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We are planning to cruise from San Francisco in April 2020.  We have never cruised from San Francisco and don't know the city. We will have 2 days pre-cruise. We've booked a hotel near SFO for the cheaper rates. We have a rental car. Are we going to regret being far from the tourist attractions ( Alcatraz, Muir Woods, Lombard Street, etc)? Should we book a more expensive hotel that is closer to everything? (Our travel companions refuse to share a bathroom, so that eliminates many boutique hotels) We will return the car to a rental site close to the Pier. 

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Not sure how we are going to know what you may, or may not, regret, as we know very little about you. Somethings, like Muir Woods, you could drive to just as easily from the airport  as anywhere else ( please do research here, and for Alcatraz...reservations are critical).  But others, that are more downtown focused, like Alcatraz and Lombard St,( which is also going to a fee system, and personally feel is over rated) you are going to want to be downtown. 

 

When we were younger, and time to travel was more limited, we tended to rent a car for everything and drive everywhere. Now we have gone back, and are exploring things "at ground level", using public transit,  taxis, uber, walking and hop on, hop off buses. And enjoying the heck out of it more.

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You really don’t want a rental car in San Francisco, though you absolutely want to stay there (SFO is 40 minutes driving from Alcatraz/the pier without traffic).  Driving is difficult... streets go up and down steep hills with dangerous blind intersections...and parking is near impossible and extremely expensive.  Just not worth the trouble.  OTOH, it’s an easy town to get around using public transportation (BART, buses, cable cars) and Uber... And SFO is a long way out of the City...so you’ll spend a lot of time to and fro...Stay in the City...Try Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf... or one of the hotels in the Marina (Cow Hollow Inn or its sisters) if you want budget friendly.  Also Airbnbs are common in the city. It’s worth the convenience.  If you really want to see Muir Woods...and have the time, take the ferry to Sausalito and Uber from there.

 

 

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I would not get a rental car if you plan to visit sites in downtown San Francisco.

 

You can get into downtown by Uber and once in the town do a lot by food or using the transportation mentioned above.

 

If it was me I would stay downtown.

 

You really have to prioritize what you want to see.

 

You could spend weeks sightseeing.

 

I also would not run from place to place.

 

Better to smell the flowers.  In other words do less but take what you do see in.

 

Keith

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A visit to Muir Woods now require advance reservations for entry unless you are part of a tour group.  I don't think you can drive there either and have to take the shuttle from Sausalito (reservations of course).  For getting a Lyft/Uber for the ride back as it is impossible, there is NO signal there.  

 

Parking is expensive and the parking meters have "dynamic" pricing:   Initially it could be $2 an hour, but later it can go up to $6 per half hour (major credit cards accepted).   Parking in a lot can run you $20+ for a couple of hours .  Plus if you drive a car into SF there's the random "tourist tax" of a smashed window and missing stuff.  🤬  The police won't do anything except take a report for your insurance claim.

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We visit SF often and while we do drive into the City we Uber or walk once we get there.  You don't want to drive around in the City as traffic is horrible and scary if you're not use to that type of traffic.  

 

I would try to stay in downtown if you can find something in your price range.  April is the start of high season so rooms that are going now for $250 could be double that in April and triple if there's a large convention in town.  

 

I'm Hilton brand loyal so if we think we want to go for a long weekend I will book way in advance if I see a decent price.  I just got a Jr Suite at Hilton Union Square for $275 in February.  I track prices weekly at the Hiltons in downtown and swap around if price dictates.  The Parc 55 in downtown has rooms as low as $175 in April 2020.  But than some dates are $550 per night.   Best prices are always on the weekends.  

 

Bottom line is stay out by SFO if price is good for you and no matter where you stay don't get a rental and Uber.  BTW: hotel parking in the City will probably be at least $60 per day.  If you stay out by the airport the Embassy Suites SFO Waterfront is very nice.  

Edited by ATSEAMYLIFE
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If you are coming out to San Francisco, I agree with everyone else, stay in the City ... not out by the airport, which isn't even in San Francisco.  

The City has so many public transportation options (BART, MUNI, cable cars, as well as Uber, and you probably wouldn't want to drive in downtown SF anyway, where all the sites are.  There are cable cars to share the road with, many one way streets, steep hills and very little parking ... not to mention really high numbers of car break ins (I hate to say it but that is the reality of it).  

