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Please help me plan my first trip to San Francisco

Please help me plan my first trip to San Francisco

Old Feb 4th, 2008, 05:53 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 82
Please help me plan my first trip to San Francisco

Hi,

I will be flying out to San Francisco May 2nd for 9 days. For the first 5 days I will be with a my friend then I will be solo for the rest of the trip. So far this is what we have for an itinerary:

Day 1 - Arrive SFO around 10 p.m., rent car and stay in a hotel right by the airport (suggestions welcome)

Day 2 - Leave very early and drive down to Big Sur stopping along the way. Overnight in Carmel

Day 3 - Leave Carmel and drive up to Muir Woods for a brief visit. Then head to Sonoma to visit some wineries. Overnight somewhere in Sonoma (please help with lodging)

Day 4 - Would like to take a hot air balloon ride over Napa. After the morning ride, visit more wineries. Overnight somewhere in Napa

Day 5 - Return rental car to the aiport and take public transportation to the city. Since niether of us has ever visited the city, we will more than likely take a city tour. Also, this will be my friends last day with me therefore, would love a fabulous restaurant recomendation for a farewell dinner

Day 6-9 Exploring the city on my own.


I'd like to keep the lodging to no more than $200 per night.

I'm torn on what area to stay in the city. I've read a lot of posts here and Union Square seems to be the place to stay. However, many people say that to get the "true" feel of the city we should stay in Fisherman's Wharf.

We are two ladies in our 30's and enjoy beautiful scenery, great shopping, wonderful food, wine, walking endlessly, more wine etc.

Any help you could provide would be wonderful.

Thanks,
Linda
LindainFL is offline  
Old Feb 4th, 2008, 06:51 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 174
Hi LindainFL-

I just stayed at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Stockton which is a block off of Union Square. I got a rate of $85 a night off of Priceline.com. I went to "name your own price for hotels" and picked 4 star hotels deluxe and picked Union Square East-Embarcadero. It seems as if that hotel comes up as my friend also got the same hotel for the same price. Just remember that they won't tell you which hotel you get until after you pay.

Now, I didn't think the hotel was a 4 star deluxe hotel, but it was fine. I asked what the cost was to upgrade to the club level and it was $75 to do so. Instead, they placed us on a higher floor which gave us great views of the city and the bay and did not cost us anything. The rooms are average, comfortable and clean. The beds were comfy. The cable car is within walking distance, as is Union Square. Cabs are super easy to get and I thought they were a great way to get around the city.

I am not a big fan of staying near Fisherman's Wharf as I find Union Square and surrounding area more central to what I want to do (shop and eat), but that is just my opinion. I don't live in the city (I am in San Jose) but I am sure some locals can give you a better comparison then I can.

I also wanted to recommend a fabulous restaurant I ate at...Frascati over on Hyde Street. It is about a $10 cab ride or a $5 dollar cable car ride away (much more fun). See comments about Frascati on tripadvisor. The best meal I have had in a long time.

Hope you have a great time!

Monica
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 07:06 PM
  #3  
dmlove
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Your days 2-3-4 itinerary is very rushed - you'll be all over the place (south, north, west, east, and back south again). If it were me, I'd do either Carmel-Big Sur OR Sonoma-Napa, but not both with only 3 days.

Second, there is nothing "true" about the feel of Fisherman's Wharf. It's a tourist area. You may like it to visit (see the thread of the last few days about it), but I don't think it's where you'll want to stay. If you stay at Union Square, you'll be near restaurants, theatre, shopping, MOMA, etc. I'm not suggesting you skip Fisherman's Wharf, just that you stay somewhere else more "appropriate" for your age and self-described travel habits.
 
Old Feb 4th, 2008, 07:22 PM
  #4  
R_Mondavi
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Yes, come to Napa Valley where the wine is the best!
 
