Sell Me on the Bay Area!

Old Feb 21st, 2020, 03:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,847
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
Sell Me on the Bay Area!

DS rang last evening with the exciting news that he has been offered his dream job, and the assigned field office is...San Francisco.

We are thrilled for him, of course. But the thing is...San Francisco and the Bay Area aren't even on the fourth alternate backup list of Top 100 places I desire to visit. I went up once to view the Golden Gate Bridge at night while on a work trip to Palo Alto, and felt that I had seen all that I wanted to of San Francisco. Naturally we can rent a car and leave the Bay Area to go somewhere, but that's hardly visiting with our son. (And yes, I'll be picking up a guide to the Bay Area as required reading.)

In my mind, for whatever reason, the Bay Area is just a sunnier version of NYC: both have culture and great food, and both are expensive and not without their problems. LGA, however, is a two-hour non-stop flight away and SFO, seven hours with a connection.

So, how would you spend an extraordinary week in the Bay Area, using only public transportation?

Thank you, in advance.
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 04:56 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 12,058
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Personally, I have no interest in checklists, must see lists, must do lists. When I travel now it's for experience, and sometimes that's just slowing down and being present.

I would spend it with my son, exploring or just experiencing some of the places he enjoys in his free time.
It might be a brunch at the Ferry bldg market, or a stroll through golden gate park with a picnic, or maybe a bike ride to Sausolito, or dim sum in chinatown., or perhaps a cabaret show, or any number of other things he enjoys.

J62 is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 05:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,451
Received 79 Likes on 8 Posts
March? August? Is he going to be living in SF or commuting from somewhere? How much of your time will you be spending with him? Will you have whole days (or maybe more than one) to make available for excursions? What are your touring priorities - views, food, culture, shopping...? Help us out here.

J62's comments are apt. Do you need a "master plan," or just some ideas?
Gardyloo is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 06:06 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,847
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
"I don't prepare lists, but if I did I would not have San Francisco on any of them" is what I should have written.

DS won't know exactly where the field office is for a couple of weeks (could be downtown San Fran, Oakland, or even Palo Alto...) but it will be within commuting distance of downtown San Francisco.

Our visit will likely be for a week in mid-to-late May, once DD has returned from university. DS will only have been in the area for about a month and likely won't have explored much, which prompted my original question; we'll mostly see him after work. We'll stay over a weekend, as well, to spend time with him.

I don't need a master plan, just some above-the-normal ideas on how to fill 4-5 days. I would like to prove myself wrong about not being interested in the Bay Area. Scenery, culture (Asian Art Museum--yes; Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf--not really), and food (we eat everything and at all budgets) are higher priorities than shopping; we don't really follow any "must see" lists. Perhaps a baseball game if the timing is right. We spent the last seven years surrounded by vineyards and so an outing to Napa Valley isn't inspiring us right now; plus, we want to do this without having to rent a vehicle.

Thank you for the help!

Last edited by fourfortravel; Feb 21st, 2020 at 06:09 AM.
fourfortravel is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 06:35 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 12,058
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Got it. "Commuting distance" in the bay area can be as far as 1.5 to 2hrs away due to the cost of living close to the big job centers which are SF, and silicon valley (San Jose to Palo Alto, and up the peninsula)

Here's what I would do if I had that time, and he hadn't had time to explore.
Assumption here is he'd be living in the south bay area (Si valley/ San Jose)
1. Days when he was working.
- seeing the redwoods / hiking at Big Basin Park
- Lunch, or walk along the beach at Half Moon Bay, find the tide pools just north of there to explore at low tide.
- Day trip to Monterey - could include any of the following aquarium, kayaking on the sloughs or out on the bay, artichoke & strawberry tasting, paragliding,
- day trip into SF - stroll along the embarcadero, take a ferry ride to sausolito, eat at the oyster bar at Ferry market,

2. Weekend getaway. - book 2 nights in Carmel, include in that a day trip drive to Big Sur.

J62 is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 07:22 AM
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 8,030
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I sense that nothing will satisfy this grump. Let the son be the tour guide. Our son and dil are in Redwood City and we love to visit the area but then we have an open mind about what to see and do.

We often come for the weekend with them, take the train to SF for the week since they both work long hours during the week, returning for another weekend and them home. During the week we use a SF hotel and take a variety of tours and participate in other activities. Get around fine use public transit. We have a wonderful time but are fairly flexible about what we like to see and do. Good Luck.

