How to entertain parents you don't get along with?
December 22, 2009 10:29 AM   Subscribe

Activities to do in San Francisco for mellow people...

My parents and I will be visiting SF for christmas and staying a few days after. This is the first time in a while we are spending time together due to the inevitable drama and negativity that comes when we get together. I really want this trip to go well! I need some suggestions for activities that will keep us preoccupied (so we don't have the chance to argue or complain), but not annoy us, and by us, I mean my mother. This means nothing too loud or that has that "young person" vibe. I'm 28 and my parents are in their mid 50s, so I'm aiming for something age neutral.

I ask for suggestions because I seem to either find young person hot spots or family oriented spots (which inevitably means directed at kids), but nothing in between. Please point me in the right direction!

Also, nothing too expensive.

Thanks in advance for your help!
posted by thegreatcokeolympics to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (21 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a car, drive up to Muir Woods to see the redwoods.
posted by orme at 10:37 AM on December 22, 2009

MOMA. Golden Gate Park. "Indie" movies at the Embarcadero. Lunch at the Beach Chalet near Ocean Beach followed by strole on the beach. Brunch at Greens followed by walk through Fort Mason. Walk through Chrissie Field beach and Marina area. Dinner in North Beach, followed by trip to shops and/or City Lights Books.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:45 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

When my father (70 y/o) recently visited I took him across the GG bridge to the Marin Headlands. There is a rather large complex of WWII bunkers and gun emplacements up there that you can walk around on, and the views from those hills are really beautiful besides.

I also took him the the top of Twin Peaks. Lovely views in every direction.

GG Park has a wealth of interesting things to see and do (the museums and fly-fishing pools spring immediately to mind), and once you've driven through you exit the park at Ocean Beach, right near the Cliff House and the Park Chalet (Park Chalet can get a bit busy, but has pretty good food and makes their own beers. Dog friendly, too).

Good luck.
posted by Pecinpah at 10:45 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, and the Academy of Sciences. Pair each outing with lunch or dinner at a nearby "nice" restaurant and you've killed several hours.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:46 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Cable car ride and cable car museum. The trails along Lands End (very easy, dramatic views, there are site/sculptures I think at the north end).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:49 AM on December 22, 2009

Walking tour. There are many different ones in all different neighborhoods. A standard tour starts in Union Square and goes through bits of downtown and Chinatown/North Beach. Gives history, takes a few hours. There are several companies.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:51 AM on December 22, 2009

If you guys can handle walking around, Muir Woods, as orme suggests, is an excellent choice.

In a similar vein, Angel Island is another great destination to visit, with sweeping views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and really the entire bay. It involves a lot of walkiing, however, so this would not be a good spot if your folks are more sedentary. Also, it afford a lot of time to talk, so, again, not a good choice if you are looking for some activity to babysit your parents instead of providing something to do while you stroll and talk.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is another excellent "walk and talk" locale.

If you want something more structured, touring Alcatraz is fun and age neutral, although it is extremely popular (to the point of being absurdly crowded, but it's still worth doing at least once in your life).

Honestly, there is quite a bit to do in the Bay Area, and the above just sort of scratch the surface. Can you provide some more details on what your folks enjoy doing? Will you be renting or otherwise have access to a car?
posted by mosk at 10:55 AM on December 22, 2009

If you go to the DeYoung you can get into the Leigon of Honor the same day if art museums are your cuppa tea. The DeYoung's got a King Tut exhibit going on right now and there's some pretty neat stuff down there. I second the Park Chalet, and recommend it much higher than the Cliff House just 'cause the food's way better and you can sit outside. There might be something of a "young person" vibe at the Park Chalet, so if you get a chance head out there and dry run it to see if your mom could handle it. If it looks like it doesn't work then the Cliff House might be the better call.

I also second the Headlands. Rodeo beach can be a lot of fun and there's usually a bunch of dogs running around that will come up and say hi and distract you.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 11:12 AM on December 22, 2009

They have a nice exhibit of Cartier jewelry at the Legion of Honor and a very nice in-house restaurant. I'd get there when it opens and hit the restaurant earlier rather than later. You can leave there and take a drive through the Sea Cliff neighborhood to see some really swanky homes.

