Downtown San Francisco

Old Jan 20th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Downtown San Francisco

My husband and I will be staying at the St. Francis for 3 nights at the end of Feb.He will be attending a conference. I need suggestions on shopping, sightseeing, dining, etc. I will not have a rental car, so please make suggestions I can walk to or ride cable cars. My last trip to SF was 15 years ago. Thanks!
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 08:44 AM
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If you have time, you should try to have dinner in Sausilto. They ferry from Pier 39 will take you over. I'm not sure of any restaurant names but the hotel conceirge could help with the names, and possibly reservations. The view from the ferry is the best way to see the city and the Golden Gate Bridge
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 08:57 AM
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Mske sure to go to Fisherman's Wharf.
Make sure to go to Peir 39. When you go, walk to the very back,past all of the shops, to the end of the boardwalk.
You will have a spectacular view of Alcatraz and will be up close and personal with the resident sea lions.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 09:28 AM
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You are right on the Powell Street cable car line. I think there are 3 day transit passes through SF Muni that include the cable cars. Being right at Union Square, there's a lot of shopping options. Also the major remodel of the SF Westfield shopping center is nearby on Market between 3rd and 4th. And you are an easy walk to Chinatown. Lots of dining options. I'll think on my faves and I'm sure others will have suggestions.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 09:45 AM
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I like the area around Union Square. There are lots of nice shops and a big Macy's. Some good places for lunch on the side streets or 'alleys'.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 10:13 AM
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How fun! Go to Farallon for some really great seafood in a fun atmosphere, request a table in the main pool room there. Union Square is a very nice area to stay. Try to get over to the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building Marketplace, there are several good places to eat there, also.

Go up to the top of Macy's for some really pretty views of Union Square, there is also the Cheesecake Factory restaurant up there. Have fun! ***kim***
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Hello Winifred, instead of wasting an evening eating at the CheeseFactory check out Scala's which is just a half a block up on Powell St., from your hotel.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 01:04 PM
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Try to get in to Gary Danko. It's at the west end of Fisherman's Warf area. If no res. available, go when they open and sit at the bar to eat. Fabulous food, but liquor can cost more than the food, so be careful. After dinner, walk one block to the Buena Vista, famous for their equally fabulous Irish Coffee. Have a wonderful trip.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 02:58 PM
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Definitely get the transit pass - with that you can get just about anywhere in SF. No worries about that. Cable cars are a must ride for the experience, although their usefulness for getting around town is limited - not to worry, there are plenty of buses, lightrail lines, and streetcars for that. Fortunately you will be there on winter weekdays, so you wont have the long waits to get on the cable cars when you do ride.

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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 03:09 PM
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Beach Blanket Babylon!!!!!
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 03:29 PM
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Definitely take a tour of Alcatraz. The tours sell out in advance, so make reservations now. I have not done the night tour, but have heard it is great. So you could either do the day tour yourself or the night one with your husband. When we did the day tour, we went over on the first boat of the day. It was nice in that it was not crowded there at all. We were back before lunch and so had the rest of the day to wander.

I also agree about stopping for an Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista. That is always a must stop for us. It is right on the corner next to where the Cable Cars turnaround.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 03:38 PM
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Hi Winifred, if you want to take a tour of Alcatraz here is their official website (Hornblowers)
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 03:51 PM
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Thanks LoveItaly I knew the reservations thing had changed, but couldn't remember the new website.
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Old Jan 20th, 2007, 04:41 PM
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Hi mms, yes Hornblowers now has the contract for the Alcatraz Island Tours. There has been lots of anger about that as Hornblowers is nonunion. There has been picking by union people from time to time but nothing dangerous that I have heard of but I have felt bad about those that have lost their jobs.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 12:43 AM
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Angel Island if you like to walk, hike. There is a wonderful exhibit there on the Chinese who came thru Angel Island (Ellis Island of the West). Original housing is still there with poems etched into the walls.
Alcatraz a must

Victorial home walk - a walking tour to see our great victorians meets everyday at 11:00. 415 252 9485

Theater is also a fun thing to do. Jersey Boys is currently there until march 2007, and of course Beach Blanket Babylon

So many good restuarants. My favs:
Fringale - small french restuarant
Fifth Floor - for a big splurge
Lori's diner for great breakfasts
Kuleto's on Powell also Scala's
Cosmopolitan on Spear Street near embarcadero
Boulevard also off Embarcadero - another splurge however
Pizza - try Amici's across from the ball park

Shopping - The San Francisco Shopping Center on Market with Nordstroms, Bloomingdales and lots of other - . Cheap things at the wharf (t shirts, etc)
Union Street but you would have to take a bus unless you are stayaing in that area.

