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San Francisco trip ideas -what must to see in SF / and south of SF in 1 wk

San Francisco trip ideas -what must to see in SF / and south of SF in 1 wk

Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:09 PM
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San Francisco trip ideas -what must to see in SF / and south of SF in 1 wk

Hi. I am a first time traveler to San Francisco with my "man"friend (we are in our 50s but are very young at heart) and am looking for suggestions. We will be getting into SF on Friday 9/2/11 (labor day w/e) and will be staying at the Hotel Carlton, near Union Square through Monday morning. We thought we would do the Alcatraz tour Friday evening, though still have to figure out the transporation part. The next day we were thinking of taking the red / white or blue/white tours or some other tour maybe to i.e., Muir woods/ Sausilito, bay cruise. Definitely want to see Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and of course, the golden gate bridge. Tour suggestions?

Monday, 9/5/11 we will be taking a shuttle from the hotel to the SF airport where we will pick up a rental car and plan to drive south down Highway 1 (I think it's called) with no specific plans. We have 4 days to cruise around before we return to SF airport on Friday. I have been reading a lot about Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur, etc and they all sound nice, but one important thing we want to do is see other redwood trees besides Muir Woods which I understand is quite touristy. We seek peace, relaxation, natural beauty, etc. not the night life so much. I thought about the Hearst castle but have been reading that most feel it is not that big a deal so our plans are wide open. Any suggestions re: SF / south area places to see / stay will be greatly appreciated. THANK YOU!!
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Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:38 PM
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You will need a car to get to these places.

From the info above would suggest Marin Headlands (immediately across the Golden Gate bridge on the ocean side)Rodeo Beach. High viewpoint of Pacific Ocean, Bay, GG Bridge and SF. The twinkling lights of dusk are spectacular.

On ocean & beach side you will feel like you are in another world of nature.

There is a nature conservatory for birds, lots of great hiking, a lighthouse with tours and docents for history,
and IMHO the best beach on the ocean in the entire SF area...when we lived in Oakland we would buy the Sunday paper, and a picnic brunch and go sit on the beach for hours.
http://www.parksconservancy.org/visi...deo-beach.html

You could also check out the nearby Cavello Point lodging: used to be a military base but is an upscale lodging now. Still some of best views of Golden GAte

http://www.cavallopoint.com/

I prefer redwoods at Armstrong Park North in Sonoma
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=450

But if you want to go south Big BAsin is a good alternative
http://www.bigbasin.org/
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Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:44 PM
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To see Coast Redwoods south of SF, try Butano State Park or Big Basin north of Santa Cruz.
My DW and I have stayed at the HI Hostel at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse. We would go back there again.
The aquarium in Monterey is world class.
You do not have to go back to the airport to rent a car. The car you rent downtown will be somewhat cheaper without paying the stupid airport taxes and "recovery" fees. The car you rent downtown can be turned in at the airport without a drop off fee.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:49 PM
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Do not rent a car from the airport! You will pay more for the car taxes etc]. Pick up a car from one of the car rental places in Union Sq. We use Dollar and get some great rates from them. They are on O'Farrell St. They do not charge a one way, drop off rate and they don't have all the airport taxes and surcharges.

If you haven't already made reservations for Alcatraz, I would do so immediately. Labor Day weekend is sure to be busy and these tours sell out fast.

re: Transportation for Alcatraz, you can take public transportation to the pier where the boats leave [bus, historic F street car or cable car] or even walk - it's no biggie.

For tours - check out these. They are donation only [$5 or so each person] and they have loads of choices. We love them.

http://www.sfcityguides.org
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Old Aug 3rd, 2011, 09:02 PM
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Here are my suggestions
http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...mendations.cfm

Spend as little time as possible at Fisherman's Wharf & Pier 39 if you want to avoid "which I understand is quite touristy." and seek out "We seek peace, relaxation, natural beauty".

Stu Dudley,
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 03:31 AM
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Yep. Alcatraz tours sell out fast. I waiting a week before our departure and they were all gone.

As for a car, you can do the SF part without a car and you are wise to do so. Parking is expensive. The others are right about not renting a car from the airport. It is twice as expensive.
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 06:01 AM
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I just bought our Alcatraz tickets for 8/18. I believe they said the night tours were sold out until Sept 14! I was disappointed because the night tour looks fascinating. Buy them soon.

