Help me sort out some final details for our San Francisco trip.
June 29, 2010 2:49 PM   Subscribe

We're in San Francisco for 3 days (this weekend). Should we rent a car to see Muir Woods, or take public transport?

In truth, I have three questions about our trip. I do hope that's ok just this once...

Background: Husband and I, never been to the city before, not American, I am 7 months pregnant, so no super long walks, uphill hiking or bike riding is on the plate.

1) I'm aware of the public transport options for getting to Muir Woods on a Friday morning, and its sounds like going that route will eat up much of our day. On the other hand, if we rent a car, it sounds like the trip won't take long at all and makes the car rental seem silly. Are there other nearby spots we could go to make the car renting worthwhile? Even scenic driving is nice. We don't want to use it in the city, due to the stress and high cost of parking. Previously, I thought of heading south to see (the?) Big Sur or Half Moon Bay, but that might be too ambitious for one day.

2) As we walk about the city, which streets should we take care not to miss so that we hit some neat shops (for example, gifts, baby stuff, knitting, sewing).

3) Will the BATS Improv show on Saturday night be full of insider city references - making it not so funny for tourists? In that case, I'll choose a comedy club instead.

I realize that these questions are greedy - so feel free to forgo explanations, links, addresses etc. in your answers. I can do the rest of the research solo.

Thanks very, very much in advance. You folks field a lot of questions about your city, and I'm grateful.
posted by kitcat to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1) Rent the car, spend the day on the north side of the bridge, there is a TON to see up here/there. The Marin headlands are simply amazing and it's a nice drive. memail if you want more tips.

2) Baby stuff, 24th street over in noe valley used to have some nice stores, but was kind of pricey. I'll ask the botwife where to go (we're also 7 months along!).

3) Hurm, dunno. Pregnant women should totally go to Chow on church street and then mozy on over to Hot Cookie on Castro though. I can also suggest beach blanket babylon for a show, but I can't remember if the chairs are comfortable...

There are dozens of bay area folks around, I'm sure you'll get a ton of responses, good questions!
posted by iamabot at 3:00 PM on June 29, 2010

There are plenty of things to drive to see if you rent a car! Sausalito and Mill Valley have cute downtowns and are on the Muir Woods side of the bridge! Also, if your trip to Muir is super short, driving up the coast into Sonoma County is beautiful! Normally I usually try to get people to use public transport, but at 7 months pregnant I think renting a car is a good choice. It would be a lot of car time to do Half Moon Bay on the same day as Muir Woods. Pacifica is much closer and has a pretty coast area if you do want to go south of the city.
posted by Swisstine at 3:00 PM on June 29, 2010

Rent the car, definitely. The drive up is quite pleasant and you can drive over to Stinson Beach afterward. That would be a lovely day. There are a couple of good restaurants in Stinson as well. Or stop in Sausalito on your way back.

Baby shopping; Laurel Village has a bunch of baby shops. The more well-known chains on Laurel (BabyGap, Gymboree, Stride Rite) and the pricier independent shops Honey and Heroes, The Ark (awesome independent toy store), Jonathan Kaye on Sacramento, and The Right Start . DayOne for all your newborn needs right in between. That area is chock-a-block with pregnant women and strollers. Noe Valley is great for browsing generally.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 3:24 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Definitely rent a car. Are you a member of Zipcar? If not, can you join? I'm not sure if that option makes sense for you but when my husband and I went to Muir Woods, we rented a Zipcar for a few hours and it worked out really well. Driving across the Golden Gate bridge alone made renting a car worthwhile.
posted by kat518 at 3:25 PM on June 29, 2010

By three days, do you mean you're arriving Friday and leaving Sunday? Or do you have three free days?

At certain times (like weekends) the parking lot at Muir Woods fills up before you want it to.
posted by Rash at 4:47 PM on June 29, 2010

1) There are plenty of great options - either head west towards Muir Beach and Stinson Beach (the drive is gorgeous, but very much winding-roads-on-the-side-of-a-cliff, so if you're feeling at all queasy with your pregnancy, it may not be your best option) - or head back to Sausalito. There's a great restaurant called fish. where you can sit by the water, and a nice little tourist area with galleries and such to look at a bit further south.

2) Rare Device has great gift and baby stuff, and right near there is Hayes Valley, which has nice stores to wander through, plus cafes and such. You might also like the section of Fillmore between California and Clay, which has some nice boutiques. The Japantown mall area, near there, also has some nice shopping.

3) No clue.
posted by judith at 4:50 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: We are arriving Thursday mid-day and leaving Sunday.
posted by kitcat at 5:45 PM on June 29, 2010

Response by poster: If I post a link to the Battle of the Bay Theatresports show at BATS on Saturday, maybe that will help people to venture a guess on whether the show will be too SF-themed to be funny for tourists?
posted by kitcat at 7:19 PM on June 29, 2010

1) definitely rent the car. People have mentioned Stinson Beach already. If you drive up a little farther north to Point Reyes, there's tons of stuff to do up there. Or drive up to the top of Mt Tamalpais; the view from up there is pretty amazing. Half Moon Bay is cool, but in the complete opposite direction. Big Sur is 3 hours south, so that's basically a day trip in itself.

2) For shopping, I recommend the Castro and Noe Valley - a little upscale, but lots of cool stuff. If you want more hipster/grungy, Valencia St around 17th or 18th is great, with lots of good restaurants. Fillmore Above Geary is also cool.

3) also no idea.
posted by chbrooks at 8:06 PM on June 29, 2010

On the BATS show, it's not clear to me if the "Bay-Area themed teams" will only be performing material based on their selected area or if those are just the names they've given each team (based on where they live?) so as to create a rivalry. If the former, I'd say it might be pretty local and tourists may not get it, if the latter, I think you'll be fine. The description does say that the shows are based on topics suggested by the audience, so I'm thinking it's the latter.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:35 PM on June 29, 2010

Nthing the recommendations to rent a car. As others have mentioned, north of the Golden Gate bridge, there's a bunch of neat stuff. Sausalito and the Marin Headlands are right there and worth a stop.

The parking lot at Muir Woods will probably be full unless you get there really early, but you can always park further down the road. It could be a bit of a walk (maybe a quarter mile or so) so you might want to have your husband drop you off if walking longer distances is taxing.

If you're thinking of going south, Big Sur is fantastic and even more scenic than Muir Woods. But that's pretty much a full day in a car since it's a good three hours to get down there. If you an inkling that you'll be visiting the Bay Area again sometime, I'd recommend waiting until you have more time.
posted by dhammond at 12:13 PM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: Follow up:

Renting the car was great - we got to enjoy the scenery, drive with the windows down and stop to buy the largest cherries we've ever seen. My husband really enjoyed driving down the very windy roads, too. We rented a GPS with the car (we don't have a smart phone) and it was awfully nice not having to use our own wits to navigate. No fighting! Later, we had lunch in Sausalito, checked out the houseboats and went to a beach (Bonito?) to relax for a while. On the other hand, the car was a very expensive convenience. It was $40 for the day + $25 for insurance (not being from the USA, our own car insurance didn't cover out of country incidents) + $18 for GPS + $25 to park overnight. Had we done the math beforehand, we might not have rented it. My advice to others is to rent from a place that's either open late or allows you to drop the car off after hours to save on parking. Avoid the Budget on Howard St.

The BATS improv show didn't contain many local references and was very good. On the other hand, it was pretty out of the way for tourists without a car and there were no restaurants nearby.

All in all, we had an awesome time.
posted by kitcat at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2010

Response by poster: unclear: windy = winding
posted by kitcat at 12:49 PM on July 5, 2010

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