Last edited by fmpden; Feb 21st, 2020 at 07:27 AM.
fmpden is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 07:51 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 11,752
Likes: 0
Received 17 Likes on 4 Posts
At least once take an Amtrak bus from one of several locations in San Francisco over to Emeryville to take a Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento. The state capitol building (also beautiful grounds) is within easy walking distance of the Sacramento Valley station. Also within the realm of possibility is a San Joaquin train to Merced and a YARTS bus into Yosemite Valley. As I recall, the #712 San Joaquin terminates in Oakland at Jack London Square with a bus back into San Francisco. Nine days ago, I rode the #712 all the way from Bakersfield to Martinez to catch up with the Coast Starlight to get home in Oregon.
Instead of flying into SFO, check on flights to San Jose or even Sacramento (SMF).
tomfuller is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 08:26 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 2,847
Received 26 Likes on 5 Posts
"I sense that nothing will satisfy this grump." Wow, fmpden, that's harsh. And, your words could not be further from the truth. San Francisco has never been a destination I've considered, and now I will be considering it. No reason to be grumpy about one's 23 year-old landing a high-paying, and more importantly, stable dream job. That written, "Son" can not be the tour guide because he will be working for most of the time we are visiting; and, as he will only have been in the area for about a month, will likely not be able to proffer a week's itinerary for us. Hence the reason for my posting here.

J62, excellent ideas. Low tide beach combing and oysters and hiking are all things we love. I hadn't yet begun investigating hiking, especially, so thank you.

tomfuller, thank you for the travel suggestions. Nothing is off the table yet. So much to consider...

fourfortravel is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 09:15 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,836
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm also not much interested in city of San Francisco (siblings live in Marin and South Bay).

I usually do have a car, though, and closer to SF, visit Golden Gate Park or the Presidio especially the west/Pacific side (Baker Beach, Land's End).

If he's in the South Bay, drive over to Moss Beach or Half Moon Bay. For tidepools, there's the Fitzgerald Reserve, or visit some of the State Beaches and trails near Hwy 1 depending on where you can snag parking (Pescadero, San Gregorio)
mlgb is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 10:33 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 7,374
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Some friends of mine took a Segway tour - said it was fun! I think tour of Alcatraz is pretty interesting. Take ferry to Sausalito for the day. For sure I would rent a car one day and visit one of the beach towns- Half Moon Bay Brewing is a nice lunch spot- big deck overlooking the water. Also like the little beach town of Pescadero and the beach at Bean Hollow State Park.

Hope you will find some fun things to do.
sunbum1944 is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 10:35 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 23,060
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Without a car the Pacific side of the peninsula is problematic. For redwoods, a bus ride to Muir Woods would the the best bet.
Michael is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 11:01 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 346
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Beyond the relatively small San Francisco financial district and the building canyons I don’t find many similarities between the two cities. Since you like hiking one day you should rent a car and head over the Golden Gate bridge to the Marin Headlands. Hike down to Kirby cove, Black Sands Beach, Rodeo Cove, Point Bonita Lighthouse, snoop around the abandoned Military Batteries, then stroll around Sausalito. Walk up the Embarcadero to the Filbert Steps up to Coit Tower then into North beach for lunch. Take the Judah line out to the end and walk Ocean beach to the Suto Baths to Coastal trail and if ambitious on to Baker Beach and the Presidio. Take the ferry to Angel Island and hike around there. So many outdoor activities you just don’t have in NYC (by the way, I like NYC as well).
DaveS is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 11:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 24,836
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by Michael
Without a car the Pacific side of the peninsula is problematic. For redwoods, a bus ride to Muir Woods would the the best bet.
Maybe Uber offers a better alternative, the OP does say they could rent a car, so I assumed they've got driver's licenses.

If the son is living in SF city, then cars and parking can be a problem, for sure.
mlgb is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 11:18 AM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 12,241
Received 26 Likes on 4 Posts
SF bears no resemblance to NYC & I admit my reaction to the post was a variation on fmpden's theme. However, the approach aside, I'll try to be useful.

Originally from the Bay Area, I haven't lived there for some time but due to circumstances largely beyond my control I spent 6 months there with friends & family in 2018. During that time my car was totaled (spectacularly) while parked & I decided to experiment with public transport all around the bay just to see if it could be done. It was a success using a Clipper Card that unites previously separate systems & it was almost worth losing my car to find out. Almost. I recommend using it as an alternative to fighting traffic which was my original motive. On occasion it might be better to choose your destination based on ease of getting there, all other things equal.

