The young lady and I are heading to the US for 3 weeks in November. We are looking at 3 or so days in San Fran. Although she has been there before, it was a very long time ago. We would appreciate any advice about stuff we should do there - not just touristy/sightseeing stuff but also tips on cool bars/restaurants.
Also, as we have not yet booked accommodation, any advice about what part of town to stay in would also be handy.
Or any other handy info about public transport/cabs or anything else.
1: What kind of food do you like? What sort of price range are you working with?
1a: How do you like your watering holes – divey or divine? Jammin’ and slammin’ or quiet and laid-back? Really cool, commercialized psudo-cool or atavistic?Queerish or mostly hetero or somewhere in between?
I’m only grilling you on this because there are a whole lot of excellent and/or interesting places to drink and eat here; you ought to be able to find some enjoyable choices whatever your tastes and buidget will cover.
2: What to see? What to do? Oh, lord. You like museums? Try SF MOMA and the Cartoon Art Museum. Culture-and cocktails? There are poetry readings and live bands in a bar or cafe somewhere nearly every night (grab the free weeklies and the Poetry Flash newspaper [also free] for more, current info), and a lot of walking tours for all sorts of interests – the latter is a thing I have no interest in, but they’re happening. If you’re more the outdoors types, there’s a lot of nice parks etc to wander about in, both inside city limits and a day’s jaunt away. You can fly kites on the beach or at trhe Marina, or rent a horse and trot around Golden Gate park like a cowboy movie. There’s also some fun touristy stuff like riding the boat to Alcatraz for a tour of the old penitentiary, and the cliche experiences like Fisherman’s Barf and Lombard Street and the famous funny-looking trolleys. The Zoo is pretty good if you like zoos, but costs an eye-tooth to get into (actually just eight bucks, but that’s a lot of mon, afaiac). Just want to hang out? We got that too.
N.B.: If you go to the beach, do not go swimming. The water is too freakin’ cold for that, no matter what time of the year or how warm a day it is. Disregard those surfers in the wetsuits; they’re all either immune to frigid water temperatures or else as crazy as rats up a drainpipe.
So much for the good news. And now, here’s the bad news:
3: Public transit in San Fran bites the big green weinie: slow, often late, even more often jammed armpits-to-asses-to-faces, and just generally grubby and tedious. Late night (which around here means after sundown, basically) service is pretty limited too. Besides all that, it costs an extortionate dollar-fifty to ride, too. All this is even more-so if you want to get out to some of the far-ranging or more esoteric parts of town away from a dozen or so main routes. (The real sad part is the fact that although it stinks on ice by comparison to many other countries, the public transit system we have here is considered good or even great for a USA metro area-- and, having lived in a lot of cities, I do have some idea of what I speak.)
3a: Cabs are costly, and somewhat inconsistently reliable --for instance, you can get stuck in some neighborhoods for a real long time without seeing one, and even downtown they are sometimes mighty thin on the ground when you want one. That said, Luxor is about the best taxi service in the city IME .
If an Alcatraz tour is appealing, book it now. It is rare to be able to make a same-day reservation. The Night Tour really sells out in a hurry - at this moment, the first available slot is over a week away.
Transit here isn’t all that bad, it just has a distinct personality. Don’t make the mistake some folks do and expect the historic trolleys (the F line) or the cable cars to be merely a tourist attraction. They are day-in, day-out transit lines used by thousands of people a day just going to work, running errands or heading home.
Muni just announced a CultureBus that will run a loop around town serving various museums, which will make it easier to get from say, the De Young to SFMOMA without a bunch of transfers.
Weather. It might be warmish, it might be coldish. It might be rainy. Plan on an average range of 50 to 75 degrees F and about a 1-in-3 chance that there may be a bit of rain. Also plan on rapid cooling off in the evening - about 4 PM would be a good time to head back to the hotel and change from shorts and t-shirt to long pants and a jacket. (If it was warm enough to wear shorts in the first place!)
My family and I just spent a week there in August. One thing that might not be on the usual list that we really enjoyed was picking up bread, veggies, fruit, cheese and sausage at the Ferry Terminal, catching the ferry over to Sausalito and having a nice picnic looking back over the bay. I second or third or whatever the SFMOMA recommendation; there is an exhibit of mostly post-Tiananmen art that we found fascinating.
City passes run $54 each. I recommend buying one. For the price, you get admission to SF MOMA, the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (a great place to visit–see the Botanical and Japanese Tea Gardens), Exploratorium and free cable car rides ($5 each way) and a seven day Muni Pass. You also get a couple of other things, like a Wharf bakery tour, etc.
Sorry. Looking up the City Pass site, I see that the price will rise to $59 at the end of September. Still a deal to me, especially since the Academy of Sciences is scheduled to open then, too. Also, there’s a couple of great sushi places across the park on 9th avenue.
Sushi Boom is a great regardless of your level of experience with sushi. They’ve got authentic all the way down to the good old california roll. Great soup and edamame too, though how can you screw up edamame. I won’t even touch sushi in Michigan anymore.
My maternal grandmother, born in the 1890s, called it “The City.” Her granddad arrived in San Francisco in the early 1850s. My paternal grandparents, born in San Jose in the 1890s had no trouble calling it “The City” as well. In the 60 years since I was born in San Jose, San Francisco has always been “The City” to me and my sibs. Sure, it is a historical carryover from when it was the only significant metropolis for a thousand miles, but I think that makes it more quaint than pretentious.
What next, people denying the legitimacy of Emperor Norton’s reign?