San Francisco - Stu Dudley's Recommendations

Old May 7th, 2008, 11:18 AM
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San Francisco - Stu Dudley's Recommendations

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 buy 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 ½ 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. See Attraction #14 also.
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, plus Attraction # 11 & 14 below.

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 ½ 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 pre-Civil War fort (explore the inside of the fort) with excellent views. Kinda fun to watch the waves pound the shore on a stormy day. If the surf is good, there are generally a dozen or so surfers catching the waves in front of Ft Point – we’ve spent hours watching them. To make this an even better experience, get to Ft Point by walking along the Bay shore in Crissy field starting from the St Francis Yacht Club. The views are spectacular. The walk along Crissy field is pedestrian & bike only – no cars (there are car parking lots, however). This is one of my favorite areas in The City. You can take a bus to & from Ft Point.
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.
14. Coastal trail from where the Lincoln Park Golf course meets Seacliff (close to the corner of El Camino Del Mar & 32nd st) all the way to the Cliff House (luunch?). This is a very nice path to walk with perhaps the best views of the Golden Gate anywhere. Take the side trip to 1 mile beach (or something named like that), and admire the even better views from there and also the stone labyrinth. You see lots of WWII battlements there also. Spectacular views.

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:20 AM
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Driving Tour of San Francisco

As a native San Franciscan and 33 year resident of the area (I lived in Southern Calif. for 27 years when I was young & didn’t know any better), I’ve come to realize that the thing that makes San Francisco unique and one of the top tourist destinations in the world, is The City’s majestic setting with the bay and ocean on 3 sides, its ethnic diversity, its many different neighborhoods, the “spirit” and love for The City that residents have (they certainly pay a high cost of living for the privilege of living here), and the many different “one-of-a-kind” sites and events that exist in The City. Most cities have a downtown and/or business district that is somewhat similar to San Francisco’s. You will find Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Nike, Virgin records, etc in many cities in the world and San Francisco too, but that’s not why we choose to live here.

When I want to “show off” San Francisco to friends from elsewhere, this is the route I take them on.

Early in the Morning (9:00 or so) head out east on The Bay Bridge (Hwy 80) towards Oakland. Stay in the left most lane, and when you start to approach Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island, exit left towards Treasure Island (only left turn once on the Bridge, but pay attention – it’s easy to miss). Follow the road until you get a fantastic view of San Francisco from a flat area with a large grassy area. Park the car & take in the view. After the view, return the same way you came & take the Bay Bridge back to San Francisco. There are some great views from the Bridge (I used to come home from work this way every workday for about 5 years).

Once back in San Francisco, take the first right off the bridge (Fremont St exit). At the end of the off ramp, turn left on to Fremont St (it’s a one-way street to the left/northwest). From Fremont, take the first right onto Howard, and then the first right onto Beale. Follow Beale southeast until it hits Bryant, and turn left on to Bryant. In two short blocks, Bryant will dead end into the beautiful Embarcadero, which runs along the San Francisco Bay. Up until the ‘89 earthquake, a freeway was perched above this lovely section of the Embarcadero, and it was not an attractive drive at all. All that changed when the freeway was demolished and The City spent a lot of money/time to spruce up this area. It’s now one of the prettiest & most scenic drives in San Francisco.

Continue north along the Embarcadero, past the recently refurbished Ferry Building on the right, and the Embarcadero Center on the left (I worked there for 2 years). As you approach the ultra touristy & tacky Pier 39 complex, turn left onto Bay St. Cross Kearny and then turn left on Stockton. Continue south for a few blocks on Stockton and turn left onto Lombard St (watch for the signs to Coit Tower). Follow Lombard up to Coit Tower where it dead ends. Find a place to park (difficult later in the day) and enjoy the views of the Bay and the City all around you. After viewing everything from the car park area, walk towards the tower and pass the tower (on your left) until you get a good view of the Financial District area. Notice the nice houses/apartments with the great views in front of you – wouldn’t you like to live there for a while? You can visit the tower with the 1930’s WPA murals, and then go up to the top for a little nicer view.

Once finished with Coit Tower, return to the Embarcadero via Lombard, Stockton, and Bay. Turn left onto the Embarcadero towards Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. The Embarcadero kinda turns into Jefferson St (where The Wharf is located). I loathe Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s tacky, tacky, tacky. It’s not what I would show any visitor I wanted to impress. It’s mostly T-shirt shops, wax museums, and fast food places. I can’t understand why anyone would want to visit it. I’ve read that most first time visitors want to tour this area, but few (if any) second time visitors ever return. Follow Jefferson past the Wharf until it hits Hyde St, and then turn left onto Hyde St. Quickly go over the Cable Car tracks where you will turn Right onto Beach Street, directly in front of the Cable Car turnaround.

Note – from here on, I talk about Union Square and Union St. These are two different places and are not close to each other.

You have two options that I suggest for taking a ride on the Cable Cars. The last time I did this itinerary, I dropped our guests (and my wife) off at the Hyde St. turnaround, and then I drove & met them 1 hour later at Macys & Union Square, near the end of the cable car line. You can certainly park the car & everyone can take the cable cars down & back. However, this can add about 1 hour to your journey, and the Powell/Market St turnaround (where you will line up to return to The Wharf/Hyde turnaround) is not an area I like to show guests – it’s full of pretty scruffy looking people/pan-handlers, etc. There is a parking lot on Beach St. just under Ghiradelli Square. If you decide to park in this area, it is perhaps worth the trouble to quickly walk through Ghiradelli Sq and even the Cannery. The last time I was there, many of the storefronts which were used for retail space in the early 70’s (when we first visited), were now taken over by commercial offices. Same with the Cannery. If you want to visit, don’t spend more than 30 mins – there are places you might want to linger a bit later in this itinerary. To take the Cable Car ride you will need to buy a ticket at the kiosk at the turnaround, and then get in line. Sit on the east side of the cable car to get the best views. Once the car is turned around, this will be the side that is the farthest away from where you approach the car to get in (go around to the other side of the car to board). Obviously, use whatever “persuasion” you need to either sit or stand on the outside of the car. Don’t go into the inside section – wait for the next car. After the trip (I still enjoy them after all these years) get off the Cable Car at Union Square. If you choose to do a “round trip” down & back, when you line up to return on the Powell/Market turnaround, make sure you board the Hyde St line (it’s marked on the outside of the car), not the Taylor St line (you will end up returning to someplace else). If you headed out this morning early & got on the Bay Bridge at 9 or 9:30, you should get to The Wharf around 11:00. If it’s much later than this, you had better pick up the pace.

If you do the one way trip on the cable car to Union Square where the main group is picked up by a driver (that was me the last time we did this), then for a continuation of this drive, go to the paragraph starting with “From Union Square, in front of Macy’s”.

If everyone does the “round trip” on the cable cars, leave the Ghiradelli garage by turning left onto Beach and then left onto Polk St. Continue south on Polk to Lombard St and turn left onto Lombard. Continue east on Lombard and after two blocks you will be on The crookedest St in San Francisco. If you see a line of cars as far west as Polk when you approach, go past Polk, turn left on Filbert, and then left again on Hyde until you reach Lombard. This way allows a right turn onto the crooked part of Lombard & is a little faster.

