Hi fellow travelers (and San Franciscan's),
We just returned last night form our wonderful 2 week trip to CA. We spent 3 (I wish more) days and nights in San Francisco. Here is a little advice I have for 1st timers:
Parking: DO NOT BRING YOUR CAR TO SAN FRANCISCO! Yes I am boldly telling you this. We drove our Lincoln Navigator with a Cargo Box on top of it to CA. I had no clue where we were going to park it in San Francisco. The garages did not have the clearance to fit our car. I was really stressed about this. We decided to park at the BART Millbrae lot and take the BART in. The best idea ever!! Not only cheap, but no stress either. It cost 8.50 round trip/person from this station to Powell St. Parking at the BART was free during the weekend and only $6 a day during the week--for long term parking. It was going to cost me $70/night for oversized parking downtown.
Public Transportation: The best around that I have experienced. Cable cars, street cars, buses. If we were unsure about what bus to take, we asked the driver and each one went out of his or her way to get us going on the right bus or in the right direction.
Cable Cars: FUN, FUN, FUN!! But, be prepared to wait. The wait in the afternoon for the Powell/Hyde was 2 hours. We caught the Powell/Mason right outside our hotel at 7 am with no one on it. ADVICE--if you want to lines for the cable car go very early.
Hotel: We stayed at the Marriott Union Square. We have a large family and got 2 rooms. Worked out pretty good (not adjoining rooms). I thought Union square was a perfect place to stay. We were steps from the cable car line, Chinatown, great food, BART, F Line street car.
Alcatraz--BOOK EARLY and make sure you use the audio guide. This is a must do!
Most restaurants we found did not open before 8 am--esp near Pier 33 (Alcatraz Boat). So, plan for that if you have an early reservation for Alcatraz.
Be ready for the unexpected--we ran into (Literally) the World's Naked Bike ride on Lombard Street. With 5 kids aged 7-13, we had a lot of questions and them covering their eyes! All I could do was laugh and wait for it to be over. Memories!
Ask people if you have questions. The people of San Francisco were some of the most friendly people I have ever come across.
Can't wait to return one day soon!