Traveling to San Francisco

My husband and I are going to San Francisco this Friday and I am so excited! I’ve never been to California and want to make sure I get in as much as possible. We are staying at the Grand Hyatt on Union Square and so far all I have planned is a tour of Alcatraz.

Any suggestions on things we must do & places to go? And does anyone know of any knitting shops there? My hubby has some business meetings so I have some me time to fill! Thanks in advance!


I LOVE San Francisco! I lived there for 2 years and really enjoyed it. There are soo many things to do and see. Fisherman’s WHarf; Pier 39; Chinatown; Golden Gate Park on and on. Alcatraz is a very interesting tour. Union Square has lots of shopping, you can take a cable car ride.

I’m sure there are others who actually live there now and can guide you more. I hope you love it there!!

I love this place

Friendly people, oodles of yarn, in a funky cool neighbrhood and they have mmmmmmmmmm

This place is downtown. They have thier own lines of yarns that are soooooooo yummy. They even have what they call “yarn tasting.” It’s all of thier yarns in bins and you can take some out and knit a little swatch and keep it! THey are a little pricier than most but well worth it. DOn’t miss it.

Ditto on Chinatown- I love just strolling through! Ghiradelli is also fun, tho dangerous-- LOTS of CHOCOLATE! If you want a gorgeous view- Coit Tower is nice, as is a hike up Angel Island. The old military fort under the Golden Gate I remember liking to. It’s hard to know where to start since thats “home”-- where I grew up. I love San Francisco- all of it. I’ve still got lots of family out there! I don’t know how much you’ll be able to get around, but a drive down the coast for the afternoon is beautiful as well. It’s a little bit of a drive but a day trip to Monterey Aquarium and all that is in Monterey is also fun, with a gorgeous drive on the way. Feel free to email me if you want more ideas!

Well, of course you have to go drink wine in Sonoma or Napa Valley. I was there in February. I went to Art Fibers, Imagiknit, and The Knitterly in Petaluma. Of those three, I think Imagiknit I would recommend most, but Art Fibers has their own line so it’s something different. I also went to the Sebastiani winery. I also bought delicious Green and Black chocolate. Hey, I wanna go to San Francisco!

Thank you SO much guys for all the suggestions. All of those places sound fantastic!! I will be busy doing my planning. I can hardly wait!! :cheering: Yarn, chocolate, wine…my weaknesses!!!:drool:

We won’t have a car, but I’m going to do my best to use the public trans and I’m off for a new pair of walking shoes now!! Thanks again!!!

This is MY town!

That said, skip Fisherman’s Wharf - it is a serious tourist trap. You won’t see much other than silly tschotsckies and chain stores. The food sucks as well.

Are you a foodie person? I was a Food & Wine writer so I can make LOTS of suggestions where to eat and where to stay away from. A big thing to do in the city is on Saturday mornings: The Ferry Plaza. It is our Farmer’s Market but so much more – it is the place to be and be seen in the city and if you start there in the morning, you will be fine for breakfast and lunch. There are tea shops, oyster bars, bakeries, chocolatiers (Rechiuti - way better than Ghirardeli), olive oil stands, etc.

Yarn-wise, I’m a big fan of Atelier on Divisidero. It is not necessarily near anything specific, but if you are thinking of visiting Japantown (which is in the center of town), it is about a 10-minute walk from there.

Besides your standard tourist locales (Alcatraz, the Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge) San Francisco has some great jazz clubs. I’m a fan of Biscuit & Blues which is very near Union Square – they serve gumbo and other great southern dishes along with the music.

If you are a movie fan, there is a 3-hour bus tour that is really cool (although slightly expensive at $50 a person). The San Francisco Movie Tour drives you around the city, showing clips of famous movies and where they are located within the city. I took my BF’s mother last Thanksgiving and we both loved it. You actually watch scenes from flicks like ‘Vertigo’ or ‘Dirty Harry’ and then they show you where it was filmed.

Union Square is shopping central - Neiman Marcus, a 5-story Macy’s, Saks, Tiffany, Borders, etc. But it is also central to several streets worth of art galleries, my current obsession. You can see (and purchase) Miro, Picasso, Renoir, Donati, Rembrandt, and more without paying museum-entrance fees.

Golden Gate Park is huge and rivals New York’s Central Park for mass. Within it are arboretums, museums, golf courses, concerts, a butterfly exhibit, and just plain gorgeous botanicals. I would see if your concierge could arrange rent-a-bikes for you if you are nature lover.

Chinatown is very interesting and can get very crowded. My favorite store there is The Wok Shop where they sell the best cooking supplies.

Tell me what you like to eat and I’ll suggest places to dine. San Francisco is the culinary mecca of the U.S. with arguably the best dining in the country. Whatever you do, stay away from chain restaurants (no Dennys or TGIFridays!) as you can do so much better during your stay.

