San Francisco walking tour, public transport

Mar 14th, 2005, 11:34 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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San Francisco walking tour, public transport

I posted this in what I thought was the CA section, but it didn't land there. This is my second try. I apologize for my duplication if anyone ran across it.

My husband and I are planning a mid-May trip, with 4 days in Yosemite pre-crowds, an overnight in Santa Cruz, then 4 days in SF. Our time in SF will be spent on foot, and I'm looking for suggestions of a good walking tour book of the city -- small but detailed.

We've had some favorite books, depending on where we go. Moon books served us well in Mexico, Rick Steves was great in the Europe countryside, Insight was nice in big-city London and Paris. What's the best for SF?

We're freaks for architecture (Pacific Heights, etc) and I have a degree in sociology (Haight-Ahsbury, the Castro), so you can imagine what we're after. Yeah, we'll buzz by the Wharf and have ice cream with the sea lions just because we've never done SF, but for the most part we want the real deal.

I'm also wondering how to trim costs on public transport. Is there a multi-day pass that will give us unlimited cable car/bus/train rides? We're staying at The Cornell Hotel between Nob Hill and Union Square, and our only trek outside downtown will be the airport.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
tamjim is offline  
Mar 14th, 2005, 03:19 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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San Francisco City Guides offers over 30 free walking tours each month. They are sponsored by the SF Public Library. There are many architecture walks. My wife is one of the volunteer guides, and she does the Victorian San Francisco, and the Landmark Victorians of Alamo Square tours. She is one of several guides who do these tours. See
for a complete list and schedule of walks. In May, when you will be here, they add several additional tours that they only conduct in May & October, so check the schedule before you depart to find the latest info. City guides has tours of the Castro once a month (second Sunday at 11:00), and Haight/Ashbury every Sunday at 11:00.

As far as books, there are two that I like:

Historic Walks in San Francisco, by Rand Richard

Stairway Walks in San Francisco, by Adah Bakalinsky

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Mar 15th, 2005, 06:58 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 54

Hubby and I will be going to SF next month (YAY! FINALLY!)

One of the books I picked up was (hopefully this isn't sacrilege on this board ;-)) was Frommer's Memorable Walks in San Francisco. I really like how the book is laid out. It goes by district or section of the city. For instance, there's a chapter for North Beach, one for Chinatown, one for Pacific Heights (which you said you were interested in), and I believe one that includes the "Painted Ladies" (restored Victorian Homes). We plan on doing the North Beach one (where we're staying), the Haight, Nob Hill, among others.

What's also nice is they give an idea of how long it's going to take (an approximation, naturally), as well as places for food, etc. The latest edition is dated 2003, so I'm hoping it's fairly up to date (on the food suggestions, anyway).

Have fun!!
JerseyGirl1962 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2005, 07:05 AM
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Oops...I should also note that the book I mentioned also lets you know if there are any hills to worry about - a major consideration in SF!
JerseyGirl1962 is offline  
Mar 15th, 2005, 10:38 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Here's a link to the San Francisco Muni site. There are several different passes available:

A 3-day pass will run $15 for adults. You can factor in that the regular rides are $1.25/person and transfers are good for 90 minutes. Cable Car rides cost extra regardless of whether or not you have a pass (except monthly passes).

Depending on how long you'll be at individual places, it might be better to pay as you go.

As for siteseeing - check out for some juicy history of the city that you won't find in guidebooks.
SFImporter is offline  
Mar 16th, 2005, 07:51 AM
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Hi tamjim,
I like the S.F. Stairways book mentioned by a previous poster - you definitely get off the beaten track by exploring some of the very unusual stairway streets in this city.
Just wanted to point out that the western parts of San Francisco get short shrift in most guidebooks, but the Sunset and Richmond districts have some fabulous residential architecture and great views from the hills. There are many blocks of post-war stucco housing, for instance, in the Sunset, which have incredible Deco period details on the facades - surprising on a little 5-room house! My favorite part of the Sunset is Golden Gate Heights, at the crest of 14th Avenue, both for the views and the quiet, "insider" neighborhood.
dovima is offline  
Mar 16th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Thank you all for your knowledge and wisdom! I'm bookmarking your web site suggestions, and I've been to the library for walking books you've suggested (so far haven't found the "Stairways" one, though).