At the bottom of the crooked section, continue straight on Lombard until it hits Columbus St. Columbus is the only street north of market in this area that cuts a diagonal across the other streets. Angle right on Columbus (same direction as cable car tracks) and continue southeast on Columbus. You are now in North Beach, which is San Francisco’s version of Little Italy. This was the Italian section of The City the first half of last century, and the home of the “beat generation” in the 50s. It’s the most “alive” section of The City in the evenings. There are lots of Italian restaurants and outdoor cafes. Continue on Columbus until it kinda angles right on to Montgomery St.

Montgomery street is the heart of the Financial District. Immediately on your left is the Transamerica Pyramid. Continue south on Montgomery, and then turn right on to California St.

Continue west on California St (you will be driving along the California St Cable Car tracks). Proceed several blocks to Powell St (where you will cross another set of cable car tracks).

You are now on Nob Hill, where there are several luxury hotels. Proceed west on California St. Just past Powell, take the first right on to Mason St. The Fairmont Hotel (my favorite) is on the right and the Flood Mansion is on the left. The most elegant mansions in early (1900) San Francisco were in this area. The Flood Mansion is the only survivor from the ’06 earthquake & fire (although, most of the interior was burned). The other (and more elegant) mansions were destroyed in the earthquake & fire. From Mason, turn left immediately on to Sacramento, then left again on to Taylor. On your right is Grace Cathedral. Turn left (east) on California. Immediately on your right is the Mark Hopkins Hotel and further on are more luxury hotels & restaurants. Continue east on California, crossing the cable car tracks on Powell again. Continue on California, and several blocks later, turn left on to Kearny (it’s a one way street). Travel one block & turn left on Sacramento (which is a one way street), and in 2 blocks, turn right on to Stockton. You are now in Chinatown. Notice all the food related shops. Look for roasted ducks hanging from hooks in store front windows.

Continue north on Stockton. Cross Broadway and then angle left on Columbus. In just 1 short block, turn left on Union St (a big park will be on your right in front of you before you turn right on Union). What I just described in the last few paragraphs is the route for those who did the round trip cable car event. If you did the round trip, go to the paragraph starting with “***Continue west on Union St” – the next several paragraphs describe the route for those doing the one way cable car ride with an escort picking them up at Union Square in front of Macy’s.

From Union Square in front of Macy’s, go west on Geary (it’s a one way) and turn an immediate right on to Powell (where the cable cars go). Continue north on Powell to California St and turn left on California.

You are now on Nob Hill, where there are several luxury hotels. Proceed west on California St. Just past Powell, take the first right on to Mason St. The Fairmont Hotel (my favorite) is on the right and the Flood Mansion is on the left. The most elegant mansions in early (1900) San Francisco were in this area. The Flood Mansion is the only survivor from the ’06 earthquake & fire (although, most of the interior was burned). The other (and more elegant) mansions were destroyed in the earthquake & fire. From Mason, turn left immediately on to Sacramento, then left again on to Taylor. On your right is Grace Cathedral. Turn left (east) on California. Immediately on your right is the Mark Hopkins Hotel and further on are more luxury hotels & restaurants. Continue east on California, crossing the cable car tracks on Powell again. Continue on California, and several blocks later, turn left on to Kearny (it’s a one way street). Travel one block & turn left on to Sacramento (which is a one way street), and in 2 blocks, turn right on to Stockton. You are now in Chinatown. Proceed north on Stockton. Notice all the food related shops. Look for roasted ducks hanging from hooks in store front windows.

Continue north on Stockton, cross over Broadway, and when Stockton hits a spot where it intersects with both Broadway & Green St, turn right on Green (make sure you don’t take a sharp right on Broadway). Continue east on Green for a few blocks and then turn right on to Montgomery. Proceed south on Montgomery two blocks and turn right on to Broadway (it’s a big road). Ignore the XXX places, and angle right on to Columbus. You are now in North Beach. See the prior description of North Beach.

Continue northwest on Columbus, and at Union St, angle left (a large park will be on your right in front of you just prior to the turn). Continue west on Union, and turn right on to Hyde St (you will be on the cable car tracks). Continue north on Hyde and turn right on to Lombard St and The crookedest street in San Francisco.

At the bottom of the crooked part, turn right on to Leavenworth, and proceed for a couple of blocks, and then turn right on to Union Street.

***Continue west on Union St. Cross Van Ness (busy street), and just past Gough St, you will enter the very pretty Union St. area. The “main section” of Union ends at about Steiner St. When we first visited this street in the very early 70s, we returned with a poster that said “If you lost your heart in San Francisco, you will probably find it on Union St”. Park the car, get out and explore. If it’s time for lunch, there are loads of possibilities. I like Café de Paris in the 2000 block, and Rose’s Café at 2298 Union (corner of Steiner). There is a simple sandwich shop on Union across the street from Rose’s, which might be the best bet if you’re trying to squeeze this drive into a “reasonable” day. If you started this drive at 9 or so, and didn’t do the cable car round trip and didn’t visit anything near the Wharf, you should be on Union St at 12:30 or so.

After visiting Union St, if you want to see where the rich people live, continue west on Union & turn left on Davisadero, and then right on Broadway. Proceed west on Broadway until it dead ends. In the last two blocks of Broadway, two of the richest people in the US reside – Larry Ellison, and Gordon Getty. Ellison’s house is the strange/wierd one on the north side of the street. Turn around on Broadway & head east on Broadway to Fillmore & turn right on to Fillmore.

If you don’t want to see the rich folks, after visiting Union, head south on Fillmore off Union. Hope your car’s transmission is working OK – during the Tour of San Francisco Bike Race in ’01, Lance Armstrong complained about the steepness of this Fillmore St hill, which he & others had to climb about 5 times.

The Fillmore St Shopping District is another one of our premier neighborhood shopping streets – and my wife’s favorite. The main section is between Jackson & Bush. Continue south on Fillmore (it’s a little gritty after Sutter St).

Proceed south on Fillmore several blocks, past the busy Geary St (you’ll overpass it) and turn right on to Fulton St. In one block you will be in the Alamo Square Historic District and the site of the famous Postcard Row that has been pictured in countless TV shows, place mats, and postcards. Continue west on Fulton with Alamo Square Park to your left. On the corner of Fulton & Scott is the Westerfield mansion -–one of the most photographed Victorian houses in The City. Turn left on to Scott, & there will be more Victorians on your right. Circle Alamo Square, turning left on to Hayes. As you proceed east on Hayes and just after you “crest” at Pierce, look slightly to your left and you will see Postcard Row – with a row of Queen Anne Victorian homes in the foreground, and downtown San Francisco in the background. Park the car ASAP (you may have to turn left on to Steiner to find a spot). Walk along the grass to where Pierce hits the park for the view – you’ll see lots of other people there also & tour busses are always close by. Assuming all the “exceptions” that I stated earlier, and only 30 mins for a sandwich on Union St. plus 1 hr shopping, you should get to Alamo Square around 2:30-3:00.