Muir woods (wonderful walk thru the redwoods - you can book tours to visit that as well as wine country tours.

Have a great time in a great city

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Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 04:04 AM
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I just went to the Asian Art Museum and loved it! If you are on the Powell cable line take that to Market st. and transfer to the F line streetcar and take that to 8th st. the museum is one block from there.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 08:28 AM
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I hate Fisherman's Wharf and also Pier 39 - tacky, tacky, takey. Most everyone who lives in SF & surrounding areas, avoid it at all costs - except to pick up a Cable Car or dine at the 1 or 2 good retaurants there.

Several years ago I posted this as a response to someone who was planning on spending most of their visit at the Wharf. Then, I titled it "Alternatives to Fisherman's Wharf"

San Francisco Attractions
Places with great views
Get an AAA map

Without a car
Downtown, North Beach, Wharf areas
1. Coit tower – views west & toward financial district. Early in the morning.
2. Jack Early Park – East of Grant between Chestnut & Francisco. Perhaps smallest park in SF.
3. Top floor of the parking garage above the Police station on Vallejo between Stockton & Powell
4. Where Vallejo ends (temporarily) just east of Jones. There is a lookout & small park for a picnic. If you arrive from Vallejo & Jones (vs. the stairs from Taylor), there is an unusual street entrance to this area. This is a public street so don’t feel like it is a private residential area & avoid it. You can also walk there from the prior view spot #3 – go up Vallejo stairs west of Mason. This is one of my favorite lookout spots. It is included on Attraction #5 (stairway Walk #4) – see “Attractions” section of this guide)

Farther out – take Muni
5. Twin Peaks in the afternoon
6. Randall Museum – go up to top of hill. Best in the late afternoon.
7. Bernal Heights hill
8. Billy Goat Hill (off Beacon St or walk up hill from south end of Castro). Best in late afternoon
9. Kite Hill – Yukon & 19th St. Best in late afternoon.
10. Anywhere along Broadway between Webster & Lyon. Best spot is at Lyon. Two of the richest men in the U.S. live close by on Broadway. Lots of luxurious mansions. Walk down the stairs at Lyon.
11. El Camino Del Mar & then Lincoln Blvd going East through GGNRA & Presidio – killer views of the Golden Gate and the bridge. I always take guests on this route. Stop at China Beach. No Muni available on El Camino Del Mar. Take #18 to Palace of Legion of Honor & walk El Camino Del Mar to Lincoln & then take #29, or walk entire route. Lots of places to stop. Great for biking. A perfect ˝ day tour would be a visit to the Palace of Legion of Honor (great Rodin statues) and then a beautiful walk down El Camino Del Mar (It’s downhill), through Seacliff (more Mansions – Robin Williams lives there), and then up Lincoln until your legs start to holler, then get on the #29 bus. This is a spectacular area. Try to do this on a clear day. DO NOT MISS.
12. Golden Gate Bridge – late in the day.
13. South West corner of Mission Dolores Park (20th & Church). Take the J-Church there & sit on left side going outbound & right side inbound. Get out & enjoy the park & view. J-Church stops there

With a car
14. From Treasure Island early in the morning. (left lane exit off Bay Bridge)
15. Lookout at north end of GG Bridge (late in the day) – but continue on to next viewpoint (#16)
16. GGNRA north of GG bridge. This is probably the BEST view of SF. You can look through the bridge & then above the bridge to SF and all the way south down the San Mateo County Coast on a clear day. Do this late in the day. Take the first exit past the lookout (#15) off the GG Bridge going North (marked Alexander Ave). Turn left the first chance you have, & go under 101. Follow the sign back to SF, but just before getting on 101, make a right turn up the road & follow this road. It’s easier to find than this description might indicate (get a AAA map & take a road called Conzelman). Old WWII bunkers & gun turrets along the way. DON’T MISS.
17. From Sausalito – late in the day
18. From Tiburon – late in the day (or take the Tiburon ferry from Pier 1)

