Seven hours in SF
August 8, 2014 6:33 PM   Subscribe

What should I do in San Francisco for seven hours? Snowflakes inside.

I'll be arriving at SFO at about 11 am on a Friday. I'll need to make it over to where I'm staying in Oakland, near Fruitvale Station, by around 6 pm, using public transit. I'll have a rolling carry-on with me.

San Francisco seems vast, and I'm not sure what's best there, and what I can fit in to the short time I have available.

I'll be gloriously alone. What are your recommendations for a delicious lunch spot and other things I should see or do on a Friday afternoon? Things I like: coffee, books, art, hippies, performances, unique and/or weird experiences, the ocean and other natural wonders. Things I am not so interested in: sports, movies, most live music, hipsters, huge crowds.

posted by woodvine to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (13 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Park your rolling bag at a large hotel near a BART station. Tip well and it shouldn't be a problem. Get off at Montgomery Street and park it at the Sheraton Palace. Bonus, enjoy the lobby. This is where Caruso sat on his trunk and cried during the earthquake/fire of 1906.

Now you're rolling on Muni. At Sutter and Kearny, catch the 30 to Chinatown. Get off at Sutter and Clay and walk to Jackson Street. Head on over (and down) to Woey Loy Goey. The least plush place you've ever seen. Look down, it's in the basement. Order whatever looks good. Potstickers and War Won Ton soup are especially yum. Rice plates are good too.

Walk around Chinatown for a bit if you're so inclined.

Another option would be to head over to Golden Gate Park and hit the Natural History Museum, or the Japanese Tea Garden or the Arboretum, or any other fun thing in the park.

Have lunch at Burger Bar at Union Square. Check out the old City of Paris glass dome at Neiman Marcus. Window shop. If that's your gig. There's a Britex fabric store on Maiden Lane, which is similar to Mood fabrics in New York. One of my FAVE places!

A third option is to head over to Polk Street. My favorite book shop in the city is Russian Hill Bookstore. The neighborhood is fantastic. Lots of shops, cafes, and for some reason donut shops. Just walk around and feel the vibe. At Pacific and Polk is a wine an cheese shop, pop in for a custom sandwich and some yummy things to take with you to the hotel.

Hippies abound in the Haight, but I don't really like it over there. They're all trying too hard and it's not cool like it was in 1965.

Hope this gives you some ideas.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:15 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

Hipsters will be unavoidable. I would surface at Powell on BART, stash my luggage at a large, nice hotel by pretending I'm an outgoing guest, get on the MUNI J train down to 20th and Church, walk through Dolores Park to the Mission, get a burrito at either La Taqueria or Taqueria Cancun, explore the Mission (Valencia St is much nicer/safer than Mission St) and Hayes Valley areas, walk back to the hotel, get my luggage, hop on BART before 5pm (the office worker exodus on the dot), and head to Fruitvale.

Edit: I second the above of going north to the Marina and walking back through Chinatown. Either path is great and shows a different authentic side of SF.
posted by kcm at 7:16 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

For weird, check out the Sutro Baths! (And Cliff House while you're at it.)

The 38 Geary will take you there!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:23 PM on August 8, 2014

Lands End is relatively difficult to access but is the single best outdoor activity in the Bay Area.
posted by sanderman at 7:24 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you end up in the Mission (which you should because burritos), check out Dog Eared Books.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:28 PM on August 8, 2014

I think you should probably subtract 2 hours for transit from SFO and to Fruitvale, which only leaves you about 5 hours. This isn't enough to do too much but you could enjoy the Exploratorium, which is a nice stroll along the waterfront from the Embarcadero BART station. You might be able to stash your luggage at the Hyatt Regency, also at the Embarcadero station, or check it in a locker at the Exploratorium (I don't remember how big the lockers are - maybe call ahead and find out if your luggage will fit?) 5 hours there will bend your mind pleasantly and gives you some art, weird/unique stuff and the ocean (if you'll take the San Francisco Bay as a decent stand-in) all under one roof.
posted by Quietgal at 7:29 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I lived in SF for twelve years and played tour guide a lot.

I would also surface at the Powell St. Station, stash you luggage and go to Third and Market and catch the 30, 45 or 15 to Chinatown/North Beach. City Lights bookstore is there as is lots of funky stuff and coffee. I also recommend Coit Tower both for the view and the murals.

Wear really sensible shoes and don't try and do too much.
posted by vapidave at 7:41 PM on August 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chinatown. Eat.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:56 PM on August 8, 2014

Get off BART at Embarcadero, get lunch and coffee and hang out at the Ferry Building for a bit, then follow quietgal's advice and head a few blocks up the Embarcadero to the Exploratorium. It has excellent views of the Bay as well as interesting exhibits. If you get enough of that, walk over to City Lights Bookstore in North Beach.

I live here and I wouldn't try to incorporate a Golden Gate Park visit on public transit into your timeframe.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:17 PM on August 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

gingerbeer is correct: stick to the Embarcadero/downtown/North Beach. There is no way you could fit in an enjoyable trip to Golden Gate Park or really even the Mission within your time frame using public transportation.
posted by trip and a half at 10:17 PM on August 8, 2014

The Mah Jongg exhibit currently at the Contemporary Jewish Museum is delightfully unexpected and about 2 blocks from the Powell street BART station.

If I were in the area and looking for lunch, I would go to a dim sum counter in Chinatown, Vietnamese restaurant in the Tenderloin (not a good neighborhood, but fine during the day), or head to Garaje and get a (deep fried) crab cake sandwich.

Riding the BART to the Embarcadero station, getting lunch at the Ferry Building and looking around it (there's a store that sells beans! and only beans!), and walking along the water would be a good afternoon as well.

It'll be hard to find someplace to stash a suitcase in the Mission.
posted by asphericalcow at 10:25 PM on August 8, 2014

Chinatown runs right into little Italy: coffee, gelato, and City Lights after lunch...
posted by jrobin276 at 4:25 AM on August 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Whenever I visit San Francisco, I try to take an hour or so to visit the Cartoon Art Museum.
posted by oakroom at 12:38 PM on August 9, 2014

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