If you dawdled along the way and are behind schedule (it’s later than 3:00 by now), perhaps skip the next route up to a fantastic views from Twin Peaks. If you choose to skip this section, then after Postcard Row, head west on either Fulton or Hayes, left (south) on Divisadero, then right on Haight and drive for several blocks to get to the Haight Ashbury area (nice Victorians along the way).

In the 1970s, before the GGNRA was formed (see later text), a radio station had a “best view of San Francisco” contest. The view from Twin Peaks won. It’s a little tricky to get there, so pay attention. After Postcard Row, head west on either Hayes or Fulton, and south (left) on Divisadero. Divisadero will kinda flow left into Castro St (follow the traffic). Proceed south on Castro until you hit Market (big intersection), and turn right (west) & go up Market St. Market St will flow into Portola after Market St stops it’s steep uphill climb. Shortly Market St. changes to Portola, look for a Twin Peaks Blvd on your right and then turn right on to Twin Peaks Blvd. & keep following this street up to the “top of the world”. You’ll know when you have arrived at the view point. After the view, follow Twin Peaks Blvd North (not the way you came up – get a map). At 17th St. Twin Peaks will become Clayton. Shortly after crossing 17th, angle to the right on to Ashbury, and then turn right on to Frederick and then left on to Masonic. Proceed north on Masonic to Haight (there are some lovely Victorians along Masonic). Turn left on to Haight.

You are now in the Haight Ashbury district (locals call it “the Haight”). Proceed west along Haight & enjoy the sights & people. Haight will dead end into Golden Gate Park. Turn right on Stanyan, and continue in the right hand lane slightly past the entrance to GG park (no left turn allowed into park). Just past the no left turn sign, turn right on a cloverleaf road that circles into the park. Drive down JFK drive through Golden Gate Park. Notice the wonderful Conservatory of Flowers on your right that was opened up in Sept ’03 after years of restoration. Continue on JFK drive (look for the Buffalos just after Spreckels lake) until you hit the ocean. Turn right on the Great Highway, and continue as it passes the Cliff House & becomes Geary Blvd at about 39th St. Continue east on Geary & turn left on to 36th St. Proceed north on 36th two blocks until it ends at Lincoln Park & then turn right on to Clement. If it’s clear, you can see the Bank of America Bldg. in the distance.

Turn left on 34th St. and enter Lincoln Park. Continue on to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. This is one of our major art exhibition places (along with some other uses). It was built by Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, who married into the Spreckels fortune (sugar), built the museum, and donated it to The City. A few years ago it displayed the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit, last year the Degas exhibit, and also has the largest collection of Rodin statues outside of Paris.

After passing the Legion, take the right (only way you can go) on to El Camino Del Mar. Get the camera ready for some fantastic views of the Golden Gate. I always take guests on this route. You will be driving along a golf course. Just before you leave the course and enter a residential area, park the car & walk to the viewing platform to your left – you’ll see it from the road. Return to the car & continue along El Camino Del Mar. You will enter the Seacliff Area which (I suspect) has the most expensive homes in the City. Robin Williams lives there – look for a dinosaur topiary peeking over a hedge on his home (it’s not on the immediate waterfront). When entering Seacliff, keep left whenever you can – especially paying attention to a “Y” onto Seacliff Ave. Just after this Y, turn left on to a dead end & perhaps have a look at China Beach & the views from there. Continue along Seacliff Rd as it snakes around and exits the Seacliff area at 25th St. Turn left (east) off 25th on to Lincoln. Proceed north on Lincoln for some more exceptional views of the Golden Gate and the Bridge.

Lincoln will eventually twist around, and go under the Golden Gate Bridge. Immediately after it goes under the bridge, look on your left for a sign to the Golden Gate Bridge. Follow this up and cross the Golden Gate Bridge.

Head north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Just past the bridge, take the Alexander Av. exit towards Sausalito. When you get to the stop at the end of the freeway off ramp, turn left & go under Hwy 101. Proceed like you are going back across the bridge to SF, but take the road to the right that goes up-hill, just before actually getting on 101. There will be a sign that says you are entering the Golden Gate National Recreational (GGNRA) area. Continue up on this road – it’s called Conzelman on the map. You will see what are (in my opinion) the best views of San Francisco – The GG Bridge in the foreground & The City behind it. This was formerly a military area that is still laced with bunkers, gun turrets, underground tunnels etc. It was opened up in the ‘70s. The views of The City, the Bridge, and the Golden Gate are breathtaking. You can see down the San Mateo Coast from up here. Go all the way to the top until you hit a much smaller one-way road. On the way up, get out & enjoy the sights. Kids will love the bunkers & gun turrets. At the top where the main road ends, there is the largest gun turret, where you can climb up to for an almost 360 degree view. This view is best in the evening when the sun is in a position to light up the bridge & highlight downtown.

Return the way you came up to this area. Check the time. If there is any time left in your schedule, take a quick pass through Sausalito – otherwise head south back to SF. If you opt for the Sausalito visit, once you get to the junction just past the tunnel under 101, head straight to Sausalito. Just follow your nose (bearing right whenever possible), until you end up on Bridgeway – the main road along the bay in Sausalito. Drive along Bridgeway, enjoying the views back to the City. Continue North on Bridgeway until it joins 101 and you can return to SF over the Golden Gate Bridge again.

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:22 AM
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Victorian Houses & Golden Gate Park

Scenic drive to Golden Gate Park – Lots of Victorian Houses
From the Lombard St motel area, take Lombard east to Gough St. From the Wharf area, take Bay St west to Gough. Head south on Gough (it becomes a fast 1 way street after some steep climbs). Do not take Van Ness south - it is ugly, full of pan-handlers, & slow. When you hit Lafayette Park, park the car (usually not a problem) & walk up the stairs near Clay St into the park. Sit on the bench at the top of the stairs & look east at the two lovely Queen Ann Victorian houses. My wife leads a walking tour in this area and she has a picture taken in 1906 from this same site, showing these 2 Victorians, with the entire city in rubble (from the earthquake) behind them.

Continue driving south on Gough until it hits Hayes St. Turn right on Hayes. This is a nice/funky shopping area. Continue west on Hayes until you reach Alamo Square Park. At Pierce St, park the car (a little more difficult - there are usually spaces on Steiner St on the east side of the park). Go to the park side of Hayes & Pierce to see perhaps the most photographed site in SF (other than the bridge). Walk into the park a little for the best views. This is "Postcard Row", with the Queen Ann Victorian row houses in the foreground, and downtown SF in the distance. If you want to see some more Victorians, drive north on Steiner (next to the park) and 1 block past the park, turn left on to McAllister. Continue west, and in the second block from 1443 to 1499 McAllister is the longest contiguous row of Victorian Stick Style houses in the City. At the next corner, turn right on Scott, and on the next street, turn right on to Golden Gate (it’s a one-way street). Continue two blocks on Golden Gate and at the end of the second block is the huge Chateau Tivoli – painted 23 different colors. Immediately to the right of it is the Seattle Block – more exquisite Victorians. At the corner, turn right on Steiner, and then right on McAllister to pass the contiguous Stick Victorians again. At the next intersection (Scott) turn left & go south on Scott. Looming on the corner of Scott & Fulton is one of the most photographed Victorians in the City - the Westerfield Mansion. Unfortunately, they have not pruned the tree in front of the house for quite some time, and it somewhat blocks the view. Continue south on Scott (more Victorians across from the park) to Fell & turn right (west) on Fell. This will take you into Golden Gate Park, and there are some lovely houses along the way (and an in-expensive Arco gas station too).