By Boat
19. Alcatraz - late in the day or in late June/early July

My favorites - 16, 5, 11, 14

Places to shop, browse, & people watch
When my wife & I want to shop and enjoy the “ambiance” that makes SF unique, here is where we go.
1. Fillmore St, between Jackson & Sutter. Also walk down Cottage Row (off Bush). Do this in conjunction with City Guides Walk “Pacific Heights Mansions” Sat & Tuesdays at 11:00 (see later description of City Guides). Lots of restaurants & coffee shops (Starbucks, Peets, etc)
2. Union St (between Gough & Steiner), Fillmore (between Union & Chestnut), Chestnut St (between Fillmore & Broderick). If you do this on a sunny Sat or Sunday morning, Chestnut will be loaded with young professionals (yuppies? – is that term still used) going to/from their exercise classes or having breakfast/lunch at one of the many cafes on the street. There are many restaurants in the area (my favorite is Isa on Steiner, North of Chestnut).
3. Polk between California & Green. South end can be a little ruddy, but north of Washington gets better. My favorite restaurant (if someone else is buying) is La Folie near Green. One of my wife's favorite stores is Brown Dirt Cowboy near Union. Good specialty food store at Leonard’s on Polk & Pacific.
4. Hayes St between Franklin & Fillmore, and Gough a few blocks south of Hayes. Lots of unique shops on Hayes. The area around Hayes is a little ruddy, so don’t venture too far west or north. Citizen Cake (Gough & Grove) is a great spot to indulge yourself with cookies & desserts etc, and Absinthe on Hayes is a restaurant that we frequent – both are especially good for lunch/brunch.
5. Sacramento St between Baker & Maple. Many “high class” shops & antique stores. This is located in a residential area with lots of Victorian houses. Many stores will be closed on Sunday.
6. 24th Street between Chattanooga & Douglass, and Church between 24th St & 30th St. This is the Noe Valley. Lots of unique shops along 24th St. Our favorite coffee shop is at Churc & 30th St
7. Union Square area. This, of course, is the downtown shopping center. It’s quite different from the other “neighborhood” shopping areas which we prefer, but we always manage a few trips - especially around Christmas. Shops a few blocks west of Powell on Sutter & Post have some unique stuff. We enjoy this area early in the morning, before all the “street people” wake up. When I worked in The City, I enjoyed walking in this area during lunch time on week days.

When we travel through cities in the US & Europe, we love to wander through neighborhoods where people live. We do the same in San Francisco.

I recommend that you obtain two resources for the “Neighborhoods” and “Attractions” section of this guide.
Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky. 27 walks through The City. I’ve taken most of them and they are fantastic. You will wander through areas that tourists seldom see and you will discover why we pay over 1 million dollars to live in SF in an OK 1 bedroom 1,000 sq. ft. house, or pay $1,500 per month for a studio.
San Francisco City Guides – free walks. . Sponsored by the SF Public Library. Over 28 unique walks given by volunteers who all share one common thing – they are passionate about San Francisco and the subjects that they cover. You will notice that I “push” City Guides quite a bit. When my wife & I retired (early) in ’99, I wanted to spend more time learning about the city where I was born & where I have lived (or close by) most of my life. I went on a few City Guides walks & thought that they were exceptional (and free) My wife liked them so much that she is now a volunteer with City Guides and conducts a few walks herself. The “Haight-Ashbury” walk is given by someone who lived there through “the summer of love” and still remembers it. The “Pacific Heights Mansions” by a person who has lived there all her life. Many of the guides are retired history teachers. Tours are usually 2 hours or less. They sometimes change tour days, so check the internet schedule for the time you will be visiting. Twenty additional tours are conducted in October & May.

