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San Francisco: Must-Sees?

We're visiting San Fran in January! What do you recommend? What should we avoid?

From Joshua Counsil
Posted December 25, 2010 at 11:19 AM
Merry Christmas, TPI!

As some of you may remember, we take a small vacation each Christmas rather than exchange gifts. This year, our surprise destination is San Francisco.

I know it's not a theme park topic, but I've had luck getting advice from this site on various cities, including Las Vegas, D.C., and New York. What do you recommend? What are the must-sees? What are the must-skips? Attractions, restaurants, sites, sounds, smells - all recommendations are welcome (except hotels - we're already set up in that department).

BTW, before you get any ideas about visiting the L.A. theme parks, I should state that we're staying strictly in San Fran.


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted December 29, 2010 at 10:14 PM
Bump.

From James Rao
Posted December 30, 2010 at 7:48 AM
Josh, the last time I was in SF, I was 12 years old... that was, uh, thirty years ago. So, my info would be woefully out of date. However, there is one place I remember going to a few times, even now that I am an old man: the Winchester Mystery House. Now, I think it is actually closer to San Jose, but if you can make the trip you won't regret it.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted December 30, 2010 at 11:12 AM
Thanks for the response, James. As amazing as that mystery house sounds, there seems to be so much to do in San Fran that we're strictly limiting ourselves to locations reachable by walking or taking a cable car.

One of the challenges of deciding what to do is that each attraction seems to polarize critics and tourists. It's quite different from, say, Orlando, where most people can agree on which parks/attractions/restaurants excel. For example, The Unofficial Guide to San Francisco lists the Museum of Modern Art as a five-star (must-see) attraction, a difficult-to-attain rating in that guide. However, TripAdvisor.com lists it as only #88 in the top attractions. Frommer's gives the attraction a moderate recommendation, warning that "for the money the experience can be disappointing".

Therefore, I turn to the Insiders on this site, people whose reviews I know and trust. The success or miserable failure of this trip depends solely on your recommendations! No pressure, though.

From Nick Markham
Posted December 30, 2010 at 12:10 PM
First off, if you have the opportunity, you should try visiting either Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, California's Great America, or both if possible. Both have some good coasters and in my opinion are underrated. If you can only choose one, go with SFDK as that one is a park most find to be better, plus, you can pass up the opportunity to ride an elephant now can you!

Also, the Walt Disney Museum just opened up really close to the Golden Gate Bridge. The museum is all Disney related and shows pieces from Walt's career including some historical pieces of concept art and more for Disneyland and Disney World.

Other than that, the usual Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, and Ghiradelli Square are all must sees in San Francisco!

From James Rao
Posted December 30, 2010 at 12:31 PM
Understood, Joshua. Inside the city the only things I remember doing were eating Dungeness crab somewhere in Fishermans Wharf (maybe Pier 39 Crab House?), visiting the Wax Museum (I had nightmares), and touring Alcatraz. Other than that, I just remember walking... lots and lots of walking.

From M. Ryan Traylor
Posted December 31, 2010 at 1:05 PM
Ride the cable car.

There is also a "Vertigo" tour, seeing some of the exterior places that the movie was filmed. "Scottie's" apartment is one block from the bottom of the famous winding Lombard street. "Judy's" apartment building (The Empire) is now converted in Hotel Vertigo.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 1, 2011 at 11:55 PM
We have a couple of ideas. We're thinking of experiencing Fisherman's Wharf - the submarine and Musee Mecanique, in particular. We plan on hitting Alcatraz for the night tour, as well. The Academy of Sciences is likely going to be in the itinerary.

From Nick Markham
Posted January 2, 2011 at 9:18 AM
How could you of all people leave out the Walt Disney Museum!!

From Joshua Counsil
Posted January 2, 2011 at 11:26 PM
The Walt Disney Museum is on the maybe list. Certain sources recommended it highly while others said to skip it. The museum is easily a half-day attraction. Considering the amount of free things to do in San Fran, we may have to pass on it. However, it's up there on my list.

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