Help me plan 5 hours in San Francisco
November 26, 2015 12:55 PM   Subscribe

I have a long layover in SFO next week just before a very long trans-Pacific flight. Of the time I have there, I have about 5 hours total I can spend in the city (after transport each way). I have two goals: tire out my 1-year-old, and meet up with some friends for drinks and snacks. Can you help me plan where to go for these?

Tiring out 1 year old: looking for places that are preferably free with good spots for my toddler to toddle, crawl, and attempt to eat fallen leaves. I'm all for her eating some dirt but I do prefer she not end up completely covered in mud or duck poo or something by the end of it. (Yes, I'll have a change of clothes for her pre-boarding the plane again) She can't take much advantage of playgrounds but she does like watching other kids play and trying to chase them.

Social interaction: I have a number of kidless friends we'd like to meet up with. I would very much like to enjoy a nice cocktail or two while doing this, but I would also like to not piss people off. Is there a bar (or restaurant with good cocktails) we could go to, get a small group sitting together, have access to a high chair, and not be That Person Who Brings A Kid To A Place Kids Shouldn't Be? (If anyone is familiar with both SF and Boston, I'm aiming for something like Stoddard's in Boston, which had good food and drinks and high chairs and a corner area we could sit out of the way of other patrons) We'd be aiming for early evening (like, 5/5:30) so hopefully before any major rush. It's a Tuesday. My daughter is pretty chill but she is, y'know, a one year old.

Bonus points if these two locations are convenient to each other, perhaps walkable or easily public transported/Uber-ed. Definitely necessary that the end point is not going to screw me with traffic or anything to return to the airport, probably by Uber. General toddler-friendly SF suggestions welcome.

Luggage hauling not a concern.
posted by olinerd to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (12 answers total)
here is a list of playgrounds in the city.

I like Colibri Mexican Bistro. It's a funky joint, good drinks and fantastic food. Adults like it, and I don't think a kiddo would be amiss in the melieu.

Walking in Chinatown is always fun.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:22 PM on November 26, 2015

So I'd note that SFO isn't really in the city proper. That said you can take bart and be in the city in 30-40 minutes.
posted by gryftir at 1:53 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

This being the holidays, I'd take BART into the city from the airport, get off at Powell and walk around Union Square to look at the holiday windows. I'd call to be sure re: high chairs, but Foley's on O'Farrell is a nice pub where a toddler would not be out of place; I haven't been in years, but the food's good.

Then you could Uber or taxi over to Chinatown; I seem to recall the Willy Woo Playground being pretty nice. That would put you in Chinatown and near North Beach, which are both good places to walk around.

Cab/Uber to the Montgomery St. BART station and head back to the airport.

Alternately, you could take BART into the city, catch the N-Judah at Civic Center and go out to Golden Gate Park and Ocean Beach; walk up to Land's End and catch food and cocktails somewhere around 9th & Irving.
posted by smirkette at 2:05 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I would far prefer going to Golden Gate Park and meeting friends in the Inner Sunset over Powell or Chinatown. Golden Gate Park has beautiful areas and is well worth a visit if you haven't been. Plenty of leaves to chew on. Outerlands, Nopalito, and many other places would be good to eat/drink. However, it will take longer to get there. Note that traffic can be horrible on 101 from the airport. Sometimes at unpredictable times, though this tool can give you a sense of averages for the time of day you're planning to be on the road. I almost always take BART to SFO, unless it's, say, 6am on a Sunday.
posted by three_red_balloons at 2:54 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Bell Tower on the corner of Polk & Jackson is a bar and restaurant that is friendly to all. There is a seating area that is slightly separated from the main room -- up a couple of steps -- that could be ideal for babby but I think that she wouldn't bug anyone no matter where you're seated. There are also 2 big round corner tables in the main room that could work for you so lots of choices. I need to tell you that something is up with the yelp review that none of us understand -- they're warning about health hazards that Don't exist -- not sure if it's malicious or just a horrible error but pay no attention while it's being addressed. The Bell Tower Good food, good drinks, good prices, super nice people.

3 blocks away is a play yard that has cool things to play on and other kids to watch. It's very citified, being on a busy street, but there's fencing all around so babby can't run into the street. Helen Wills Playground

There's also a cute little playground tucked away off the cable car line -- about 4 blocks from The Bell Tower -- the Washington Hyde mini park

Also right at the top of Nob Hill, between the Fairmont and Grace Cathedral is a pretty little park with swings and a grassy area snd so forth Huntington Park. It's a ten minute walk at most from The Bell Tower
posted by janey47 at 3:02 PM on November 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you go out toward Golden Gate Park, you could meet for drinks and snacks at Park Chow.
posted by jaguar at 3:04 PM on November 26, 2015

(Looks like Park Chow is beer and wine only, though, so no mixed drinks.)
posted by jaguar at 3:07 PM on November 26, 2015

I don't have many specific things to add to the list of things to do, but we did something similar before a trans-Pacific flight with our then 18-month old and it worked out great (she slept 11 hours straight out of the 13 hour flight).

We ate at Greens ( and somehow ended up in the Pier39 area, which was actually great for wearing out the kids.
posted by buttercup at 4:32 PM on November 26, 2015

To minimize travel, honestly, I'd just go to the Mission. The BART runs directly from the International terminal to 16th and 24th street stations so no switching systems / ubering / doing anything hard. Dolores Park is about 10 minutes walk from the 16th St station, plus there's a smaller playground at Valencia & 19th. If beer is ok, Rosamunde is right next to the 24th St. BART station and very child friendly. For fancier cocktail, you could sit outside at the restaurant on 23rd & Valencia whose name I've forgotten. There is also Pi Bar on Valencia btw 25 & 26 that is also kid friendly.
posted by dame at 6:50 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Take Bart to the Embarcadero station. Osha Thai is a big restaurant with a full bar. There are several big table areas somewhat set off from the main big room where you can comfortably meet your friends, drink, and have tasty Thai appetizers. There's a lovely little park just north of there, called Sue Bierman park, I believe, with lots of little hills, rocks to jump off of, etc. Also, across the Embarcadero, if you go through the ferry building, there's a very nice patio, looking right out onto the Bay, with benches, etc. And it you head slightly north of the ferry building, there's a pier that extends out into the Bay.
posted by jasper411 at 6:57 AM on November 27, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dame has good advice, but if you did really want to go to Golden Gate Park, you can take BART to Daly City and then transfer to the 28 Muni bus. It'll take you straight up Rt. 1 to the park entrance (around 20 minutes).
posted by en forme de poire at 1:23 AM on November 28, 2015

Thanks everyone. Think we're going to end up in the Mission, but we may detour to Union Square first for some holiday window ogling. Much appreciated!
posted by olinerd at 8:17 PM on November 29, 2015

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