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:24 AM
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Noe Valley Walk

In a “nutshell” I think the Noe Valley has more interesting & unique shops, restaurants, and architecture, than you will find in most “neighborhoods” in the City – certainly more than you’ll find at the Wharf. The Haight might be a close second, or perhaps first in other people’s opinion.

There are many single family dwellings in the Noe Valley – perhaps a higher percentage than in any of the pre-earthquake areas (this excludes outer Sunset & Richmond areas). Many of these houses are Victorians – we lived in one on Jersey St.

I’ve read in both the SF Chronicle and the SF Focus Magazine that the Noe Valley is the best neighborhood in the Bay Area.

There are many very nice ethnic restaurants in the area. One of my two favorite Italian restaurants (Incanto) is located there, along with other more traditional Italian places (Bacco is just one). Just on Church St, there is a “noodles” restaurant that served me the best Paella I’ve had in the US. Across the street is a Italian seafood restaurant, farther down is one of my favorite Chinese places, a sushi restaurant, a middle eastern place, and a Thai restaurant. Also on Church there is Lovejoy’s Tea Room, which is perhaps the best English tearoom in the City – people flock from all over to have high tea there. On 24th St there are another twenty or so restaurants – French, Italian, sushi, Korean (on Castro), Calif cuisine (Firefly), a burger place (Barneys), Thai, Peruvian (Fresca), Chinese, and many “breakfast” spots.

The shops are just a diverse. There is a place that sells very interesting lunch boxes. There are houseware stores, antique shops, cookware shops, clothes, odds & ends, etc.

The Noe Valley is bounded to the south by 30th street, to the east by Dolores, on the west by Grandview and the hills leading up to Diamond Heights Blvd, and to the north by about 21st or 22nd streets. It is just south, and over the hill from the Castro.

Here is a “Walk in the Noe Valley” that I posted some months ago:

From downtown, take the J-Church and get off on 30th Street. Sit on the left side of the car (east side) to get a good view of downtown as you pass Dolores Park. It’s about a 20 min. ride once you are on the street car.

On the corner of 30th and Church, there is a great coffee shop - XO- with internet access, and very nice, clean restrooms. You can get a spot of breakfast or lunch there too.

Cross Church, and perhaps do a “once around” inside the small produce market across the street from XO. Walk north on Church. You will pass a meat market, Italian seafood restaurant, a Thai place, and a few others. On the corner of Duncan & Church is my favorite Italian restaurant - Incanto. Peruse the menu - it's a lot more creative & interesting than the normal Italian fare you find in the City. Head a block north & you will come to Erics - my favorite Chinese restaurant in this area – and a great place for a good “bargain” lunch.. Kitty-corner is Amberjack Sushi. Somewhere on the west side of Church, there is an interesting antique shop called Pickled Hutch, and another specialty store selling odds-&-ends. There is also a store selling German specialties.

Cross over the street (towards the Sushi place), and continue to walk north on Church. You will pass an interesting pet store (anyone at home who might enjoy a treat?). On the corner of Church & 26th street is Chloe’s, my favorite place for breakfast or lunch – especially if it’s a nice day & you can sit outside. It’s quite simple, but very popular with the locals. A little further north is Fatouche (sp) – a mid-eastern restaurant. In the same block is Lovejoy’s tea room. It has a very beautiful interior and is quite popular - drawing tea crowds from the entire city. There is a Lovejoy’s antique shop across the street.

Proceed north on Church to 24th St. Head west (turn left) on 24th & walk along the south side. There are lots & lots of shops, cafes, and restaurants – I can’t possibly describe them all. On the south side of 24, there is a Starbucks – perhaps the only chain store in the Noe Valley (other than Walgreens, & a few banks). Fresca is a Peruvian restaurant that opened up a few months ago. Le Zinc is a very nice French restaurant. When you get to Castro, turn left & walk up the block. There is a kitchen store along the way & also a Korean Restaurant. Cross the street at Jersey (1 blk south of 24th), and head back north towards 24th on Castro. There is a Sushi place, and a paint your own ceramics store. On the corner of Castro & 24th is an Deli/Ice Cream store. Turn left from Castro onto 24th, and walk past two restaurants, a mystery bookstore, a bicycle shop, and another very small Chinese restaurant. Continue west till you come to Douglass. Cross the street to the small playground & look around. Head back east along 24th St. You’ll pass Firefly – a very nice restaurant that’s kinda out-of-the-way (We have dinner there quite often).

Continue east on 24th & you’ll encounter more shops, restaurants, café’s etc. Lots of interesting places to stop. When you get to the east side of Diamond St, walk a ½ block north & check out Bacco, an Italian restaurant. On the corner of Diamond & 24th, there’s a café with outside tables – this seems to be a popular meeting place in the morning for moms with strollers. There is a burger place along the way on 24th (between Castro & Diamond St) that has nice outside seating. Continue east on 24th. Between Castro & Noe street, there is a real estate office owned by perhaps the only Republican in the Noe Valley – you’ll know it when you get there. Lots of pictures of Ronald Reagan in the window & other placards proclaiming the “looney-ness” of other Noe Valley residents. I moved to the Noe Valley in ’75, and that real estate office was there then – I guess he likes the “loonies” in the Noe Valley enough to want to stay there. All the artifacts in the window are interesting to read. Someone “defaced” his storefront a few years back, and all the “loonies” were quite outraged that someone would do such a terrible thing, and many pitched in to clean the place up.

Continue east on 24th till you get to Church where you can hop on the J-Church & head back to where you came from.

If you want to see Victorian houses, just stroll the east/west streets between Church & Diamond Streets, and between 23rd & 30th. There is a nice set of matching stick style Victorians about 3/4th the way up the street on 27th to the west of Church – on the south side of the street. Eric’s restaurant on 27th & Church is a Victorian above the restaurant. This will also let you see where the “locals” live. We enjoy wandering in this area after dinner, watching the people come & go or having an evening in front of the TV or guests over for dinner (not a lot of draped windows).