Old Feb 4th, 2008, 07:44 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2006
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dmlove is right. That's way too much driving the first few days. Also, traffic in the Bay area is horrible. Either go north or south but keep your driving through the Bay area to a minimum.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 08:16 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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We are in your same age range and really like staying in Union Square vs the wharf area. We like to stay at the Kimpton boutique hotels- find them on expedia and pick which one is the best deal. We have stayed at both Sir Francis Drake and the Palomar and have been very happy with both. The Monoco is also a great choice. These hotels cater to the 30 something crowd and are perfect for women travelling together!

what kind of restaurant are you looking for? there is so much to choose from!!
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 08:24 PM
  #7  
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Thanks for the responses so far. I know it seems like a lot of driving but my friend has her heart set on seeing those areas in the short time she'll be there. At least I'll have some time after she leaves to just be in one area and explore.

As far as restaurants we are big on Italian but even bigger on Asian cusine. I like everything but for our farewell dinner I'd say it's between these two cusines.

Well for our first night I was able get the Hyatt by the airport for 77 dollars on priceline. They charge for parking so I think we'll take advantage of thier complimentary shuttle to the airport and rent the car starting Saturday.

I'll check out those Kimpton hotels

Thanks for the tip and please keep them coming.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 08:38 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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I definitely agree with the recommendations to stay in the Union Square area rather than Fisherman's Wharf. The Kimpton hotels are great--in addition to the ones mentioned, I've also stayed at the Prescott and liked it quite a bit.

Rather than going back south of downtown to SFO from Napa and then having to get back downtown, can you drop the car off downtown without incurring much of an extra charge? That'll save you at least a little time.

I just went to the Slanted Door last week and really enjoyed it--upscale Vietnamese cuisine in the Ferry Building. But my favorite SF restaurant by far is Gary Danko--I still dream of that meal from a year ago ;-). Both are very popular so you'll need to book as far in advance as you can.
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 08:56 PM
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YUMMM! Gary Danko!!! Make ressies now! they fill up!

Are you into cocktails? Bourbon & Branch is a great experience if you are
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Old Feb 4th, 2008, 09:08 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Here's my take on it...I used to live in SF and have been back more than a dozen times. Each time, we come back we stayed right by Fisherman's Wharf. Here's why:
1. Loved easy access to all the ferries.
2. Loved walking along the tourist shops and watching street performers at night.
3. Easy access to cable car and all public transportations.
4. Basically, just love being near the water, gorgeous views of the ocean...etc..
5. Lots of places to eat, but favorite restarant is in Richmond area(not Richmond Oakland) for authentic Chinise food or Cafe Sport for Italian. Another great place is right by the wharf, gorgeous views of the bay - McCormick and Smik(spelling?)

Union Square is just a large shopping area...pretty boring at night really.
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Old Feb 5th, 2008, 12:14 PM
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I think you can do wayyyy better than the McCormick and Schmidts chain (I also don't know how to spell it) as SF has some of the best chefs in the states! Not to discount M&S it's just that every major city has one and the dishes are all pretty pedestrian.

Incanto is fabulous, but not really Italian. I'm not up on the Asian restaurants so I'll let others chime in, but I did have a very nice meal at the Slanted Door which is in the ferry plaze so that might be good. I would still say Gary Danko is a winner!

You might want to check and see if you can drop your car off in the city instead of heading back out to the airport.

Last time we were in the city we went to the tower and then walked down and explored the neighborhood around it. fabulous. Also great to walk around Haight area. Great place for a bite and a drink there is Alembic. Very small and perfect for if you are on your own (although crowded on Fri and Sat nights)

You will have a great time I'm sure! TONS of great shopping!

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Old Feb 5th, 2008, 01:18 PM
  #12  
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Hi,

I checked out the website for Gary Danko and it looks wonderful. In addition you experts rave about it so we just might go there.

Thanks for the suggestions on dropping the car off in town. I have yet to book a rental and am hoping to get a steal on priceline.

Those Kimpton hotels are GRAND but yikes they are about 300 night which is a little more than I wanted to spend. I wish I could afford to stay there .

Stormygirl - what tower are you referring to?

Again, thanks for the responses.

