Where to stay and what to do in San Francisco?
December 9, 2010 4:40 AM   Subscribe

San Francisco late January - where to stay, what to do?

Ms Jest and I will be in San Francisco from the 18th to 21st of January. We're looking for recommendations for accommodation (cheap, reasonably central or near public transport - we won't have a car) and for things to do.

I like museums and galleries, she likes general sightseeing. We would potentially be interested in sports events or music/theatre - is there a good online events guide for San Francisco, or does anyone have recommendations for that period? Bar/pub or (cheapish) restaurant recommendations also appreciated.

I've seen previous questions and found some potentially good hotels (e.g. recommendations for the Capri and the Opal here), just wondering if anyone has any other suggestions.

I've been to SF once before, but only briefly and most of my time was spent hanging out with friends and just generally wandering around, so I have a vague idea of the geography but haven't really done anything there.
posted by Infinite Jest to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Every time we go to SF, we stay at the Powell at Powell and Market Streets. The front door is literally a few steps away from the cable car turntable and a BART station. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Union Square are a few blocks away, as are numerous places to eat, some cheap and some not-so-cheap. Great place to stay, great central location.
posted by sproggie at 5:11 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bring an umbrella. Last I did SFO in January, it rained buckets and buckets and buckets.

Go to the Musee Mechanique!
posted by vivid postcard at 5:23 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My calendar tells me you will be here over a Thursday, and that means Night Life at the Cal Academy of Sciences! It's better than trying to go during the day (IMO) because it's less expensive, there are fewer people (and no kids to fall over), so it's easier to see things. It does tend to sell out, so order tickets early if you want to go.
posted by rtha at 5:51 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Legion of Honor Museum is excellent.

Also go see Alcatraz. My wife and I were pleasantly surprised at what an interesting tour it was. Don't miss the audio tour. It's extremely well done. I've heard that the nighttime tours are great fun.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:00 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For cheap San Francisco hotels I have relied on Hotwire for years now. Most of the time I'm able to snag a 4+ star hotel at rates hovering just above $100 a night. I try to stay in Union Square or the Embarcadero for the centrality. I've also stayed in the Civic Center area, but don't care for that as much. If you like the Wharf area touristy feel that opens up another section of town.

As for things to do:

If you haven't been, I do recommend the Alcatraz tour.
There are oodles of Museums to visit and many are quite worthwhile.
You'll want to visit Vesuvio and City Lights in North Beach. I can while away hours and hours sitting upstairs watching the world go by.
Spend some time in the Mission for good, reasonably cheap, food.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:38 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'll 2nd Alcatraz. The audio tour was indeed very well produced.
posted by mmascolino at 7:45 AM on December 9, 2010

And check out the squid list when you're here.
posted by Arthur Dent at 8:22 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Alcatraz is indeed great, just two words of warning:

Buy your tickets ahead of time. Even in the off season (aka winter), you may have to purchase them a week in advance.

Dress warmly. More warmly than for the rest of the city, as it will be windier than normal out in the middle of the warmer (aka the whole time you are on Alcatraz).
posted by Phredward at 8:28 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Mefite meetup, of course!
And if you do want to see Alcatraz, hit up our mefite Alcatraz staffer, primalux.
There are a lot of good suggestions in here, although it's probably time to update that list.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:26 AM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I haven't been to Alcatraz, but if you go, consider bringing binoculars. I've heard the island has great birdwatching - and of course spectacular views.
posted by kristi at 10:39 AM on December 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are great, thanks all. Probably already enough to fill up our few days. I probably wouldn't have gone to Alcatraz, so it's good to see so many people recommending it.

I'll definitely post something in IRL a bit closer to the time, as well.
posted by Infinite Jest at 3:41 AM on December 12, 2010

On accommodations: I used Airbnb (http://airbnb.com) which might be cool if you're looking for something less... standard hotel-like. It can be cheaper too! It really runs the gamut from couches to lofts to rooms to actual vacation rental apartments, so make sure you know which one you've got!
posted by polexa at 8:22 AM on January 3, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone who responded; if you haven't seen it, I posted an IRL meetup - would be great to see anyone who is free.
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:30 PM on January 12, 2011

Response by poster: Have marked some best answers: Gingerbeer because I took her suggestion of the Hotel Opal from a previous thread, and it was great - I highly recommend it, managed to get a good price and it was on good transport routes with breakfast and internet included. Also for the meetup suggestion.

Alcatraz was excellent, definitely worth the time of a trip. We didn't need to book in advance, but I do recommend checking the website, which will tell you in advance whether a given sailing is sold out. Cold weather clothing was needed even though it was unseasonably warm, but a hat/sunscreen is necessary too, I ended up burned.

Mission was great for food (we went to El Farolito before the meetup).

We didn't make it to the Academy of Sciences, but did get to the de Young gallery next door, which was an excellent way of spending a few hours - some very good sculpture. The Golden Gate Park was also pleasant to wander around. We also walked along the waterfront to the GG Bridge, which I recommend for anyone looking to unwind after a long flight.

Didn't make it to MOMA but I visited last time so I'm relaxed about that, and we still have a few suggestions for next time.
posted by Infinite Jest at 4:21 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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