San Francisco in March
February 5, 2018 7:29 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in SF on March 16 - 28, for GDC but with several days before and after the conference to look at the city. What is worth seeing, beyond the obvious items? I like games, history, science, coffee, cocktails, and cats. I can't drive.
posted by Zarkonnen to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A good place to start is the reddit AskSF FAQ .

Getting around SF is straightforward; you want to purchase a Clipper Card and put some money on it. That gets you all the mass transit; Muni, BART and the other bus systems around the bay. If you don't pre-order one, you can purchase a Clipper Card at some of the Traveller's Aid information booths at SFO. (The ones that don't have cards for sale will redirect you to the appropriate booth.)

If you don't care about BART (the subway system which connects much of the SF Bay area) then the 1, 3, or 7 day Muni Passport can be a good deal.
posted by blob at 8:04 AM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: History and science and cocktails?

Sounds to me like you need to spend a Thursday evening at the California Academy of Sciences!

(The 22nd is robotics night! But you don't have to participate in the themed activity type stuff.)
posted by elsietheeel at 8:14 AM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Be sure to have some Blue Bottle Coffee at the Ferry Building! Best I've ever had or maybe ever will.
posted by jgirl at 8:31 AM on February 5, 2018

The Musée Mécanique may be obvious, but is genuinely great. The "cappuccino" at Tosca is classic if you're excited by cocktail history.

Taking the Ferry to visit Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon would be my choice for a half-day excursion devoted to history and drinking. (From there, it's not a terribly long train ride to the Albany Bulb, if you're into weird industrial landfills and outsider art installations.)
posted by eotvos at 9:00 AM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Science, cocktails: The Interval is a cocktail bar run by the Long Now foundation.
Coffee: Sightglass or The Mill on Divisadero, Verve at Church and Market.
Games: Gamescape is on Divisadero right next to Sightglass.
Cats: The SFSPCA has plenty of cats in beautiful cat condos. You can drop in to visit. Or visit the lovely cat in the equally lovely Aardvark Books, across Church St. from Verve Coffee, above.

Muni buses and trains are easy to use and quite dependable, despite perpetual bitching by locals and visitors alike. Get a clipper card and download routesy or some other bus mapping thing and away you go.

Note that none of the (few) places I mention are downtown/SOMA or in the typical tourist haunts (North Beach) - you'll have a much better time if you get out to the smaller neighborhoods - the mission, the castro, the haight, inner sunset, noe valley, the divisadero corridor, etc. etc.

And yes, thursday nights at the Academy of Sciences is a blast. Lots of great food on 9th Ave. just outside the park, nearby.
posted by gyusan at 10:31 AM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Eat a burrito (I like La Taqueria at 25th and Mission) and go to Borderlands, a pretty decent SF bookstore. They have readings all the time. Or try Dog Eared Books in the next block of Valencia (they are within sight of each other).

I also like to take a Geary express bus all the way out to Ocean Beach and stand at the end of the world. On your way back, get off the bus anywhere between 11th and 2nd Ave. and walk a block north to Clement Street. Go to Green Apple Books and anywhere else along there that catches your eye. That stretch of Clement is full of bars, mostly Irish pubs for some reason, but is also like a mini-Chinatown without tourists.

I see that as is my wont I am only recommending bookstores. Well I know nothing much of cocktails, so you're on your own there, and I have not personally investigated, but there is a cat café in SF for your cat needs?? Coffee is everywhere, Sightglass, Blue Bottle, High Wire in the East Bay, Ritual in the Mission, and on and on.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 10:54 AM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

KitTea is pretty cool, but requires reservations (or at least it did when it opened). Book ahead. It's fun!
posted by kdar at 11:29 AM on February 5, 2018

In addition to the Academy of Arts and Sciences, check out the Exploratorium, which is a very hands-on science museum. It's geared for families, but has a lot to offer to anyone who likes cool machines and demonstrations of scientific concepts.
posted by subocoyne at 1:04 PM on February 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Is it your first time visiting? If so and you're interested in seeing all the obvious touristy stuff, I would strongly recommend doing a Big Bus tour. I did them with two different family members and it provided a nice overview of the city and the tourist stops. Just going to the Golden Gate Bridge will be out of the way and a pain and it's worth the bus tour just for that, in my opinion. You can ride over the bridge, get off at the overlook for photos, get back on the bus and continue with your day. Me and my family used it as transportation too - we hopped off, looked around, and then caught another bus later to get to where we wanted to go next.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:23 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

A Clipper card for BART can be purchased at most (all, maybe) stations now; it costs $3 and can be refilled and reused presumably forever. That would give you access to:

* Games of Berkeley, across the street from the Downtown Berkeley station;
* Victory Point Cafe, a few blocks from the same station: cafe with boardgame access for $5/visit
* Bay Area Tabletop Devs has several meetups a week at various east bay sites; they love drop-in vict er, new players willing to beta-test (or sometimes, alpha-test) game rules.

(Sorry you're not around a week earlier; Protospiel is Mar. 9-10 in San Jose.)

Seconding recommendations for Exploratorium (my go-to "what do I do on a visit to SF?" answer), Borderlands books, and Gamescape.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:06 PM on February 5, 2018

The Bay Model in Sausalito will give you perspective on the whole Bay Area (pun intended but true). You can get there on a boat, and even rent a bike to get back to the city, IIRC.
posted by clew at 6:37 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Most of the places I would recommend have already been mentioned. Fort Point, under the Golden Gate Bridge, offers a unique view of the bridge and the bay and a glimpse into civil war history.

Seconding the Exploratorium and the Musee Mechanique. I visited the Exploratorium when it opened in 1969. It has a special place in my heart as a uniquely San Francisco institution. One of the things I love about it is that it has never been an insipid, too-clean, overly scripted science museum, unlike so many of the ones that opened after.(Ho-Hum). My daughter grew up in the Exploratorium and the Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley. Poor kid got more science toys than she probably wanted.

As to the Musee Mechanique I remember my childhood self dropping many a coin to experience the altogether too brief magic of these endlessly fascinating machines when they were located at the Cliff House.

I'm glad clew mentioned the Bay_Model.
I think of it as my own secret attraction. It was just a very shabby building housing this cool miniature bay built by the Army Corps of Engineers that they happened to let people visit for free. I loved watching them run experiments.

If you want to indulge your inner child, it is hard to beat a rich, sweet, gooey ice cream sundae at the Ghirardelle Chocolate Manufactory.
posted by Altomentis at 8:33 PM on February 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm always glad to have a chance to recommend San Francisco City Guides walking tours. They're free (donations accepted at the end of the tour) and FANTASTIC - the guides are all volunteers who've been through extensive training and tend to really know their stuff.

A few to consider:

Friday 9:30 am - Japanese Tea Garden tour lets you tour the garden without paying admission
Friday 1:30 pm - Gold Rush City
Saturday 10:00 am - North Beach
Saturday 10:00 am - Chinatown
Saturday 11:00 am - Coit Tower Murals
Saturday 11:00 am - Castro District
Saturday 2:00 pm - Silent Film San Francisco

Really, there's just dozens and dozens - these should all be pretty close to the Financial District, but if you feel adventurous, you could take a bus to one of the tours out by Ocean Beach or at the Presideo (or just walk there - LONG, long hike, but delightful).

Have a great visit!
posted by kristi at 9:10 AM on February 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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