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:25 AM
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You should have WRITTEN most of Fodor's San Francisco - all that stuff is so accurate and such a resource.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:25 AM
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North of San Francisco - Coast & Wine Country

Day 1
North of San Francisco

Head north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Just past the bridge, take the Alexander Av. exit towards Sausalito. When you get to the stop at the end of the freeway off ramp, turn left & go under Hwy 101. Continue on like you are going back across the bridge to SF, but take the road to the right that goes up-hill, just before actually getting on 101. There will be a sign that says you are entering the Golden Gate National Recreational area. Continue up on this road. You will see what is (in my opinion) the best views of San Francisco – The GG Bridge in the foreground & The City behind it.. This area was formerly a military area that is still laced with bunkers, gun turrets, underground tunnels etc. It was opened up in the ‘70s. The views of The City, the Bridge, and the Golden Gate are breathtaking. You can see all the way down the San Mateo Coast from up here. Go all the way to the top and you hit a much smaller one-way road. On the way up, get out & enjoy the sights. The kids will love the bunkers & gun turrets. At the top where the main road ends, there is the largest gun turret, where you can climb up to for an almost 360 degree view. This view is best in the evening when the sun is in a better position to light up the bridge & highlight downtown. If you plan to pass this way again later in the day, skip this venue now & do it later. If there isn’t any fog, perhaps do it now because you never know when the fog will roll in & make viewing impossible.

Return the way you came up to this area. When you get to the junction just past the tunnel under 101, head straight to Sausalito. Just follow your nose (bearing right whenever possible), until you end up on Bridgeway – the main road along the bay in Sausalito. Drive along Bridgeway, enjoying the views back to the City. Sausalito has gotten a little tacky in the last few decades with all it’s mediocre art shops & cheep souvenir stands, but the setting is lovely & there’s some nice architecture. Continue North on Bridgeway until it joins 101 North again (towards San Rafael).

Take the Blithdale exit off 101 to Mill Valley. M.A.S.H. fans will recognize this place as the hometown of B.J. Hunnicut. Keep following Blithdale as it worms around a little in some not-so-picturesque areas before it reaches the center of Mill Valley (you’ll know when you get there). Turn left & park the car where you can. Walk around the area – there are some interesting shops. There’s kind of a central square in town (a good place for a latte if you’re ready for one). The south-west side of the square is Miller Ave. When you’re finished browsing, take Miller Ave. South. Shortly after the double road section of Miller Ave ends, take a right on Shoreline Highway – this is also the famous Ca Highway #1. Follow this to Muir Beach & Stinson Beach. This is a pretty drive. After a couple of miles past the Miller/Shoreline junction, there is a turnoff to Panoramic Hwy and the Muir Woods redwood grove. If you want to visit Muir Woods, do so but remember that it gets overwhelmed with day trippers from SF in the summer.

Continue on Shoreline (Hwy #1) past Muir Beach & on to Stinson Beach. There are some nice views of the ocean along this route. There’s a lookout over Muir Beach.

Stay on Hwy #1 past Stinson Beach. You will start to see a large land mass to your left (ocean side) This is Point Reyes National Seashore, where you could spend several days exploring the wildlife & natural beauty of this area. Drake’s Bay, on the west side of Pt Reyes, is where this Northern California area was first discovered – long before San Francisco Bay was discovered by Spanish explorers. Hwy #1 will go past a long lagoon (Tomales Bay). Just past the lagoon, Hwy #1 will turn inland.

Continue on Hwy 1 past Valley Ford. When it intersects the Bodega Highway, turn right (inland/east) & go to Bodega. This is where Alfred Hitchcock filmed several scenes from “the Birds”, including the schoolhouse scene.

If you are touring in the summer, there is a very good chance that you will be inundated by fog & not much of the coastline will be visible. If you have had enough fog, continue east on the Bodega Highway to Sebastopol. This is actually a nice drive (at the beginning). At Sebastopol, head north on #116 toward the Russian River. Just before Forestville, stop at Kozlowski Farms (on your left) if you want to pick up a sandwich. They have a large selection of jams, jellies, vinegar & other gourmet delights. Continue on #116 until it hits the Russian River at Guerneville (somewhat of an interesting town). Turn right & proceed east along the Russian River on River Road. I will continue to describe the remaining drive in the Wine Country section.

Back at Bodega, if the fog isn’t so bad & you want to see some more coast, stay on Hwy #1 to Bodega Bay. Continue north on #1 until it reaches Jenner. At Jenner, you can go north on #1 to Fort Ross to tour an early Russian fur trading fort – it is quite interesting. After visiting Fort Ross, return to Jenner & head east along the Russian River to Guerneville.

Wine Country
From Guerneville, head east along River Road. Stay on River Road as it crosses over the Russian River just past Hacienda – which will still be River Road. About 4 miles past crossing over the river, turn left on Wohler Road. You will start to see some vineyards now & there are some cute B&Bs close by. Stay on Wohler Rd as it crosses the river (again) on a very narrow 1 way bridge. Just past the bridge, turn right on to Westside Rd towards Healdsburg. You will see lots of vineyards on the way to Healdsburg.

You are now in the Sonoma County Wine growing area. In contrast to it’s more famous neighbor to the east (Napa), you will find the Sonoma wineries more inviting & less hectic – I actually like them better. In the Napa Valley, there are very few wineries where you can take a picnic lunch & spread out on the lawn. In Sonoma, they seem to go out of their way to invite you to use their facilities. On Westside Road, stop at Rochioli (one of the best Chards in Calif), Hop Kiln to see an interesting former kiln turned into a winery, and perhaps Armida, or Mill Creek. Just past Mill Creek winery, Westside Road will turn right (east) to head into Healdsburg just in front of the Madrona Manor. Turn left into the Madrona Manor Hotel, park the car & explore the lovely gardens & the exterior of this fantastic Victorian manor house. Go inside & poke your nose into some of the common rooms & pick up a brochure for your next visit to this area. It has a lovely dining room with excellent cuisine. It’s a popular wedding spot. Exit Madrona Manor and turn left and head north on West Dry Creek Road (not straight to Healdsburg).

You are now in the Dry Creek appellation of Sonoma County & it’s my favorite area in the wine country. Continue north on West Dry Creek Road (there’s a Dry Creek Rd which you will follow later). Stop at Lambert Bridge winery – this is one of the wineries that “invites” you to picnic on their lawn (they have lots of picnic tables). Just past Lambert Bridge winery, turn right on Lambert Bridge Rd & proceed a couple 100 yds to Pezzi King Winery. Stop & explore this winery too (great Zins). Return to West Dry Creek Rd & head north again. Continue on this road until you see a sign for Preston Vineyards. This is another winery that “invites” you to picnic. It has very pretty grounds – explore the outside bread oven, boules court, vegetable garden, flowers, and cats. The tasting room is quite nice – my wife likes their Rose wine. Return to West Dry Creek Road & continue north until the road ends. This is a pretty drive – would you like to own one of the houses near this dead-end? Turn around & head south. Turn left on Yoakim Road & then turn left (north) where it dead ends at Dry Creek Road. Proceed north on Dry Creek Rd & stop at Ferrari-Carano winery. This is the most "extravagant" winery in this area – it received a lot of criticism from locals (we know a few) when it was built. However, it is quite impressive. It has lovely gardens, a large “Tuscan” type villa, and a pretty tasting room (good Sauvignon Blanc). Exit Ferrari Carano & turn right (south) on Dry Creek Road towards Healdsburg. This is another pretty drive.

