Visiting San Francisco

mrtulinJune 27, 2010

Our daughter got a job in San Francisco. I know the economy is bad, but going clear across the country for a job? Actually we are delighted, and going to take advantage of the move by visiting as often as we can.

I did post on the CA forum, but want to get ideas from my neighbors who may know SF and environs. I welcome any recommendations for gardens, activities, places with reasonable prices to stay (including B & Bs) hidden treasures.

I'm sure we'll have some time to travel a few hours away in any direction and stay a night or two. Please share your experiences and recommendations as well.



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Congratulations to your daughter!

I haven't spent much time in the Bay area, but some highlights for me were the Strybing (sp?)arboretum, Muir woods, the Monteray Bay Aquarium, the Golden Gate bridge and the food, though I can't remember names of places. I had the best eggplant I've ever eaten in a little Korean restaurant we chanced upon near the arboretum and the world's best seafood taco in a little coastal town south of SF. The coastal highway is supposed to be pretty spectacular, but I don't know what it's like right near SF.

Then there's Lombard St and the street cars, plus some old sailing ships in the harbor.

Have fun planning and taking your trips.


    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 4:46AM
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javaandjazz(z6 CT)

There are seagull signs all over the city and they lead you on a nice driving tour of the city if you have a car, we did it one day and found some great places off the beaten path. One of the stops is Lands End, take the stairs and walk down the cliff face and check out the great view. Make sure you get upo to Twin Peaks where the radio towers are, best and highest view of the city ever!!! Go have a nice lunch at Cliff House and go out in the back and watch the waves crashing up against the wall. The Japanese Garden at Golden Gate Parkis very beautiful. Get out to the park where the world's fair was held in the early 1900's and see the beaufitul gardens, buildings, and pond. The Palace of Fine Arts is the only building that survived the earth quake way back when. Like the poster said above, Muir Woods is definitely a must and make sure you head over to Muir Beach on the way out and walk up path up to the top of the hill and look at the view. Take a ride down the Pacific Coast Highway towards Big Sur.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 8:43AM
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I go to SFO kinda often for work - I second the amazing Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park. I visit it pretty often. I second Muir woods, as well.

There are so many amazing restaurants there...but next on MY list is Zuni Cafe, where they are famous for their roasted chicken with bread salad. (google it - it has a cult following.) I make it using an abbreviated version of their recipe here at home and it is absolutely I can't imagine how good it is there!

If you are into wine I'd say definitely head over to Napa. You can hit Muir woods in the morning and then continue on from there. If you've never been, my favorite wineries for tastings are Phelps (great, educational tasting) and Pine Ridge. Mondavi also has a great tasting. There are also a plethora of great restaurants there for lunch. I haven't been in a while but check Yelp or Zagat...I'd probably do Bouchon, Thomas Keller's (of French Laundry) french bistro in Yountville.

Can't help w/ hotels since I've always been for work and they take care of it...but it is pretty pretty pricey there.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 9:03AM
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started_with_bean(Zone 5--MA)

I visit relatives there once a year; you're gonna love it!

If you are planning on renting a car, I'd recommend looking at hotels in Millbrae. It's near the airport, hence the lower prices plus free overnight parking usually. Anything in SF proper will cost a mint BUT you wouldn't need to drive anywhere within the city, nor would you be able to find any parking! The 49 mile drive thru the city is very scenic and well worth it. If you are going down to Monterey Aquarium, make a stop thru Carmel and the drive thru the Pebble Beach golf course (cost a few bucks but wow, what a view!). Also, be aware that summer weather in SF does not arrive until September, October in Monterey! Even in August, pack at least a pair of pants and a sweatshirt and/or windbreaker. The SF pennisula is very cool pretty much the entire year. Only once inland and on the other side of the bay does it quickly warm up.

If your legs are up for it, the walk from Chinatown to Coit Tower was fun (all up hill!).

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 10:00PM
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Filoli, one of the most beautiful gardens in the country, is located in Woodside CA, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. Don't miss it! It's a former country-place era estate, now owned by the National Trust. The bulb displays in spring are breathtaking--13 kinds of wisteria--immaculate maintenance--words fail me.