My experience:

MmePerdu is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 11:57 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,451
Received 79 Likes on 8 Posts
Let me throw out an idea that might be discarded at once, but I do wonder about renting a car as a way to expand your options. The reason for suggesting this is that you could do some pretty terrific day- or overnight trips while still having a base somewhere close to your son. To be sure, driving in the city is not everyone's cup of tea, but SF is surrounded by spectacular countryside - on the west side of the peninsula, in Marin County etc. - and there are a couple of areas that in May could be fabulous. Take two days and one night and head through the Henry Cowell or Big Basin redwoods down to Monterey Bay. Visit the old Spanish mission in Carmel, or the great Monterey aquarium, or spend an afternoon in glorious Point Lobos. It's a couple of hours from SF (depending on traffic) but it can feel like you're a million miles away.

Other things - ride the ferry to Angel Island, or visit the cool Oakland museum. Drive up to Point Reyes or Bodega Bay. Visit the Legion of Honor museum in the Presidio, Fort Point underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and walk around "Land's End" and the Sutro Baths. Visit the Berkeley and Stanford campuses, both lovely. Hike up the Filbert Steps on the side ot Telegraph Hill, or listen to live music at historic Pier 23 on the Embarcadero. Lots to do.
Gardyloo is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 01:23 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 73,090
Likes: 0
Received 50 Likes on 7 Posts
Just a few ideas:

•Bodega Bay/Point Reyes
•Tiburon/Sausalito/Angel Island
•A Giants Game
•Half Moon Bay
•Redwoods -- Muir Woods is not the best option since it is small-ish and gets very crowded and requires advance reservations. But the better parks pretty much require a car
•De YoungMuseum/Japanese Tea Garden/Academy of Sciences/Botanic Garden and the rest of GGPark
•The Presidio/Disney museum/Lands End/Legion of Honor

And . . . There are a lot of NorCal Fodorites -- maybe a GTG
janisj is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 01:52 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 83,240
Received 46 Likes on 17 Posts
Originally Posted by MmePerdu
SF bears no resemblance to NYC & I admit my reaction to the post was a variation on fmpden's theme.
+ 1

Especially the " just a sunnier version of NYC".
What do you call summer tourists wearing shorts and brand new SF sweatshirts?

SF is in California but definitely not sunnier or warmer than NYC in summer.

It's very diverse and a lot to see and do there, if one has interests in discovering new things.

If a rental car is an option, there are numerous overnight options that would be wonderful.

My nephew landed his dream job south of the city a few months ago and invited me out for a road trip down the coast. It's all new to him and I'll be planning that weekend trip.

A starting place for ideas in the city using public transportation would be the wonderful free walking tours. So many options and a full schedule could keep you busy every day for a week. Add in great restaurants, you could focus on a new corner of the city each day.

If someone can't find something of interest there, staying home may be the best choice.

Oakland works as an alternate airport.

If you can snag a reservation, you may want to go to Alice Waters' restaurant in Berkeley -

Last edited by starrs; Feb 21st, 2020 at 01:57 PM.
starrs is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 02:13 PM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 5,564
Received 12 Likes on 7 Posts
I love visiting there. My husband was stationed at Mare Island so we always have to visit his old favs. Monterey is nice and enjoyed all the walking there. The seals are great entertainment. We took a bus to Carmel on the advice of locals as parking was tough. I loved eating at the Culinary Institute in Napa. We sat at the bar and really enjoyed watching as much as eating the delicious food. Congrats on the son getting a good job. My Goddaughter lived there for over a year working for Indeed but it was so expensive in the city.
Macross is offline  
Old Feb 21st, 2020, 03:09 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 16,499
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Here are my ideas

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Old Feb 22nd, 2020, 04:07 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 26,243
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I lived in the Bay Area for 46 years, 20 of which were in the city proper. Urban "hiking" in San Francisco is fantastic - walk along the Embarcadero from AT&T Park (what is it now, Oracle Park?) to Fisherman's Wharf, or part-way to Fisherman's Wharf, turn west and climb some stairs to Coit Tower, then after, walk down through North Beach/Upper Grant and Chinatown, or walk on Market Street to Castro, explore the Castro area, from there walk up (and I do mean UP) 17th Street to Twin Peaks, or explore Hayes Street and then walk to and in Golden Gate Park. Has anyone mentioned Crissy Field - the walk from Fort Mason to the Warming Hut, or to the Golden Gate Bridge? I believe someone did mention walking in the Presidio - it is spectacular - beautiful walking and fantastic views. And that's all within city limits.
sf7307 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -