San Francisco- your favorite things to do, see, eat... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 53 Old 05-16-2007, 12:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My family (me, dh, 8 year old dd) is going to be going to San Francisco for a week in the near future, staying near Union Square. I'm usually a control freak, er good planner, when it comes to travel, but I feel like I haven't done much research this time. We all love to explore and see new things, but I don't feel like I've found much that is off the beaten path. Here's what I have so far after looking at tripadvisor.com-

Muir Woods

China Town

City Lights

Fisherman's Wharf

Ghiradelli Square

Golden Gate Park

The Exploratorium

vineyard tour?

for food ( the info. seemed a little dated-love seafood and sushi!)

Chef Jia's

Mama's on Washington Square

Swan Oyster Depot

Pacific Catch

Tommaso's

Yank Sing -Spear Street
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#2 of 53 Old 05-16-2007, 01:06 PM
 
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We are going to SF in August. We're taking a tour and will visit most places you listed.....and Levi Strauss. The one think that I definately want to see is..

http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/info.htm

Hope you have fun, I know I can't wait!
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#3 of 53 Old 05-16-2007, 01:19 PM
 
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I was coming in to suggest Alcatraz. We stayed at Fisherman's Wharf, but I don't remember much about it. (I was 17 on my only trip there.) Alcatraz made an impression, though.
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#4 of 53 Old 05-16-2007, 03:56 PM
 
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De Young Museum
Japanese Tea Garden in GG Park (across from the DeYoung)
SF Zoo
Oakland Zoo
Pier 39
Ferry Building
Coit Tower
Presidio
Angel Island
Palace of Fine Arts (next to Exploratorium)
Lombard Street
Golden Gate Bridge

There's a lookout area (Vista Point) on the N side of the bridge (only accesible to N bound freeway traffic). There's also a lookout area up on the mountain on the other side of the freeway from Vista Point. Great views of the city from both.

Of course, there's Union Square, the Cannery Building (near Ghirardelli Square), the Cable Car Museum. If you want to ride the cable car, the line is usually shorter on the Ghirardelli/Fisherman's Wharf end than the Union Square end. There's theatres and plenty of restaurants.

Only in SF is a decent tourism website.

If you're looking for food, I'd suggest checking out Chowhound, and asking for suggestions... be specific in your request, do you want seafood, steak, chinese, etc... and how much money you want to spend and the ages of children you will have with you.

You can also always take the ferry from Embarcadero to Oakland and/or Alameda to check out those areas for a few hours, or you can take the BART from Market to any number of places in the E. Bay. You can also take the ferry to Sausalito and check out that area.

There's lots to see and do, it's a matter of how much time you'll have and how much money.

On the weekends, outside Ghirardelli Square, there is a street market, handmade jewelry and art and that kind of thing.

If you want to do a vineyard tour, that's liable to be an entire day expedition, since the drive alone is about 90 minutes-2 hours each way.

And if you want to see Alcatraz, I highly suggest buying your tickets in advance, they are rarely available at the ticket counter.

Something most people don't realize is that Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and the Cannery Building is all in a nice little row (along with the ferry piers for ferries to Angel Island, Alcatraz and Bay Tours). You could probably walk to them from Union Square, if you don't mind climbing up and down the hills (it's a straight shot, but about 2 miles, I think). They are all very close to eachother, but it is a lot to see in 1 day. If you're looking for food, I don't recommend any of the restaurants at Fisherman's Wharf, they are all pricey. I do recommend the street stands, especially if they're cracking crab. A stop at Ghirardelli is a given, so arrange to get there for dessert (whether it's chocolate or ice cream).

Oh, and I know you're traveling in the "summer", but bring pants. And jackets. It is currently 55 degrees, and there's a nice breeze. Natives can always tell the tourists because they're the ones wearing shorts and sandals and bundled up in overpriced sweatshirts they had to buy when they realized they hadn't packed properly. (Of course, now that I said that, we'll have a heat wave while you're in town. )

Feel free to PM me if you want any more specifics or would like a few restaurant recommendations.

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#5 of 53 Old 05-16-2007, 05:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! Just what I was looking for.

Zo's ma, enjoy your trip. I'm excited but so busy right now it doesn't seem real.
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#6 of 53 Old 05-16-2007, 05:55 PM
 
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I love San Fran! Fishermans Wharf is my favorite, Pier 39 has an aquarium and a merry go round. There is also a wax museum and Ripleys Believe it or Not Museum which is really cool. We took a horse and carriage ride down there, too.