[B][COLOR=DarkOrchid]I used to live in SF MANY MANY years ago. What a beautiful place, you’ll have such a good time. Just riding the ferry down that hill um, forgot the street but it’s the major one… Carrie? from Polk I think past the big hotels then down to California is that it?

That’s such a cool ride. I like Fisherman’s wharf even though it is touristy, just to walk along there. And the seafood’s not bad. My favorite place in all of SF is this really old fish house, it’s famous. With the long counter and absolutely fabulous fish and chowders WOW that is the place to go. I could do a search but I’ll bet Carrie knows it. It’s downtown.

My other favorite is Little Joe’s restaurant, wonder if that’s still there. And the opera cafe in North Beach for a coffee… and Biordi for Italian dishes, or just to look coz it’s so expensive. !

Have a great time!

How could i forget Coit Tower??? That’s where my husband proposed!!! LOL

We vacationed there last summer. I really enjoyed it. The highlights for me were Muir Woods (my avatar) and seeing a ballgame at PacBell Park. (The tickets were very inexpensive compared to Fenway and the seats were excellent) The Ferry terminal is lots of fun. There are good bus tours which pick you up at your hotel. Have a great time.

PS. I should have been a good mod and moved this to Off Topic but you did mention yarn. I did see a lot of people wearing sweaters, some of them I’m sure were hand knit. There, I have us covered.

I believe the streetcar that Victoise has mentioned is the one that picks up right in front of the newly-rennovated Westfield mall (pretty stunning, actually with an amazing food court!) on Market and Stockton. That street car heads up Stockton in front of the St. Francis hotel, right past Union Square towards Nob Hill. There are a handful of others but that one always seems to have a line of people waiting to get on it.

Now there is Little Joe’s and Original Joe’s. Both are still there and quite famous. Also on the famous range of restaurants are Tadich Grill - one of the oldest in the city with the best steaks and Swan’s Oyster Bar near Polk & Pine where you sit at a bar that has been there for 75+ years.

Thinking more about yarn, I don’t think Atelier is especially worth the time and effort. There are the handful already mentioned near Union Square which are just as good. I’m a bit jaded as my favorite yarn store in the world is Black Sheep in Encinitas (just north of San Diego). Everything else has paled in comparison…

North Beach is definitely worth a visit. That is our Little Italy and besides amazing restaurants, there are jazz clubs, little cafes where you can have the most amazing coffee, and great window shopping.

Another landmark is The Buena Vista. It is a smallish restaurant behind Ghirardelli square that is home of the Irish Coffee. It was invented there and if nothing else, one should stop in and warm themselves with the classic on cool evenings.

Lisa, bring heavy sweaters or light coats. I know it is summer and sweltering in most of the country, but we stay moderately cool and while I wear shirtsleeves during the day, it gets cool in the evening.

Wow - thanks for all the tips!

Last night, hubby and I went to trivia and one of the questions was about where Dirty Harry was filmed! DOH! I will never forget now! We do love movies, so that sounds very interesting…
I’ve also heard about Ferry Plaza, so that is def on my list!

We don’t eat seafood, so we aren’t really interested in that, BUT we do LOVE all other food and wine! Italian and Mexican are our favs, but we are really up for anything - any suggestions would be SO great. Thank you!! :muah:

Okay, if you want one really special dinner, try and get reservations at Quince (call now). They hand roll their own pasta and it is seriously elegant. For general upscale, fabulous Italian, my favorite is Rose Pistola in North Beach.

Since you aren’t seafood lovers, you have yet another reason to skip Fisherman’s Wharf. But you won’t be disappointed in your visit to the Ferry Plaza on Saturday. Just be prepared for the fact that it is crowded. Wander and nosh – Frog Hollow Farms (inside the building) has my favorite pastries (anything from fresh raspberry tarts to mushroom/leek turnovers). Also at the Ferry Plaza is Mijita which is probably the only place in the city you should bother eating Mexican food (I grew up in San Diego on the Mexican border and the further away from Mexico I got, the less I enjoyed that particular cuisine. Mijita is the exception).

For interesting people watching and a bit of history, the Haight-Ashbury district is quite fun; lots of vintage clothing stores, head shops, piercing and tattoo shops, and a number of oddball restaurants. For those of us that remember the 60s, it still holds charm.

My current favorite restaurant to take out-of-town visitors is called Aziza – it is Moroccan but the most elegant, upscale, amazing Moroccan food ever. The chef just recently won a bunch of awards and I’ve never known anyone to not be blown away by the array of complicated flavors he puts together. No belly-dancing or silly tapestries on the wall, either.

