What to see/do in San Mateo/ San Francisco?

I’ll be in the San Mateo area for work at the end of this week and will have a couple of free nights. I’m thinking of heading into San Francisco at least one night.

Does anyone have recommendations for places to go see or things to do after 5? I’m open to most anything, though I am not much for clubbing or overly loud music.

I also won’t have a car so I am looking for the best way to get into the city. From what I can see my best bet is to hop a hotel shuttle to SFO, then take BART up to Embarcadero then wonder down the wharf via streetcar. But is CalTrain a better option?

Any and all ideas are welcome. Thanks!

I have taken BART to the airport. That’s a reasonably good option, especially since you can pick it up at a different stop going home. I’m on the other side of the Bay so I don’t know much about CalTrain.

In San Mateo - nothing, but close by Redwood City has a nice theater (Fox) which might have something interesting.

In SF after 5, there are plenty of good places to eat. The Ferry Building with a great assortment of food shops is close to the Embarcadero station. Chinatown is interesting to walk around once. I always recommend the Cable Car Museum but it closes at 5 until March 1 and 6 thereafter.

Depending on the day you’re there there are some quirky little theaters (few dozen seats at most) with some quirky little shows.
Then there is Rasputin’s on 69 Powell Street (very close to the Powell Street BART) which has lots of floor of used music and video.

Berkeley is also on the BART (you’ll have to change trains) which might interest you also.

San Mateo is undistinctive. Get over to the coast to Half Moon Bay for some beach combing if you get the chance. CalTrain it to San Francisco from downtown San Mateo, which lets you off near the Giants’ AT&T Park. Walk to the Museum of Modern Art if that is your sort of thing, do lunch at the Sheraton Palace Hotel, either at the bar at Maxfield’s and stare at The Pied Piper, or in The Garden Court pretending you are a robber baron. See what is playing at The Castro at Castro and Market. Layer up, and layer up again, and get to the GG Bridge and walk across.

Caltrain is more expensive than BART, and only has one stop in SF, which is kind of out of the way.

Thursday night: like science and cocktails? The Exploratorium is open for adults only after 6PM.

Friday night: like science and beer? Cal Academy Nightlife event.

If you don’t have daylight hours free, I wouldn’t bother with the beach/Half Moon Bay.

Oh, and don’t bother with Pier 39. Locals don’t.

One evening in SF and over half used in transportation.

The trade-off between Bart and CalTrans is how easy to get to it?

The Cal-Trans terminal is where the industrial section was - now getting hipsterized - the N Judah streecar runs to Cal-Trans, so it will also get you to the same stations Bart uses downtown.
The stations are double-decked - the Muni (SF public transit) streetcars are on the upper deck, BART on the lower.
I’d get out at Embarcadero and wander a bit - if a Friday or Saturday, downtown will still be populated - weekdays, not so much.
Pier 39 is North of Embarcadero (all odd-numbered wharfs are N; even-numbered S).

If you study the map, you can get to Chinatown easily enough, but not real quickly.

FWIW: the 38 Geary line (bus) runs out to Land’s End and Cliff House - you really should spent 2-3 hours on foot there (find the parking lot beside the tiny restaurant - there is a foot trail over the cliffs. Say “Screw the Rules” and get off the marked path (only if you are healthy and sure-footed).
The N Judah streetcar goes to 9th Ave (yes, SF has both numbered streets and numbered avenues) and Irving - one block from the 9th Ave entrance to GG park.

An alternative would be Caltrain down to San Jose. Several museums, including the Computer History Museum.

If you do go up to SF, I would also endorse Golden Gate Bridge and the Wharf. The Exploratorium is also fun. Ghirardelli Square, if you like chocolate. Cable Cars, and I think you’ve covered the things that most folks enjoy.

The City is a bit of a bitch to get around, although there are several forms of mass transit.

Now, if you’re not a beaten track kinda person, I would rent a car and head for Half Moon Bay or Santa Cruz. If you’re interested, I’ll tell you all about the giant redwood groves on Highway 9, where to get authentic Mexican, where to beachcomb, there’s even a Bigfoot museum (ok, I’ve never been in). On Skyline (Highway 35), you’ll find panoramic views of the Coast and the Bay, lots of hikes, etc.

Just depends what you want to do.

San Mateo - best we can do is find you some decent restaurants I suspect.

Computer History Museum is in Mountain View. And closes at 5PM every night.

D’oh! I meant the Tech Museum…:o

Computer History Museum in Mountain View has a Babbage Difference engine, a Cray 1 and an enigma machine. Plus a bunch of other great exhibits. Anyone on the internet should love it. I haven’t been to the Tech yet.

Well, there is (or was?) also a BIG used book store there. Hey, in San Mateo, you takes what entertainments you finds.

ETA: umm… OP did say he has an evening to kick around, and didn’t mention if he also has all day on a Saturday or Sunday. And he isn’t into clubbing. So what’s left to do on an evening in SF?

Theater comes to mind. Is OP interested in theater (or other live performing arts – concerts, ballet, opera?) SF has plenty of that, if OP is so inclined.

Is there still Harry’s Hofbrau on El Camino in Redwood City? (I been away a long time.) If so, OP should check that out.

There is light rail in downtown Mountain View, but that is nowhere near the Computer Museum. I wouldn’t want to walk it.
Whether the Tech is worth it strongly depends on their current exhibits. I haven’t been in a while, but wasn’t super-impressed.
I’m volunteering at the Computer Museum as soon as I retire. I’ve used a ton of that stuff, and I’ve even programmed a PDP-1 - the famous one at MIT.

It is going to be quite dark by the time he gets there, probably after dinner. Probably not a good idea to roam the cliffs for the first time in the dark.

If you end up taking BART to the Embarcadero station so you can see all the foodie shops at the Ferry building, I recommend you have dinner at Il Cane Rosso. Not sure how the weather will cooperate, but it’s my favorite casual dining in the area.

Thanks for the info, I was kind of bummed that I couldn’t get to the Exploratorium this trip. I’ll definitely try to get to the Thursday night event there. Unfortunately I only have the evenings, so beaches are out. Hopefully I can use some of these tips on my next trip out when I am not working and have several days.

The Hyatt right near the Embarcadero is worth a quick visit to check out the impressive atrium/lobby (featured in a scene of Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety)

Update? Did you make it to the Exploratorium event?

Well, it is San Francisco; it’s not like they’re warmer during the day.