Beyond Alcatraz..request for travel suggestions for San Francisco

<p>Following graduation our family will be traveling to San Francisco. We plan on spending 5 days in San Francisco, 2 in the Carmel area and 2 at Yosemite. I really appreciated the suggestions on the Carmel thread and was hoping I could get some west coast advice on San Francisco. What not to miss with a family that includes two teenage boys. We plan on going to Alcatraz, Muir Woods and Sausalito. We have never been to California and are really excited about the trip ... but there is sooo much to chose from. It would really help if those of you in the area or familiar with it could share some of your favorite places. Things like favorite family restaurants, parks, shopping etc all would be appreciated.
Thanks,
suz</p>

<p>One thing we liked: renting bikes near Fishermen's Wharf (also fun to visit), biking along the bay and over the GG bridge, and down into Sausalito, and there taking the ferry (w/bikes) back to the starting point. Maybe 2 hrs of leisurly, mostly easy pedalling.</p>

<p>Wow, idler! It never occurred to me to rent bikes there. What a great idea! Last time we visited SF (We lived there a long time ago) we parked our car at Marina Green and walked to Fort Point and up to the Golden Gate Bridge, then returned. Your bike route covers that whole walk plus a lot more. Riding a bike or walking over the GG bridge is a real treat. :)</p>

<p>Golden Gate Park, especially the Japanese Tea Garden and a beautiful contemplative memorial garden for victims of Aids, is a wonderful place to visit. The SF Museum of Modern Art, the Exploratorium, and the Legion of Honor are great museums. It is a very tourista thing to do, but at least visit the Cliff House. The views of the Pacific are amazing and the restaurant has undergone a recent renovation. Your teenage sons will likely love Haight-Ashbury though I might suggest you let them go on their own. Finally, the best thing about San Francisco is the neighborhoods. North Beach, Chinatown, Castro, Pacific Heights are all great places to explore, shop, and EAT.</p>

<p>Just be aware that there are streets in SF up (or down!) which you do <em>NOT</em> want to have to ride a bike, LOL! Plan your route carefully and it should be a great daytrip.</p>

<p>There are many "famous" restaurants in North Beach. Ignore them all and look for a tiny jewel on Columbus Street, "L'Osteria del forno". It is closed on Tuesdays and because it is so small there will be a long wait. Whatever the wait is, it is worth it. BTW, they don't accept either reservations or credit cards.</p>

<ol>
<li> The Exploratorium, in particular the Tactile Dome. Of interest, and a great experience, for kids from 7 to adults. I have done several times. Both S and H really enjoyed it (S was early teen at the time). We went through twice that day. <a href="http://www.exploratorium.edu/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.exploratorium.edu/&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/li>
<li> Go to this hole-in-the-wall Taqueria. A real Mission area Mexican food experience (lunch only?). Financial District suits next to laborers next to tourists next to grandmothers. English spoken just enough to take orders.
Taqueria San Jose, 2830 Mission St.
S loved it, H couldn't go the first time. S couldn't wait to introduce H to his find the next year when we went back.</li>
<li>Chez Panisse "upstairs" in Berkeley. If your family are foodies and want to spend the $, and can get reservations, go to Chez Panisse downstairs, a more formal, prix fixe restaurant. But we like upstairs better: casual, food for every taste. Where American bistro cuisine began. Reservations needed.</li>
<li> While in Berkeley, check out Sather Gate part of UCB and stroll along Telegraph Avenue - nothing like it. May feel a little scuzzy, depending on your tastes, but it is a unique "culture."</li>
<li> If you can get a hold of back issue of Gourmet Magazine, San Francisco issue March 2002. Has tons of good info and ideas, "100 great things about SF"...
I am always envious of anyone traveling to SF or Ca in general. Lived there 20 years, get back once a year or so, and can never get enough.</li>
</ol>

<p>unsoccermom:L'Osterio del forno is just about my all-time favorite Italian restaurant.</p>

<p>I visited SF last year for college visits with my then junior daughter. We literally stumbled onto L'Osterio del forno. It was completely unexpected and the best food and dining experience we had in SF. Casual, but perfect. I keeping hoping to find something like it Boston.</p>

<p>Depending on the age of your kids: Roller blading in Golden Gate Park. Exploratorium -- wonderful hands-on science museum. Fort Point, Civil War era fort tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge. Dim Sum (Chinese brunch/lunch in which you pick items off of trays carried through the dining room) at Yank Sing restaurant. While in North Beach, duck into City Lights Bookstore, home of the Beats. Farmers market at the Ferry Building weekend mornings, when the owners of small restaurants come to buy gourmet ingredients and everyone else comes to ogle. Beach Blanket Babylon -- campy ongoing theater show in North Beach that is pure San Francisco. Look for free music events at either Golden Gate Park or Stern Grove.</p>

<p>Strong second to Beach Blanket Babylon! (haven't seen it in decades, didn't know it was still there, but I know they constantly update it) This would be GREAT for teen boys. sac - how hard is it to get reservations?</p>

<p>Ditto dim sum - if you don't come from an area with a major Chinese population, this is a new experience. And, of course, walk through Chinatown, preferably on a weekday morning, when the locals are shopping for food - you will see vegetables you've never seen, chickens/hens/ducks with heads/feet etc. still intact hanging at store entrances, etc.</p>

<p><a href="http://www.citylights.com/CLHst.html%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.citylights.com/CLHst.html&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>This is not your typical tourist attraction but it is a great monument to freedom of speech. Your kids might not appreciate it as much as going over to Berkeley and visiting the campus. (Look for a dinosaur in one of the libraries)</p>

<p>Vallejo is a short drive away and has an amusement park type animal prison. </p>

<p>Just north of the Golden Gate bridge you can wind your way to a light house by the coast.</p>

