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Five full days San Francisco – how to split up the stuff I want to do?

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Jan 13th, 2014, 06:15 AM
  #1
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Five full days San Francisco – how to split up the stuff I want to do?

I will have five full days in San Francisco (Mon-Fri) in mid March. I’ll be staying in Lafayette and taking BART in/out approximately 9-6 each day (flexible).

I’ve done a ton of research (thank you Stu, and others) and know WHAT I want to see, question is how to arrange it.

Photography is a major interest so I know some places are better seen in the morning vs afternoon – but a lot of these I don’t which time of day is best (or if it matters). Also would like to have a couple of ‘rainy day’ plans.

I’ve mapped it so I know how far it is from place to place but of course the map doesn’t show the hills so I really don’t know how long to allow for some of these walks. I normally average at least 8 miles walking per day on trips – but I gather 8 miles in NY or Paris is not the same as 8 miles in SF. I will get a week long transportation pass.

Palace of Fine Arts, Walk along water to GG Bridge (in a.m.)
Telegraph Hill – Coit Tower, Greenwich/Filbert Steps
Vallejo Steps/Macondray Lane
Washington Square/St Peter & Paul Church
SF Art Institute
Fisherman’s Wharf
Columbus Ave/City Lights Books, etc. walk
Golden Gate Park/ Conservatory of Flowers/Stow Lake
Lafayette Park/ Haas Lilienthal, etc. walk
Alamo Square (in P.M.)
Haight Ashbury walk
Civic Center
Mission Dolores and murals in the area
Presidio (area west of bridge) (in P.M.)
Ferry ride
Cal Academy of Science
Aquarium
De Young/Legion of Honor (have to be same day)
Embarcadero Center/Crocker Galleria/Westfield Center

So I’d love advice how to split things up. Also anything else to add? Thanks
isabel is online now  
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Jan 13th, 2014, 08:25 AM
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I would add a visit to Berkeley to see the historic and beautiful Cal campus.
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Jan 13th, 2014, 08:32 AM
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I will be looking forward to isabel's beautiful photos of my favorite US city!!
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Jan 13th, 2014, 08:36 AM
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Since you state that your main interest is photography, I do not know if you intend to visit the Academy of Science and the de Young for their architecture or their collections. If the former, you can easily do this at the same time as you do the Conservatory of Flowers and Stowe Lake. One can take the elevtor to the top of the tower at the de Young without paying an entrance fee.
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Jan 13th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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Palace of Fine Arts, Walk along water to GG Bridge (in a.m.)
...I was there yesterday. Better views back to the city in the PM. Better views of the Bridge in the am.. The surf was up yesterday - lots of surfers at Ft Point.

Telegraph Hill – Coit Tower, Greenwich/Filbert Steps
...Better views back to the Financial District in the PM, and better views of the bay & west of the tower in the AM.

Vallejo Steps/Macondray Lane
...Time of day does not matter

Washington Square/St Peter & Paul Church
... time of day does not matter

SF Art Institute
... don't know

Fisherman’s Wharf
... best time is never. Spend your time along the Embarcadero south of Pier 39, and from Aquatic Park west.

Columbus Ave/City Lights Books, etc. walk
Golden Gate Park/ Conservatory of Flowers/Stow Lake
..any time is fine

Lafayette Park/ Haas Lilienthal, etc. walk
...I was in the re-done Lafayette Park yesterday too. Anytime is fine. Haas/Lilenthal house is only open on Wednesdays while you are here.

Alamo Square (in P.M.)
Yep - best in PM

Haight Ashbury walk
..anytime

Civic Center
...not when it is dark.

Mission Dolores and murals in the area
...anytime

Presidio (area west of bridge) (in P.M.)
....PM

Ferry ride
...best in PM

Cal Academy of Science
Aquarium
De Young/Legion of Honor (have to be same day)
...best when they open in the AM. Aquarium is inside the Academy

Embarcadero Center/Crocker Galleria/Westfield Center
...more interesting around lunchtime on a work day.

How about the Ferry Building & Embarcadero??? I forgot the day of the week-day farmer's market

Stu Dudley
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Jan 14th, 2014, 06:05 AM
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Thanks a lot.

Goldens - the five days is just for SF, whole trip is 2 weeks, and Berkeley will be included ( daughter is student there)

Deb - I can't wait to take the photos, my last trip there two years ago, it rained most of the time. I got a few hours of sun and some good shots of the GG Bridge, but didn't get to see most of the city.

