San Fran over the 4th
June 24, 2005 9:59 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I will be in San Francisco on July 3rd through the 6th before we go to Yosemite to camp with some friends...

Neither of us has been to San Francisco before, and we don't know anyone there. We'll be staying downtown and have a rental car. We thought it would be a good idea to drive up to the Napa Valley area for an afternoon and have found lots of things on the web, but an insider's perspective would really help us out.

What are some of the must do and must see things for a couple of young 20 somethings without a lot of money in San Francisco? Bonus points for a good 4th of July party!
posted by gus to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Sutro Bath ruins (free)
Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park (cheap)
Fort Cronkite at Marin Headlands, on the other side of Golden Gate Bridge (free)
walk around North Beach, see City Lights Book Store, Cafe tristesse, Washington Square
shopping on Haight, see the Giant Robot store, Amoeba Records, Wasteland clothes
Pleas note: I do not live in SF, but I am a life-long visitor. All of these things are touristy, but very enjoyable all the same.
posted by slimslowslider at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2005

For a couple off-the-beaten path places, I recommend the San Francisco Columbarium (scroll down) and the Pirate Store at 826 Valencia (and the Mission District in general).
posted by Staggering Jack at 11:08 AM on June 24, 2005

You'll be within an easy drive of Muir Woods and Point Reyes National Seashore. Great trails and breathtaking views galore! Plus there are some terrific bay views from the trail from the Golden Gate bridge in the direction of the park. I also recommend the Musee Mechanique, currently located in Fisherman's Wharf; admission is free, and it will only cost you a few quarters to try out some of the more intriguing machines. Right outside the Musee is the USS Pampanito; when else are you going to get the chance to tour a WWII sub?

Eat some fish tacos for me, and enjoy Yosemite, you lucky ducks!
posted by clever sheep at 11:12 AM on June 24, 2005

Forget Napa Valley unless crowds and paying a fee for wine tasting is your idea of a good time (unless you're going to Neibaum-Coppola...decent wines and Francis Ford is known to hang out). Head over to Sonoma Valley (the Russian River area) and you can drink (or spit) all you want for free. From the Russian River it's a easy drive over to the coast and Muir Woods, etc. Also, check out the Church of John Coltrane in the city if you're a jazz fan.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 11:39 AM on June 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

The Giants are playing Cincinnati during those dates (one day game and two night games). The ballpark and views are totally great, and you can get tickets through their double play window. Unfortunately none of the games have fireworks. If you want to see fireworks, you could go on a 4th of July bay cruise - I've always thought that would be really cool!

I've also heard really good things about the Alcatraz tour.

But be prepared for cold weather! Bring an extra layer or so, as the fog can roll in and chill everything down many degress!
posted by jasper411 at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2005

I agree to skip Napa and go to the Alexander and Dry Creek Valley regions around Healdsburg. Smaller, less traffic, you'll miss most of the tour bus wineries. Roshambo Winery is cool; or try White Oak or Hanna for a more standard tasting experience.

Don't expect too much w.r.t. fireworks on the 4th- most years its seen dimly through a foggy overcast. That said, Aquatic Park is a good vantage point for the city show.

Also check out the Cartoon Art Museum and the Exploratorium....
posted by pgoes at 11:56 AM on June 24, 2005

The Musée Mécanique is both inexpensive and fun. (Though the surrounding wharf area is hyper-touristy.) From there you could head west and have a pretty nice walk along the Marina and out to Chrissy Field and the Golden Gate. (The Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts is along the way!) Or, you could walk back towards the center of the city along Columbus and check out North Beach and Chinatown!
posted by lpqboy at 12:19 PM on June 24, 2005

There'll be fireworks displays, one near the Bay Bridge and one near the Marina. I'd take public transit or walk to whichever will be closer to you.

Eat at the House of Nan King on Kearny st @ Columbus. It's fantastic.

Go hike in Marin from Pantol or Tennessee valley, depending on your desire (TV is much easier).

Traffic will be pretty heavy that weekend, so plan your car trips carefully and try to take public transit if you're staying within the confines of the city or near the BART lines.
posted by Four Flavors at 2:27 PM on June 24, 2005

If you are both women, go take a hot tub/sauna at Osento on Valencia street (core of the lesbian district, or at least it was several years ago when I lived there).
posted by matildaben at 3:03 PM on June 24, 2005

When you get to Yosemite, if you want a real treat, try to get a bus tour from the wonderful Sam Hays. Sam is one of the drivers of the around-the-valley tours, which are quite inexpensive, and not everyone wants to spend their time in Yosemite in a bus. However, Sam's an amazing guy, and has the single most extensive - encyclopedic - memory on all things related to California history, georgraphy, geology, botany and culture of anyone I can imagine. He'd give Wallace Stegner a run for his money, I'm sure. He's tremendously entertaining.

I had been in the park many times, but was there recently with a few less-spry individuals who wanted to spent half a day (almost a full day, actually) doing the "grand tour" - we were lucky enough to get Sam for the trip and now my knowledge of the park, even after a dozen visits, is ten times richer than it was at the previous visit. He also does shorter tours. The rangers won't appreciate this, but I learned far more in a few hours with him than I have in many weeks' worth of ranger-run tours, nature walks and daycamps.

Email me for Sam's email address, if you'd like it.
posted by luriete at 3:32 PM on June 24, 2005

Remember Mark Twain's coldest winter was the summer he spent in SF -- bring warm clothes, as jasper411 notes. I see so many cold visitors wearing shorts here in the summer!
posted by anadem at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2005

We'll be staying downtown and have a rental car

If you want to save money - and it seems you do - then you should rent a car only for those days that you're going to be outside of the City (or outside of places you can go on BART). Not only will you save on car rental, but you'll also not have to pay the hotel for parking.

Parking in San Francisco - it doesn't really matter where - is always a problem. Public transportation (MUNI) is excellent, often fun as well (Market Street trolley), and probably almost as quick as taking a car, when parking is taken into account. (If you really need to get somewhere quickly, take a taxi - still cheaper than renting a car for a whole day, plus paying parking fees.)

There are a lot of places to rent a car in the City - don't rent one at the airport unless you plan to use it immediately.

Personally, I think there are sufficient things to do in the City that you should strongly consider just staying there and saving the car rental altogether. MUNI has a multiple-day pass for visitors, which includes cable cars (although you still have to wait in line.)

If you want to see wineries (why not?), you could visit a bunch in the Livermore Valley, right off I-580, which is the freeway you take to go to Yosemite. Wente, for example, is nice. That way (a) you don't have to go out of your way, or fight traffic in the Napa or Sonoma Valley, and (b) since the Livermore Valley is relatively untouristed, you'll have a better experience at the wineries. (Just don't drink a lot, unless there is a designated driver - remember that proper wine tasting involves spitting.)
posted by WestCoaster at 11:39 AM on June 25, 2005

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