soon as you get out of SF proper, high 70s or 80s are more the norm--especially up toward the Russian River. 

    And Tartine for brunch--there's a long line, but the pastries are phenomenal. 

    Can't find me on the nest anymore.

    Find me here instead!
  • Also for cheap and awesome California-Mexican check out the Mission.  The giant burrito (think Chipotle, but way better) was invented there, and it can be had for less than $5 in several places.  The Mission is also an easy BART trip from most downtown hotels--which is not the case for most other SF neighborhoods.
    Can't find me on the nest anymore.

    Find me here instead!
  • image SirSleepsALot:
    If your H likes beer, you have to hit the Toronado in the Haight!!!

    If you go to Toronado, stop by Rosamunde for a cheap bite to eat (I think it's next door to Toronado)....http://rosamundesausagegrill.com/

     

    image
  • image Y4M:
    image AmeliaPond:

    image jen&L:
    It's cold there in the summer.

    The last time I was there in the summer it was 96 degrees, so not always. 

    SF itself will likely be cold in the summer.  Plan on 50s and 60s in June or July.  But as soon as you get out of SF proper, high 70s or 80s are more the norm--especially up toward the Russian River. 

    And Tartine for brunch--there's a long line, but the pastries are phenomenal. 

    It was a total freak heatwave, but man I wished I hadn't packed all those sweaters.

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