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Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Victoria, Canada
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Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Hello,

First off, thanks so much to everyone for all the advice and suggestions. We've lurked for a quite a while and it's really helped to build our trip.

We are planning on visiting SF Oct 22 - 29 but will be heading to Monterrey as DH has business meetings on the 26 & 27. We are in our late 30's and I will be 6.5 months pregnant at that time so this will be our last trip before the baby arrives!! We want to see the sights of SF, do a bit of shopping and enjoy some good food. My husband is into jazz so if there are any recommendations of jazz venues, that would be appreciated.

Since we only have about 5 days in SF, we've narrowed down the sights to the following:

• Alcatraz – Early bird tour – are there any discounts or coupons for Alcatraz Cruises or are we stuck with the $26 per person?

• Fisherman’s wharf – especially USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O'Brien

• Ghirardelli Square

• Golden Gate Bridge and Park (more seeing it rather than walking it)

• Union square – shopping

Chinatown – dim sum for lunch

• Alamo Square and Painted Ladies

• Lombard Street

• Cable car museum

Haight-Ashbury

• Soup Dumplings (Xiao Long Bao) – I know this seems odd but we were first introduced to these in NYC and LOVED them! We are thinking of trying Kingdom of Dumpling but it looks to be a bit out of the way.

We might do a hop on-hop off tour due to my pregnancy.

My biggest question is hotel location. We are leaning towards Union Square as it seems to be pretty central for getting around. We typically use Priceline in our travels. I’ve heard of betterbidding.com so checked them out. It seems to be a forum with advice on using hotwire and priceline. Even with priceline, it looks like hotels are going for $150 – 190 in the Union Square area. What is the difference between Union Sq East and West? Is there a less expensive area? All we really care about is a hotel that is close to public transportation, clean, safe and comfortable. Any chance of getting anything under a $100/night since we aren’t going in high season?

We are renting a car to drive to Monterey and the cheapest place I could find was San Bruno. We are fine with the commute out (looks to be about 40 minutes by BART). We saved over $150 by going outside the city. The rate we got was $215 for 3 days (intermediate size car with GPS).

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.

Santa Cruz...
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1. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Hotels,

You probably want to be in the Union Square area 'Union Square East' and 'Union Square West' only exist in the imaginations of Priceline and Hotwire. Those are not local designations

If you are going to use them (I refuse to do so because I want to choose my own hotel and I do not like pay-up-front-no-cancellation policies), then be sure you read the fine print. If you do use them choose Union Square West.

For your budget at the time you are coming you should be able to get a good hotel, and if you will tell us your preferences, we can help you find a wonderful place to stay.

For example, do you like full service hotels, historic boutique hotels, bed and breakfast types (in California these are classy, not mom and pop.) etc.

One more thing about your itinerary. The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park are not linked in location.

Golden Gate Park, which is larger than Central Park in NYC, is way across town from the Bridge.

Give us your 'druthers ad we can help you.

San Francisco, Ca
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2. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

XLB... I've read on Chowhound that the NY style are very different from the ones found elsewhere. My favorite place in SF is Yank Sing.... it's more upscale than most places, but has very good variety and top quality ingredients. The skin is thin but doesn't tear easily.

Alcatraz is a national monument, so does not offer discounts.

The Union Square West and Union Square East designations are only within Priceline, so I had to look up some info to try to find the boundaries. According to www.bidontravel.com, Powell Street is the boundary between USE and USW. There are good hotels in both areas.

But here is some interesting info from that website:

"Many of San Francisco's most famous hotels are in Union Square West.

"These include the Westin St. Francis, San Francisco Hilton, and Parc 55, as well as the Renaissance Stanford Court and Mark Hopkins "Top of the Mark" Intercontinental on Nob Hill.

"You'll usually have a greater chance of getting a bargain on a top 4-star hotel in this area than when bidding for similar hotels in Union Square East.

"You'll also find more lower priced 2-star hotels in this area than in Union Square East.

"In fact, try to avoid the southwest part of this area altogether. This is the heart of San Francisco's horrific skid road, which extends west through the civic center."

Back to my comments -- since USW includes the Tenderloin (the skid road referenced above), I'd either bid ONLY the top tier hotels there, or bid USE.

I think it will be very unlikely that you'll find a good hotel for $100 or less in the downtown area. October is still very popular for convention travelers, so prices won't reflect a "low season".

Those prices are generally found in the "motel row" area of Lombard St. It isn't hugely out of the way, as there is convenient public transportation that you can get to the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square.

By the way, Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park are two different locations. You can see the Bridge from Fisherman's Wharf or almost anywhere on the northern waterfront, if you don't have to get close up to it. GG Park is larger than New York's Central Park, so you can spend anywhere from half a day to several days in the park -- museums, gardens, all sorts of stuff. The park is in the far western area of the city, the bridge in the northwestern corner.

Fishers, Indiana
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3. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Your rate for car rental seems pretty good given that you have included the GPS that is a costly add-on.

We rented from the Budget in the Hyatt at Embarcadero. I believe the rate we landed on was for using an Amex card. Without a GPS we were under $100 for two days, returning the car to the airport.

If you want to see if you can get a similar or better rate for your rental car and are willing to invest some time, try using the various codes found at MouseSavers

http://www.mousesavers.com/rentalcar.html

While this is a site primarily for Disney trips, many of the rental car rates are good across the country. I usually devote an hour or so to go through the various codes.

As I said we used the Budget location at The Embarcadero. I also remember checking rates for Avis locations in Union Square and at Fisherman's Wharf.