1. Noe Valley. 22nd St to 30th St & Dolores to Douglass. Centered around 24th & Noe. There are a lot of small Victorian houses in this area and it has always been known as a “working class” neighborhood. If you go in the morning, you will see a lot of moms pushing around baby buggies. Lots of young people, but not the same type as you might see around Chestnut St. Take the J-Church from downtown (sit on the left side) & get off at 22nd St. Continue walking south on Church & admire the Victorian houses on the east side of Church. At 24th St, turn right & walk to Diamond & then back to Church on the other side of 24th (lots of unique shops on 24th). Walk south on Church (perhaps stopping for lunch at Chloe’s near 25th). Turn right at 30th & walk down to Sanchez & then right/north back to 24th.. Eric’s on Church (Chinese) and le Zinc (French) are two restaurants that I enjoy. Allow a couple of hours for this walk once you get to the Noe Valley.
2. Haight-Ashbury. I don’t ever recall walking down Haight St (I was born a couple of blocks away over 50 years ago), but my wife & I have spent a lot of time walking the streets north & south of Haight. The Haight neighborhood is less “kooky” than the Haight Street, although the street is certainly interesting.. There are a lot of lovely Victorian houses in this area (on Masonic, south of Haight), and pretty streets (Delmar). I recommend that you take the SF City Guides “Haight-Ashbury” tour – Sundays at 11, meet at the library at 1833 Page. You will see where Janis Joplin & The Grateful Dead lived, and where Danny Glover lives. Allow 3 hours for the tour plus a walk down Haight (not included on the City Guides tour). A Perfect Sunday would be a visit to the Haight in the morning (all the weekend Hippies are there on Sunday), followed by an afternoon bicycling in Golden Gate Park.
3. North Beach. Believe it or not – this is really a residential neighborhood. Again, I recommend that you take the City Guides tour “North Beach” Sat & Tues at 10 am - meet at 666 Filbert St on steps of St Peters & Paul Church, and also “North Beach at Night” 3rd Monday at 7:00pm meet at Spec’s café 12 Soroyan Pl.
4. Dolores Heights/edge of The Castro. If I wanted to move back to The City, the area around 20th & Sanchez is where I might want to live. Many Victorian homes on Liberty between Castro & Noe. Do walk # 19 in the Stairway Walks book to see this neighborhood. This area has great views of downtown. Allow a little over an hour for this walk. The J-Church will get you close to the start. Get off at 20th St. & enjoy View #13 of Downtown. Perhaps continue on to the Noe Valley after this walk.
5. Pacific Heights. Take the City Guides tour “Pacific Heights Mansions” Sat, and 1st & 3rd Tues at 11am. Meet in Alta Plaza Park at top of stairs, Pierce & Clay. You will see Danielle Steel’s house (old Spreckels mansion) and the last time I took this tour I saw Robin Williams picking up his son at school. The Fillmore Shopping area is close by. If you can’t make the City Guides tour, follow walk #7 in the Stairway Walks book. Allow 2 hours plus an additional hour for shopping on Fillmore.
6. Presidio Heights. Wander the streets north of Sacramento (Washington, Clay, Jackson) between Divisadero & Maple. Sacramento St Shopping too.

