Big group in the city
February 27, 2011 11:49 PM   Subscribe

I have a bunch of friends coming to visit me at the bay area. I want to be the perfect host and I've done my research on what fun things to do to make sure they have a good time. I have two remaining doubts though: how to get all of us around in the city using public transportation, and the nightlife.

- How can we get around SF using public transportation in the most brainless way possible? I want it to be as easy as possible, without anybody having to worry about getting tickets, having spare change, etc. I'm thinking of getting the Muni 1-week passport. I also looked at hop-on hop-off tour buses. Does anyone have experiences with these to share, or different recomendations?
(we'll be 6 people and for various reasons car is not an option for us)

- Is there a Stanford party scene active during the week and that is welcoming to outsiders? We're all college/recently-out-of-college people from different universities and my friends really wanted to check a party here, but I'm only up for it if it's sure we'll have a good time.
(Also feel free to point other fun nightlife activities that you'd recommend.. I already know about calacademy's nightlife)
posted by just_another_one to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've never been, but I've heard mostly negative things about Stanford's party scene from non-Stanford folks. (Stanford alumni, however, all have fond memories.) They do sometimes card for student ID if you're not with someone, so keep that in mind.

If you can plan ahead and get them without paying the $5 card fee, pick up Clipper Cards for everyone. They're a stored value card that works on MUNI, BART, Caltrain, and a few other transit systems in the area. Just don't forget to tag off of Caltrain.
posted by asphericalcow at 12:30 AM on February 28, 2011

Don't overlook cabs. With a group, the fare may not be terribly expensive, and the convenience may be worth the extra cost.
posted by alexei at 3:49 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, definitely take cabs instead of Muni on the evenings. Do you have a smartphone? Google Maps hooks into Muni's system and you can get easy public transit directions, both on a phone and on the Internet. It's very worthwhile, even if you don't have a phone. Consider getting a Clipper Card (as mentioned above); it very well may end up costing you less if you end up walking a lot. Don't underestimate the power of walking around SF. I end up doing it much more often than taking public transit. has a wonderful community that will point you towards the right restaurants.'s reviews are crap for SF -- everybody has an opinion and it all averages out -- but it's the best that's out there for finding out basic facts about a restaurant, such as location and hours open.

SF has a great beer scene, if you're interested in it. Off the top of my head, you should consider Monk's Kettle, Toronado, Zeitgeist on a nice day (but be prepared for crowds and potentially sullen service), Rosamunde in the Mission (there's one next to Toronado too), and Magnolia.

You should probably do the default touristy stuff, like Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. It's worth a look -- but my preferred things to do in SF are basically taking long walks and exploring new neighborhoods. Golden Gate Park, Land's End, and the Presidio have some absolutely stunning walks on a nice day. Do them. You won't be disappointed. Some interesting neighborhoods to explore are the Lower/Upper Haight, Inner Sunset, Inner Richmond, Hayes Valley, and, of course, the Mission. Nob Hill/Russian Hill/Telegraph Hill are also pretty cool to walk around. Actually, pretty much the whole city is cool to walk around.

You'll get a lot more responses here that have good ideas. It's a great city.
posted by kdar at 4:39 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

Depends on how long they're staying, of course, but the weekend I spent out there was served well by the MUNI three-day passport.
posted by troika at 4:58 AM on February 28, 2011

When I came out to SF for a weekend, my host rented a zipcar for a day so we didn't spend a ton of time and money on and off public transportation, and could do stuff that would be hard to walk to. It was a totally awesome idea and we got to see a bunch of stuff in a relatively short amount of time. We didn't really even have issues parking anywhere, and it was Memorial Day weekend.
posted by kpht at 7:28 AM on February 28, 2011

I'll speak to the Stanford party scene specifically - it probably does seem lame to non-Stanford people, because it's not meant to impress or include them. The campus is big and self-contained - almost everyone lives on campus because it's cheaper than living off-campus and car ownership is generally limited to juniors & seniors (and I'd estimate only 60% or so of them at at that.) As a result of that sense of insularity, there isn't really a culture of including or catering to outside visitors at Stanford parties who have no connection to any active student.

There are parties during the week, mostly at a cluster of big residential houses in a particular area of campus, but they tend to be smaller than the ones on the weekends and you're much more likely to encounter resistance to your presence since no one will know or vouch for you.