Near Union Square is a charming little alley called Belden Place. It has been draped with lights and is full of little Italian, French, and Spanish bistros. I mini-culinary mecca right there. Nothing too expensive.

If you want a dress-up, knock your socks off elegant meal, I’d recommend Campton Place, Gary Danko, or The Dining Room at the Ritz (all would require reservations). These are the types of places that will do multi-course, wine-with-each-course meals in the $250 a person range. Worth it, in my book.

San Francisco is also home to a ton of wine bars, for your wine-tasting adventure (since you won’t be renting a car, don’t worry about heading to Napa - there’s still plenty to choose from here). Again, in the Ferry Plaza, is a wine bar that does tastings. Very popular right now are tapas bars which will pair small plates tastings with small wine tastes. They can get expensive when you add them up but I like the variety.

Also, check with your concierge because I keep seeing these little two-seater run-about, electric cars in town. I’m sure they are available and might be the ticket if you want to go out exploring. They look sort of like go-carts but safer. the Steinhart Aquariam is very cool, I’m going this weekend. The De Young Museum is right across the street. The Japanese Tea Garden is by there and absolutely beautiful. the Exploratorium is GREAT if you have kids, and SUPER FUN even if you don’t. They are all science exibits that you can play with. This museum is great too. I love going here. The artists are amazing.

If you want to go over to Oakland, the Oakland Museum is wonderful. There are different levels and the top level is California history in art. Movies in the Park are always fun, and an interesting experience.

the Presidio is fun to visit. Lots of history.

the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum is at Fisherman’s Warf. It’s silly but kinda fun. There’s also a wax museum. If you could get to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, it is so cool! they do tours, and it’s not that expensive. OH DO YOU LIKE PLAYS?!? If you do, you HAVE to see Beach Blanket Babalyon!!! It’s something I think everyone should see! The asian art museum is very nice. If you like cartoons, the cartoon museum is something you shouldn’t miss.

You guys are [I]awesome!:cheering:[/I] Everything just sounds wonderful. I am probably going to gain 20 pounds out there! I can’t wait to see everything and I’m tempted to go buy myself a better camera before we go! I don’t think dh knows about the cartoon museum, fun!
Beldan Place sounds just like my kind of spot! Dh and I will be picking out a few places tonight!! Exciting!!! Thanks again so much!! Yay! :woot:

I am going to copy this post and print it out and keep it with me – I’m so excited about all the information. Our family is moving to Livermore, CA in three weeks (from the metro Detroit area). Livermore is not too far from San Francisco – hubby will have clients in the city and we’ll probably end up spending a lot of time there. It’s good to know about some things that aren’t complete tourist traps and typical tourist fare – I’ll feel like we’ve been there for a while when we’re just beginning to explore! Thank you so much for sharing – it will help make our transition a little easier!!:cheering:

Just a note for those visiting – I walked out for a light dinner and the wind was quite cold. As is well known, the coldest winter known is the warmest summer day in San Francisco!

Bring warm clothes!

Chinatown is great, being Chinese myself, every time we go there we hit up Chinatown. :slight_smile:

I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1986. It is a fabulous city, and I don’t know that I can add much more to all the great advice you’ve gotten already. I agree with Carrie about Fisherman’s Warf. One thing that I personally love about San Francisco is that it’s such a residential city. The neighborhoods are distinct and charming. I live in Noe Valley, (the “main drag” for this 'hood is 24th Street between Dolores and Castro Streets), which is peppered with lovely, 100+ -year-old, Victorian homes. It also has a nice, though small, LYS–Noe Knits–and there are walking tours of the neighborhood homes ( (Looking at the tours page, it seems the one I was referencing is not running now, but the others listed on the page sound great.) To get to Noe Valley, take the Outbound J Chuch streetcar from the Powell/Market BART/Muni station (underground, $1.25 one way), and get off at 24th Street. Start walking! There’s also really nice, not-gentrified-too-much shops on 24th Street in Noe Valley. And, Chicks with Sticks meets in the neighborhood on Monday nights at Bliss Bar.

I guess my primary advice, in addition to Carrie’s, is to go beyond the downtown/waterfront area. San Francisco is a beautiful city. You’re going to love it!

One restaurant: Ti Couz on 16th Street between Valencia and Guerrero–it’s got crepes to die for, fabulous desserts, and is not expensive. Yum!

Oh dear, I’m getting homesick! (I’ve been on sabbatical since January in Colombia!)

My Husband and I are also going to San Fran this friday as well!!! Friday is my 40th birthday and that’s where were going to celebrate!! Thanks for asking questions!! I know have a few things written down! Are you guys doing Alactraz? We bought our tickets about three weeks ago and are going on the 9 am cruise on Sunday the 1st!