American cities you can do w/o a car

Old Jan 7th, 2002, 06:10 AM
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Someone mentioned Boston as a "car-optional" city. I'll go you one further: renting a car in Boston is not only a waste, but a detriment. It's small in scale, parking is a nightmare, public transport is cheap and convenient, and unless you are a local driver you WILL get lost. NYC and Washington DC are also do-able without wheels.

I found SF to be much more car-dependent than I thought it was going to be and was happy I rented a car. SF's BART is really only for getting people into SF from the outlying areas. It is more akin to a commuter rail system; you cannot get around the neighborhoods of SF via BART.
Old Jan 7th, 2002, 10:38 AM
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I disagree about SF. We rented an apartment for a month, parked our car in the garage and only took it out when we went out of town. We did the same thing this year for 10 days. We stay out at Cow Hollow area and hop on a bus that takes us right to Fisherman's Wharf, through North Beach and Chinatown, to Union Square and then ends at Market. If you are staying near Union Square it is just as easy. Other busses (most run every 6 to 10 minutes) will take you anywhere! There's a great weekly pass or buy a group of tokens for a discount. You are right about BART, that's strictly for out of town, but the trams and busses give wonderful service and total coverage.
Old Jan 7th, 2002, 11:09 AM
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Boston & DC!
Old Jan 7th, 2002, 11:22 AM
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Patrick - I also stayed in Cow Hollow on my most recent trip, but my visit was short enought that I did not need to use buses. It's clear you know SF more than I, so I will defer to you.
Old Jan 7th, 2002, 11:35 AM
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We spent 3 days in Quebec City and just left our car in the hotel parking garage. It's a delightful city for walking.
Old Jan 7th, 2002, 07:42 PM
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Las Vegas, of course!!
Old Jan 8th, 2002, 08:36 AM
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It depends on the size of the city and what you considerate "doing" the city. There are immense areas of Chicago that you could not appreciate without a car. In New York we got "almost" everywhere, but we don't consider New York just Manhattan and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

San Francisco doesn't have the size factor and is easily visited without a car. If you just want to visit and appreciate downtown Chicago and some areas North of that, then a car would be a handicap. But any city that has that large of an area and so many cultural and historic aspects that are outside of the downtown or tourist sections, aren't really "known" without a car.

I could probably do any city for one weekend without a car, regardless of size. How much can you really cram in about large entities / locations anyway in that amount of time.
Old Jan 9th, 2002, 07:04 AM
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...oh wait a minute, I thought that the question was
"American cities you can do without"
Old Jan 9th, 2002, 11:11 AM
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Some very interesting responses so far. In all cases, I don't think there is anywhere in North America where you can explore outside the city without a car (exceptions: tour buses, train trips).

With regard to San Francisco: I live across the bay in Berkeley and you can do almost all of Berkeley and SF without a car, fairly easily. Yes, BART is limited and so is the MUNI Metro, but the buses cover SF better than almost any other city in America (too bad they aren't reliable with respect to schedules). My advice to anyone visiting SF is to ditch the car while in the city. Get yourself a MUNI map for $2 at most local bookstores (and tourist info booths). Pay $1 and get a transfer for buses. The transfers are usually good for like 2 hours, but often even over 3!!! Just make sure you are waiting for a line that come fairly frequently (check the frequencies on the back of the MUNI map).

Here are some MUNI lines that are useful for tourists:

F-Market: historic streetcars on Market, west to Castro (gay area). Also on Embarcadero along the waterfront (beautiful) to Fisherman's Wharf (tourist trap).

30-Stockton: From Union Square to Chinatown (the REAL Chinatown is on Stockton, not Grant), North Beach (Italian restaurants, coffee shops, close to Coit Tower), Fisherman's Wharf/Ghiradelli Square, and further along to the Marina (upscale residential, Palace of the Fine Arts). Transfer at Laguna to the 28 bus for the Golden Gate Bridge.

45-Union: Same as 30-Stockton to North Beach, then along Union Street to Cow Hollow (upscale shopping along Union).

1-California: From Embarcadero Center, up the hills through Chinatown to Nob Hill (traditionally upscale urban living). On to Pacific Heights (mansions and beautiful parks). Further to Richmond District (early suburban area, also "new" Chinatown) and Palace of the Legion of Honor (short walk from bus).

6, 7 or 71-Haight buses: Along Market, up Haight (lower Haight, around Fillmore is a GREAT urban neighborhood, along maybe a bit edgy for many tourists). Upper Haight around Ashbury was the hippie hangout in the 60s. Now there's a GAP and Ben & Jerry's, although there are some redeeming attractions. Close to Golden Gate Park too.