There are also a lot of offers for rental cars at Travelzoo. You might see a good late deal here

www.travelzoo.com/car-rental/north-america/

San Francisco...
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4. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

With respect to jazz check out yoshis san Francisco. Great jazz club and good japanese food. They have non seafood items if for any reason you are off seafood.

The only thing I would add wrt travel would be to perhaps check Dylans or mr toad and do a tour so that you can see the city quickly and then perhaps revisit some of the places you want to see in detail

Victoria, Canada
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5. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Hi folks - thanks so much for the info Puter, SFSusanW, ysuindy and

belomiser!! This is very helpful!!

In terms of a hotel, we don't really have any preferences. Although I would probably say not a historic boutique hotel if they don't have an elevator. Walking up 6 flights of stairs while pregnant and after being on my feet all day isn't that appealing to me :). It's more important to us to be in fairly central location (or at least central to the things we want to do) that is within walking distance (10-15 minutes) to public transportation, clean, safe, comfortable and has internet (either in the hotel or lobby). We have even looked into vacation rentals on vrbo.com.

And thanks for pointing out the difference between GG Park and GG Bridge. I was mixing up Presidio and GG Park. It is GG Park we are interested in.

Yank Sing sounds delicious but might be a bit out of our range. I've heard it's around $30/each, is that right? We were thinking in the $20/person ($40 together) range.....is there anything that is good quality in that range??

Thanks for the links to Mousesavers and Travelzoo. We'll definitely check those out. I did check the Hyatt and found it was about $100 more.

Yoshi's sounds like a pretty good place - Branford Marsalis is there this week! I'm sure DH will find some good acts! We'll also take a look at Dylan's and Mr. Toad - thanks!

Thanks again everyone, it is really appreciated!!

Fishers, Indiana
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6. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

We did Dylan's Tour - still have to write the review (along with many others) but I can highly recommend it.

15 passenger van - takes plenty of time for all the sites you want to see. We really enjoyed getting in to Haight Asbury, the Mission District, Twin Peaks - areas we probably wouldn't have done on our own as well as Muir Woods.

It all depends on what you want to see and what you want to spend. In looking at your list the Painted Ladies and Haight Asbury were about all that is on your list. We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, but the tour bus pulloff on the north side of the bridge was closed.

New York City, New...
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7. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

I've been to sf on several occassions. By far my fav hotel is the Omni. It's in Fin Dist, but not too far from Union Sq. For tours, try Mr Toads... Lots of fun. the open markey at the Ferry Bldg is a must. Alcatraz night tour is really cool.

San Francisco
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8. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

I just have to comment on your itinerary. It looks like a class "tourist" itinerary and as such you will miss the real San Francisco, its charms, its life, its art, and its great food. My recommendations are:

Skip Ghiradelli - just a commercial tourist place to buy stuff and not particularly nice stuff. Skip Fisherman's Wharf unless you are real ship buffs and just have to see those two.

Definitely go to Golden Gate Park - visit the de Young Museum which is an architectural gem, with a nice cafe (although busy) and sculpture garden. You can visit the Japanese Tea Garden next door and if it is a nice day, walk through the Arboretum or down JFK to the victorian Conservatory of Flowers.

For jazz, check out the SFJAZZ website - the premier jazz presenter that uses a range of venues. If you rent a car for a day, you could tour around the city on your own, see the painted ladies although you should know there are amazing victorians everywhere so if you don't go to Steiner, you'll still see plenty; drive down Lombard, go to the Mission and tour the mural alleys with street art, have a wonderful meal there in a truly local place. Or, take a days trip to Napa or Sonoma and visit the beautiful wine country. Yank Sing is really great but expensive and caters to the downtown crowd but go there if you want to have a sure thing. I have never had Xiao Long Bao here that compares with HK so I wouldn't chase it but there's really great options like Mayflower which is way out Geary - great Dim Sum - and all Chinese clients. I like spicy and go for Hunan - Henry's at Sacramento Street or Natoma alley - absolutely great food with no frills atmosphere. Most of the best SF restaurants are not high on the TA lists because so few locals add reviews...so, look at sites like Urbanspoon or 7x7 magazine or SF magazine for better listings of restaurants. It makes me so sad when visitors go to more touristy or corporate restaurants when we have some of the best food in the world. For Hotels, you might look at the Galleria Park which is a smallish hotel near Union Square in a great location and usually has prices under $200. Also the Omni is usually a good deal. You could also look at the Harbour Court which is on the Embarcadero just a couple blocks from the Ferry Building and Market Street where all the transit lines are. Try to take transit and walk when possible, parking is hideous and expensive. Visit some of the neighborhoods and walk a bit - Hayes Valley with its pop-up "Proxy" by the park, great small unique local shops, and nice restaurants. Get a cup of coffee at the Blue Bottle in Linden Alley and sit in the park on Octavia and have an ice cream at Smitten. Personally, I'd skip the Alcatraz tour and take the ferry to Tiburon and have lunch on the water. Visit Belden alley for lunch - its a great scene. Shop in Union Square area for higher end shops (and don't ignore the alleys), Valencia Street for local SF designers, Hayes as mentioned above, and Fillmore Street for cutting edge fashion designers (pricey). My best advice is skip the top tourist destinations you read about in the average guide book - and go local!

Lexington, Kentucky
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9. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Just an FYI - to get on the USS Pampanito and SS Jeremiah O'Brien it will cost $20 per person (each is $10). If you're interested there are also some neat ships that are part of the maritime museum ($5 per person to board as many as you want).

There were a couple jazz clubs in the Fillmore Street area that I passed by but never got the chance to go to - rasella's and the boom boom room.

Paris, France
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10. Re: Trip Oct 22 - 29 - itinerary and help please

Also check airbnb for vacation rentals.