Travelling to San Francisco for the first time in 10 years
January 10, 2007 7:40 AM   Subscribe

Travelling to San Francisco in February.. It'll be my first time back in 10 years. Bay Area-knowledgable MeFites, fill me in.

I'm a former resident of Oakland now living on the east coast. My girlfriend and I will be in San Francisco for four days in early February. We're definitely looking forward to the trip but most of my friends from SF have now dispersed and the print travel media we've seen is... uhm... lacking.

Here is what I'm curious about:

1] Is there any way to travel to Muir Woods without a car (public transit, shuttles, etc.)? Most of our itinerary is in the city itself or nearby environs (Berkeley, Oakland) so it makes no sense for us to rent a car just for Muir Woods. Also, are there any other similarly-spectacular nature/hiking spots in the area that are easily accessible to public transit and less than an hour from downtown SF?

2] Good local bookstores (especially used) besides City Lights.

3] Good dive bars. I have a few spots... but it's been a while and bars change. Extra points for a good, eclectic jukebox, large beer selections, pool/air hockey/foosball or an atmosphere unique to the area.

4] Lastly, a bit open ended (and loaded). But what have been the major chances to SF over the past 10 years? What is new that I should see/take note of?
posted by huskerdont to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (21 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
1) You can have a wonderful time just hiking within the Presidio. Start at the Golden Gate bridge and follow the pacific coast to the west and south. It is absolutely beautiful and very quiet. Tourists don't go there.

3) Toronado's, on Haight Street near Fillmore. More than 100 beers on tap. Also, Zeitgeist in the Mission - popular with bike couriers, with a big beer garden in the backyard, and a lady who comes aroudn and sells tomales at night.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:51 AM on January 10, 2007

But what have been the major chances to SF over the past 10 years?

I assume you mean "changes" - in which case, think baseball stadiums.
posted by allkindsoftime at 7:54 AM on January 10, 2007

1) No public transportation serves Muir Woods, but there are several tours available from the City. (Google "Muir Woods tours") for many more options. You can get to the Marin Headlands trailheads on Golden Gate Transit.

2)Green Apple Books on Clement. Also, many great used bookstores near the intersection of 16th and Valencia.

3) Too many to mention. Pick a neighborhood and walk around.

4) The new De Young Museum, the Asian Art Musuem, the Ferry Building (and Saturday Farmer's Market).

I have to go to work now, and you'll get other great answers, but if I think of something no one else does, I'll post again. Have a great vacation!
posted by trip and a half at 7:56 AM on January 10, 2007

You can take the #76 MUNI out of San Francisco on Sundays to the Marin Headlands.
posted by goml at 8:19 AM on January 10, 2007

1) You can get to Mt Tamalpais, Muir Woods, Muir Beach, and Point Reyes Station, among other places, on the West Marin Stage on Mondays through Saturdays. You'd have to take a Golden Gate Transit bus to the Marin City or San Rafael transit hub and transfer there. I did this to go to Green Gulch Farm once or twice.

It would be less than an hour if you drove yourself at a non-commute time, but the vagaries of public transit make it unlikely that you could get to anywhere in the north bay in that timeframe. On the upside, the view from the bridge is much better from a big bus that you're not driving.
posted by expialidocious at 9:19 AM on January 10, 2007

In the eastbay, Scharffenberger Chocolate
arrived since you left. The tour and tasting is free, and worth an hour. (The factory is at 7th and Heinz in Berkeley. Take the AC Transit 19, or any of the buses that traverse San Pablo.

There are lots of trails in Tilden Park accessible to the 67 (and 9) AC Transit buses.

You might check out Bay Area Hiker for planing your hiking excursion(s) -- the site usually has public transit info. From the Mountain Home trailhead, which is accessible by Golden Gate Transit, you can either summit Mt. Tam or take a loop down into Muir Woods.
posted by janell at 9:22 AM on January 10, 2007

2. Yeah, Green Apple, for sure. There's also one that I like, but whose name I've forgotten, just south of Market on Church Street.

3. Lucky 13
Tunnel Top
Doc's Clock

4. What Trip and a Half said.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:21 AM on January 10, 2007

4) I've lived here off and on since 1992 and it seems as if the city has reinvented itself every few years.

The gentrification which started during the dot-com boom of the mid to late 90's never really stopped, it just slowed down a bit. San Francisco is still a city where many people want to live and so that means housing prices (buy or rent) have continued to skyrocket.

It also means that areas which were once sketchy have now become more gentrified. As a for example, in the early 90's you wouldnt be caught dead on Cortland St. in Bernal Heights after dark - you might actually get mugged. Today, its a thriving, clean lesbian/family/dog oriented neighborhood with upscale restaurants. After dark, the streets are filled with kids coming out of the ice cream shop. The same is true of other areas such as Potrero Hill, the northern end of the Tenderloin, much of the Mission district and so on...

The above changes are good, in my opinion. The bad side of this is that that old scary abandoned China basin area is now the BallPark area and somehow became filled with Restaurant chains and other lame storefronts catering to the folks that come up from the Peninsula to see the Giants play. The ballpark itself is actually really cool, thuough - catch a game there and you'll see.

It also means, unfortunately, that the area south of Market near the Bay bridge somehow became condo-world filled with all these La-Transplant type people who seem to live in their own miniature version of San Francisco.

