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Seriously considering San Francisco

Macon, Georgia
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Seriously considering San Francisco

We are ready to make a final decision about our trip this summer... A few questions about the city... Would it be crazy to rent a car to drive in the city.?.. Is there public transportation from the airport to downtown? What would be the best area to stay , if you do not have a car? We would only stay about 2 nights in the city, then would rent a car to explore outside the city.. I have heard Carmel is wonderful.. Need other ideas about the high points of your area, not to miss.. We are a couple in our 50's, Very active.. We love to explore during the day, then in the evening , be able to go to dinner, walk around and maybe stop in for some wine and not have to drive, so would need the hotel walking distance.. We enjoy artsy neighborhoods, history and of course natural beauty along the way.. Thanks for any advice given.

Grover Beach...
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1. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

You don't need a car in San Francisco. Public transportation is very good in the city. You can ride BART into town and make use of the Metro, bus or cable cars to get around the city. Union Square is the preferred area to stay in. The Chancellor is a popular hotel in the Union Square area, but I'm sure others will chime in in with additional options.

Rent the car when you're ready to leave the city. Carmel is a quaint town near Monterey and within an hour of fabulous Big Sur. You might also want to consider staying in neighboring Pacific Grove, which is less busy/touristy than Carmel but only minutes away. PG has some lovely B&B's within walking distance of Monterey's Cannery Row and there are some shops that offer wine tasting down there.

www.pginns.com

www.greengablesinnpg.com

The are also some hotels in the Cannery Row area worth a look:

www.montereyplazahotel.com

ichotelsgroup.com/intercontinental/en/gb/loc…

Monterey is packed with history and offers walking tours. In Carmel, visit the historical California mission and don't miss Point Lobos State Reserve just south of Carmel. Gorgeous, gorgeous place for soaking in amazing scenery of coves, pinnacles, orange moss dripping off the trees, abundant wildlife viewing.

Jupiter, FL
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2. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

We have visited SF twice. First time we planned majority of our time there, and were disappointed b/c we realized that, while SF was definitely fun to visit for a couple of days (but very touristy in our opinion), we wished we had planned the bulk of our trip visiting Carmel/Monterey and Napa Valley b/c that's more our style (more nature, hiking, etc.).

If you plan to visit Alcatraz, check into getting tickets NOW! When we took our kids a couple of years ago in the summer, we thought we'd be able to get tickets for same day or next day and were told that tickets were booked weeks (if not months) in advance.

We also stayed in a great town called Sausalito on our 1st trip. I believe it was an artsy town on the upscale side of things. You might check into that. It was beautiful.

Highly recommend having some clam chowder in a sourdough bowl down at Fisherman's Wharf! And visit Ghirardelli Square for some great chocolate. Sorry I can't comment on the hotel and transportation questions. HTH and enjoy your vacation!

Macon, Georgia
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3. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

Thanks to both of you! I find Trip Advisor to be invaluable in my trip planning.. I've used it 3 yrs now and have only been steered wrong one time.. If you think of any more tips, I'm open !

San Francisco
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4. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

With all due respect it sounds like wriedenn did all the things listed in the "10 Things Not to Do in San Francisco" ... a thread that is active on page 1.

Of course San Francisco has its touristy bits, it's one of the top destinations in the United States. But the flip side is that SF is geographically quite small and easy to get around in ... meaning you don't have to limit yourself to those areas.

If you enjoy cosmopolitan cities, then SF will appeal to you. Of the 3 areas you're considering (SF, Denver, SD) SF is by far the most cosmopolitan. And some people even say the most "European" of US cities. SF is an interesting amalgem of neighborhoods, each with its own personality and local shops and restuarants. SF has world class dining, performing arts and museums. Its vistas and urban open spaces are awe inspiring. But if you're looking for beaches, theme parks and zoos, then SF probably isn't a good fit.

