Where to go around SF in a Rental Car?
May 19, 2009 9:20 AM   Subscribe

I'm vacationing in San Francisco, and I have a rental car that gets returned tomorrow morning. What things outside SF should I go check out?

I will be in SF for the rest of week, so I have plenty of time to check out the things in the city. Oh, and I've already been to Muir Woods.
posted by gregr to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Presidio and Golden Gate Park (museums, if that's your thing, and the Japanese Tea Garden).
posted by zippy at 9:23 AM on May 19, 2009

Drive north up Highway 1. Gorgeous.
posted by kestrel251 at 9:25 AM on May 19, 2009

Stinson Beach
Napa Valley

Santa Cruz?
posted by vacapinta at 9:27 AM on May 19, 2009

Or, drive south on 1, stop at the tidepools at Moss Beach, then continue south to Santa Cruz, walk on the boardwalk, play arcade games, eat ice cream, etc.
posted by mikepop at 9:28 AM on May 19, 2009

Oh, on the way back hook off 1 onto 84 , stop in Redwood City and have dinner in the Little Mexico area.
posted by mikepop at 9:30 AM on May 19, 2009

Half Moon Bay! I second Santa Cruz, Napa, Monterey, and Stinson Beach
posted by bananafish at 9:47 AM on May 19, 2009

It's looking pretty foggy today, but I'd still recommend a coast drive. Option one is north - make sure you take the Marin Headlands detour and go up Conzleman, out to the Pt Bonita lighthouse, and out to Rodeo Beach. Then drive all the way up to Point Reyes, with a stop in Pt Reyes Station, and check out the visitor center.
Option two is south, with stops along the way - Moss Beach, Ano Nuevo, the lighthouse, etc. - down to Santa Cruz or even Monterey. Alternate route back through the mission town with the bell tower made famous in Vertigo, the name of which I will remember 5 seconds after I post this.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:52 AM on May 19, 2009

A drive to wine country? Sonoma or Napa.
posted by anderjen at 9:59 AM on May 19, 2009

Do exactly the first option that gingerbeer said. Can't go wrong with that.
posted by ORthey at 10:08 AM on May 19, 2009

San Juan Bautista. That's the name of the town.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:15 AM on May 19, 2009

If you choose the driving south route, make sure you go to the Monterey Aquarium! It's really amazing and totally worth it, even if you're not really into aquariums. Go look at the otters, and touch a gumboot chiton, and learn about sustainable seafood. OH AND THE JELLYFISH! I also like the big huge fish, I forget the names, but they're about as big as a pickup truck and weigh a few tons.

If you go to wine country, I'd recommend dinner at the Girl and the Fig Cafe if you're in Sonoma. One of my perennial faves. (I can chime back in with winery suggestions, particularly Napa, if you wanna go that route.)
posted by soleiluna at 10:26 AM on May 19, 2009

Ay gingerbeer has a great suggestion, it can be pretty even on foggy days. I'd actually push it even a bit further north after point reyes up to Tomales Bay for some oysters (not that much further north).
posted by bitdamaged at 10:29 AM on May 19, 2009

It looks like the fog may be burning off at mid-day (the usual weather pattern around here). If you're still reading this and want more directions, post or memail me.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:36 AM on May 19, 2009

not to derail, but how come no one ever recommends visiting things that are to the east of SF? having never been to CA, I'm probably missing something obvious about the area that makes a day trip east a dumb idea... it's zombies, isn't it?
posted by jrishel at 10:55 AM on May 19, 2009

I enjoy Berkeley and Oakland (east of SF), but you can get there on public transit, so I guess I never would have thought to recommend them! :)

In the spirit of giving some east bay recommendations, I'd suggest hiking Mt. Diablo (a car is needed) and eating somewhere in the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley and wandering around campus (no car needed.)
posted by soleiluna at 11:07 AM on May 19, 2009

All good options.

To the east, and to answer jrishel's question, you could pass through the sprawling suburbs of the East Bay and head towards Mt. Diablo or the Sacramento River Delta.

Both are interesting and attractive in their own rights, but not nearly as interesting or attractive as Pt. Reyes/Marin, Napa/Sonoma, or Monterey/Santa Cruz. When a person is in town and has a car for one day, no one would every recommend they venture east unless that person wanted to go fishing for 6-foot sturgeon in the Sacramento River.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:09 AM on May 19, 2009

There's nothing wrong with east - the East Bay hills have lots of good hikes - but nothing as spectacular as the drives up or down the coast. You have to drive all the way to the Sierras for the good stuff. Or at least the Sierra foothills.

Also the zombies in Stockton
posted by gingerbeer at 11:17 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Monterrey aquarium!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:23 PM on May 19, 2009

Muir woods: http://www.nps.gov/muwo
posted by LakesideOrion at 12:43 PM on May 19, 2009

Drive Devil's Slide before the tunnel opens and you can't anymore.
posted by rhizome at 1:12 PM on May 19, 2009

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