Michael - thanks for the tip about being able to go to the de Young tower, I didn't know that. The Academy of Sci I definitely want to go to, looks really interesting. The de Young and Legion of Honor I'm mostly going to for the architecture but I'll be getting a City Pass so they are included so will probably do a short visit.

Stu - thanks, just the info I'm looking for. The Ferry Building and Embarcadero were the only things I really got to see on my last trip (plus walked around china town in the pouring rain) so they aren't high on my list this time, but I hope I'll have time to get to them again.

Couple more questions if you don't mind. It's so hard to tell where and how bad the hills are. One day I'm thinking of walking from the Mission District to Haight to the Park to Alamo Square to City Hall. Do any of those routes have really bad hills. The total distances are very doable, just not sure about the hills.

Also, the cable cars - I've read they are so crowded with tourists that it's not really practical to use them as transportation (e.g. expect to be able to get on mid route). Also, do they have 'stops' or do you really just 'hop on'. And if so, are they marked like bus stops. How does that work?
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Jan 14th, 2014, 07:39 AM
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>>Couple more questions if you don't mind. It's so hard to tell where and how bad the hills are. One day I'm thinking of walking from the Mission District to Haight to the Park to Alamo Square to City Hall. Do any of those routes have really bad hills. The total distances are very doable, just not sure about the hills.<<

Mostly flat, except a little uphill along Haight from Divisadero to Buena Vista Park. Going east from Divisadero, you get to the famous "Hayes Hill" at Alamo square. The steepest portion of this hill, however, will be downhill for you to Civic Center.

My wife is leading the SF City Guides walk "Landmark Victorians of Alamo Square" this Thursday, so I'll verify this info then about the steepest part of the climb to Alamo Square. In case I forget, you can hop on the 21 Hayes bus on the north side of GG Park from 8th ave east, & take it to Alamo Square. The bus stops directly at the point of the famous "postcard row" view - but you'll need to walk into the park about 10 yards for the best views.

>>Also, the cable cars - I've read they are so crowded with tourists that it's not really practical to use them as transportation (e.g. expect to be able to get on mid route). Also, do they have 'stops' or do you really just 'hop on'. And if so, are they marked like bus stops. How does that work?<<

Yep - it is crowded. There are specific stops for the CCs - I assume that they are marked.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 14th, 2014, 08:02 AM
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The de Young and Legion of Honor I'm mostly going to for the architecture but I'll be getting a City Pass so they are included so will probably do a short visit.

If visiting the museums, I think that it is best to split your 2 day visit in Golden Gate Park a different way: Conservatory of Flowers and one museum one day, and Stowe lake and another museum the next day.
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Jan 14th, 2014, 08:21 AM
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Isabel,
I have had two sons go there . One is there now, maybe our kids know each other!
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Jan 14th, 2014, 09:38 AM
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Coit Tower is closed for renovations---or it was the first week in December and I think it is a long term project. The views from the hill were great when you could see through the bushes. We got there mid afternoon and there was plenty parking in the tiny parking lot so it was worth going.
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Jan 14th, 2014, 09:52 AM
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Last time we were at Coit Tower, we couldn't see through the bushes either.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 14th, 2014, 10:35 AM
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It's great that you have 5 full days and are going to venture to some places that many tourists don't get to. If you haven't done so already, I suggest that you buy a copy of Ada
Bakalinsky's "Stairway Walks in San Francisco," which details 29 walks (all mapped out) and will help you organize your walks and see things you might otherwise miss.

Also, check out 511.org for transit information and excellent point-to-point Muni bus and metro guidance, in case you get tired of walking. You can also call 511 while you are walking to get transit information on the spot. I recommend getting a Clipper card and loading it with, say, $20, which will allow you to simply swipe the card on buses and trams (though not the cable cars) without having to have exact change. Fares are $2 a ride, but you can transfer to any other bus/tram for free within 90 minutes. And another good site for information about transit (including cable cars) is sfmta.com.

Here's how I would group the sites you want to visit. A couple of these will be very full days--you'll have to work to make time for lunch:

Group 1: Presidio wall area / Palace of Fine Arts / Aquatic Park / Marina waterfront to GG Bridge. You can pop over to Fisherman's Wharf for a quick look if you want to.

