Five or six hours in downtown San Francisco.
April 16, 2013 8:05 PM   Subscribe

What is your ideal San Francisco spring afternoon for the uninitiated? (more inside)

I've seen much of the region over the years but can't claim to really know the city. This will be my wife's first visit.

We'll have five or six hours on a Saturday, midday. I'd like her to experience the character of the city, without spreading the time too terribly thin. Standard tourist checklist optional. We won't have a car and expect to leave the city via Larkspur ferry.

Castro? Marina? North Beach? The Wharf? Other?

Other considerations?

posted by methinks to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (18 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: If its your wife's first visit and the weather is somewhat decent (no low fog), I would walk across the Golden Gate Bridge . Or at least part of it.
posted by gt2 at 8:37 PM on April 16, 2013

Where's your starting point? Are you arriving to the city via ferry, too?
posted by gnutron at 8:59 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: My favorite SF walk is to start in the Financial District, then walk up Grant through Chinatown and North Beach. Hike up to Coit Tower for the sunset, then come down the Bay side, ending up with dinner and drinks on the waterfront, say at Pier 23.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:02 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Where's your starting point? Are you arriving to the city via ferry, too?

We can start anywhere, probably arriving by car (through family) then returning late afternoon to Marin by ferry.
posted by methinks at 9:16 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: I would ride a cable car and visit tcho factory. Well at least that is what I did last week for my first time in San Francisco!
posted by Jaelma24 at 9:30 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: Fishermans warf and pickup a picnic and head to the Presidio.
posted by blueplasticfish at 9:43 PM on April 16, 2013

Best answer: Since you'll be heading out by ferry, the Ferry Building is the natural place to end your trip, though it's always mobbed, doubly so on Saturday, especially during the farmer's market, which runs from 8-2. Since San Francisco is a big food town, that means There are a number of good places to eat there, depending on what you're interested in. The Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant has excellent wines (duh), though the list may be a bit short on local selections for your purposes. The cheeses and bread represent the city well, though. I've also enjoyed The Slanted Door, whose take on Vietnamese cooking and heavily Germanic wine list were revolutionary a decade ago, though reservations well in advance are obligatory. Hog Island Oyster company doesn't take reservations, so there's just an interminable line, so I would probably skip that given your limited time.
The Delica Japanese deli has unusual (and unusually delicious) variations on traditional Japanese dishes (wasabi mashed potatoes, anyone?) that is among the best food to go, so you could sit out on the waterfront.

OK, here's my itinerary. Drive from Marin across the Golden Gate Bridge, no need to stop. (The bridge is truly beautiful, but you can see it just as well from the car.) Head through Golden Gate Park (be sure to check for street closures). Yes, head through the crooked section of Lombard Street. Have your family drop you off at Coit Tower, for a grand overview of the city (be sure to check out the murals inside). Depending on your tolerance for walking, head down the Filbert Street Steps through the Financial District, heading east via Levi's Plaza to the Embarcadero. If you're hungry, I would second Pier 23, which is a dive bar where the cooking got out of hand. A far better place to get seafood than anywhere on the benighted "Fisherman's" Wharf. The heated patio has stunning views. Catch the F-Market streetcar, which runs a dazzling array of restored historic streetcars from many cities, down to the Ferry Building, where you'll enjoy your meal.

You could also make a case for doing a completely different itinerary through the Castro, Dolores Park, and Mission neighborhoods, but hopefully someone else will come up with something along those lines.
posted by wnissen at 10:50 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Start in Chinatown for lunch. I like Woey Loy Goey for cheap and yummy Chinese food, but Dim Sum is a good choice too. Then check out the little stores, etc. Then get on the bus (I think the Muni 1 or 45) and head towards Polk Street.

I like walking around on Polk street. Off board at Polk and Sacrament and start walking towards Pacific. People will be out with their dogs, lots of neat shops to poke your head into and lots and lots of yummy places to have a bite.

When done there, head over to Top of the Mark (Mark Hopkins) enjoy a cocktail while watching the fog roll in.

You're not going to hit all the touristy stuff, but you'll get a real flavor of the city and it's a very nice, easy afternoon.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:49 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: Well if you're taking the ferry over, make sure to plan some time to hang out at the ferry building. It's really beautiful and there are a lot of great shops. Get some Blue Bottle Coffee, that's very SF!
posted by radioamy at 7:32 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: If you follow RB's suggestion, it's the 1-California that will take you to Polk St.
posted by radioamy at 7:33 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: Oh and confusingly enough, the 1-California goes down Sacramento in that direction, and Clay back towards downtown. (I have never actually taken it on California St, which is where it runs on the West side of the City.)
posted by radioamy at 7:34 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: Also if you don't have to, I don't recommend driving or parking in SF. Take the ferry!
posted by radioamy at 7:35 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: The Exploratorium just opened in their new space on the waterfront. Timed tickets highly recommended. I'm eager to go see it myself.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:45 AM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: Taking a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to Sausalito is lovely, and an easy ferry ride back to the city afterward.
posted by horizonseeker at 4:39 PM on April 17, 2013

Best answer: If the weather is nice, I'd suggest picking up lunch at Greens to Go and eating it at the Wave Organ. (That's Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey's voice you hear first in the video; we happened to be having lunch (from Greens to Go, in fact) one day when a guy with a video camera who was making a film about the Wave Organ struck up a conversation.)
posted by Lexica at 6:20 PM on April 17, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody! Excellent ideas to go with.
posted by methinks at 4:40 AM on April 19, 2013

Response by poster: We started briefly at Union Square, spendy and urban; took the trolley to Fisherman's Wharf, all energy and spectacle; and spent the last couple of hours thoroughly enjoying the vendors at the Ferry Terminal. We'd recommend that for any food lover. Thanks for your guidance here, it really did help us make a nice afternoon.
posted by methinks at 5:17 PM on April 20, 2013

Response by poster: Btw, we happened across the Musee Mecanique at its current location. I'd stumbled across it a decade ago at Cliff House and was glad to see it again, greatly expanded if now posed as a somewhat conventional Wharf attraction. It's a must-see for eccentric pop cultural history.
posted by methinks at 8:37 AM on April 26, 2013

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