21-Hayes: Up Market, Hayes to Alamo Square (postcard row), along to Golden Gate Park.

14-Mission: One of the most "interesting" bus rides in SF. Goes along Mission, a tough street, into the Mission district (Hispanic/Latino neighborhood). 24th Street is the heart of the neighborhood. One street west is Valenica, where the traditional Latino neighborhood meets dot-com hangouts (when the dot-coms existed, anyway). For more "wary" tourists, you can take BART from Market Street to 24th St/Mission.

Cable Cars: Ummm, these are NOT useful for getting around. They are FUN to ride (best attraction in the city in my opinion), but in toursist season, you can wait an hour in line. Take the F-Market line instead for a quicker ride from Union Sq/downtown to Fisherman's Wharf. However, the California line never has a wait and the view looking into the Financial District canyons and to the Bay Bridge is incredible. This line is actually useful for travelling up/down from Nob Hill to the Financial District/Embarcadero. But it costs $2 and your MUNI transfer is not valid (and no transfers are issued).

Additionally, there is a lot you can see with just your two feet (yes there are hills, but that's part of the experience). For SF Bay Area transit information: If you have any questions about visiting SF, or especially Berkeley, you can email me: [email protected]

Anyway, I ended up writing more than I expected. I hope it's useful to someone.

Old Jan 9th, 2002, 01:07 PM
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Definately NY, where walking is entertainment in itself.

Moreover there are many clusters of interesting things that can be walked to, e.g. Rockefeller to Times Square to the Empire State, food is available on every street when you get famished, and subways and cabs are relatively easy to access.

Quebec City, noted above, is definately a great choice if you are looking for a European type experience in America. I believe that it is the only walled city in North America.

It may be harder for you to get to than some of the other choices, but if you are looking for something different, this is a good one. We found a nice B&B nearby the old town - more intimate than the Chatenaux (forgive the spelling).
Old Jan 20th, 2002, 05:48 PM
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Regarding Chicago, I have to disagree with Jeanette that you can only see downtown and the near north area of the city without a car. Chicago has wonderful transportation both in the form of the CTA and Metra which can take you to many areas of the city as well as the suburbs, i.e. Oak Park, Evanston, St. Charles/Geneva to name a few. In fact, traffic has gotten so bad here in the last 10 years (especially in outlying areas) that I'd recommend public transportation to visitors over a car for getting to many of these out-of-downtown areas..
Old Jan 20th, 2002, 05:54 PM
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you should only consider cities with safe, clean public transportation. so the top of your list should include wash DC, san fran, and boston. all have great metro systems. karen
Old Jan 23rd, 2002, 01:57 PM
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Williamsburg VA.
Of course, that's if seeing the colonial area is all that you're looking to do. The Amtrak/Bus station is right in town, easy walking distance to both high end and low end lodging. The historic area only a few blocks away. Bus service (not on Sunday) is not great, but for the most part adequate. Summertime there's better bus service. Taxi's not very expensive. Want a few days of historic vacationing, and no driving? Here it is.
Old Jan 24th, 2002, 02:00 PM
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New York is my favorite city to see without a car. I would also add to the list Phiiadelphia. Philly's SEPTA system of subways, buses, light rail and regional rail can get you to most anywhere in the Delaware Valley. Washington, D.C.'s Metro is also very convenient. I would also have to say San Jose. I go there on business occasionally. The Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) Light Rail is great. Runs 24 hours a day. Great way to get downtown from the airport. Mostly serves the City and some of the suburbs North and West. Most, if not all City and Suburban buses intersect in the downtown area.
I would agree with the previous posting about San Francisco's poor bus service. They never come on time.
Old Jan 24th, 2002, 02:27 PM
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Vancouver has a great bus service you can get to everywhere and it was so punctual when we were there you could set your watch by it! You can even get to outlying places such as Victoria by public transport if you plan it right. Did anyone find Seattle's buses confusing? We were only there a day but couldn't fathom them out!
Old Jan 24th, 2002, 07:19 PM
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New Orleans, San Francisco, Washinton, DC, Seattle, NYC---don't know for sure, but I'm thinking you could do Boston as well.
Old Jan 25th, 2002, 04:17 AM
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Savannah! Suprised nobody's mentioned it yet.
Old Jan 25th, 2002, 08:35 AM
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Washington, DC is one of the most walkable cities in the world, Plus, the Metro is superb. Note: the Metro's operating hours have been permanently extended, and the system now closes at 2 a.m. on Friday & Saturday Nights (midnight Sunday thru Thursday). It's also very safe and clean.
Old Jan 25th, 2002, 09:40 AM
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Let's not forget Charleston, SC.
Old Jan 25th, 2002, 10:04 AM
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Definitely Charleston. Also Savannah.

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