San Francisco is a large city some seventy miles from Davis. SF is in many ways the heart of the Bay Area. Many students, tiring of the bucolic existence offered by this town, gaze longingly westward. San Francisco is often called "the City" by residents of Northern California. Calling SF "Frisco" is a high misdemeanor and will result in a hefty fine of $25, payable to the Imperial Treasury. Most folks will figure out what you're talking about, no matter which way you refer to San Francisco. It's a huge place with many different kinds of people.
San Francisco is known for its unique climate; especially in summer, when it has the coldest average temperatures of any major U.S. city, along with frequent fog and wind; thus catching off-guard many a tourist expecting warm California sunshine and thus wearing T-shirts and shorts. But the winters are only slightly cooler than the summers, and frost is a rarity. As a whole, compared to Davis' seasons, San Francisco experiences much cooler summers and somewhat warmer winters.
Things to Do
Class A Tourist Traps
- Alcatraz - Go once
- Ghirardelli Square - also avoidable. Visit, sample, and go buy identical chocolates at the local Safeway for less money. The hot cocoa at the restaurant is pretty darn tasty on a chilly day, though.
- Fisherman's Wharf - Tacky tourist shops and overpriced seafood on Pier 39, you can do better practically anywhere else in the city. Pier 23 has the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien and the USS Pampanito, both very cool. The O'Brien is especially cool when the engine is running.
- Union Square - It was pretty much destroyed when the Powers redid it in 2001 to make it less attractive to protesters, etc. There is some excellent food right there, though. If you feel like leaving your life savings behind, try Le Colonial.
- Lombard Street - Come drive the one curvy block, just like everyone else.
Class B Tourist Traps
- Fort Point/Chrissy Field - very nice
- Coit Tower - the best part are the murals
- North Beach - food, yay!
Chinatown - Dim Sum, cheap goods, chickens hanging on hooks
- The Fortune Cookie Factory - meet the guy who types up all those fortune cookies
- If you want Chinese stuff without having to elbow people out of the way, head over to Irving street in the Sunset district or Clement street in the Richmond district. You'll pay a bit more but it's less crowded and has better parking.
- Palace of Fine Arts - The Exploratorium is cool, the architecture is pretty, and on weekends you can play "count the wedding party photo shoots".
- Haight-Ashbury - See hippies
- Broadway east of Columbus - Mass Nakedness
Golden Gate Park - It's a REALLY big park.
- There are quite a few homeless people camped out in the park so it's best to be vigilant when exploring trails that look to be off the beaten path.
- If you tire of the park, there's a nice beach just west of it. While it's cold and gray 90% of the time, it's quite nice the remaining 10% of the time. See Ocean Beach in the next section.
- The Audium - The most underground music experience in SF
- Metreon - Shopping Center with the largest multiplex in San Francisco
Where all the cool kids hang out
- Exploratorium - Hands down the coolest place in SF, probably the whole Bay Area; don't miss this.
- The Mission District
- Bars and Clubs
Castro - The West Coast Gay Mecca
- The Castro Theatre - the Castro District's beautiful old movie palace built in 1922; there's always an interesting film festival or event happening there; the theatre is also host to the annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival.
Stonestown Galleria - "the Mall." The only place to hang out that's west of Twin Peaks.
- If you tire of the mall experience, there's another nearby hang-out: Walk down 19th Ave. to the SFSU campus and check out the Student Center; there's usually something going on during the week.
- SF Museum of Modern Art - Very good, very active museum; great place to spend a Saturday; located just off Market and short walk from Powell or Montgomery BART stations
- Ocean Beach - A beautiful, if usually freezing cold, break from city life that runs from The Cliff House restaurant to Daly City. You'll see die-hard surfers in the day, bonfires at night, and the wonderful smell of the ocean at all times.
By Public Transit
By train, purchase a ticket from Davis to Emeryville and hop on an Amtrak shuttle bus to get across the Bay Bridge. The shuttle bus is also called the Route 99 Motorcoach Connection, if you're looking at a Capitol Corridor train schedule. It will drop you off in a few places in downtown San Francisco. They are (headed westbound):
- Financial Building - Hyatt
- Ferry Building Annex
- Pier 39
- Shopping Center @ 4th and Market
- Moscone Center
- Caltrain Depot
Keep in mind that Route 99 doesn't hit up each of those six stops every time — you'll have to check the schedule for details. Each of the bus stops is marked by a sign reading "Amtrak bus stop" so you know you're in the right place. If you don't have a ticket, you'll just need to show an ID to ride. Depending on the time of day you travel, it will probably take 30-45 minutes between Emeryville and San Francisco.