Group 2: Telegraph Hill – Coit Tower, Greenwich/Filbert Steps / Washington Square / Vallejo Steps/Macondray Lane. NOTE: Coit Tower itself is closed until April, so you won't get to go into the tower. You could do the Columbus Ave/City Lights Bookstore area on this day as well. And perhaps you could fit in the SF Art Institute?

Group 3: Golden Gate Park/ Conservatory of Flowers/Stow Lake / Calif. Academy of Sciences. (Latter is free on 3rd Weds. of month; otherwise quite pricey). I would add the Japanese Tea Garden, for sure--one of my favorite places in the city. Entry is free between 9 and 10 a.m. on MWF; otherwise $7 for nonresidents. If you didn't need to do the de Young and Legion of Honor on the same day, I would also do the de Young on this day, since it is next to the tea garden and right across from the Acad. of Sciences. (At least go up in the de Young tower if it's a beautiful day--you never know what the next day will bring, and the view from the tower is spectacular.) Here's a link to hours and admission prices for these sites in GG Park: http://www.golden-gate-park.com/gold...ces-hours.html

Group 4: Mission Dolores and Mission area murals (be sure to get to the top of Dolores Park, at Church and 20th, for a great view of downtown) / Civic Center / Embarcadero Center/Crocker Galleria/Westfield Center

Group 5: Legion of Honor / Lands End / Cliff House and ruined Sutro baths / western GG Park / De Young Museum. This is a long walk (4+ miles) but really worthwhile--I did it recently. If you don't want to do the whole walk to the De Young, you could include more of the Coastal Trail (great views of the GG Bridge and Marin) instead.

This leaves a few things from your wishlist: Haight Asbury walk/ Lafayette Park/ Haas Lilienthal, etc. walk / Alamo Square / Ferry ride / Presidio (Fort Winfield Scott). You might be able to squeeze them in here and there on one or another day; you can work that out (or add another day?)

Anyway, you are going to have a great time!
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Jan 14th, 2014, 12:39 PM
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One more thing: if you decide to do the walk from the Mission District to Haight to the Park to Alamo Square to City Hall, I suggest starting instead at the Park, followed by the easy walk to the Haight, then Alamo Square, the Mission, and end at City Hall. You'll have mostly downhill walking that way.
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Jan 15th, 2014, 07:15 AM
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Thanks so much for all the helpful info.

Stu - I've bookmarked the City Guides Schedule. If I can I hope to take at least one of the walks ( maybe I'll take the one with your wife, that's one of the main areas I want to see anyway - does she do that one frequently?).

Coit Tower - since it's closed and apparently you can't see much from the base anymore (because of bushes? - the guide books all say the views from the base are great, is that info outdated?) - so is there much point in going up there?

aprillilacs - thanks for the ideas of how to group things.
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Jan 15th, 2014, 07:52 AM
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She does the tour tomorrow, but not anytime in March.

If they cut the shrubs, the views are great. No shrubs for the financial district views (they are from a different location at the base of the tower).

Stu Dudley
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Jan 15th, 2014, 08:14 AM
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The ground floor of the Beach Chalet is worth a visit for its decoration.

http://www.hellermanus.com/Beach_Chalet.html
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Jan 15th, 2014, 02:22 PM
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Bookmarking
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Jan 15th, 2014, 02:33 PM
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Re: Coit Tower. I walked up there 2 weeks ago (have visited several times before) and found it disappointing, with all the construction blocking the tower. At this point it seems better admired from a distance, as it sits on its hill, than from close up. The shrubs did indeed block most of the view to the Bay. On the other hand, the walk down the steps is interesting, especially if you enjoy seeing the hillside plantings and architecture. No parrots when I was there, but I saw several hummingbirds.
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Jan 15th, 2014, 02:36 PM
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The Ferry Building: perhaps unusual but when we visited in October (it was on a weekend) the place was absolutely MOBBED. We wanted to eat there but could hardly move around so ate elsewhere.
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Jan 16th, 2014, 08:44 AM
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Thanks again. Disappointing about Coit Tower but I'd rather know now than hike all the way up there and be disappointed. Seems like there are tons of other places to get good views. I do have the stairway book and that lists plenty of other stairs besides the Greenwich and Filbert Steps to Coit Tower.
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