Healdsburg is our favorite town in the wine country – including anything in Napa. When you go under the freeway (on Dry Creek Rd) turn right when you hit Healdsburg Blvd & continue south until you see the town square – it’s obvious. Park the car & get out & explore. Tour the square & several blocks north & south of the square on Healdsburg Ave. There is a produce market Saturday morning west of the big hotel. This is a wonderful town to spend the night in. There is a new (overdone, in my opinion) large hotel (expensive) on the west side of the square – I think it’s called Healdsburg Hotel or something like that. There is also a B&B on the south side of the square & there are other B&Bs scattered throughout town. For dining in Healdsburg, we like Ravenous, Bistro Ralph, and Charcuterie which are all very popular with the locals. We also like Manzanita. Madrona Manor is less than 5 mins away, by car.

Day 2

If you’re staying near the square in Healdsburg, go to the Downtown Bakery (on the east side of the square) early in the morning & rub elbows with the (lucky) locals. Have a sticky bun &/or a scone. This bakery is very well known throughout the area. There are benches outside the bakery where the “bench bunch” meets each morning to chew the fat.

On to Napa Wine Country

Here is a beautiful drive that will get you to the Napa Valley. Head out north on Healdsburg Ave and once it gets out of town, it will curve to the right and connect with Alexander Valley Rd & passes Jimtown. This route goes through the beautiful Alexander Valley & Knights Valley. Turn right on Hwy #128 towards Calistoga. This section is lovely. Hanna is a nice winery to visit while driving through this area.

Proceed on to Calistoga.

Most tour books describe the Napa Valley thoroughly. As far as driving through this area is concerned, drive down Hwy 128 from Calistoga to Yountville and then east on Yountville Cross Rd to the Silverado trail & go south to Chimney Rock Winery. Turn around go north back to Calistoga on the Silverado Trail. Oakville Cross Rd, Rutherford Cross rd & the others linking #128 with the Silverado Trail are quite pretty.

There are lots of world famous wineries in this areas. I recommend visiting:

Robert Mondavi for the most complete tour on the grape growing & wine making process. Reserve a couple of days ahead at 707 968-2166

Berringer for some lovely grounds & a very pretty Victorian “Rhine House”, but they don’t make wine at this site.

Sterling for the best views, but the line for the gondola ride to the tasting room will sometimes have a long wait.

Domaine Chandon to learn how Champagne (sparking wine) is made and for nice grounds & a lovely terrace to buy & taste some champagne & relax.

Neibaum-Coppola for the best gift shop & movie mementos (Francis Ford Coppola owns the winery) and very pretty buildings & grounds.

Silver Oak to taste the best Cabs (if available for tasting).

Clos Pegas for some unusual art & a lawn where you can picnic.

Silverado Vineyards for another good view of the Valley.

There are scads of great restaurants in the area. I find myself going back to:
Martini House
Tra Vigne to wander around & pick up a picnic lunch (not a real fan of the cuisine). The building & grounds are quite nice. If you are not a “foodie”, this probably be the most fun place for a nice dinner in the Napa Valley.

Reserve at least a week ahead for all the above restaurants – perhaps more than 2 weeks ahead on summer weekends. Serious foodies will like Terra & Martini house the best & they are a little more formal. Families with kids will probably prefer Mustards or Tra Vigne.

Day 3

Perhaps catch a final winery on your way out of the Napa Valley. Mondavi opens at 9:00 and the first tour is a lot more calm & relaxed than later ones.

Go south on #29 towards San Francisco. Where #29 hits #121, go west on #121 (follow the signs to SF). Connect with #37 & then #101 back to SF.

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:26 AM
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Places to visit along the coast south of San Francisco

Heading south from SF along the coast, these are places we like to visit:
1. Devil's Slide view from Hwy 1
2. Sam's Chowder House for lunch
3. Half Moon Bay - Main St
4. Half Moon Bay - walk on beach at end of Kelly St and/or Poplar St
4. Ano Nuevo when sea lions are there - Dec thru March
5. Victorian houses in Santa Cruz
6. Monterey Bay Aquarium
7. Pacific Grove shops & Victorian houses
8. Pacific Grove drive along coast on Ocean View Blvd/Sunset Dr to Spanish Bay
9. 17 Mile Drive
10. Carmel shops, beach, & cottages
11. Carmel - walk or drive along Scenic Rd. from Carmel Beach parking lot.
12. Pt Lobos State Park (must see)
13. Drive south on Hwy 1 - Bixby Bridge
14. Pfeiffer Beach. Just past Pfeiffer campground (on inland side of rd) There is a small bridge. Past the bridge there is a road on your right leading uphill with a gate across it. Just past this road there is another road leading slightly downhill with lots of street signs - mostly facing the other way. Take this road to the beach - it's a couple of miles long. Beautiful beach.
14. Relaxing lunch or dinner at Nepenthe - fantastic views. I consider this a must see.
15. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park & waterfall
16. More scenic Hwy 1 till San Simeon

Things that I think are a tad over-rated:
1. Monterey Cannery Row (aproaching Fisherman's Wharf in tackiness)
2. Cambria - it's not Carmel
3. Santa Cruz Boardwalk is not my type of thing - it may be yours
4. Santa Cruz Downtown - I liked it much more before the earthquake.

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:29 AM
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San Francisco – Airport to Lombard St Hotels Scenic Route

Get a AAA map of San Francisco. Also the AAA map of Daly City & So. S.F. would be helpful for following this route

Leave the car rental complex, and get on 101 south towards San Jose. In about 5 miles, take Hwy 92 west to Half Moon Bay. 92 will be all freeway until it intersects Hwy 280, but continue on 92 to Half Moon Bay. There will be a stop light just after the “fast” part of 92 stops & becomes a smaller road. This drive gets quite scenic from here on. Continue past the huge reservoir (where SF gets its drinking water), and up over the coastal mountains. Then descend into Half Moon Bay. One block shy of Hwy #1, there will be a stop light (the first one past the light where the fast part of 92 ended). There is a Shell station to the left & an Olympic (I think) to the right. This is Main St. Turn left & proceed into the very cute village of Half Moon Bay. Park the car & walk around – there are lots of cute shops in this area. My wife’s favorite knotting shop is here. If you are hungry, there is an excellent sandwich shop on the north side of the San Benito Hotel. You can eat the sandwich at one of the outside tables, or stop along the coast to have a lunch.

Continue south on Main St and you will join Hwy #1 going south. After about 2 miles you will get fabulous views of the coast. There are several stopping places along the way. Continue south and stop at San Gregorio State Beach. Proceed south again and stop at Pescadero State Beach.

Turn the car around & head back north. I think the vistas are prettier in this direction. You get great views of some white cliffs that you can’t see going south. Continue past Half Moon Bay on Hwy #1 towards SF. It is not real scenic until you get to Montara. Just past a restaurant on the left, the coastal views begin again. After a flat section, you will ascend up to “Devil’s Slide” (appropriately named) and the views will be quite nice (for the passenger, not the driver). After a couple of hundred yards, there will be a parking lot on your right, and an entrance to Grey Whale Cove on the left. This is one of our more popular “swimsuit optional” beaches. It’s foggy most of the summer however.