I was able to buy them in conjunction with the City Pass San Francisco. It includes a 7 day pass for the muni system and cable cars, passes to several museums and the aquarium. I think it is a great deal. Another interesting pass is the Go San Francisco card. Lots of discounted activities, including tours.
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 07:03 AM
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Consider renting a bike (blazingsaddles.com) and riding over the bridge and into Sausalito or Tiburon. You can ferry back. It's a great way to see the Bay.

When you head south, I highly recommend a stop at Point Lobos State Park. It's just south of Carmel and at the beginning of the Big Sur highway. Just beautiful!
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 09:40 AM
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Public transportation in SF is easy - you'll be able to get wherever you want to go.

SF City Guides do really great walking tours - I love them. Since Chinatown is on your list of places to visit, you might consider Chinatown tour. It is very good. I also really liked the Telegraph Hill tour.

Since you plan on seeing redwoods on your way south, I wouldn't take a tour to Muir Woods - your time in SF is short, so I wouldn't double-up on the redwoods. I would stop at Henry Cowell or Big Basin state parks on the way to the Monterey area. Both are very good. Since you are "young at heart", you might enjoy the steam train ride through the redwoods at Roaring Camp in Felton (next to Henry Cowell state park).

For the southern part of your trip, I would spend part of the time on the Monterey Peninsula and part in Big Sur - peace, natural beauty, and relaxation is abundant in Big Sur. Maybe something like this:

Monday: Drive down to Monterey, stoping in the Santa Cruz mountains for redwoods. Plan to arrive in Monterey late afternoon. Stay in Monterey, Pacific Grove or Carmel - all have different flavors, but they are close together so you can stay in any one to see the area conviniently.

Tuesday: In Monterey area.

Wednesday: Drive down to Big Sur - stay in Big Sur

Thursday: Either stay in Big Sur a 2nd night or drive back to SF - depending on the timing of your Friday flight.
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 10:36 AM
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Whatever you decide to do south of SF, you will need reservations if you plan to stay in Carmel, Big Sur or Monterey.
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 01:12 PM
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If you do go to the Carmel or Big Sur area, don't miss Point Lobos State Park.
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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Thank you all for so many good ideas, and links!!! I have included them in our plans ... we just got our Alcatraz tickets for Friday evening through the direct tour site. Thanks for the heads up about the sell out. Will probably skip Muir Woods and maybe the Hearst Castle. Will definitely plan on stopping at the Big Bason Park, maybe taking that train which sounds like fun in Felton, and seeing Point Lobos State Park along with Monterey / Carmel /Big Sur...

But now I have 1 more question that my friend raised.... geez... sorry, but do you think it would be too much if we also wanted to try and see Yosemite...maybe get there Thursday early and leave early Friday to get to SF airport by noon? Or would it be better to just plan on spending M-Tu nites in Carmel, Monterey, Big Sur area then heading over to Yosemite Wed and having 2 nites there? Or just forget trying to fit Yosemite in? I love the beach, he loves the woods! So we are trying to fit both things in our trip which seems to keep getting shorter! Thanks again everyone.
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 06:24 PM
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There's plenty of woods in Big Sur! Yosemite is too far to go in such a short time. Not to mention that you likely can't get a place to stay in the "valley" for Labor Day, which would mean staying somewhere too far from the valley to be desirable, again, on such a short trip (we're talking an hour's drive each way)
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Old Aug 4th, 2011, 07:39 PM
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I think you will be pleasantly surprised how woodsy our coast is. Plenty of woods in the Santa Cruz mountains and in Big Sur - then there are just random groves of woods all over.

Yosemite is great, but it is a long drive and to see it, you'll have to shortchange the coast for just a few hours there.
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Old Aug 5th, 2011, 04:09 AM
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I tried my best to work Yosemite in the plans when we stayed a week. It takes four solid hours to get to the park and you may face a couple of hours in traffic once you get to the park. It is possible but it was going to be too stressful for our peaceful vacation.

We did stay in Carmel Highlands and really enjoyed Point Lobos park. I think it was my favorite part of the week. I really wish we could have driven another 20 miles south to Big Sur but we had reservations north.
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Old Aug 5th, 2011, 04:11 AM
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P.S. You were talking about getting up early to get to the SF by noon. We budgeted an hour and a half to get from the airport parking lot to our gate. We almost didn't make it. There was a 40 minute delay at the baggage check desk. SF is a large airport, don't chance it.
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Old Aug 5th, 2011, 07:26 PM
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THANK YOU ALL for the helpful advice. It has really helped in planning our trip. I have a feeling we just might have to make a second trip out to CA later on to see more sights.... a good incentive to save $.
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