Linda
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Old Feb 5th, 2008, 02:05 PM
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I was surprised to hear that about the Kimpton rates--I would have thought they've be more in the 200-250 range but I plugged in your dates on their website and you're right! I wonder if there's a convention going on or something then that rates are so high...

You might try the Joie de Vivre hotel group--I haven't stayed at any of them but they get good reviews and I believe they are a bit lower in price as a rule than the Kimpton Hotels.

What have you seen that's in your price range? Maybe you could post a few places you're looking at and get comments on them.
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Old Feb 5th, 2008, 04:04 PM
  #14  
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Hi,

Some hotels I'm looking at for the city in my price range are:

Kensington Park Hotel - Union Square

The Cartwright Hotel - Union Square

Chancellor Hotel - Union Square

Best Western Tuscan Inn - Fisherman's Wharf

However, those Kimpton hotels are very tempting...

Any comments on the hotels above would be greatly appreciated. One very important thing for me location in the city. I will be alone for most of my city stay and would love a hotel in the middle of it all and close to public transportation.

Thanks,
Linda


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Old Feb 5th, 2008, 05:36 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
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i got a room at the mark hopkins on hotwire for 130 a night.

we've also stayed at the prescott (a kimpton if i remember correctly) for approx 115 (again on hotwire)...

as for asian food, we are going to umami in about a month - i've heard its great but never been there...

have a good trip
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Old Feb 5th, 2008, 06:11 PM
  #16  
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I've never used hotwire but just checked out the website and the prices are great.

JMWF, how far in advance do you book your hotels on hotwire? There is a 3.5 star rating hotel in Fisherman's Wharf for 129 but I'm skeptical it will not be what we want.

Thanks for the input.

Linda
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Old Feb 6th, 2008, 03:05 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
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i find generally there are better prices further in advance. as hotwire is owned by expedia, the prices between the two sites seem to converge as you get closer to the travel date. that said, i've seen good deals avaliable in the past reasonably last minute - just less frequently.

as for the hotwire process, i've used it many times and never been really dissapointed... that said, i've booked a 3.5 star once and it was very ok, nothing special. other times we've done 4 stars and i've found them to be very safe bets, in some cases we've been very lucky.

as for the 3.5 star in fisherman's warf - i might hold off. 1) i don't think i would like to stay around the warf 2) 3.5 stars (on hotwire) can be dodgy and 3) i assume there are 4 star hotels near union square for approx. 160?

to me it would be worth the extra ~30 a day simply for the location and closer proximity to shopping and restaurants. not to mention with the extra .5 star, you have a better shot at a nicer hotel.

best of luck!
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Old Feb 6th, 2008, 08:32 AM
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Coit Tower! sorry about that!

those prices are steep for the Kimpton's. We usually notice that 1 of the 3 around Union Square will be dramatically less and go that route but as someone said maybe there is a convention booked?

I stayed at the mark hopkins via priceline once too.
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Old Feb 6th, 2008, 08:35 AM
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Join Date: May 2005
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I haven't stayed at any of those--but it seems like the Chancellor gets recommended a lot and the reviews on TA are pretty good.

For me, the hotel I stay in is too important a part of the travel experience to choose it "blindly" like you would on Hotwire. Plus I strongly prefer boutiques to the chains so I'd be very disappointed to end up with a Marriott or something. So it really depends on what's more important to you, the pure cost of the room or the total experience. That said, I think JMWF's advice about going for a 4 star in the Union Square area is good if you're going to go that route.

Let us know what you decide!
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Old Feb 6th, 2008, 03:46 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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I would definitely stay at the Chancellor. It is 1/2 block up from Union Square. The staff is well trained, friendly and helpful. The rooms went through a refurbishing last year and are lovely. We stayed there last week for two nights and loved it.

They have a bar and a restaurant for breakfast and lunch, and, again, the wait staff and bartenders are efficient and friendly.

This is a boutique hotel, so you don't expect huge rooms or bathrooms, but we were very comfortable.
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