Continue past Devils Slide to Pacifica and then into Daly City. Notice all the multi-colored identical tract houses in this area – it’s quite unique. Soon, Hwy #1 will hit Hwy #35. Get on #35 north towards SF (not downtown SF) – there will be a sharp clover-leaf to the right. This is Skyline Blvd. Continue north on Skyline, and you will see Lake Merced on your right – you are now in SF. Fort Funston is on your left, which was an old WWII bunker complex. It’s fun to explore. Just when the lake starts to be split by a road to the right and you see a “boathouse”, turn left onto the Great Highway – it will be the first left after you see the lake. Continue north on the Great Highway and look behind you for some great views down the San Mateo Co. coast. You will pass Golden Gate Park and at the Cliff House, you will swerve to the right. Just past Louis restaurant, pull into a dirt lot on the left (or a paved one on the right), and take a look at the remains of the Sutro Bath House. There are markers with explanations on the bluffs overlooking this place. The coastal views are quite nice too.

Leave the Sutro Baths and follow the road and you will immediately be on Geary Blvd going east. Continue east on Geary, and at 34th Ave, turn left. This will take you into & through a golf course and to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. The Legion houses many exhibitions and also has the largest collection of Rodin statues outside of Paris. At this point, get the camera out – you won’t believe the views coming up. Continue past the Legion of Honor, veering to the right as the road curves and on to El Camino Del Mar. There will be a golf course on both sides of you and you will get fantastic views of the Golden Gate, and also the Golden Gate Bridge – hopefully there will be no fog.

Just when the golf course ends and you begin to see some houses, look for a viewing platform down to the left in the middle of the golf course. Park the car & get out for some nice views & picture taking. Back in the car, continue on El Camino into the Seacliff area – probably our most exclusive homes – you’ll be able to see why. Stay on El Camino, but make left turns whenever you can and get on to Seacliff Ave. When you hit the Y where El Camino turns right & you turn left onto Seacliff Ave – immediately in front of you is a house with a hedge around it, and a topiary dragon peeking up over the hedge. This is where Robin Williams lives. At this junction if you always take left turns, you will immediately hit a dead-end – with China Beach to your right. Get out of the car & walk down to this beach. It is quite scenic with views of the Seacliff area, the beach, and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Continue through Seacliff on Seacliff Ave & you will shortly have to make a sharp right. After the right, turn left on to 25th Ave, and exit the Seacliff area (there will be 2 stone pillars as you exit). Take the first left onto Lincoln Blvd & get the camera ready again. You will see more fantastic views of the GG Bridge. Stop & take more pictures. Continue on Lincoln & you will go under the bridge. You will need to make a decision now. The most fantastic views in the entire Bay Area (in my opinion), are on the other side of the bridge - up high from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). This excursion will take 45 mins or so. You should definitely take it now if the weather is nice. The fog could come in later, and this view is much better in the evening, than in the morning when the sun is in your face. You will have the opportunity to take this excursion in a few days when you head up north into the wine country. If you choose to take it now, immediately after going under the bridge, take a left & go on the GG Bridge. I will not describe this route here – see the description under “North of San Francisco” in my other post.

Continue on Lincoln Blvd, past a cemetery & drive through the parade grounds of the Presidio. This entire Presidio area was still a military base until it was closed in the 80s. It is now a US park, and is being converted into other uses (a long story). Stay on Lincoln, and follow the signs to the “Lombard Gate” - to Presidio Ave & then Lombard St. After you exit the Presidio, you will be in the Lombard St Motel area in two blocks

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:30 AM
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San Francisco Hotel Locations

San Francisco Hotel Areas
It seems that about once every week, there is a discussion about “where to stay” while visiting San Francisco – especially for first timers. Most people ask about either the Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, or the Marina hotel areas. Here are some thoughts, with a little of my bias thrown in:

1. Union Square - This is downtown’s fashionable shopping/dining/hotel area. The “Grand” hotels are here, and a few blocks north on Nob Hill (very steep to walk there, however). The big department stores are close by, along with many smaller shops and “boutique” hotels. It is also next to the theater district. Perhaps our most “elegant” restaurants are in this area (Fleur de Lys, Farallon, Masa’s, Ritz Carlton, Postrio, etc). There are fewer “simple”, “Mom-n-Pop”, or ethnic restaurants than you will find in other parts of the City – except a little west in the Tenderloin, which might scare a few first timers at night. The Cable Cars run by Union Square, so you can get to the Wharf area quickly. You can get off the Hyde St C.C. line at Union St for a walk downhill to Union St/Chestnut St (Cow Hollow/Marina). The major drawback is it’s proximity to the gritty Tenderloin, which is immediately west & south of Union Square. I don’t know if crime rates are higher, but you will feel a little more threatened than you will in the other two districts I’ll describe. There are many high-rise buildings, so there’s a little less sunlight than you will find elsewhere. Union Sq. is perhaps not as “family oriented” as the other two hotel areas. It gets more business travelers, and people who want a little more “luxury” in their hotel. Union Square is a bit “dead” on Sundays, and not as lively as the other places in the evening. I don’t enjoy strolling after dinner in this area as much as I do on Union St/Chestnut St. If you have a car, you will regret it. Parking is very expensive ($50 per night or so), and driving is difficult.

On the Embarcadero east of Union Square, there are several nice hotels. The Ferry Building is there which has recently been refurbished and has a “food oriented” theme. There is a Saturday Farmers market at the Ferry building. This area is quite active on a work week. Many people prefer this location to Union Square because of it’s proximity to the Bay and the views. You can catch a ferry from the Embarcadero, and it’s somewhat of a short walk to ATT park, where you can take a tour if the Giants are not playing.

2. Fisherman’s Wharf. The Wharf is mostly inhabited by tourists. Plenty of souvenir shops selling T-shirts & other things to remind you of your visit to SF. Local entertainment includes a wax museum, Ripley’s Believe-it-or-Not, and now a Hooters – things kids might enjoy (except for the Hooters). You won’t find many locals in this area (and if you did – they wouldn’t admit it). Most restaurants are tourist oriented, and most locals feel they are mediocre at best. Good proximity to the Cable Cars, which is a plus. Nice views out into the Bay. It’s also within walking distance of North Beach, which should be on everyone’s agenda for at least one Italian dinner and “people watching” evening. With the Cable Cars, it’s quick to get downtown, but you might have to wait in line for 30 mins or so at peak times. It’s about a 30 min walk to the Union St/Chestnut St areas (see 3rd option for description). The Wharf is a perfectly safe area (from crime, vagrants, etc). Hotels usually charge $25-$40 per day for parking. Lively (with tourists) every day. If you want to stay in a typical non-San Francisco environment, this is a good choice.

