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4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Great Falls, Montana
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4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Hi, and thanks in advance for the wonderful advice that is always forthcoming on this glorious forum!

I visited SF once before several years ago for a teaching convention. I was only able to spend evenings and a couple afternoons exploring, but I saw enough to fall in love, and to KNOW I had to come back some day...and now, if I can prove to my hubby that I can keep the expense down, that day is finally approaching! I may come solo, or I might have one friend with me.

I'm 99% sure I'm staying in a vacation rental in the inner Richmond neighborhood (Cabrillo St., one block from the DeYoung Museum entrance at GG Park). My flight will arrive at 4:10 on Sunday. I fly out at 10:50 pm from Oakland Airport.

I had originally planned to take a shuttle to and from the airport until I did a search and read about all the problems with that; but I'm not sure I have a choice, as I am forced to be extremely frugal on this trip. I suspect that if I choose the shuttle, my first evening will be completely shot, am I right? I was hoping to do some exploring or SOMETHING that first night...rather than just go to bed, lol.

I'm planning on purchasing a 3-day muni pass...not sure if this is what it's called...I want the one that will let me ride the buses, street cars, and cable cars. I did a search, and the threads I found were a few years old; one of them said you can buy one in advance online, but I couldn't figure out how...is that not true anymore? The reason I want to purchase in advance is so as not to waste any time looking for a vendor once I'm in SF.

Here's what I want to visit:

the Golden Gate Bridge;

the Coit Tower;

the Glass Cathedral;

Alcatraz (night tour);

Any/all museums I can squeeze in;

walking tours of most interesting architectural neighborhoods;

Chinatown;

Golden Gate Park;

the Cliff House (is that correct?);

sea lions;

Lombard Street (crookedest part);

Other places I'm questioning: Presidio; Hyde Street Pier; North Beach (a walking tour); Union Square; Japantown--do these places warrant visiting?

Some of these things I'm revisiting, but most are going to be new to me.

1) the GG Bridge--do most people enjoy walking over and back? I do enjoy walking, and I will try to be in great shape...but I am a 50-year-old school teacher, lol. I don't want to find myself flat on my back from exhaustion at ANY point...except maybe the day after I get home. Last time I visited, I took a bus tour of the city, which only me got as close as the visitor center at the foot of the bridge, with the cross-section of cable on display. I always regretted not setting foot on the bridge itself...

2) the GG Park--I went through a section of this on the bus tour, but this time, I want to see more of it, and linger whereever I feel like it. How long should I plan for? Can one rent and ride a bike through the park?

3) Crystal Cathedral--we stopped here on our tour, and were supposed to be able to enter, but services were going on and we weren't allowed. Is it ever possible to enter anymore? Do you recommend it?

4) the Cliff House--my bus tour stopped here, and I was fascinated by the history behind the building and the bathhouse ruins nearby. At that time, the Mecanique (?) penny arcade was located there, but I guess that's at the pier now, yes? I would like to visit here again...wondering the best way to get there.

5) Alcatraz--I did a day tour the last time. I'm planning on reserving the evening tour for Tuesday, July 3, unless you think it would fit in better elsewhere.

Now, I am going to admit to something that may cause some of you to swoon in total disbelief: I am not a foodie. (yes, I'm sure I heard gasps, and could actually feel the hackles going up, lol). Because of an almost lifelong struggle with my weight, I have learned to view food as sustenance only...which I'm hoping will be a boon to my (forced) strict budget. I'd like suggestions for the most inexpensive way to keep my strength up for all the walking. I'm not a big breakfast eater...maybe a boiled egg and coffee...so I just need suggestions for lunch and dinner.

Another confession: I'm not coming to shop. (remember, my budget?!) That being the case, is there any other reason to visit Union Square? Or Fisherman's Wharf? (Other than going to say hello to my old friends, the sea lions, of course)

I am an animal lover, but not a lover of zoos. I'm open to any other low-cost/free suggestions for enjoying wildlife--or even tamelife-- in your beautiful city.

Okay, I noticed that I should mention my budget. I have my airfare, lodging, muni pass ($21, right), & Alcatraz trip accounted for...I want to spend $200 (or less) on everthing else...gulp...doable?

Thank you, thank you in advance for any and all advice/suggestions. I used the Oahu forum to help plan our trip to Hawaii 2 years ago, and the advice I received was a Godsend! Made our trip so much more successful than it would've been otherwise. :)

Great Falls, Montana
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1. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Ok, after reading another thread, I found some exciting information: free shuttle rides will be offered through GG Park on weekends and city holidays--is the 4th of July considered a city holiday??

I also found the answer to the bike rental question, lol.

Edited: 26 March 2012, 09:07
San Francisco...
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2. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Long long post I am glad we get more info that some of the one liner posts that most post in this forum. There are thouands of places to eat in SF and since you are not that much into food you can stop by anywhere you and eat. The Richmond district has lots of cheap Asian Eateries. There are burger joints that you can also walk to from your area.

Given where you are staying, the shuttle may be your cheapest way -- not sure which airport you land into (Oakland too ) but just take the shuttle and plan on a couple of hours from SFO. That will still give you plenty of time in the late evening to check out the area.

Yes the SF Muni Passport is what you need. You can purchase one at the airport before you board your shuttle

http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/passports.htm

Alcatraz cruises can be booked 3 months in advance only and ONLY from alcatrazcruises.com. Please do not book it from other sites or combine it with other packages offered by travel agents

If you are not going to shop there is no need to visit the stores in Union Square but perhaps you may want to take the cable car which ends just South of the Square. Fisherman's wharf is touristy and the last place one should shop.