I realize that hotels in the City are high priced but, this is something you will probably want to splurge on for the convenience of staying downtown / by the pier.  And, I wouldn't bother to rent a car while there.  Check Groupon / Living Social for deals on tours ... some which include Muir Woods.  Buy your tickets to Alcatraz well in advance on the official site (alcatrazcruises.com) as you won't be able to just walk up and expect to see any tickets available.  The Embarcadero is all flat and has a wide sidewalk along the waterfront that goes clear past the Ferry Building on one end and past Fisherman's Wharf on the other  end, with Pier 27 (the most commonly used cruiseship pier) being right about in the middle and all the sites on this stretch are pretty much within walking distance.  I would recommend the Hyatt Regency that is down by the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero.  It is close to BART, which happens to also have a station at SFO .... so, if you can handle your own luggage, that is a less expensive and convenient way to get to the City from the airport.  

 

Of note, I was listening to this report on the radio that ranked the most and least expensive cities as a tourist in the US ... Vegas was the least expensive and you guessed it, SF was the most.  The prices are crazy out this way but, you will be glad you splurged on it.  Once you get here, you will see what I mean.  

 

 

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Staying at the airport to visit San Francisco makes no sense unless you are a large family sharing one room. Are you sharing one room with your friends??? There are plenty of hotels in San Francisco where you do not have to share bathrooms. I don't even understand that comment??

You don't need a car in San Francisco at all.

You don't have to drive to Muir Woods.

You can actually see things in the city in your short 2 day visit.

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3 hours ago, knbcruisers said:

RE: bathroom sharing.......many of the low lead-in fares on sites like Hotels.com are for the smaller, older  hotels..  Once you read the details, those prices are for rooms with a shared bathroom down the hall.  

 

 

There are many hotels in SF with private bathrooms.  SF is expensive but, it's really where I would want to stay, that is, if I didn't live so close by and I would have to have a place with a private bathroom.  Not sure what days the OP is staying but, they should be able to find something for under $300 per night when taxes are included.  Again, this may not be the best portion of one's trip to try to save money.  

 

 

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Consider staying at Embassy Suites in Walnut Creek.  It's right at the BART Train Station... direct ride to SF.  Easy walk, Uber, cable car, trolley around from there.

Need to book Alcatraz 3 months in advance or more.

Lombard Street does not charge any fees... the Governor vetoed that fee.

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Not sure what dates you are travelling... I went to booking.com and found my fav San Francisco hotel on April 23 is $275 for a test night at the Parc 55 (part of the Hilton chain).  You might want to compare this hotel and those around Powell Station to your airport selection.

 

  • land at SFO
  • BART subway to Powell station
  • quick luggage drag out of the station to the Parc 55 across the street.  Back-up plan is the Hilton a block away.
  • sleep
  • $13 taxi, or luggage drag onto the F Line street cars to the cruise terminal the next morning.

Powell station hotels also have the benefit of being the terminus to the cable cars!  Also a short walk to Chinatown for Dim Sum and fortune cookies.

Edited by xlxo
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A supplementary question or 2 for the San Francisco locals, if I may.  We have 3 nights in the city before flying to YVR to pick up a Celebrity cruise to Alaska.

1 - We have booked Hilton Financial District at a good price - seems an OK if not perfect location.  Sort of central to most things if not close to any (we don't mind a bit of a walk).  Are we "on the money" with this assessment and will it be OK for 2 days of sightseeing?

 

2- We have an 0800 flight on a Sunday from SFO - will a taxi be easy to get around 0530 to get us to the airpor tin time for check-in etc?  I gather there is a fixed price pre-booking service for $35 (plus tip) for transfers from the city to SFO.

 

Thanks in advance.

Edited by Aus ATC
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You will like the Hilton Financial District we have stayed there often.  It just went through a major remodel and is a beautiful property.  The bar lounge off the lobby has pretty good bar food and I recall they gave us coupons at check in for two free appetizers.  You are correct that there's not much to walk to around the hotel.  If you can walk a little then it's about 3/4 mile from HFD to Union Square.  