3. Marina. There are many motels along Lombard St, which are (in general) cheaper and much more simple than the ones you will find in the other two districts. The main advantage to this area, in my opinion, is that it has more typical SF “flavor” than the other spots. Lombard St is one block from Chestnut St, and three blocks from Union St. Both these streets are loaded with boutiques, restaurants, and buildings with unique architecture (Victorians on Union, Art Deco on Chestnut). When we first moved to San Francisco almost 33 years ago, I remember a poster that said “If you left your heart in San Francisco, you will probably find it on Union St”. This is a residential area and you will find many locals doing their daily “stuff.” On a Sunday morning (especially if it’s sunny) you will see many folks going to the exercise studio, having breakfast at one of the many outdoor café’s, and standing on the street with their “lattes” and chatting with friends. There are no “elegant” restaurants in this area, but many of the type that locals enjoy (Isa, Betelnut, PlumpJack, Balboa Café, A16). This is a good area for strolling during the day, before dinner, and after dinner – it is quite lively, especially on weekends. It’s about a 30 min walk to the Wharf, where you can catch a Cable Car (or walk up Union St to catch the CC). East of the Union St shopping area, (just past Van Ness) is Polk St, where there are more nice shops & restaurants. Also on Polk St is La Folie, which is one of my favorite restaurants (if someone else is buying) and also one of the highest “rated” in the City. This is a perfectly safe area. One of it’s best advantages, is that you can park a car free at many of the Motels. Also, it is an easy area to drive in (although there are steep hills just south), and it’s a quick trip across the Golden Gate bridge to my favorite view in all the Bay Area (GGNRA, just north and to the west of the Bridge).

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 11:31 AM
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Noe Valley Stairway Walk

There is a book titled “Stairway Walks in San Francisco” written by Adah Bakalinsky. I really enjoy many of the walks in the book, because they take you to nooks & crannies in the City that most people don’t know about – longtime residents included. The book, however, does not include a Noe Valley walk, although there is a section titled “List of Stairways” that includes several stairs in the Noe Valley. With this list and an AAA map, I set out one day several years ago to create my own stairway walk - in my favorite area of the City.

Get an AAA map so you can follow the route I’m describing – the map will make the walk much easier to follow.

The walk starts on Duncan, just west of Sanchez St. Park the car there, or take the J-Church to 27th street and walk 1 block west and 1 block south to the corner of Duncan & Sanchez. The 24 Divisadero also services this area.

Head west on Duncan & walk up the stairs at the end of Duncan, to Noe St. On Noe, turn right & walk 1 block to the steps heading “up” (west – to the left) on 27th. The steps are next to an apartment complex, and 27th is really just a right-of-way here. Walk up the steps to a “platform”, and enjoy the views from there. Continue west on 27th .
As you walk west on 27th (just after ascending the stairs), you will see some wooden stairs on the south side of the 27th. Proceed up these stairs – they are a public right-of-way. At the top, it will look like you’re near someone’s front yard. Notice the metal statuary around. Turn left and proceed south along a driveway and then up a hill. This is not private property – it’s actually Castro St right-of-way. There is a dirt knoll with a bench on top – try to walk there. Sit on the bench & rest a bit. There is a lovely view of downtown from here – if they would only chop down the tree that’s in the way. Walk down (south) on the other side of the knoll, to Castro St and follow Castro ½ block until you see the stairs going down – walk down the stairs to 28th St.

At the bottom of the Castro St stairs, turn right (west) on 28th and immediately cross the street to the south sidewalk of 28th. Continue to walk west on 28th, admiring the strange houses on the north side of the street. Turn left (south) on Diamond and walk 1 block to the stairs on the east side of Valley St. Walk down (east) the Valley St stairs and continue on to Castro St. Continue to walk on Valley (past Castro), and walk on the south side Valley – noting the strange street cut-away along Valley. Turn right (south) on Noe & go 2 blocks & turn right (west) on Day St. Continue on Day till you get to the end of Day & see two sets of stairs going up. Proceed up either set to Castro. Turn left (south) on Castro & walk to 30th St, & turn right on 30th. 30th St will dead end. 30th St is considered to be the southern boundary of the Noe Valley.

At this section of 30th between Castro & the dead end, there are some houses to the north and “Billy Goat Hill” to the south (yes – there were goats here). Try to find the dirt path that goes up Billy Goat Hill – and follow it up to a very interesting area with some neat views. There are several benches around Billy Goat Hill and an old tree with some ropes that kids probably use to swing in the trees. This is a fun area to explore. Find Beacon St on the “other” (south) side of Billy Goat Hill, & turn left on to Beacon after exiting the Billy Goat Hill area. Continue southeast along Beacon – there are many 70s & 80s style houses/condos in this area with some great views. Continue along Beacon and find the Harry Street stairs between 200 and 190 Beacon St. These are the “neatest” stairs on this walk. Proceed down (east) the wooden stairs and admire the houses along the way, the gardens, and the wonderful ambience of this area – you won’t believe that you are still in a big city. The stairs end at Laidley St.

Laidley St has some very interesting architecture. If you are interested in unique architecture, turn right (southeast) at the bottom of the stairs & walk up & back “lovely” Laidley a bit. The views from inside these homes are fantastic (I’ve been inside a few). After admiring the homes on Laidley, proceed to 30th St. and turn east on 30th & walk two blocks to Sanchez St. At Sanchez, turn left (north) & walk back downhill 5 blocks (actually, 5 half-blocks) to Duncan where the walk started.

Stu Dudley
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Old May 7th, 2008, 05:01 PM
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Stu, MANY THANKS for such a comprehensive package. It will make our upcoming trip so much easier to plan and then enjoy.

Later when I searched for "San Francisco" in the US Forum, for a reason I can't figure out, this particular post which you began today does not come up in the search results????

Luckily I bookmarked it.

Passing this along FYI. It would be such a loss for forum visitors not to find your post if they only search for SF and it doesn't appear in the search results.

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Old May 7th, 2008, 05:30 PM
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Great resource.

I enjoy stopping at Pescadero, which is just inland off of Highway 1 for lunch at Duarte's when I'm headed up or down the San Mateo County coast. There are a couple of funky shops and Phipps Country Market as well.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 05:36 PM
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Awesome! Thanks for taking the time to put this together - it is much appreciated!
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Old May 7th, 2008, 06:45 PM
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Thanks so much for your post. Now it's off to Staples for more ink cartridges.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 06:47 PM
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ttt as always, thanks, Stu. annie
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Old May 7th, 2008, 08:40 PM
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Wow, Stu you're the best! Must bookmark this & later copy it to a word doc for future use.
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Old May 7th, 2008, 08:57 PM
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As I told Mr. and Mrs. StuDudley at our SF GTG..I always think of Stu as "Mr San Francisco" and this is the reason why I do.

What a wonderful thread are a true treasure!
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Old May 7th, 2008, 10:52 PM
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You did it! You did it! ><

Thanks so much for reposting this, Stu!
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Old May 8th, 2008, 03:41 AM
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Thank you so much for this information, Stu. I am printing it out for our future trip.
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Old May 8th, 2008, 05:16 AM
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bookmarking for September trip
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