I have to limit my list to a dozen or so. Therefore, I’ll tell you where I will take my aunt from Denmark when she visits. Again, get the Stairway Walks book and the City Guides schedule, or this list will not make a lot of sense.
1. Alcatraz.
2. Financial District at lunchtime on a sunny day. Stop at the Wells Fargo main office on Montgomery & visit the free museum. Have lunch at Justin Herman Plaza. Explore Embarcadero #1,2,3 & 4. Walk in Yerba Buena Gardens. Walk along the Embarcadero (next to the bay) from about pier 15 (walk out on the fishing pier #7) to Pacific Bell Park. Visit the park on non-game days. Enhance this with a City Guides tour of “City Scapes & Public Places” Fridays at 10 – meet at the Native Sons monument at Montgomery/Post & Market St (I have not taken this tour, but my wife has) Allow 3-4 hours plus the tour (2 hrs).
3. Cable Cars – I still get a kick out of taking the cable cars. Get on the car at the Hyde/Beach turn-around (Ghirardelli Sq), sit/stand on the left side (facing east) and get off just before Union Square (don’t go all the way to Market St – too many pan-handlers). About mid-route, get off the car & visit the Cable Car Museum at the corner of Washington & Mason. It’s very interesting & free. Allow 1 ˝ hrs.
4. Walk #1 in the Stairway Walks book – Yerba Buena & Telegraph Hill (Coit Tower) followed by Walk #2 in the same area. You might do this walk in conjunction with the City Guides walk of “Coit Tower Murals” Sundays at 11AM. Walk #1 is one of my favorites. Allow 3-4 hours. You will walk the famous Filbert St Steps. A perfect Saturday morning would be a visit to the Farmers Market first thing in the AM, followed by this walk
5. Lombard St - squiggly portion. Do walk #5 in the Stairway Walks and if you still have the energy, add on walk #4. Both are in the Russian Hill area. Start on Polk (shopping street) & do this early in the day. I like walk #4 (one of my favorites) better than #5 – but both are great.
6. Victorian Houses. There are thousands of Victorians scattered throughout the city. The most photographed ones are “postcard row” on Alamo square. City Guides does two Victorian walking tours. “Landmark Victorian of Alamo Square” 1st & 3rd Wednesdays and 1st & 3rd Saturdays at 11. The tour starts at 824 Grove. If the owner is at home, you may be able to visit the interior of 824 Grove (one of only 2 Victorian interiors that you can visit in The City, to my knowledge). It is one of the most outrageous interiors I have ever seen. It was featured on HGTV recently. City Guides also offers “Victorian San Francisco” Sundays at 2:00 starting at 1801 Bush (& Octavia). This tour goes into a little more detail & you see more houses. The other Victorian interior that you can visit is the Haas-Lilienthal House at 1735 Franklin. Open Wed 12-3 and Sun 11-4. This is not a City Guides tour, so there is an admission.
7. Golden Gate Park - Great on a sunny Sunday when they block off traffic on a section of the park. Great for biking. There are a couple of bike rental places on Stanyan near the Park.
8. Farmer’s Market – every Saturday morning at the Ferry building at the foot of Market St. (you’ll see it) from 8:30 or so till 1pm. More active in Summer months. Many restaurants have booths serving food, which would be much more fun than a hotel breakfast. Even tourists will find some souvenirs. Great place to people watch.
9. Beach Blanket Babylon at the Club Fugazi on 678 Green St. Zany show – real fun. Teatro ZinZanni at about Pier 33 is one of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years. More expensive than BBB, same zaniness, some very good “European Style” acts, and you get dinner served.
10. Walk across Golden Gate Bridge in the afternoon on a fogless day. Do this if you are not doing Views # 15 & #16
11. Fort Point under the SF side of the GG Bridge. Old Civil War fort with good views. Kinda fun to watch the waves pound the shore on a stormy day.
12. Chinatown. Walk along Stockton between Sacramento & Broadway. Do not tour the Grant St section – it’s full of tacky shops. City Guides offers a tour, but I have not taken it.
13. North Beach at night – mainly Columbus Ave., north of Broadway. Probably the most active section of The City in the evening – lots of outdoor café’s that seem to be open all year round.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 08:51 AM
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Call up the restaurant called 1550 Hyde (its address) and make a reservation for dinner. Hop onto the Hyde Street cable car and off you go to dinner. The cable car driver will definitely know where it is. Nice atmospheric neighborhood, cozy place with a good wine list and seasonally aware menu.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 09:09 AM
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Stu has a great list. I'll add a few (I apologize if they are already in his list):
Cole Valley District (love Zazie, a casual French bistro)
Irving Street (Inner Sunset near Golden Gate Park)
Ferry Building
Red's Java House (breakfast or burgers for lunch: great views)
Fort Mason
The Presidio
Clement Street (lots of restaurants)
Home restaurant on Union Street
trippinkpj is offline  
Old Jan 22nd, 2007, 03:25 PM
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Eat at the Tadich Grill near the Financial District. A gem that shouldn't be missed.
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