Traveling to San Francisco for the first time...
November 19, 2007 5:18 AM   Subscribe

Can anyone give some pointers for a couple (both 22) traveling to San Francisco for the first time from the UK?

Just really looking for ideas for places to visit (probably staying for 4 or 5 days), related to art, underground music, shopping (for her) etc as well as travel in/out and around the city without a car, as well as potentially out of California to neighboring states (rail/bus etc)

Also places to definitely avoid for either being totally dull or dangerous for tourists - We like to explore!

posted by stackhaus23 to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I'd start by reading the 27 posts on sanfrancisco+travel on Ask MetaFilter.
posted by grouse at 5:29 AM on November 19, 2007

Then see if any of the 35 posts on TravelFilter are of any use to you. I love this site.
posted by Dasein at 5:42 AM on November 19, 2007

A day around North Beach/Coit Tower is always good. The tower (even from the base) gives great views of the city & across the bay to Marin County. Lots of good streets to wander around below Coit & above Colombus Ave. Famous bars include Vesuvio & Tosca but there's a good variety of bars & eateries around Grant/Green intersection.

If there isn't a shroud of fog (good luck with that!) Twin Peaks has some amazing views but not sure about the transport - I got taken by car. Crossing the Golden Gat Bridge is always worth while. Again, the fog rules apply.

Check out the local listings for other going out places (as well as MeFites) as SF is a pretty dynamic city so things change. If you're into club music see if Bulletproof are still doing the Boat Party. A great night out and a tour around the bay too.

Have a wander down Haight Street from Golden Gate Park. The park end (Haight-Ashbury) is a bit rubbish (think the crap bits of Camden Market) but there are a few good places tucked in. I always visit Amoeba Records - loads of cheap (compared to the UK) CDs. Walking away from the park the Lower Haight is a bit more interesting. If you want to see UK football, drop in at Mad Dog in the Fog but remember the 8 hour time difference. You can get beans on toast & London Pride too...

Take layers. The temperature can drop rapidly when the fog rolls in from mid-afternoon.

There's loads more but I'm sure others batter placed can advise. The local transport is decent but it's a great city to walk around with beautiful buildings and vistas. Just make sure you're OK with hills.

All the above is off the top of the head of an occasional UK visitor who's had local friends to stay with. Long-time & current residents may offer alternative veiwpoints ;-)
posted by i_cola at 6:03 AM on November 19, 2007

If you're into underground electronic music, check the events listings/calendars for: Temple SF, Opel Productions, Space Cowboys, and Spundae.
posted by infinityjinx at 6:52 AM on November 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nowhere else is quite like the Castro district.
posted by waraw at 7:50 AM on November 19, 2007

Don't miss the central part of the city--Noe Valley, Castro, and Valencia districts. Everything is accessible by Muni, the city's mass transit.

You might also take BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to Berkeley for a daytrip.

Dress warm! The weather is more like London than Rome, in spite of the "Mediterranean" climate.
posted by OlderThanTOS at 9:43 AM on November 19, 2007

Well I went to SF for the first time last May, and basically, I agree with what everyone else says...

The Muni/Bart confused me slightly, and I'm used to London Transport. But I was staying with friends, so maybe I let them hand hold me a bit too much at first.

I bought the TimeOut guide, mostly because it was the only SF guide book that also included trips outside the city.

4 or 5 days is barely enough to see the city, let alone much of the surrounding area. I was there for two weeks, and I didn't see all I wanted to.

I wanted to go to Yosemite, but I didn't have time, but we did hire a car for the day and drive up to Muir Woods and the Point Reyes lighthouse. You get to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, see redwoods, the San Andres fault and some Californian countryside. It was a doable day trip, including a half day trek around Muir Woods. Whatever you do, book an economy car and refuse an upgrade. We ended up driving an automatic Beast, which I found a bit of a nightmare on the country roads (There's no clutch! How do I change gear! I can't feel the road! This car is bigger than my flat!). Apart from giving my friend some driving practice for his test (I still can't believe that's even allowed!), that was the only time I was in a car. Public transport was fine for the rest.

Just as you go through the door of Amoeba Records, on the right, there's a little alcove with free magazines and flyers for gigs and club nights and stuff. I found several things there I wanted to see (but my tastes in music are probably different to yours).

Keep ID on you. You will need it, including sometimes when you are paying on credit card.

We got the tram to Ocean Beach and walked from there up towards Golden Gate bridge along the coast though the Presidio. The views were fantastic, take a picnic. We gave up at the bridge and got the bus from there to the marina, but you could carry on walking it, but that would take up a good chunk of a day.

Go to Alcatraz - I learnt a lot about American history that day, and not just the bits you'd expect. Plus you can do a Bay boat trip.

Dangerous kind of depends on your perspective. My friends kept warning me about places, but I live in Hackney, and I didn't go anywhere in the daytime that was any worse than home. In fact The Mission felt just like Hackney, but with more Spanish. I didn't go anywhere on my own at night, but that's no more than what I'd do in London.

For museums/art I was blown away by the De Young Museum, I loved it, I went on my last day, and I should have gone earlier, because I would have spent so much more time there. I wasn't so much blown away by SFMOMA, but then I do live in London and can go to Tate Modern whenever I like. I really liked the Museum of Craft and Folk Art, but that's my thing anyway.

I went to the Cable Car Museum, and liked it, but thanks to a train spotting Dad I have a bit of a soft spot for industrial heritage and really, really big cogs.

If the dollar's like it is at the moment, shop anywhere, it's all really cheap...!
posted by Helga-woo at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Just a side note that if you want this thread to be useful for others, you might want to join your 'san' and 'francisco' tags to 'sanfrancisco'. You know, just so people find it and all.
posted by a_green_man at 1:12 PM on November 19, 2007

The Lower Haight one-two punch of the Toronado pub and Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door cannot be beat. Then you can walk up the street to see the rest of the Haight, Amoeba Records, and Golden Gate Park.

I also highly recommend a visit to the Mission District for one of their famous burritos. There are a number of good places to go, but my favorite is probably Taqueria Cancun. I wouldn't say that part of the Mission is the safest part of town (by a long shot), but you should be totally fine during the day and probably at night too. Just keep your wits about you and it'll be great.
posted by dhammond at 8:53 PM on November 20, 2007

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