Oh, and somehow the Musee Mechanique got moved from its charming location on the Ocean to a warehouse in Fisherman's Wharf...dammit.
posted by vacapinta at 10:22 AM on January 10, 2007

The used bookstore at Market and Church is Aardvark books. That one, and Dog Eared Books on Valencia, are my favorites; Green Apple always seems too ridiculously out of the way to make it worthwhile for me.
posted by occhiblu at 10:55 AM on January 10, 2007

2. Yeah, Green Apple, for sure. There's also one that I like, but whose name I've forgotten, just south of Market on Church Street.

Aardvark. Seconded.

Also, Berkeley's great independent, Cody's, now has a branch in downtown SF on Stockton, and there're also several branches of Books, Inc. in the City, which bills itself as "The West's Oldest Independent Bookseller".
posted by trip and a half at 10:57 AM on January 10, 2007

Oh, regarding bookstores:

Probably the best "serious" used bookstore in SF is Acorn Books on Polk St.

Right near Dog eared Books is Borderlands Books - possibly the best Science Fiction and Fantasy bookstore in the city. Dog Eared also has a sister bookstore: Red Hill Books.
posted by vacapinta at 11:02 AM on January 10, 2007

Oh no!! Acorn Books just closed! Sorry about that....
posted by vacapinta at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2007

Noooooooooooooooooo! (sorry)
posted by trip and a half at 11:06 AM on January 10, 2007

Seconding Toronado and Zeitgeist as dive bars, though I think Toronado has closer to 40 tap lines than 100, but they're all interesting taps. Those are my two favorite bars in the city.

Lucky 13 (Market and 14th?) and Amnesia (Mission and 20th) are also fun bars. For non-beer places, The Orbit Room (just down the street from Lucky 13) makes great cocktails.
posted by pombe at 11:56 AM on January 10, 2007

I was just there visiting last weekend and went to Muir Woods on Sunday morning- perfect time to go, there was no one else there except a van load of Sierra Club people.

I rented a car for 24 hours from the Dollar rent a car on O'Farrell Street- it ended up being $50 total including gas and toll over the golden gate bridge. There was absolutely no traffic on Sunday.
posted by gus at 12:13 PM on January 10, 2007

If you find yourself over by Potrero & Mariposa, check out Sadie's Flying Elephant for your dive bar needs. I can't recommend as enthusiastically since I just discovered that the new owners painted over the chalkboard-mural walls and got rid of the board games (boo!), but apparently the 2 pool tables, pinball machine, jukebox, free popcorn and eclectic atmosphere are still there, and the Tamale Lady still makes regular stops.

Also, FWIW, I've heard from a Trusted Source that Borderlands is indeed the best sci-fi bookstore, not in SF, but lo, the world. If you stop there, don't miss Modern Times Bookstore (a worker-owned collective which now carries used books--yay!) or the beloved recent addition to the neighborhood, Dave Eggers' Pirate Supply Store and Children's Writing Workshop, 826 Valencia.

Finally, under both #2 and #4, both Cody's on Telegraph and the Clean-Well Lighted Place for Books in the Opera Plaza closed last year. The Opera Plaza space has been taken over by Books Inc., which is too chain-store for my liking, but the CWLPB owner has a new store, the Bookshop West Portal. You didn't ask about food, but if you go out there, don't miss El Toreador -- in my defense, they have a lengthy list of imported beers, albeit not on tap.
posted by KatlaDragon at 12:30 PM on January 10, 2007

3) Treat Street Cocktails, Treat and 24th st. Has a great jukebox, pool, and a photobooth, plus dogs and sometimes homeless people. Beer in cans.

I like Zeitgeist and Toronado too, but Treat st is divier. With a better jukebox, IMO.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:54 PM on January 10, 2007

2] Black Oak Books at 8th and Irving has a nice selection of used books. Certainly it's no Green Apple, though. :) Books Inc. is a nice local chain, but it's all new stuff.

3] I've gotta chime in with Toronado too. Mmmm... Rosemunde sausage is next door. Wild boar sausages! Duck sausages! Vegan sausages! Zeitgeist is ok, but their beer selection is pretty streamlined compared to Toronado. (Personally, I would suggest that you hit Magnolia on Haight and Masonic, because you see, February is Strong Beer Month, and they highlight beers with 7% ABV and stronger, often with barleywines upwards to 15% ABV.)

4] I've been here since June of '99, so nearly 8 of your 10 you've been gone. For one thing, if you remember the city being dirty, that hasn't changed. Public transit is functional, but definitely in need of attention. As far as things that have REALLY changed, well, take a look at the Embarcadero and the World Trade Center. It's basically all street level and newly re-designed with zero overhead highways. Same with Octavia Blvd in Hayes Valley. By the time you get here, MUNI will also be running out to China Basin, which when you were here last was an industrial wasteland and now it's an academic wasteland with UCSF moving nearly all of it's graduate studies out to Mission Bay as well as a ton of graduate student housing. If I would suggest something of those to see I would say the Embarcadero just because it is so different, and actually quite beautiful.
posted by smallerdemon at 4:11 PM on January 10, 2007

If you want a really easy hike with a great view, check out Ring Mountain. As long as it's a kinda clear day, the view is amazing. The trail head is pretty easy to get to via Golden Gate Transit.
posted by bigtex at 5:37 PM on January 10, 2007

If you like comic books, check out Isotope.
posted by JDC8 at 9:40 PM on January 10, 2007

Also new since you left: Crissy Field Marsh. Great birdwatching in a wetlands habitat with walking trails, right on the Bay.

More used books:
Dog-Eared Books on Valencia
Adobe Book Shop on 16th
posted by obloquy at 10:58 AM on January 11, 2007

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