~Shannon~ Proud Mama of 3 girls, ages 7,4, and 2.
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#7 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 01:13 AM
 
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I personally would skip Fisherman's Wharf, but being a native maybe I'm just jaded about how touristy and cheesy it is! It's fun for a stroll but don't make any of the restaurants there one of your special meals out. The food pretty much sucks.

Some of my favorite places to go:

Japanese Tea Garden
Chrissy Field
Strybing Arboretum
Palace of Fine Arts
Union Square (ride the cable cars!)
Presidio
North Beach (this has gotten touristy but is still fine)
Ferry Building Marketplace on Sat morning
Ferry ride into Marin
Muir Woods


Some great places to eat:


Ton Kiang for dim sum on Geary Street
Samovar Tea Room (not your regular tea room)
Fleur de Lys (sp?) - this is incredibly expensive and the dinner of a lifetime kind of place

Bring layers! It can be foggy in the morning and warm in the afternoon, or warm in the morning and windy and cold in the afternoon.

I'm running out the door but will add more as I think of it. I love this City!
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#8 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 02:05 AM
 
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#9 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 05:18 AM
 
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For restaurants be sure to check out www.citysearch.com or www.yelp.com - both are fairly reliable if the restaurants have high ratings. You can go to www.sfgate.com as well. I can give more specific recommendations if you give me a sense of what kind of budget you are one. There are some outstanding but expensive restaurants here. I've never heard of most of the restaurants you listed in your OP.

Here are some random thoughts . . .

More fun things to do:

hike along Lands End
Chinatown
SF Giants baseball game - it's a beautiful stadium
Coit Tower
Lombard - "the crookedest street" - is a classic

We go to the zoo a lot but I don't think it's particularly impressive.

I really love some of the cute main streets of San Francisco just for strolling around and shopping, such as:

Chestnut St. in the Marina District
Fillmore St. in Pacific Heights (La Mediterranee is a yummy Mediterranean restaurant)
Union St. in Cow Hollow (Rose's Cafe and Betelnut are good restaurants on this street.)
Haight Street in the Haight (A friend of mine loves Cha Cha Cha, a tapas restaurant in the Haight. I haven't eaten there though.)
24th Street in Noe Valley
Castro Street in the Castro District

Oh, in the Mission Dist. check out Foreign Cinema. It's a yummy restaurant and they show old movies on the wall. The Mission District is also the place to find good burritos. If you make it to Bernal Heights, have lunch or dinner at the Liberty Cafe on Cortland St.

Another fun website to browse is www.dailycandy.com - it's geared a bit more towards trendy shopping, but it is a daily newsletter of all the new fun things that open in SF.

If you will have a car, take a drive around to check out the architecture throughout the city. It's really stunning. Pacific Heights and Presidio Heights both have jawdropping houses.
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#10 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 01:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Love yelp.com! Thanks for the links and the restaurant/neighborhood tips. I'm thinking we need to stay longer than a week just to eat!

Not sure yet if we're going to get a car. The original plan was rent a car and head down to Monterey for a day or two, but I think we'll stay and explore San Fran.

Intorainbowz that tour looks hilarious! I'll run it by the family.

And it seems unanimous that we should go to Alcatraz. I'll look into getting tickets asap.
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#11 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 01:59 PM
 
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Please don't miss the Japanese tea garden in golden gate park--one of my most favorite things! The garden is small and beautiful--it shouldn't be missed. Right in the middle of the garden is a covered area where you sit down and have some delicious traditional japanese tea with the best tasting little cookies and snacks. My kids love going there.

We lived in the city for years (our first house was there) and now live just outside the city. We still go there all the time, and like to go to Japantown--it is a big indoor mall that has Japanese stores and restaurants. We go there when the weather is bad, and the kids love that too. It is not near Golden Gate Park--it is more in the center of the city.

Have fun!
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#12 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 02:56 PM
 
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i LOVE golden gate park. i too recommend the japanese tea garden.

haight was awesome for me.

i really loved alcatraz, although it had quite the aura about it. you can really get a feel for what kind of place it was just by looking at it. but as the ferry gets closer and closer, the air gets thicker and thicker. i would definately go back though.

and of course since you take the ferry to alcatraz, you will be down at the pier, so you should plan to spend a lot of time there too.

i loved chinatown.

my advice though....there used to be a taco bell downtown in kind of a crappy area. if its there, dont go after dark! when leaving there, my mom and i ended up in some crossfire and it was some scary times!
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#13 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 03:14 PM
 
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#14 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 03:42 PM
 
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When you go to Alcatraz, pay for the audio tour. It is well-done and worth it!

If you go south at all, the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, is weird, sad, and interesting. Your child would probably be very interested.
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#15 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 03:43 PM
 
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I don't know if it's still there or not but the Cliff House at Ocean Beach is (was?) amazing. I used to live in SF and I went ALL the time. They have a camera obscura and museum of antique arcades.