 

We also stay at the Hilton Union Square, which is much more central to a few things for walking and has the best (tallest) 360 degree rooftop lounge in the City.  

 

If you are at the HFD make a reservation for dinner at the Stinking Rose (you better love garlic).  It's just around the corner from HFD and usually packed so make a reservation on Open Table.    

 

Your ride to the airport on Sunday morning shouldn't be any issue.  SF streets will be pretty much vacant at 0530 hrs.  Can't speak to price as we usually Uber around the City.  

Edited by ATSEAMYLIFE
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The Hilton Financial District is literally across the street from Chinatown.  As mentioned, the Stinking Rose, is a few blocks away in North Beach, aka: Little Italy.  Half a block from Stinking Rose is Molinari Delicatessen, an old style Italian deli. Along Columbus Ave and Upper Grant Ave are Italian coffee and pastry shops. 

 

Behind the hotel is the Transamerica Pyramid (the pointy building you see in the pictures) and next to it is Jackson Square or what used to be known as the Barbary Coast/Red Light District.  It's antique and interior design shops now.  

 

If you're into walking up hills, take a right as you exit the hotel and just walk north towards Telegraph Hill or just straight ahead through Chinatown to Russian Hill.  Or left about two blocks to California Street to Nob Hill.  I would take the cable car up California St :classic_wink:

 

 

Edited by Philob
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10 hours ago, Aus ATC said:

...

1 - We have booked Hilton Financial District at a good price - seems an OK if not perfect location.  Sort of central to most things if not close to any (we don't mind a bit of a walk).  Are we "on the money" with this assessment and will it be OK for 2 days of sightseeing?

...

We recently stayed in the other Hilton mentioned above (Union Square) but walked past your one several times to meet SF City Guide walking tours (there are several with starting points in Chinatown, at Transamerica pyramid and other locations close to or in the Financial District) which I would heartily recommend.

 

I'd also suggest a dinner at Trestle - by far the best value nice dinner in the city, and despite the very limited menu they are very happy to customize for dietary issues (I'm diabetic, so they gave me an extra appie instead of dessert and removed all the starchy carbs from every course) and an easy walk from your hotel. There's also an excellent modern Greek resto, Kokkari, very close by.

 

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I'll pile on here...

I've stayed in the Hilton Financial District MANY times...dating back many years (believe it ot not, prior to becoming a Hilton, it was a Holiday Inn...and I used to tell people it was the NICEST Holiday Inn in the Chain)...The location, as others have said, is outstanding.  Lots of things are very walkable from there.  I'd also go along with the Stinking Rose recommendation...but, there are also a good many other great (mostly Italian) restaurants in that same area (North Beach)...We've often just walked around following our nose and checking out menus and have had some great meals...

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9 hours ago, scottca075 said:

Close to the HFD are good Chinese spots like Good Mong Kok(takeout only), Hunan Home's, Hong Kong Clay Pot and R & G Lounge.

And the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Ross Alley in Chinatown.  The factory is a small storefront, but you can watch the ladies make fortune cookies the old fashion way from the doorway.  Buy a bag or two of the "rejects", taste the same, but no fortunes.  There are also the "naughty" fortunes too 😎

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I'd lose the car and book a hotel in SF proper within maybe a mile or so radius of Union Square.  Since you'll only get to this one way or the other, I don't think you truly appreciate what a bad idea it is to stay near the airport.  SF is one of the worst if not the very worst city for "staying near the airport" when actually coming to visit.  I say that as someone who has been to virtually every metropolitan area in the U.S. and have staying in many downtowns and many airport hotels. 

 

To make matters worse, it is expensive taking SF public transportation.  And contrary to what many blogs and even natives will tell you, public transportation sucks in my opinion. It is confusing as you have cable cars, street cars, buses, light rail, CalTrain and Bart.  And to make matters worse, they all pretty much operate independently and the cost is pretty significant with no day pass. 

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19 hours ago, grannycroozer said:

Thank you, everyone. We moved our hotel to one closer to the action. You were a lot of help.

 

While it hurts the pocketbook a bit, I don't think you will regret that decision.  Once you get to SFO, you will see why most were discouraging you to stay way out there away from everything you probably want to do.

 

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