You can use the MUNI and a google maps or 511.org to map your way around the ctiy. You can also get an Hop on/off tour and see the city that way

You are staying close to GG park so you can explore that whole area including cliff house. If you are on a budget, eating at Cliff house may not be the right thing to do, perhaps a drink. You can walk the park if you like or rent a bike near the haight and bike through that area.

People walk the Golden gate bridge or they bike on it. Check out blazzing saddles and bay city bikes for details on where to rent and the routes.

golden-gate-park.com/golden-gate-park-shuttl… has the bus through the park. Don't know about July 4th. A bike or walking may be faster than waiting for the bus.

Edited: 26 March 2012, 09:20
San Francisco
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3. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

First off I'd suggest you pick up a good Muni map. I'm usually a poo-poo'er of this very large and detailed map but given where you're planning on staying and where you want to go, I think buying the full "horse blanket" would be a good idea. Only $3 but unfortunately not available via mail.

Whether you are coming in to OAK or SFO you could take BART to Embarcadero and pick up a cab to your apt -- perhaps $20. That would get you to your lodgings in better time than a shuttle.

1) I don't think you have to walk all the way over the bridge (and back!) to get a feeling for and enjoyment of it. Walk as far out as you like before heading back. The section of the bridge sidewalk that is above Fort Point (down below) has a high fence so no one accidently drops anything on people below. So you're likely to want to walk out over the water at the least.

The bus routes that call at the bridge are the 28-19th Ave and 29-Sunset.

2) Bikes are available for rent on the east end of the park. I've seen the shuttle referred to as free or for a fee of $2 for the day. Either way a good deal. The park is very large (bigger than NYC's Central Park) so seeing all of it on foot is out of the question. A map of the stops here: …famsf.org/deyoung/…golden-gate-park-shuttle

4) Cliff House is OK if you're out that way. What I think is more fun is Sutro Heights Park (fab views of Ocean Beach) and then walking the Coastal Trail from there to Lincoln Park. The 38L-Geary Limited is the fastest way out there.

5) If you've already done Alcatraz I'm not sure that going again is super required. But that's just MO.

6) This is an animal loving town. Take an early morning walk through Golden Gate Park or along Crissy Field and watch everyone walking their pups (Crissy is especially fun as there is a lot of off-leash play going on in the water). If you are truly an animal lover, take a wander over to the SF/SPCA Adoption Center on Florida St near 16th. A place where dogs have apartments, cats have condos and animals stay until they find their forever home. A national leader in the no-kill movement.

Edited: 26 March 2012, 09:25
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4. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Oops, Sal had a senior moment:

<<The bus routes that call at the bridge are the 28-19th Ave and 29-Sunset.>>

The 29-Sunset no longer goes to the Bridge but terminates at Baker Beach.

However (Sal making lemonade out of the lemon she created above), if you would like to walk the Coastal Trail from Sutro Heights to Lincoln Park, you could continue on a mile or so further to Baker Beach (great view of the GG Bridge) and then pick up the 29-Sunset back towards where you're staying (it runs along 25th Ave.).

Great Falls, Montana
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5. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Thanks for the responses! :) Yes, I'm flying into Oakland as well...and I thought about BART, but I'm a little worried about the shuttle deal between the Oakland airport and the BART station...how tricky is that?

I remember reading about reserving far in advance for Alcatraz, and also about only doing so from their own website...thanks for that reminder!

Thanks for the tips about the MUNI map and that I can buy a pass at the airport...any idea whereabouts in the airport I'd have to go to buy that pass, Belomiser? Would the map also be available there, do you suppose?

I like the idea of visiting that cool-sounding SF/SPCA, but I googled it, and the location seems quite a ways from any of my other destinations...I suppose I could get there using my muni pass..?

I believe I will walk the Coastal Trail to Lincoln Park, as you suggested, Sal. Thanks very much for these ideas, I hope to hear more!

Edited: 26 March 2012, 10:36
Great Falls, Montana
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6. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Belomiser, I checked out that hop on, hop off tour, and wow! That looks like just the ticket! However, I'm wondering if I go that route...is it still necessary to get a muni pass? My main reason for getting that was to get to all the places on my list...but I think they are almost all covered by that tour...? Sooo...if I purchase the 2-day hop on, hop off tour, would I really need the muni pass? Or maybe just a one-day pass? Sigh...I guess I'm over-thinking this, huh..?

Edited: 26 March 2012, 10:45
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7. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

According to the Muni site, as far as airport purchases, they are only available at SFO: http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mfares/passports.htm

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8. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

What's the Glass/Crystal Cathedral? There is, or at least was, a Crystal Cathedral down around LA.

Do you mean Grace Cathedral?

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9. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

Passports are not available at OAK so you will have to get them in SF at many locations. Getting from the Airport to the Oakland Bart station is not that big a deal and that would cut your travel time by a lot. You can get to the Embarcadero station and then take a cab from just outside the Hyatt.

As far as HOHO v/s Muni goes, that is up to you to decide. If you can do the HOHO for 2 days then you could just get a day pass for Muni to do the cable car rides. Since you are not going to travel for food or to shop I would think that would be ok and if you do need a ride or two you need to have $2 per ride but you can use a transfer if you need to change rides

Great Falls, Montana
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10. Re: 4 night trip to SF...please help me make it happen?!

<What's the Glass/Crystal Cathedral? There is, or at least was, a Crystal Cathedral down around LA.

Do you mean Grace Cathedral?>

I think I must be thinking of the Grace Cathedral...I must have had a "senior moment"... :)

Edited: 26 March 2012, 12:48