Macon, Georgia
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5. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

The latter is definitely not what we are interested in.'Our flight will arrive 530 ish, Would it be best to head south to one of the quaint towns? not sure about making reservation the other nights,,, Kinda want to fly by the seat of the pants and see what happens,,, Last night there though, we plan to spend the night in SF, as we will be leaving on the red eye late the next day

Dublin, California
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6. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

You don't need a car in SF, esp since a lot of hotels charges a lot of money for parking. You can take the Bay Area Rapid Transit train (BART) into the city from the airport. It'll take you to downtown.

Yes of course SF can be full of tourists. So can Sausalito, Napa, and Carmel. But if you want nature you can find plenty of that inside the city itself.

Portland, Maine
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7. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

You definitely do not need a car in the city.The public transportation is top notch. As far as the top 10 things NOT to do.. well , we did them all and loved them. Of course SF is a major tourist area. Of course there are 'touisty' things to do.

I am same age range as you. We have been several times and can not wait to return.SF is by far my favorite city in this country. We could vacation there dozens of times and never do the same thing twice.We do rent a car for a couple days and visit areas outside of the city. As corny as it may sound..... we can't wait to return the rental and get back in the city.

--
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8. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

If you "head south to one of the quaint towns" immediately upon your arrival at SFO, you really are setting yourself up for "wriedenn"-like vacation disappointment. When commuting into the City, whether it be by rental car, ferry, or flying carpet, you'll be thumbing through your guidebook or pre-prepared list of sites to see, checking them off one by one, in a tourist-like fashion.

Instead stay in the City either around Union Square, the Embarcadero, or quite possibly one of the less-touristed areas; wake up, amble out somewhere for leisurely coffee and breakfast hopefully outside of the main flow of people, and then:

- wander around in some neighborhood -- North Beach, Valencia, Chestnut and/or Union Streets, Fillmore Street, etc.

- leisurely take in a museum -- let RamblinSal know your tastes and I'm sure she'll come up with something

- take a FREE San Francisco City Guide walking tour or two and really learn about a neighborhood, historical event, or whatever makes The City The City http://www.sfcityguides.org/ .

At least for this trip skip Fisherman's Wharf (and both the Ghirardelli chocolate (now made across the Bay....) and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl schtick), Alcatraz, shopping in chain stores at Union Square, and the Grant Avenue version of Chinatown. These tourist "high points" will all be will be there when you make your return visit.

And above all, don't just stay somewhere else, commute into San Francisco for an afternoon or two, hit a couple of tourist spots, and tell people "you've been to San Francisco".

Edited: 13 May 2011, 17:32
Miami
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9. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

We went last week and rented a car and I'm glad we did. Yes there are buses everywhere but if you prefer driving and discovering the city yourself I would definitively rent a car. The only down side is that parking can be expensive.

Bloomington, Indiana
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10. Re: Seriously considering San Francisco

I (almost) completely disagree with ozzieXP's suggestion. Yes if you *prefer* driving, then (maybe) a car is better, but it is certainly *not* necessary for discovering the city for yourself.

You can easily discover the city for yourself on MUNI; in fact, it shows you the city the way (most) locals see it. MUNI can literally take you anywhere in the city (including places you wouldn't want to go) for a *whole lot* less than the cost of parking, much less the rental fees for the car. And for some (many?) trips it will be quicker than driving and with a lot less headaches & troubles.

In theory you'll never have to walk more than a few blocks to get anywhere in the city; but (of course) I recommend that you do get out & walk if you want to discover the city. That's the way to see it, on foot, not in a bus, streetcar or regular car.

My suggestion to visitors is to take the hundred(s) of dollars you might spend renting a car & on parking and instead buy a MUNI Passport (7 days for $27 probably less than you will pay for one night of parking) and take the rest of the savings and enjoy a good meal (or two, three . . .) at one of the many excellent restaurants in the city.

Anyway, for some getting a car is the way to go; but absent some specific (and generally rare) situtations, I don't recommend it for the above reasons.

That's my $.02,

hlo