Filoli is set in a wooded glen with romantic views off to the distance. A magnificent allee of Irish yews--orangerie--knot gardens. Oh, and a mansion.

Not open in winter which is odd because there is a lot that blooms out there in "winter" (hah).

Here is a link that might be useful: Filoli's website

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 9:59AM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Great, to have a kid move to an area worth visiting! Our son headed to Berkeley (east bay SFO) in 1984, and now he's permanently there. I recently spent 2 weeks in the SFO area in April just looking at roses in the big bloom time there.

Filoli gardens (and mansion) are definitely worth a visit. If you join the Garden Conservancy, or the National Historic Preservation Trust - (I forget which; something like that) you get in free. And they have a very nice cafeteria style lunch room. When I was there in April, I wandered unguided through the mansion and there was a fine pianist playing Bach in the ballroom!

If you are a gardener (and I'm assuming that posting on this site means you are), there are loads of public gardens to go to. Alcatraz Island has a wonderful garden, and on early Friday and Sunday AMs ONLY, one can take a docent-guided tour of gardens only, no nasty cell blocks! You have to reserve and buy a ferry ticket, though.

For food outside of the city of SFO itself, I recommend: Gather, in Berkeley. Stellina's, in Pt. Reyes. Both these restaurants use local produce and meats, as much as possible, and make exquisite lunches and dinners. Also, in Sonoma: The Girl and the Fig Restaurant. The food in many restaurants is a lot fresher than what we get in the east, since much of our food comes from there.

For places to stay that are cheaper and nicer than downtown: look into east bay SFO, such as Oakland's Jack London Square, Berkeley etc. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) gets you downtown fast. If you are renting a car, you could stay at a cheap ($100 or so) motel on University Ave. in Berkeley, such as La Quinta Inn, and get parking included.

Gardening out there emphasizes dry climate (low water use) plants. But there is every possible climate zone in California, and you are gonna have a great time!


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 10:49AM
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Thanks for all your ideas and experiences. I'm keeping up with reading them, even though I'll only post periodically. I'll have a great notebook by the time I go.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 11:42PM
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Hi Marie,

Let me start by saying that you will love San Francisco and so will your daughter. Also, never call it Frisco or San Fran - the locals hate that and you will stand out as a "know nothing".....

I lived there for eight years and there is so much to see and do. I highly recommend Ginny's recommendation of Filoli -- if it looks somewhat familiar it's because that's where the tv show Dynasty was filmed! The gardens there are magnificent as is the dwelling. They have a big staff of volunteers and they need it.

Since someone else recommended a restaurant I will too. It's called Capp's Corner. It's in the North Beach and it is an Italian restaurant where food is served "family style"... You sit at big tables with people you don't know and by the end of the meal, you know them! They bring out a big bowl of soup, then a big bowl of salad, and then your main meal. It's a lot of fun and very good food. Here's the web site:

I am no way affiliated with either organization.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 12:07PM
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I am a SF Bay Area native, recently relocated to New England and can probably provide you w/info not available to most visitors on the Bay Area. Question for you; Is your daughter located within the City of San Francisco or elsewhere in the Bay Area? The Bay Area/N. Cal area is huge, populous and there are many, many things to do and see.

For instance; If she is located in South Bay aka. Silicon Valley area, I wouldn't recommend trips up to Napa during the weekday. Traffic IS brutal, esp during morning/afternoon/evening commutes. (read; from 7am till 9am, 4pm till 7pm don't go on most fwys) If you're not aware of this, you could spend several hours stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, not the most enjoyable way to spend your vacation.

I esp. would invite you to explore little known areas for their natural beauty, such as the Santa Cruz Mountain area with it's Old Redwood Groves, a less traveled alternative to the John Muir Redwoods North of SF and filled with local gardens and attractions galore, then head over the mountains to the beach of your choice for some of the best scenery and great food. (Moss Beach Distillery or Princeton-by-the-Sea, anywhere...)

Please contact me via email on my personal pg if you are interested in more information. I have family in Sonoma and Napa County, and can provide places of interest and lodging for you.


    Bookmark   July 4, 2010 at 4:01PM
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