Don't confuse the Legion of Honor museum with the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina--you'll find no jewelry or fancy paintings at the Palace of Fine Arts--just the Exploritorium which is not the kind of place you want at all. (However, if you can ditch the parents for a while--the Exploritorium is really fun).
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:18 AM on December 22, 2009

One of my favorite places in SF is the Ferry Building Marketplace. Lots of little upscale foodie-type places, a bookstore, a couple cooking stores, and plenty of open seating areas where you can snack on your food purchases while watching the ferries arrive and depart.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:23 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, you could also go to the Ferry Building, poke around a bit and then catch a ferry over to Sausalito. The ride is beautiful (on a nice day) and Sausalito downtown is very walkable with shops, restaurants, art galleries, etc.
posted by agatha_magatha at 11:25 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Re: the Cliff House: food sucks. Always has. They've changed management a zillion times, but for whatever reason they can never seem to get it right. (Just my opinion, of course.)

However, if the weather's right it's a fantastic place to enjoy a cocktail while watching the sun set. Then you can go to the Beach Chalet for a decent meal. Actually, I'd recommend the Park Chalet in the same building, but on the (duh) park side rather than the ocean side. No view, but even better food and not nearly as much a 'young folks' vibe. Big roaring fireplace, too.

Also, what everybody said.
posted by trip and a half at 11:37 AM on December 22, 2009

Museums: The DeYoung was reconstructed a few years ago and is amazing, as is the Academy of Sciences which is nearby (even for non-kids). For the Academy I would suggest getting there first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds (and the kids); they have a planetarium with a great 3D-animated show, so when you get in, go straight to the planetarium to get in line. Then check out the rainforest...I had butterflies land on me their, really quite fascinating for people of all ages.
posted by choochoo at 11:57 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh, also, you and your parents might enjoy a spin through the historic Mission Dolores. A very San Francisco-y thing to do; beautiful; and not 'youmgstery' at all. Also inexpensive (they do ask for a small donation).
posted by trip and a half at 12:09 PM on December 22, 2009

Last time I was in SF a nice guy who apparently likes to spot outta towners and direct them to cool things on the BART suggested the Presidio Pet Cemetery. I really enjoyed it. Very low key - no one else was there when I visited.
posted by scottr at 12:31 PM on December 22, 2009

I found Audium to be quite mellow. Might be a nice option for a rainy day.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:43 PM on December 22, 2009

A really lovely, mellow day in GG park can include the De Young Museum, the Botanical Gardens, and the Japanese Tea Gardens, all within mere yards of one another. The tea gardens have this crazy bridge that's like a ladder, then a bridge, then a ladder again - it's nuts. I love it.

Polish off the day with a brief stroll to the 9th and Irving area where there are many lovely restaurants. That's my ideal touristy day in the city, and I'm very mellow.
posted by ORthey at 2:00 PM on December 22, 2009

I once lived in one the most peaceful areas of San Francisco out by Ocean Beach and Land's End. I worked at The Cliff House and many evenings it is very quiet and the views are unmatched. There's a little hotel just up the hill from it maybe 1/2 block or a block. There's also another restaurant there that is great for breakfast or lunch.
posted by VC Drake at 3:17 PM on December 22, 2009

The Academy of Sciences is indeed amazing, but is not a good place for your parents. The place is wall-to-wall metal, glass, and families. Especially being on school break, mobs of kids and high noise levels are unavoidable.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 3:32 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Great suggestions above. Just adding on to some of them:

If you go to the Ocean Beach area, there's also a little diner there called Louie's. Nice views, cheaper (more diner-y) food. It might be the other restaurant VC Drake mentioned.

If you go to the Beach Chalet, you can spend a bunch of time taking in the WPA murals and Golden Gate Park history exhibits on the first floor. (The murals and exhibits are free, so you can enjoy them whether you eat at the Beach Chalet or not.)

ClaudiaCenter mentioned walking tours - a totally great idea. In my opinion, the best walking tours in the city are given by City Guides, a non-profit affiliated with the public library. My parents have loved the City Guides walks they've done.

Other things my parents have enjoyed: tours of City Hall and events at the library. I'm pretty sure the Mechanic's Institute Library also gives tours, but I can't find any info on their website.

Finally - I've never visited the ships in the San Francisco Maritime Park, but my mom did recently, and she thought it was great.

Have fun!
posted by kristi at 11:55 AM on December 24, 2009

Oops - meant to mention: the City Guides walking tours are free, although they're happy to take donations at the end of the tour.
posted by kristi at 11:56 AM on December 24, 2009

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