A few weeks back during the preview for the Cal game, an impromptu discussion popped up regarding things to see/do/eat while in the bay area for the game. I've now lived in the bay area almost as long as I lived in Cbus growing up. Sadly, I still don't feel like a local and I don't know San Francisco quite as well as I should having been here for so long. Being married, having kids, and living in the burbs sort of gets in the way of a cool, urban lifestyle. Nevertheless, I thought I'd create a forum with some suggestions for our fans traveling for the game. Based on the last discussion, there are quite a number of you who have much better insights to offer than my own, so I'm counting on you all to chime in with your must-sees and hidden gems. With the game a little over a week away, I'm guessing you all have your itineraries set already, but nevertheless here are my suggestions:
If you're just going to be in SF for the weekend and only plan on going to the game and maybe seeing some of the city, skip the car. It will cost a fortune to park. You can take BART to Berkeley and walk to the stadium. The city itself is very walkable and there are a ton of public transportation options. You can even take BART to/from the airport. It's really your best bet unless you plan on getting out of the city for a bit. In that case, definitely rent a car. You'll have so many more options.
Things to do
This will all depend on how long you're here. If only for the weekend, then try to see as much of the city as possible. Fisherman's Wharf/Ghiradelli Square are the obvious choices and are very easy to do. You can even see those during the early part of Saturday before heading over to the game. When you get to Berkeley, take some time to check out the campus and explore the neighborhood before heading to the stadium. If you have more time, I would recommend trying to take in the entire area along Embarcadero all the way to Chrissy Field and up to the Golden Gate bridge. Rent a bike and ride all along the northern tip of the peninsula, going through the Marina and the Palace of Fine arts along the way. It's flat until you get to the bridge. And if you do rent a bike, you may as well ride across the bridge. It's a pretty cool experience. If you don't mind hills, ride up and through the Presidio to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Incredible views.
If at all possible, go to Alcatraz. It's the coolest tourist trap around and worth every penny. You'll get to take a ferry across the bay and get a bird's eye view of both the Golden Gate and the new span of the Bay Bridge. The ride alone is almost worth the excursion. Check it out, but buy tickets now if you haven't already. It sells out most weekends, particularly now when the weather is really nice.
If you have more time, there are certainly other areas of the city to explore. The Haight and Golden Gate Park are right next to each. At the other end of the park is Ocean Beach. Again, bike is the best way to navigate through the park in my opinion. I'm a little weak when it comes to other things to see in the city itself. Whenever I have visitors, we usually end up in the obvious tourist spots mentioned above.
Hopefully, you'll have more than just a day or two. If so, then get out of the city and head north. Napa is a day trip so that's a commitment you'll have to make in advance, but highly recommended, especially this time of the year. There are some great shorter excursions though. Head north across the Golden Gate and take highway 1 along the coast. Stop in Muir Woods to see the redwoods. You can then continue along 1 to Stinson Beach (or just hike if you are so inclined...but it's a long hike). It's an amazing drive along the cliffs and a relatively short round trip. Sausilito is a very popular spot just across the bridge and worth seeing even if only for the view of the city, however, if you're going that way, I would recommend going to Tiburon instead. It's a lot like Sausilito, but smaller, quainter, and less touristy. There are some good restaurants in town and if nothing else, stop into Sam's and have a drink. I lived in Tiburon for a few years and didn't really know how big of a deal Sam's was until I left. Mill Valley is also a really cool little town at the base of Mt. Tamalpais and a short drive from Tiburon. You could easily see both in a short span of time.
If you have even more time, then your options are endless. The drive south from the city on highway 1 to Half Moon Bay and even further to Santa Cruz is fantastic. You could spend 2 or 3 days in Napa alone. In my opinion, there is nothing worth seeing in the east bay apart from the Buckeyes in Berkeley so either stay in SF or head north or south along the coast and you'll be happy.
Places to eat:
I'll have to defer to the 11W foodies who surely know more about dining options in SF than I do. I just don't make it into the city often enough. I do have a few suggestions though. There was a lot of discussion last week about burritos. At the risk of sounding like a snob, you can probably throw a dart out of the window and hit a better burrito than anything you'll find on High Street. If Mexican is your thing, then you have ample options in the bay area. That said, the one place I recommend above all else is Taqueria Cancun. There are two locations in the city, one in the Mission and one on Market at 6th Street. I've only been to the one on Market and I'm told that the Mission location is better. Never had a burrito there though. I always get the super tacos. Al Pastor and Chorizo are my favorites. I can't say enough about these tacos. I challenge you to find a better taco anywhere. Anywhere! Asian food is obviously a big deal here. For dim sum, I recommend Yang Sing. It's popular and expensive but damn good. I don't have any great sushi recommendations, but the seafood here is always fresh. That certainly doesn't mean that every sushi place is good, but there are many options. One of my favorite restaurants in SF is Limon in the Mission. It's a Peruvian/tapas place. Great food, not too expensive, but extremely long waits sometimes.
I wish I had more to offer in the way of food. I know this was the one topic a lot of people had questions on. I'm hoping others will chime in with some suggestions.
I don't drink so I'm the last person to address this question. However, some of the best wine in the world is made just an hour north of the city. The wine selection just about anywhere you go is fantastic. And there are some great microbrews in the bay area. If Belgian beer is your thing, you have to check out The Trappist in Oakland. I don't know Belgian beer from tap water, but from what my friends say, you won't find a better selection of beers anywhere else.
September in the bay area is largely considered the nicest month of the year, even in SF. The days will likely start foggy, but that will burn off by mid-day and you'll have sun and warm weather pretty much everywhere. SF itself is the wild card. Don't think that just because you're in California you'll be able to cruise around in a t-shirt and shorts in the city. You almost never can. SF is usually damn cold. On game day, you might start in the city where it will be in the mid 60's and then get to the stadium and it's suddenly in the 80's. Or you might have an 80 degree day in SF, in which case it's in the 90s across the bay. The weather here is weird. I feel like a parent saying to dress in layers, but it's true. And it always gets cool at night. This is actually what I miss most about summers back home. At night, you can still go out it in shorts there. Not so much here. But just know that you're coming at the best time of the year and the weather should be great for whatever you have planned.
I hope everyone enjoys the trip out here. More importantly, I hope the Bucks win, thus making the travel worthwhile. Safe travels and see you at the game. I'll be the one wearing scarlet and gray.