<p>If it is raining the exploratorium has some neat stuff including a museum and a planetarium.</p>

<p>Ride a trolley, don't try to drive and park too many places.</p>

<p>And then if they just have to play some arcade games or go to movies go to the Metreon. And, it's right next to the museum of modern art so you could go there....</p>

<p>I second Muir Woods, it's beautiful, unique to the area, and easy to get to from S.F. Also the Exploratorium, don't miss it! I remember the first time we visited and it was on my 'clipboard of fun' :), my kids rolled their eyes when I told them we were going to a science museum. After being there for several hours, they STILL did not want to leave! We visit everytime we're in the city now. Those are our top two places we love to return to when we visit the city by the bay.</p>

<p>I love these threads. I'm going to have to give the L'Osterio del forno a try. Sounds wonderful.</p>

<p>When at Yosemite, I strongly encourage a visit to Glacier Point. It is a somewhat long, curvey road from the valley, but well worth it for the view from on top. We were there at sunset and the effect of the setting sun on the surrounding mountains was spectacular.</p>

<p>Don't learn the lesson the hard way, Alcatraz requires reservations like many days in advance (4 when we were there) so plan ahead. If you go to Haight-Ashbury, watch out for the Heroin addicts asking you for money (they are pretty bold) Also be sure to stop off at Berkeley with your rental SUV, smoke a couple of cigarettes and make fun of the hippies. If you are going to do any walking watch out for insanely steep hills. SF is still one of my favorite towns to visit though.</p>

<p>Thank you all the great tips. I have printed the thread. The restaurants tips are especially appreciated, the travel guides generally focus on high end, or high volume, your tips sound perfect. I love italian and look forward to L'Osterio del forno, did not know what Dim Sum was
(that may sound strange but I'm in Florida) will look for Yank Sing, Taqueria and Chez Panisse "upstairs" also sound great. The parks are also noted and the suggestions about bike riding (sounds too good to be true) and rolling blading.
I wasn't sure we would go to Berkely but the City Lights bookstore sounds worth it. Joev we will be in a rented SUV:-) Has anyone been to the North Face Outlet? Is it any good? My son will be needing a winter jacket for College.
What about the Giants? I understand the stadium is beautiful, can tickets be picked up outside at game time or do we need to buy in advance?
Unfortunately, Beach Blanket Babylon is not playing on the dates we will be in town, but will look for those outdoor concerts.
Thanks to everyone.
Suz</p>

<p>Oh, the Giants. I haven't been to the new ballpark, but it looked great from the outside. Right in town (I think it's in "China Basin"), the new-style, which is designed to be like the old-style, ball park. Should be fun if there's a home game at the right time. When they used to be at Candlestick Park (ugh), you had to wear a parka and cover yourself in a sleeping bag in the middle of summer (wind tunnel). Assume that's not the case, but since you're from Florida, remember Mark Twain's (apocryphal?) line:
[quote]
The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.

[/quote]
Bring sweater/fleece/jacket.</p>

<p>If the Giants aren't in town, I like the Oakland A's for a day game - many happy memories of sitting in the bleachers in the sun. (Had the good fortune to be there in their heyday - 1980's).</p>

<p>Dim sum may only be on weekends? It's a kind of Sunday tradition - maybe one of the more current Bay Area residents will chime in on this.</p>

<p>btw, I find Sausalito can be a little disappointing for humans of the male persuasion, who don't want to stroll around and look at shops. Not that you shouldn't go there - you should! My recommendation would be to plan on it as a "see the Golden Gate bridge and Sausalito combo" with the Sausalito part being lunch/brunch/tea/drinks at the restaurant whose name I forget which is up on the hill and provides a wonderful view from the veranda. mardad, where are you? Just my opinion, and others may have ideas of what to do there.</p>

<p>Have a great trip!</p>

<p>City Lights Bookstore, by the way, is in SF, not Berkeley. I mentioned it because it's in North Beach, right near the Italian restaurant other people recommended.</p>

<p>Chez Panise IS in Berkeley, but be forewarned that even the upstairs is expensive and usually requires reservations, unless you plan on eating around 10 pm when it starts to clear out. North Face Outlet is also in Berkeley (not sure if they have one in SF, too) and it's hit or miss. I wouldn't make the trip over the bridge for it. If you do go, there's also a Royal Robbin outlet around the corner, which is tiny but has good prices on some winter stuff. Also in that area is REI which is where we usually go for winter gear. Large store full of clothes and equipment for all kinds of outdoor activities. It's not cheap, but good quality, usually has some good sales racks, and if you join you get dividends. Don't know if there's also one where you live, but they put out a catalogue.</p>

<p>If you come to Berkeley, you should definitely walk around the campus. If it's a nice day, and it's operating, take the elevator up the Campanile (the campus bell tower) for the view at the top. If you're looking for cheap eats on Telegraph Ave., you might try the Ethiopian restaurant called Blue Nile. (One of my son's favorites.) It's near Cody's (Telegraph and Haste), which is a great book store worth a visit if you're on the Ave. If you come on a weekend, arts and crafts merchants set up stalls along Telegraph. That's the kind of shopping I like when I go places -- lots of jewelry, leatherwork, other handmade items, and even the old tie-dyed tee-shirts to prove you've been to Berkeley. Like time travel!</p>

<p>The Giant's ballpark is, small, fun and also a great place to get a view. The higher up the better! Too bad that Bonds is not playing now, cause a lot of the fun is hoping he'll smash one out into the water. You can take the metro there. (For the most part, a car in San Francisco is a pain.) I think they leave some standing room only spots for last minute ticket buyers, or at least they did when the stadium was first built. With apologies to jmmom, not sure the Oakland Coliseum would be on my itinerary. But I'm not a die-hard baseball fan.</p>