How to spend the other 8 hours of my trip to San Francisco?
November 17, 2008 11:43 AM   Subscribe

I'll be attending a conference in San Francisco (and staying in Berkeley) from Wednesday to Sunday. What are some short (1-2 hours) "field trips" I can take when I get sick of listening to papers?

The hotel where the conference is being held is a couple of blocks southwest of Union Square. I'm staying with a friend in South Berkeley, so I'll be returning there in the evenings. I've been to SF once before, but I was a kid and so I don't remember anything about the city.

So what are some enjoyable but short "field trips" I can take either during the day for lunch or in the evenings when the conference lets out? (By "short" I mean under two hours, including transit time, so that excludes museums and similar things.) I tend to like quirky college-town-y type areas (which I suspect means I should check out the Berkeley area) but I'm also looking for essential SF activities. (Ones that are more active than passive, though -- I'm not interested in going to gawk at the Golden Gate Bridge or Lombard Street, especially since I won't have a camera.) I like walking around. I also like eating, so food recs are welcome, but I have very little money (let's say less than $10 per meal, and preferably less than $8 for lunch) and I don't want to travel a huge distance JUST to eat. I love farmer's markets. I hate bars. I like caf├ęs with menus written on blackboards with colorful chalk. One last caveat is that I'm small and female and will be by myself, so I'd like to avoid sketchy areas.

I've seen the other questions about stuff to do in SF, so I apologize for the redundancy, but I couldn't find any that mentioned time constraints. Tu Lan is right by the conference hotel, so I'll try to check that out. The Ferry Building Marketplace looks AMAZING and I'll definitely find a few hours to wander around there, ideally on Saturday morning when the farmer's market is going on.

Thanks in advance for your help! I'm so busy working on my presentation and paper that I don't have a lot of time to peruse Yelp and look up tourist guides...
posted by pluckemin to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I used to stay in Union Square a lot and I just like walking from there up to the Coit Tower / Telegraph Hill. The walk goes through a variety of neighbourhoods and Telegraph Hill is very senic. Don't worry about paying to go up the Tower if you don't want to - although the view is great - the view from the top of the hill is fine too. Sw3ing by City Lights Bookstore too. here's a map from Union Square to Coit Tower via City Lights. Note there are stairs up Telegraph Hill not used in the walking directions, so don't just walk up the road. Even if you don't find the stairs on the way up, you'll see them at the top and at least uyou can take them down.
posted by GuyZero at 11:58 AM on November 17, 2008

First stop for all my visiting friends: Bake Sale Betty's - right near Berkeley at 51st and Telegraph Ave in Oakland:
(1) Fried chicken sandwich
(2) Lemon Icy
(3) Strawberries and Short cake with whipped cream.

In terms of places to visit, Tilden park is great for views and walks - also in Berkeley so no time wasted traveling around in traffic.

A ferry ride around the bay is great to get perspective, but could be cold or foggy given the season.

Brunch and Thai Temple is always a blast and has a very friendly vibe.
posted by unclezeb at 12:00 PM on November 17, 2008

Just wanted to add -- I won't have a car, so I'll be relying on public transportation.

Thanks for the suggestions so far!
posted by pluckemin at 12:16 PM on November 17, 2008

Downtown Berkeley= really not that fun. I do like to wander around on the Berkeley Campus, though. BART to Rockridge (Oakland) is a worthwhile trip, IMO. Good food, shops, on both sides of the station. Here's some Yelp reviews of some places around Rockridge.

I've never felt unsafe in San Francisco, even in the crummy Tenderloin. But you can easily ride BART from Civic Center to 16th street, walk a block to Valencia and stroll around there. Lots of independent boutiques, cafes, restaurants. I like the Coit Tower walk, and I always recommend early Saturday morning at the Ferry Building. Golden Gate park requires a bus or Muni ride. You can enjoy a great view from the tower of the DeYoung for free, as well as stroll the sculpture garden.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2008

Eating + walking + farmers market = the Ferry Plaza farmers market. Even if you miss the market itself (and you should really try not to), there's all kinds of cool shops inside. Many places offer free tastes of things.

Take the F-Markket streetcar or any MUNI underground train to Embarcadero. Or you can easily walk from Union Square. The Ferry Building is right at the foot of Market - it's a big white building with a clock tower, and you can't miss it.
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Go walking. Telegraph hill is a great choice. You'll go through Chinatown on the way (Grant & Kearney if I recall). You can go hang out in North Beach too - aim for Washington Square. Or, take the BART to 16th and Mission and you're in another great colorful neighborhood with lots of stuff to explore.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:46 PM on November 17, 2008

Walk around the Mission. (Get off BART at 16th and Mission.)
posted by small_ruminant at 12:58 PM on November 17, 2008

( By the Mission, I meant the Mission DISTRICT, though Mission Dolores is interesting, too. )
posted by small_ruminant at 1:05 PM on November 17, 2008

You're pretty close to SFMOMA and the yerba buena center
be prepared for epic hikes in telegraph hill... stairs for sidewalks kind of thing
everything at the ferry building is expensive
you'd probably like north beach a lot

you really should have one good meal out here!
posted by muscat at 1:08 PM on November 17, 2008

You could visit Blue Bottle Coffee, either at their Linden Street kiosk in Hayes Valley or at their cafe in Mint Plaza (closer to Union Square, at 5th b/w Market and Mission). $2 for an amazing cup of coffee.

Cheap banh mi sandwiches in the Tenderloin! $3 or so.
posted by liketitanic at 2:00 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

OH MY GOD, you need to go to Kabuki Springs. Seriously.
It's a Japanese-style bath and it is wondrous.
posted by exceptinsects at 6:44 PM on November 17, 2008

Chinatown and North Beach are both close by and well worth walking through. Agreed on Telegraph Hill being cool - look for the parrots. If it's a nice day, there'll be lots of stuff going on around the Ferry Building.
If you're commuting back to Berkeley in the evenings, try to take the Ferry to Jack London Square in Oakland at least once. (you can get BART to Berkeley from there.) If you go at dusk, you get a really amazing view of the SF skyline.
posted by chbrooks at 12:06 AM on November 18, 2008

Thanks everyone! I'm excited to check these things out!
posted by pluckemin at 4:45 PM on November 18, 2008

« Older Daily Variety vs Weekly Variety?   |   What's the best wok? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.