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5 day itinerary in San Francisco

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Toronto
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5 day itinerary in San Francisco

Dear Members,

My wife and I (aged 27 & 32) are planning a trip to San Francisco from December 25th to 29th. We should be reaching SFO from Toronto on the 25th at about noon. We fly to Vegas on the 29th evening (flight out of SFO at approx. 8:30 pm)

Our plan is to rent an apartment from AirBnb close to union square.

From a little reading that I have done, following is the rough itinerary I have come up with:

25th - Chinatown, Japantown, Golden Gate Park, Union Square decorations

26th - Fishermen's Wharf - Pier 39, Hyde Pier, Alcatrz Night tour, Ghiradelli Square

27th - Union Square, Lombard Street, Marina District, Golden Gate Bridge

28th - Ferry Building Marketplace, Emaberacedo, Coit Tower, North Beach

29th - Twin Peaks/Exploratorium/California Academy of Sciences/Angel Island

The plan would be to walk as much as possible but also to experience the wonderful transit system including the cable and street cars at times. Also, to enjoy some good food varieties (nothing too fancy, but good local food).

Specific questions:

1. Is the itinerary from 25th to 28th too busy.. or too relaxed?

2. We are assuming on that the 25th, majority of the city would be shut, but chinatown, japantown and the park should be open... am I correct? Also, would the Hamon Tower of de Young Museum be open on the 25th?

3. Any suggestions for the 29th... since we only have till about 5pm before we'd have to head to the airport?

4. Is there any place we can store our luggage on the 29th, since we'll have to probably check out in the morning/afternoon?

5. Is it possible within the time we have to take a trip to either Muir Woods, Marin Headlands, Berkeley or Monterey?

6. Can we rent bikes close to the Golden gate bridge?

7. Any suggestions on a good walking tour?

Any other suggestions/comments would be very welcome.

Apologies for the long post. Your time and feedback is much appreciated.

Regards.

San Francisco, Ca
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1. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

I would do the Exploratorium on the 26th or 28th, since it is closer to the waterfront than to GG Park (it moved to a new location earlier this year).

I would not assume Japantown will be open, but check perhaps with some of the stores to see their schedules. Yes, Chinatown will be open. (Japantown is much less touristy, so may be closed.)

FYI, there are relatively few apartments near Union Square... the closest residential areas will likely be Russian Hill or Telegraph Hill. Post the exact address or cross streets and we can tell you about the neighborhood... some landlords really stretch some of the neighborhood boundaries to make their location sound better (ie, Nob Hill when it's really in the Tenderloin).

If you're not staying at a hotel, luggage storage is awkward. Ask your landlord about storing the luggage there somehow.

I doubt the view tower at the DeYoung would be open on the 25th if the museum is closed... while it is free, the entrance is via the museum, so there would have to be people working.

You would have to take time from an already jam-packed itinerary to fit in Sausalito (a 3-hour visit), let alone Monterey (a 3-hour drive EACH way). Stick with what you have.

Most bike rentals are at Fisherman's Wharf. There is one at the sporting goods store in the Presidio, near the GG Bridge, but I believe you'd have to return them there. The Wharf is more convenient as you can return them near where the ferry docks on your return trip.

CityGuides has very good, free walking tours (donation requested). Good food-based walking tours are done by Edible Excursions to areas like the Mission and Japantown.

Bloomington, Indiana
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2. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

Just have time for a single, quick comment.

I think you have too much time allocated to the FW/Pier 39 area (especially since you're doing the nighttime Alcatraz tour). My (and other's) opinion is this area generally deserves an hour or two (three?) to walk through it. Enough to see the views, the sea lions, check out a few trinket shops, etc. There are a few things that might deserve more time if they interest you (mainly the Maritime Museum/old ships or perhaps a few specific shops), but even if this is the case it's likely to only add a couple of hours or so. Many will say that a full day is *absolutely* overkill (unless you really like places overrun with tourist oriented souvenir shopping).

Bottom Line: Even if you want to do the Maritime Museum, I think something closer to a half-day is plenty of time to see everything worthwhile in the Fisherman's Wharf area. North Beach & Chinatown are fairly close and you might add them to that day and/or perhaps Union Square to start/end the day (if that's where your hotel is).

That's my $.02,

hlo

San Francisco
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3. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

I wrote this Traveler Article a few years back based on some advice I gave some travelers who wanted to see a lot of outdoor sights on Thanksgiving. It may be a little much for half a day but it may give you some additional ideas (such as Coit Tower and Alamo Square): tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60713-c149407/San-Fr…

I think you can add more things to the 26th. The Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39 area deserves a couple of hours at most. In fact, I would suggest taking Dylan's 5 hour city tour which includes Muir Woods. A good way to get an overview of town and Muir is a plus. http://dylanstours.com/

As the de Young museum will definitely be closed on Christmas Day (and that would include the tower), I'd save GG Park for a day when it's open.

With regards to luggage storage, Wes Tyler is a member of this forum and the General Manager of the Chancellor Hotel. He has often generously offered to store baggage for travelers not staying at his hotel. I would PM him to see if they can accommodate you (and tip the bellman well).