Alternatively, you can also connect to BART via Amtrak at the Richmond station where the train platforms are connected.
Take the Baylink Ferry from Vallejo for a scenic trip to San Francisco.
To get to the city by car, simply follow Interstate 80 west. There are two toll bridges on this path: the Carquinez Bridge and the Bay Bridge. The toll for the Bay Bridge varies throughout the day and over the weekend; with it being $4 before and after rush hour, $6 between 5am-10am and 3pm-7pm, and $5 all day Saturday and Sunday. Fare for the Carquinez Bridge is only collected on the way back towards Davis, the fare being a flat $5. To save a toll on your return trip, take Highway 101 north to Highway 37 east [Vallejo] to connect up with Interstate 80 eastbound. Of course, you'll probably use up the same amount of money in gas, though this alternate route is quite a pleasant drive.
If traffic is heavy on Interstate 80 westbound, exit Highway 37 west in Vallejo or 101 south in Novato — it takes a little longer, but generally has less traffic on weekends. The Golden Gate Bridge toll going into SF is $6. This is a fun route to take tourists on their first trip to the city. It is a more dramatic entrance, plus you can go up into the highlands and take some killer pictures of the city and bridge. Be forewarned however: Highway 37 is one lane each direction, and can get backed up, especially if there is an event at Infineon Raceway just off Highway 37.
One can also drive as far as Martinez and connect to BART at the North Concord/Martinez station just over the Benicia Bridge; a one-way fare to SF starts at $4.60 (North Concord to Embarcadero).
To get to the city on your bike, see the Bicycle Rides page.
The best ways to get around the City are bus/streetcar, Muni, and BART, a superb public transit system by American standards. There are also a lot of taxi cabs available.
Also, try the Cable Cars.
- Bay-to-Breakers - 3rd Sunday in May (since 1912) - Race/Drink fest across the city. Watch for centipedes.
- Chinese New Year - Usually somewhere from late January to mid February - A huge parade through Chinatown; a lot of fun.
- Cherry Blossom Festival - April, held in Japantown
- Dine About Town - Many of the City's best restaurants offer prix fixe 2-course lunches and/or 3-course dinners for relatively reasonable prices (in 2011, $18 for lunch, $35 for dinner, up a bit from 2009 and before).
- Folsom Street Fair - Last Sunday in September - Leather festival. Pretty much adults-only street fair with "fun, frolic, and fetish."
Halloween in the Castro - The BEST Halloween gathering I know of, at least until they made it "official" and fenced it off.
- In 2006 gunfire killed 9 people and from 2007 to present the party is cancelled. The greater implication of a government "cancelling" the celebration of a centuries old holiday is left to the reader.
Pride Parade - Typically the last weekend in June - Possibly the biggest, best in the world. Everyone comes out to see this one!
- Dykes-on-Bikes - Also known as the Women's Motorcycle Contingent. They typically lead the parade, there is also a ride the night before. Think hundreds of women in silly costumes (or lack there of) riding motorcycles.
- Pink Party - Takes place in Castro district the night before the Gay Pride parade. Involves lots of dressing up, drinking, and same sex action.
- Saint Stupid's Day - April 1st - Parade, celebration
- SF Carnaval Parade and Festival - last weekend of May - In the Mission District. The parade goes around and along Mission St. The festival is along Harrison St. and has market stands, music, food, and free giveaways. It's a great opportunity to buy cultural items (clothes, decorations, etc.) and see different costumes and dances.
- The Great Dickens Christmas Fair - Takes place in the Cow Palace, weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Charles Dickens era Christmas themed fair, food, theatre, music, shopping, and interactive street theatre.
- Urban Iditarod - First Sunday of March - Unofficial event, where instead of dogs carrying a person on a sled, people are pulling a shopping cart with a keg across the city.
- Big Wheels Race- Occurs on a sunny day in April at Vermont St. Watch grown people race down crooked Vermont Street on Big Wheels.
- San Francisco Wiki
- San Francisco on Wikipedia
- Official SF City & County Website
- UC San Francisco
- San Francisco International Airport
- 511.org - publicly-funded SF Bay Area travel guide. Choose "511 Transit Trip Planner" from the "Transit" menu to find out how to get from point A to point B with public transportation.
- Public Transit Maps
- Yelp (for reviews about everything from restaurants to hotels)
- Web cam on San Francisco - beautiful shot of The City and Bay Bridge from Marin, updated every 60-seconds.
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