Heading to San Francisco tomorrow, flying back on Thursday. Currently scouring the internet for things to see and do while I am there and while I am not busy with the technology conference I am attending.
So far, I’m looking at the Cable Cars, Chinatown, the Cartoon Art Museum…
Can’t seem to find a decent RPG store anywhere near the hotel - shame, really.
Any input from Dopers? I have free time Saturday evening after I fly in, a good bit on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings only, and most of Wednesday afternoon and evening.
Alcatraz is great but you may need to book it now to be able to go at all. Fisherman’s was isn’t terrible but it is highly overrated. San Francisco is very small geographically for a large city. You can walk most of it and it is very pedestrian friendly. I walked most of it in a day in a giant loop. Haight-Ashbury is cool too if you can tolerate hippies and counter-culture. The Crazy Horse club is good if you like that sort of thing. I liked just walking around and going wherever I felt like. Don’t wear shorts and take a jacket with you. It is almost always coolish there especially in the morning but not truly cold either. It has some of the best food in the country but it can be pricey. Go out for at least one good meal although I don’t know the current hot restaurants.
This, quoted for utter truth. Layering is your friend in San Francisco.
Other than that, it’s been about 7 years since I’ve been there, but the garlic fries and beer and Gordon Biersch were worth the visit and not too pricey. Yank Sing for dim sum (but you will pay for it, and then some.) K&L and Wine Club for wine shopping, if that appeals to you. Boulevard and Masa’s if you’re feeling very spendy for dinner. The War Memorial Opera House is gorgeous. And the Exploratorium is one of the most fun museums anywhere.
You might want to pack an umbrella–it looks like it might rain on Sunday.
Riding the cable cars is very cool, but be aware that there are long lines at each end of the line that serves Fisherman’s Wharf. I think the California line is almost as fun, especially when you’re heading down the hill toward the Embarcadero. Here’s a website with some good info: http://www.sfcablecar.com/
If you can get out to the Cliff House, The Giant Camerais well worth a visit on a clear day. My favorite “tourist trap” at Fisherman’s Wharf is the Musee Mecanique.
There is so much to do in San Francisco it is overwhelming even to me, and I go there 4-5 times a year. Walking Golden Gate Park is always a treat (have lunch at the restaurant at the west end, the Chalet Brewery), go to the De Young museum, explore Union Square, walk the Barbary Coast Trail (a series of markers that take you on a path through downtown), go to Belden Place (an alley with an eclectic group of European-style patio cafes), try backalley bars everywhere. Seriously, just get a guidebook, get a 3-day MTA Passport (which will allow you to take trams, buses, MUNI rail, trolleys, but not BART) pick an area of the city that is convenient for you (not the Tenderloin or the Embarcadero after dark), and hit a handful of spots; don’t even try to cover everything in the book. You won’t have time to do Angel Island and the Rock, and you’re probably better off just avoiding Fisherman’s pier which is mostly a tourist trap.
As others have said, prepared for inclement weather and variable temperature. As Mark Twain is reported as saying, “The coldest winter I ever knew was summer in San Francisco.”
The City Lights Bookstore is a lot of fun, and is cable-car accessible. Wrangling a full bag of bucks whilst clinging to the outside of a cable-car for dear life while it plunges through rush-hour traffic is all part of the fun!
If you have a car, I highly recommend checking out Point Bonita Lighthouse. It gives you a drive across the bridge, great drive along the headlands, great photo ops along the way, (this common shot is taken along that road), a great small hike to the lighthouse, then you can drive back down through the old barracks the back way.
A nice cheap(ish) thing I always take visitors to do is to take the commuter fairy to Sausalito. You can hang out at the Ferry building, then pay a commuter fare, you get out on the water, you go right past Alcatraz, great views of the GGB, then wander around Sausalito before heading back.
The Westin St. Francis hotel has glass elevators mounted on the side of the building, which gives a fantastic view of the city. You should walk in and ride them until they throw you out. It’s free, too!
To be fair, the worst parts of San Francisco are tame compared to places like South Los Angeles, New Orleans Upper French Quarter, or the random crack-den neighborhoods in Chicago that are interspaced between highly gentrified McCondo developments. The Embarcadero is fine during the day, you’ll just get panhandled to death at night. The Tenderloin is…interesting. Nobody has ever bothered me there, but then, I tend to be mistaken for an off-duty cop or a soldier on leave; I’d recommend it only if you are an “extreme tourist” of the type that likes to walk down dark alleys in Eastern European nations; in other words, more dirty than dangerous, more likely to lose your wallet than your life.
Market Steet gives you easy walking and Muni access to just about everything in downtown, so just grab a guidebook and a Streetwise laminated map (compact, holds up well, clearly shows the Muni and bus lines, you can mark your routes on it with a pen) and literally go to town.