If you want a sort of Stanford-y experience, try the Nuthouse on California Ave in Palo Alto. The clientele is a healthy mix of grizzled locals and grad students/older undergrads, so you'll get the collegiate feel with none of the awkwardness or potential disappointment of a campus party. Anecdotally, I would like to be married and/or buried at that bar.

Have fun!
posted by superfluousm at 7:32 AM on February 28, 2011

Went to Zeitgeist based on an recommendation; it was definitely worth a visit.
posted by theora55 at 7:46 AM on February 28, 2011

My family of four spend a week in SF last July. We bought the Muni 7-day passes and it worked out great for us. We never used a cab or needed a car. Some of the buses were a little crowded, but it really wasn't a problem.
posted by raisingsand at 8:56 AM on February 28, 2011

When I came out to SF for a weekend, my host rented a zipcar for a day so we didn't spend a ton of time and money on and off public transportation, and could do stuff that would be hard to walk to.

There's six of them, and paying the 85 or so bucks to join Zipcar (plus hourly fees) for one weekend doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It's better to rent a car in that case.

Muni passports don't work on BART, which may or may not bother you. Clipper you're going to have to pay attention to if and where you need to fill it, so the passports may be a good idea.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:57 AM on February 28, 2011

How long are your friends staying? I think the choice depends on that a lot.

Personally, I love the Muni passport - it's great because you don't have to worry about running out of money. The 1 and 3 day passports aren't necessarily cost-effective unless you're taking public transit all over the place, but the 7-day passport was great for my 5-day stay one year. If you plan on longer-distance trips like BART and/or CalTrain, you have to purchase separate tickets from the Muni pass, so, you'd lose some of the hassle-saving benefits of the Muni pass by having to buy those separate tickets.

It also depends on how frequently you'll be making trips. Will you be getting on public transit every two hours to switch locations? Then the Muni pass is probably better. Will you only be using public transit twice a day? Then Clipper might be better. Unless it's a stay verging on a week; then it probably tips back in favor of the Muni pass.

If you do opt for the Clipper cards, make sure your guests are realistic about how much money to load it up with so that every trip doesn't end up with your group in the line for the refill machines. I used that disposable not-quite-a-Clipper ticket last time I was there and I was constantly having to add money because I underestimated how many trips I would take. It was dumb.

This is my opinion as someone who visits San Francisco about once a year but has never lived there. I've never done the hop-on-hop-off bus - it sounds cool and easy but expensive. I appreciate cabs because they provide the freedom to stay out late past the time when public transit stops working, but I wouldn't want to bother with them for every trip.
posted by mandanza at 11:31 AM on February 28, 2011

6 people means two cabs but that could still be a good option for quick trips when it would be a long wait for the next bus. If you have a smartphone, NextBus is really great. Also,

Clipper cards could be a great option, especially if you (a) are planning on using multiple transit services and (b) regularly use mass transit for commuting. Your guests could get a generous dollar amount put on the cards, and then you could use the remainder after they leave. You should be able to get them for free at Walgreens.
posted by lvanshima at 12:22 PM on February 28, 2011

Myself and a close friend recently visited my brother in SF for a long weekend. We're a little bit older then you (early 30s) but still like to have a good time. A few suggestions:

For travel (use in this order): walk (SF really is a walking city and there is no better way to really see what the city is like), BART when possible, cabs (fares aren't too bad when split a few ways), and Zipcar if/when you want to go someplace where a cab just won't work (fees are worth it -- if you rent a car at a traditional rental place you have to pay for overnight parking which is quite expensive in SF).

Stuff to do: I can't really speak to the Stanford party scene, but I do suggest Alcatraz (trust me, it's cool even for recent college grads) and Hanger 1 Distillery vodka tasting.

Have fun. San Francisco is an awesome city and I can't wait to go back!
posted by Mr. X at 1:17 PM on February 28, 2011

Thanks all for the replies! Both the Muni and Clipper cards sounded really good alternatives. I doubt we'll need BART so I chose the Muni Passport which seemed slightly more convenient.

Also, there's plenty enough to do in 4 days, so the Stanford party doesn't seem enough the hassle.
posted by just_another_one at 12:35 AM on March 1, 2011

And just to state the obvious, there is another, larger university in the Bay Area with an undergraduate party scene (or so I hear) and better public transit access.
posted by gingerbeer at 2:24 PM on March 2, 2011

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