Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where Should I Visit in San Francisco?

A friend planning a trip writes, in part:

... I'm considering spending a couple of days in CA. I've been to Southern California but not to SF. How many days would you recommend are the minimum to get to see the most important places, and what would you suggest I visit?

Please weigh in, in the Comments, on the Facebook, via email or the Twitter (@bjkeefe). Thanks.


Brendan said...

From DK on the Facebook:

Alcatraz. Ashbury. Golden gate.

Brendan said...

I've always wanted to visit Alcatraz, too.

I liked walking around the Haight and visiting some of the clubs there. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge is definitely worth it -- I hope others weigh in to say where the best perspectives are to be had.

Another place I haven't been in SF, but want to, is Jamie Zawinski's nightclub, DNA Lounge.

There are of course thousands of good restaurants there, but if you're in the mood for an expensive meal at a place of well-deserved renown, Alice Waters's place, Chez Panisse, is something special. The Café upstairs is a cheaper option, IIRC.

I'd also recommend trying to pal around with Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson. ;)

Ocean said...

Thank you, Brendan. I'll keep collecting advice.

DNA lounge, doesn't seem too age appropriate, besides I can't imagine myself, at this age, walking into the crowd of wild youngsters.

Chez Panisse, nice.

Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson, one too young, one too old. Get me some contemporaries, please.

Bartender Cabbie said...

Polk Street

TC said...

So much of this depends on the kind of thing that interests you. For vistas of the Golden Gate bridge there are two ways to see it best. Heading north out of San Francisco toward the bridge just before you get there there is a turn off on the right that goes out to Pacific Heights. From there you get a great view of the bridge from the outside. Pacific Heights is the fancy house part of town where the rich live and the foreign consulates and things like that are there. The other choice is to cross the bridge and turn off for the fort. You get a great view of the bridge over there looking back toward the city so you have SF in the background.

Grace cathedral is worth a trip if you're into gothic churches. Gabrielli's doors at the entrance are something to see if you're into art type things. They made a mold off of the doors in Florence to cast these 20 foot high bronze doors, then there was a flood in Florence and they made a copy of these doors in SF to replace the ones in Florence.

You want to ride a cable car and the Hyde Street car goes up the steepest hill and runs over to Fisherman's wharf. You have a better chance parking near Fisherman's wharf and then riding the cable car up from there. Parking is tough everywhere in S.F.

For a view of the city and bay you want to go up to Nob Hill and go to the restaurant or cocktail lounge in the Mark Hopkins hotel on the top floor. Panoramic view of the city from there an the Hyde street cable car takes you near it and Grace Cathedral.

The other view of the city is from Twin Peaks. To get there you go West on Market street (the main downtown drag) and just keep going up into the hills. The TV antennae are on Twin Peaks and there are signs to follow.

Alcatraz is interesting but it wipes out a whole day to see it. You have to take a boat over and a boat back and they don't leave every 10 minutes or anything, so if you've only got two days you'll really have to want to see it badly to give u half your trip for it.

If you're into art, The Palace of the Legion of Honor has a nice collection of classic type art and bronze statues. Beautiful setting in Golden Gate Park with a view of GG bridge.

Palace of Fine Art is a driveby place. It's one of the pavillions from the worlds fair at the turn of the century, but it's just a building with nothing to see except that.

The museum of modern art downtown is an interesting building, but the exhibits have been disappointing the times I've been there.

The Maritime Museum is interesting if you're into maritime history. It's near Fisherman's Wharf and the Hyde Street cable car terminus. There are some old sailing ships there and a WWII submarine.

Haight Ashbury of the 60s is gone now. Interesting but you have to bring your own romantic ideas with you. It's just little shops on a city street now.

North Beach is another place where you have to bring the romance with you in your head. The Beat poets hung out there and Ferlinghetti's radical bookstore City Lights is near there. Malvina wrote the 60s song about ticky tacky houses and her restaurant is there, but it's pretty fancy these days. North Beach is the old Italian section.

Grant Street in Chinatown is also worth walking down, Kan's in Chinatown has a nice cocktail lounge if you just want a drink (if it's still there) but there is a dress code. Suit and tie mandatory. Many movie stars and other important people have their pictures on the walls, if you're into that.

There's the inexpensive walking and cable car kind of tour or there's the famous tourist spot tour with a car.

Anonymous said...

I never climbed it, but Coi Tower was pretty cool even from ground-level.

There's also a little beach over by the Presidio with a killer view of the Golden Gate, Alcatraz etc. I don't remember the name, but it was a really lovely.

And of course, just hit North Beach and grab some Italian, pretty much anywhere, if you need a bite. The Italian food in SF is on a par with NY/Philly, imo. --Uncle Eb

Ocean said...

Thanks TC and uncle. I'm yet to make final plans. I'm figuring three days if I can.

TC said...

Another place to see the GG Bridge is from Fort Point. You go west from the marina and drive through the old air force base rather than getting up on the freeway. I don't know if they still do or not, but the old radicals who were in the 1936 general strike used to walk out there every Sunday. When one of them died the others put up a bench with his name on it. Interesting view of the bridge from below and Fort Point has some 150 yr old canons and things like that. It used to guard the entrance to S.F. Bay from foreign ships.

Kans in Chinatown used to be a fancy restaurant years ago when I lived there, but I see it gets bad reviews on the internet now and it doesn't sound like it has a dress code any more.

A lot of the fun depends on what you bring with you in your head, If you know Kerouac and the beat poets seeing where they lived and wrote is fun. If you're old enough to have experienced the hippie movement and know Janis Joplin who used to ride a black Vespa around Haight Ashbury it's fun to see the area where she lived. If you saw the movie "Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" you might enjoy waking the path where Mark fed the parrots up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. Some of the parrots may still be there. Or you can drive up in the car and try to find a place in the parking lot at Coit Tower - difficult on weekends.

You won't have trouble finding things to see and do. The problem will be finding time to get to all the places you'd like to see.

Brendan said...

From (cousin) KK on the FB:

the bay area is a good place to visit. I've been there a few times, mostly did touristy stuff. Chinatown, cable cars, Alcatraz, Haight street, Muir woods, walkiing across san fran bridge. I also enjoyed the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Sorry there's no really gem.

Aidan said...

TC summed up many good spots. Fun to just wander around The Mission (stay west of Mission St) and upper and lower Haight. Fun bars, great food, funky scene. Baker Beach and Land's End for great views of GGB (and Baker Beach has some surprises at southern end!). Simple walking tour could start at Ferry Building, walk along water toward SBC Park. There are great breweries and bars to also check out, email me for a list. Avoid Tenderloin area, that place is a @$%#$ hole. Chinatown/Pier 39/fisherman's Wharf basically worth skipping but OK if you want to get your tourist on. Telegraph Hill OK for tourist spot. Twin Peak great. Cliff House and Sutro Baths very awesome for a tourist spot if weather behaves. Ping me and family can meet up!

Outside of SF, fun to go north to wine country, great to eat at world class restaurants in Berkeley. Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay nice spots for beautiful northern CA beach views (nobody goes in the frigid water basically, it's more for views).

Aidan said...

AT&T Park, whatever. "Evil Ex-Telephone Company that Can't Keep iPhone Calls Working Park" might be better description.

Dolores Park, Mission, and Castro Valley make for nice little walking tour of fun and diverse gay and hipster scene.

Brendan said...

Thanks for all the specifics, Aidan. I wish I were the one coming to visit, but not this time.

(Or were you inviting Ocean, which would actually be a smart thing for you to do?)