Oh, looks like they've moved the Musee Mechanique to Pier 45. Well, it's still an amazing collection - I'd imagine it would go over great with an 8 year old.

It overlooks ruins of the Sutro Baths which were built in the late 1800s and an old "amusement park" called Playland. It's very beautiful and peaceful there and I love the Camera Obscura.

It's been a few years since I've visited so I can't remember the names of my favorite restaurants (though I could lead you to them!).

Have a great time and send the city my love!

Unschooling mama to one 5 year old DD.
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#16 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 03:48 PM
 
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don't miss the japanese tea garden. it is beautiful
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#17 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 03:54 PM
 
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Oh, looks like they've moved the Musee Mechanique to Pier 45. Well, it's still an amazing collection - I'd imagine it would go over great with an 8 year old.
Oh yeah! I forgot about that. That was great. I really enjoyed that. It's right near Fisherman's Wharf as well.

And I just remembered Fairyland in Oakland... your 8 yo is of the age that she might enjoy it, she might not. It's a small amusement park, and you must have a child with you in order to gain entrance (so I've never been). It's a bit of a walk from the 19th Street BART station, but not too far, and the park is on Lake Merritt, to it's a pretty walk. There's also a Bird Sanctuary at Lake Merritt, so lots of different types of water fowl (and non-water fowl) to watch.

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#18 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 04:01 PM
 
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Oh yeah! I forgot about that. That was great. I really enjoyed that. It's right near Fisherman's Wharf as well.

And I just remembered Fairyland in Oakland... your 8 yo is of the age that she might enjoy it, she might not. It's a small amusement park, and you must have a child with you in order to gain entrance (so I've never been). It's a bit of a walk from the 19th Street BART station, but not too far, and the park is on Lake Merritt, to it's a pretty walk. There's also a Bird Sanctuary at Lake Merritt, so lots of different types of water fowl (and non-water fowl) to watch.
Right! How could I forget about Fairyland! It's soooooooo cool! And you can take the BART to get there.

Unschooling mama to one 5 year old DD.
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#19 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 05:33 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so, so much. I can't wait to go! We're going to sit down tonight and look at all your ideas and pick some favs.

Anyone know anything about these tours?

http://www.inetours.com/Tours/Muir_Woods_Alcatraz.html
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#20 of 53 Old 05-17-2007, 06:04 PM
 
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OOH there's a great restaurant called Volare. It's yummy Italian! They sell a sweet, Sicilian house wine by the carafe! Very reasonably priced.
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#21 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 04:04 AM
 
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Baker Beach is my favorite beach in the city

Stinson Beach or Muir Beach (north of the city) are nice too--if you have more time for a day trip, though, Pt. Reyes cannot be beat!

Oakland Zoo is a much better zoo than SF Zoo, which I think is a really depressing place.

Zeum and the Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are pretty cool, too.
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#22 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 04:33 AM
 
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Baker Beach is my favorite beach in the city

Stinson Beach or Muir Beach (north of the city) are nice too--if you have more time for a day trip, though, Pt. Reyes cannot be beat!

Oakland Zoo is a much better zoo than SF Zoo, which I think is a really depressing place.

Zeum and the Exploratorium and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts are pretty cool, too.
Yep, ditto to all of this.
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#23 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 05:51 AM
 
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First, Oceanbaby, are you the one that's been following me all around SF, because I swear we go to all the same places! My DP LOVES Samovar and I, myself, am a huge fan of their Morrocan Tea Service.

The one I don't think was mentioned was Tartine, it's a bakery on 18th and Guerrero (kind of between the Castro and the Mission). It has FABULOUS baked goods. A word to the wise, though, either go during the week or prepare to stand in a long line on weekend mornings. Or... if you don't want breakfast pastries, pick up dessert-- their banana cream pie is amazing (the inside of the crust is thinly coated in dark chocolate with a hint of caramel, add custard, banana, not-too-sweet whip cream and big shavings of chocolate on top-- YUM!). And their savory food (croque monsieur with ham and asparagus, droooooool) is great, too. If it's a nice day, it's fun to get food to go and walk a block over to Dolores Park (the one with all the palm trees) and eat there.

Oh, and if someone didn't already say this, you can take a cable car up and over the big hills directly from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf-- it might sound touristy, but it's fun!
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#24 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 03:55 PM
 
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Ooooh... and another idea. If you want to see a bit of the beautiful coastline, it's nice to drive down Route 1 for a ways, Half Moon Bay is a nice little place to stop (about 30-45 minutes south of SF ? ), though there are turn offs for beaches all along the highway.