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure you'll save much money in an apartment around Union Square over a hotel. As Susan indicates, there aren't many apartment rentals in the Union Square area. If you change your mind and opt for a hotel, the Donatello has large rooms and a mini kitchen (fridge, microwave and kitchen utensils).

With regards to bike rentals, I'd suggest renting at Fisherman's Wharf. There are tons of rental outlets there. From Fisherman's Wharf to the bridge is a very nice ride through Fort Mason, along the Marina Green and into Crissy Field. Mostly flat, mostly off city streets. You can either ride out to the GG Bridge and then back or ride across the bridge and take the ferry back. Here's all the info you need on this ride: tripadvisor.com/Travel-g60713-c134705/San-Fr…

Any extra time you have I suggest picking a neighborhood and exploring. I see you have the Marina ... of course, you can explore that area as a short detour from the bike ride. But there are lots of neighborhoods in the city. Here are thumbnail descriptions: http://www.sfgate.com/neighborhoods/

Edited: 06 November 2013, 21:47
Toronto
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4. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

Thank you all for your quick responses.

My apologies, I did not specify the exact location of our planned stay. The apartment we are looking at is on Jones street and Bush street intersection. I guess that is lower nob hill area? Would you suggest a better neighborhood?

We were looking for accommodation in the range of $90-$120 max. and found this apartment to fit the bill.

I am reviewing all that has been suggested and might be back with a few more questions.

Thank you all once again.

San Frantastic
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5. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

25th: Don't Chinese people celebrate Christmas? Anyway, it's probably best to plan to have dinner there, since not that many other restaurants will be open. I spent Christmas Eve & day in a hotel in Union Square one year and the pickings were slim to none. Not sure Japantown is worth a visit. I might move Angel Island to the 25th as most of Golden Gate Park's main attractions will be closed. Also, it's a good idea to rent bikes to explore the park, and the bike rental stores will not be open either.

26th: ditto with everyone who says you don't need all day for the Fisherman's Wharf area. Start your day exploring another neighborhood. The Haight and the Mission are popular places with lots to see and do. Or move the Exploratorium to this day. HIt FW before your Alcatraz tour (you have the tickets already, right?).

27th looks good. The Marina isn't necessarily the most interesting neighborhood, but there are tons of shops & boutiques.

28th: Isn't Coit Tower closed? Well, you can still see nice views from the park up there.

29th: Too much if you need to leave for the airportt by 5PM. That's why I suggested moving Angel Island and the Exploratorium. Rent some bikes and spend the day in Golden Gate Park. Just be sure to get an early start. There's lots to see there and you could spend all day at the Academy of Sciences alone.

And no, you will not have time for any day trips.

San Francisco, Ca
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6. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

>>25th: Don't Chinese people celebrate Christmas? << Merchants marketing to tourists take advantage of opportunities.

Jones and Bush is ok, but in general, walk uphill, not down. Check out the neighborhood on Google Street View to see if that's what you have in mind.

Toronto
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7. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

Thank you all for your comments.

After reviewing the info provided plus reading some more, we have fine tuned our trip further.

Here is the latest and greatest:

- Booked the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway (Van Hess & California) for four nights (25th to 29th) - the price fit our budget and reviews seemed decent for the price range! - realize it's not walking distance to any attraction but hopefully close to transit should help.

- Have booked the SF City Pass with Alcatraz Tours (enabling us to take the day tour as part of the pass)

Latest Itinerary:

25th - Land at SFO at 11:30 am, take BART + MUNI to hotel; Chinatown + Union Square decorations

26th - Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz tour at 11 am, North Beach, Bike ride from Wharf to Golden Gate Bridge

27th - Exploratorium, Embarcadero, Ferry Building Marketplace, Union Square

28th - Golden gate park - California Academy of Sciences, de Young Observation tower, Japanese Tea Garden

29th - These are all possibilities, depending on time: Alamo square, walking tour, shopping at Union Square, Twin peaks etc. - catch 8:30 pm flight to LAS.

We'll try to cover attractions like Coit tower, Lombard Street, Ghiradelli Square between 26th and 28th depending on our location, or maybe on the 29th.

Any comments as always would be greatly appreciated.

Santa Clara...
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8. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

Much better and the location of the hotel is safe and convienient.

-25th - take the California line cable car into Chinatown

-26th - not sure you have time for North Beach after Alcatraz and still make the ride over GGB. Alcatraz will take a few hours and sunset will be early. You may consider North Beach for dinner after the bike ride

-29th - take a HOHO tour bus to hit Alamo Square, Twin Peak, Coit Tower, Lombard

San Francisco...
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9. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

I have not seen an HOHO go to twin peaks . Car or a combo of Muni and an uphill walk or a smaller tour company such as Dylan's can work

I agree with Chinita. Have dinner in North Beach after getting back from your bike ride. There is a great article on that bike ride in the top questions

San Francisco
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10. Re: 5 day itinerary in San Francisco

The OP indicates they want to ride TO the GGB -- not over it. An out and back from Fisherman's Wharf shouldn't be more than a 45 minute ride. Add some for photo ops but still probably under two hours. However, given that sunset is so early in December I'd suggest doing the bike ride immediately after Alcatraz so you're not riding in twilight.

Not sure about HOHOs and Twin Peaks but some guided tours indicate "only when it's not foggy."