Sunday Streets, or what else to do on a March Sunday in SF?
March 16, 2011 11:14 AM   Subscribe

Visiting San Francisco this weekend - should we go to Sunday Streets, and if not, what should we do? (Bonus: safety question and bar recommendation)

My best friend and I (both women, mid-20s) will be spending Friday, Saturday and Sunday (starting Thursday night) around San Francisco. We’re staying at a hotel near SFO that is a 20 minute walk from the South San Francisco CalTrain station and we plan to take that in each morning. We’ve got a pretty good idea of things to do and places to eat (thanks in large part to the plethora of previous questions here) but we do have a few additional questions. Please feel free to answer just one of the questions and omit links and whatnot. I’m happy to do my homework and I know bonus questions are sort of cheating.

A few notes: We don’t have much money. We’re interested in a mix of touristy things and non-touristy things. We’ll probably start and finish relatively early each day. We’re aware that it’s supposed to be chilly and rainy, but we’re prepared (with many layers!) and won’t let it stop us from most things, even if they’d be much better with nice weather. We’ll be getting a 3-day Muni Passport. I've read manymanymany previous questions and tried to avoid repetition, so please forgive me if I failed.

To the questions…

Is Sunday Streets worth checking out? I’m tempted by the free bike rentals, and it seems like it might make a trip to Fisherman’s Wharf not seem so godawful touristy (I’d kinda like to see the seals…).

If not, should we check out Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower or something else? We’d prefer to stay close-ish to the CalTrain station at 4th & King St (not more than 30 minutes by public transportation – not including walking).

Bonus questions:

Is it safe for two women to walk from the South San Francisco CalTrain station down Grand Ave -> Gateway Blvd to S. Airport Blvd (map here) in the evening/early night? If not, is it possible to get a taxi around there?

Any ridiculously awesome Muni-accessible Sunday happy hours or cheap bars we should know about? Our preference is for a laid back bar with delicious, cheap beer where we can carry on a conversation without shouting.

Thank you!

If you’re curious, here’s a rough idea of what we plan to do/eat, sort of in order: Golden Gate Bridge; Golden Gate Promenade; stop for a picnic; Palace of Fine Arts (just to look around outside); Jejune Institute; fortune cookie factory; dinner in Chinatown (Hunan Homes, gift certificate); Blue Bottle coffee; Ferry Plaza Farmers Market (just to grab a couple things); Twin Peaks (with a picnic); Seward St Slides (weather permitting); relax in Mission Dolores park; explore the Mission (Pirate Store, Clarion Alley, & Balmy Alley+Humphry Slocombe, time permitting); Mission style burrito from Taqueria Can-cun; either ice cream from Bi-Rite or a pastry from Tartine (if no Humphry Slocombe). Sunday is up in the air based on a) answers to this question and b) whether we actually manage both GGB and Chinatown on Friday.

If any of this is an absolutely terrible idea, we’d love to benefit from your wisdom.
posted by SugarAndSass to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered taking BART to the city from SFO? That might eliminate a very long walk for you. Also, your map link is broken.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:20 AM on March 16, 2011

Sunday Streets is awesome. You don't even need a bike to enjoy it as lots of people just show up for a lovely promenade. Even if this weather isn't great, it's usually a really nice event. I rode the Embarcadero one last year and had a lot of fun. There were tons of people out and they set up stuff to stop and do and look at along the route. Plus, it goes right by The Ferry Building where you can stop and get awesome cheese, fruit, bread, whatever you want at the farmer's market.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:23 AM on March 16, 2011

Argh, thank you! Fixed map link.

The hotel isn't actually that close to the airport. Getting to the BART station would require taking the hotel shuttle, which would cost us more time than walking. We're open to that idea if it's unsafe, but we'd prefer not to be shackled to the hotel shuttle's schedule.
posted by SugarAndSass at 11:25 AM on March 16, 2011

Rosamunde is about 20 steps from 24th St BART and has a wide range of excellent beers on tap, not to mention fantastic sausages and good fries. I cannot guarantee no shouting, as it can get very loud when it's crowded. When it's not crowded, it's got a reasonable noise level.

If it's not pouring, yes, do Sunday Streets. Your plan sounds ambitious but doable and fun. Don't be afraid to bag something if you're feeling tired or just not into it - vacations are supposed to be fun, remember!

I don't see North Beach on your list. Cocktails at the Rose Pistola; wander through City Lights, and then take your books next door to Vesuvio or across the street to Spec's for beer and reading. Sit upstairs at Vesuvio.
posted by rtha at 11:27 AM on March 16, 2011

Sunday Streets is great; the Embarcadero is a wonderful walk. The Ferry Building market is a fantastic place.

I would seriously not bother with Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39. Aside from the Maritime Museum at Hyde Street, there is very little in that neighborhood worth seeing.