(Another word to the wise, there is apparently a clothing optional beach in there somewhere. I say "apparently," because when DH's somewhat conservative parents were visiting, we went for a little drive and randomly stopped at a beach, whose name fails me, and there were naked people strolling around. Ahh, well, they wanted to see San Francisco! )
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#25 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 04:01 PM
 
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Oh, and if someone didn't already say this, you can take a cable car up and over the big hills directly from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf-- it might sound touristy, but it's fun!
I touched on it, but I would highly recommend on planning some other form of transport from Union Square to FW and take the cable car back to US. The lines at the US end of the line are usually at least twice as long as at the FW end of the line.

For good food, you've got a lot of options... One Market, Americano Restaurant @ Hotel Vitale, Frisson, Hawthorne Lane (which is apparently now called "Two"), Fifth Floor, Bix, Jardiniere, ACME, RNM, Town Hall, Sauce, Mijita, Palio D'Asti, just to name a handful. Most of these are nicer restaurants, for a sit-down "fancy" meal. Out at Pier 39, we enjoy going to the Crab Shack, which is hidden up in the corner, and tends to only have locals in it (don't think most tourists can find it, or else they get sidetracked by Bubba Gumps, which is just like any other chain). Crustacean is one of my fave restaurants, but really only for their house specialty (garlic roasted crab and garlic noodles, I've heard most of the rest of the menu isn't worth the $$), but you can get essentially the same meal (crab legs instead of whole crab) at the Crab Shack for a small fraction of the price.

As to dining on a budget, you really have to get out of the tourist areas to get good food for a decent price. Most any restaurant in the more touristy areas is either diner/chain food or pricey (or both). You mentioned Swan's Oyster Bar... supposed to be fabulous, but expect to wait for a seat, as it's usually packed.

If you're planning on eating in the E. Bay (like if you go to the Oakland Zoo or Fairyland), PM me for suggestions, as there's some real crap, and some real gems out here.

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#26 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 08:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Cristeen. We made reservations at One Market and Americano and are still deciding on others. The menus all look yummy. We'll check out the Crab Shack too, and might brave the crowds at Swan's.

Do you have a favorite spot for dim sum?
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#27 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 09:27 PM
 
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Do you have a favorite spot for dim sum?
East Ocean Seafood Restaurant in Alameda on Webster (DH promised me dim sum this weekend, and I can't wait! )

I do have a walk-in place that I like in the city, but I don't even know what it's called (how bad is that? Been going there over 15 years), the atmosphere is very dingy, and they don't do carts (it's more of a greasy spoon place).

East Ocean in Alameda on the weekends does dim sum carts, they have a great selection (best I've ever seen, actually). DH and I walked in there last time, and the table was COVERED in dishes in under 10 minutes. From the city, it's a BART ride plus a short bus ride (the 51 line). You could take the ferry from the city to Alameda, but not sure where the ferry dock is in Alameda (I should know these things). Food for 4 (adults) was $50 including tip (the 2 of us ate lunch and we brought home enough extra to feed us and my BF for dinner). There are a couple places in the city that do dim sum carts, but I've never been because of the complaints I've heard re: prices.

Looked up the ferry... it's a ferry ride and a bus trip (50 line). The restaurant is a block up from the bus stop at Lincoln & Webster, across from the KFC.

ETA - I really enjoyed the Crab Cakes with Saffron Aioli at One Market and the Pumpkin and Pancetta Pizza at Americano. Both have constantly changing menus, but if those things are available I recommend them!

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#28 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 09:40 PM
 
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I didn't read all the recommendations, so sorry if I'm repeating! We vacationed in SF several years ago, and some of our favorite things were:

Alcatraz
Fort Point
Ghiradelli
Walking the Embarcadero
Pier 39
Fisherman's Wharf (LOVED the fish and chips and clam chowder in bread bowls!)
Golden Gate Park
Japanese Tea Garden
Exploratorium (Planned on spending a couple of hours, but stayed for about 5!)
Cable Car Museum

I'll go look at my photo album to see if I forgot anything! Have fun! SF was our favorite vacation so far, and we hope to go back someday (hopefully soon).

ETA: Mission Dolores was really neat!

~Beth, mama to two amazing girls, ages 12 and 6~

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#29 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 09:40 PM
 
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I always make sure to stop in at Bubba Gump's for some coconut shrimp. Yummmm.

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#30 of 53 Old 05-18-2007, 09:45 PM
 
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I always make sure to stop in at Bubba Gump's for some coconut shrimp. Yummmm.


I'll give you my recipe for coconut shrimp if you like, then you can make it at home. No need to give Bubba Gump's your money.

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