I'd like to say I'll return your favor when you come visit Minneapolis, but no one vacations here. We're the opposite of the cliche' -- we're a great place to live, but not the place you want to visit (unless you know someone with a lake cabin in the woods, which is God's Country).
tamjim is offline  
Mar 16th, 2005, 12:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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We got a kick out of seeing the 'Bogart building' on the Filbert Steps walk.

I'm confused by what you said, SFImporter, about paying extra for cable car rides. We had a week's pass and didn't pay anything extra. Has that changed?

April is offline  
Mar 16th, 2005, 01:30 PM
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The regular weekly pass does NOT cover the cost of cable car rides. But the special Passport Pass (available in 1 to 7 day versions) DOES cover them, as well as the monthly pass. So it depends on what kind of pass you had, April.
Patrick is offline  
Mar 17th, 2005, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 54

I picked up the Memorable Walks in San Francisco book at Barnes and Noble ( I didn't pay anything for it because, well, I used a Christmas gift card from my boss! I'm sure Amazon has it also.

If you want to order it from your local bookstore, it's USD$12.99, CAN$19.99, 9.50 pounds (UK) [at least that's what it says on the back cover]. The publisher is Wiley Publishing, Inc. ISBN: 0-7645-6746-2.

Hope that helps!
JerseyGirl1962 is offline  
Apr 4th, 2005, 07:04 PM
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My husband and I often drive into the City and do walks. We use the "Stairway Walks in San Francisco" and the "Walking San Francisco" (Liz Gans and Rick Newby - Falcon Guide) Both of these books can be picked up once you reach the City or have your local bookstore get it for you. We espcially enjoy the "Walking San Francisco" as it takes you thru some wonderful neighborhoods and points out special buldings, houses and history in the neighborhoods. It is rather fun playing tourist in your own area. After we finish our walks, we find a local bar in or near the neighborhoold we have walked and have a beer with the local folk. Have a wonderful time in this wonderful City.
Shar is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 09:42 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
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We just returned from SF on Sunday. The three day muni pass purchased from a cable car attendant cost $15. and did include both cable cars and buses. The attendant was at the end of the line, not a driver. I do not know if you can buy them on board. Use Stockton Street for a relatively flat walk from Fisherman's warf to Union Square. Everything else is up hill so ride up and walk down. Grey Line offers the in town, on/off tours and the extended tour that we took that took us to the tower overlook and across the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park. Our driver was really good on architecture. It made a good orientation trip for us to find our way around after the tour. Cost was @ %36. purchased on line. One thing we were not told was that tickets to Alcatres (sp) must be purchased days in advance. Our friends did make it by getting to the ticket office 30 min. before it opened at 8:30 AM and standing in line. This was an added tour at 2 PM that may not be a permanent thing. Other things we enjoyed were, the show, Beach Blanket Babylon. It is cheesy but we got great laughs and the music was good.
We did a day at Yosemite and it was great because we had great weather. We did not stay in the park because we wanted to be flexible to choose a good day there. We were able to change reservations from Monday to Tuesday night in Mariposa and did the wine country on the rainy day. We were not told that cars in spring must carry chains. Don't know if that is true in May or not. That is the official word and the motel clerks in Mariposa made it sound like a necessity to rent chains. Considering our weather report, we chose not to spend that money and were not questioned about it. I would ask the car rental people about this. Hope my suggestions are helpful and that your trip is half as great as ours.
jrbnrnc is offline  
Apr 6th, 2005, 11:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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TamJim - While not a book, there's what is supposed to be a great walking tour of the Castro. Details available here:

This is supposed to be on par with the Chinatown walking tours that are highly regarded. A true peek into San Francisco's civil rights movement - historically and presently!
SFImporter is offline  

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