As an alternative, I would consider taking the N-Judah train up to 9th & Irving streets, and walking over a block to Golden Gate Park. You'll be close to the DeYoung Museum, the Academy of Sciences (with their awesome aquarium), and the Arboretum. You can walk down through the park to the Haight Ashbury neighborhood, and catch a bus back downtown.
posted by gyusan at 11:38 AM on March 16, 2011

Oh! If you have a smartphone, get the Transporter app (link to iTunes), which is free and excellent - it will give you realtime arrival of MUNI, BART, and AC Transit (East Bay). I use it all the time - it's incredibly handy. There may be an Android version. It also works on something like an ipod touch, but only if you're on a wireless connection.
posted by rtha at 11:43 AM on March 16, 2011

I agree that BART is a better choice, it gets you into the middle of things and runs far more frequently than CalTrain. See if San Bruno BART is as close as CalTrain to where you're staying.
I like walking up the steps to Coit tower, Sunday streets is good too. Do both if you can. Twin Peaks is a nice view but a picnic this time of year sounds like something you'd want to get over with quickly and GTFOff that windy-ass hill.

Mission Bars (all can be found on Yelp): The Sycamore has food and drink, with bottomless Mimosas on Sunday. Mission st is gross on that corner, but don't let that stop you. Zeitgeist if it is good-ish to sit outside (It's quieter when it is cold out though) cheap, crusty, good, don't go if you are offended by brusque bartenders; El Rio opens at 5 on Sunday and has a back patio, cheap drinks, specials; Shotwell's has a happy hour on Sunday, they open at 4; 500 Club opens at noon, Elixir , opens at 11 am.

Go early to the Ferry Building on Saturday, it's insane later on. Other than that, I think your itinerary is a good mix of relaxing and seeing.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:51 AM on March 16, 2011

i don't recommend taking bart from SFO. it's not the closest bart station and it's sooooooooo expensive because of the airport surcharge.

but i do recommend at least seeing how you can get your way to either the san bruno or south san francisco bart as a backup option. you'd prolly need to bus from/to there using samtrans and it will be more out of your way but caltrains runs once an hour on the weekends til 9 or 10ish on sunday and that might totally cramp your night to be back in boringzville that early

i'm guessing you're staying on south airport way along US 101 where the big strip of hotels are and if that's so the san bruno bart might be closer.

but here's the system map for samtrans to see.
posted by sammich at 11:54 AM on March 16, 2011

If you do hit North Beach and it's cold and dreary out I highly recommend stopping at Tosca for a "house cappuccino" (actually hot chocolate + brandy made on a huge old espresso machine). Coit Tower is probably my favorite tourist thing in SF, so I'd recommend it it you have time.
posted by grapesaresour at 11:56 AM on March 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Saw your update: you're closer to San Bruno Bart than SFO BART. You may want to be familiar with it anyway because it's far easier to at least take BART back to your hotel from anywhere you'll be, and then catch a cab to your hotel.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:57 AM on March 16, 2011

Most of South San Francisco is super safe. It's mostly residential areas, so you'll be fine.

Right now I'm working on a project that involves a few gigabytes of crime data, so I can actually quantify my answer with hard numbers. In the last year, there have been 2 crimes reported within a 1 mile radius of the SSF Caltrain Station: a business was robbed, and a man was shot. To compare, an equal area near Lake Merced (a safe area of Daly City) had 70 crimes in the last year.

Hope you have fun in SF. My favorite spots for taking visitors are Bourbon and Branch [an awesome speakeasy] and the Jejune institute [a secret mystery/treasure hunt type dealy that's SUPER FUN but don't read about it too much or you'll spoil it for yourself].

I live in the city, so feel free to memail me if you need someone to show you around. I love playing tour guide.
posted by zain at 12:04 PM on March 16, 2011

oh even tho fisherman's wharf + pier 39 is total corny tourist trap, i think walking around that area but avoiding the main drag is worth it, like the sea lions, around the docks where that old sailor's chapel is, and the musee mechanique
posted by sammich at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2011

I wouldn't count on Twin Peaks for a picnic. It's worth going up there for the view, but it is likely to be SUPER windy and cold. Have your picnic in Dolores Park or Golden Gate Park instead.
posted by juliapangolin at 1:08 PM on March 16, 2011

If there's any way you can change your hotel reservation to one in SF, you should try it. It will be more expensive nightly, but if you calculate your daily transportation expenses and time just to get into SF, it would be worth it. I'm sure people here can come up with some good recommendations; I could check with my friend who stayed at a place on Union Square for a pretty good price. I've done the whole stay outside of town to save money thing, and I've always come away feeling like I didn't save money in the end.
posted by JenMarie at 1:10 PM on March 16, 2011

Actually, on second thought if you won't be in a car, I think Twin Peaks will be a major pain in the neck to get to and use up a lot of your precious time. Skip it altogether unless for some reason you're SUPER into views.
posted by juliapangolin at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2011

2nding Bart or moving into SF.

I don't feel like I've been unless I ride the cable cars. I know I know. But wait, ride the California line or back from Hyde Street Pier. I also enjoy the Market Street Trolleys. I recommend buying a three day Muni Pass. Good for Muni subways, trolley's, cable cars, and buses. My wife loved Chinatown.
posted by notned at 1:48 PM on March 16, 2011

Thanks for all of the responses - I can already tell choosing "best answers" is going to be difficult.

I appreciate the suggestions to take BART or move to a hotel in the city, but when I said "we don't have much money," I meant it. Our hotel room+CalTrain into the city each day costs less than both of us staying in a shared dorm at a hostel. The CalTrain is only $2.50 one way, and while it's a bit of a walk, we'd much rather save the extra $1.30+cab fare (or SamTrans fare) per trip so we can spend it on tasty things. Plus, from our hotel, the San Bruno station is almost twice as far as the South SF CalTrain station, and if we do SamTrans+BART it takes longer than walking+CalTrain. If we do end up staying out late Friday or Saturday, though, I'll definitely keep the San Bruno BART+cab in mind. We're catching the CalTrain to San Jose Sunday around 5 or 6p.m. so the early close isn't an issue.

Thanks for the heads up about picnics on Twin Peaks and the tips about other areas! I think I'll probably mark best answers on Monday based on what we actually choose to do.
posted by SugarAndSass at 2:44 PM on March 16, 2011

Actually, I kind of disagree with Zain about that area of South City. The Gateway Blvd side of Grand shouldn't be bad at all--that's all business parks. The other side of Grand Ave (north side of 101) *might* be a little shady late at night (not Tenderloin or 6th St shady, though). It's been a while since I hung out down there in the PM however, so I could be wrong. I wouldn't be worried for myself, but I'd stay aware of my surroundings. Perfectly fine during the day.

Agreeing Twin Peaks is not an ideal picnic spot; Golden Gate Park would be a much better choice. And the N-Judah is really convenient for'll take you to the beach (you can walk up to the Cliff House or go even farther up to do the Land's End trail. Sutro Park, opposite WOULD be good for a picnic with a great view, but still dress in layers). The N will also take you through the Inner Sunset with has a lot of great little restaurants & bars--The Little Shamrock @ 9th & Lincoln is the second oldest bar in the city and is a genuine neighborhood bar without pretension. It's also right by the botanical gardens, Academy of Sciences the De Young Museum.
posted by smirkette at 6:12 PM on March 16, 2011

If you don't have an iphone or smartphone, you can get MUNI information by text. That page is somewhat confusing, but the gist of it is that you can text "nbus SF [x street and y street" to 41411 and it will text back a numbered list of buses or trains that will be stopping near there shortly. You can then respond with the (list) number of the route you're interested in, and it will give you more details.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:24 PM on March 16, 2011

Check your MeFi mail.
posted by nowmorethannever at 8:59 PM on March 16, 2011

Thanks to everyone for the answers. I marked best answers based on what we actually did, but if we had had more time I would be marking a lot more.

We overdid it a bit on our first day so the rest of our trip was a little more low-key. Friday, we started the day by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge in the pouring rain. After that, we bused down to Chinatown. We stopped at Vital Tealeaf for a free tea tasting. After that we did the Jejune Institute in the slightly-less-pouring rain. After that, we stopped to warm up at Bread & Cocoa to dry off (delicious, delicious London Fog!). Then up to City Lights Bookstore and wandering a bit around North Beach. We had dinner at Hunan Home's because we had the gift certificate.

Saturday we started out at the Ferry Building for Blue Bottle Coffee and the farmers market. We rode the F Market & Wharves streetcar to the Castro where we wandered around for a while before heading into the Mission. We shopped at Bi-Rite, went to Dolores Park, had tea at Borderlands Cafe, checked out a bunch of shops on Valencia, and had burritos at Taqueria Cancun.

Sunday we slept in because I had a bit of a cold - being soaking wet for 12ish hours on Friday was probably not the best idea. In the city, we stopped at Epicenter Cafe for free wireless, almond croissants and coffee. We wandered around Yerba Buena Gardens before heading to SFMOMA. That was about it before we had to head to the Caltrain station.

Vital Tealeaf: A great place to sit and warm up with free tea (so much of it!). James was incredibly helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.

Jejune Institute: Oh. My. Goodness. Delightful. Definitely don't forget to log in if you "complete" the first part, because it continues. Unfortunately, we hit a dead end as places in the Mission were out of supplies.

City Lights Bookstore: Ooooooooooh good bookstore. Surrounded by strip clubs.

Blue Bottle Coffee: Very, very yummy lattes. Plus, free samples from neighboring stalls in the Ferry Building on Saturday morning.

The Mission in general: Gorgeous street art, so many coffee shops, so many bookstores, delicious burritos. Beautiful buildings. Wonderful park. Brilliant little shops. My friend and I are both in love with this neighborhood.

SFMOMA: We were lucky enough to get free tickets (thank you, random Mefite!) and it was a wonderful way to wind down our trip. The Exposed photography exhibit is very interesting.

The trip was definitely too short and I wish the weather had been a little nicer, but overall we had a great time!
posted by SugarAndSass at 11:30 PM on March 21, 2011

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