For those traveling for the Cal game...

Brutus's picture
September 4, 2013 at 11:41a

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:

Getting around

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.

Watering holes:

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.

Comments Show All Comments

zack_man99's picture

Is it a long walk from BART to the stadium?

mshaf's picture

Brutus, I`m driving over from Turlock and visiting my daughter in Pleasanton Hills. We are taking Bart from there. I`m glad you brought up about the weather. I went over to Frisco when Bonds was chasing down McGwire and spent the coldest night at a baseball game I have ever been at. Ended up buying a Giants sweat shirt that got tossed after the game ( Pirate fan ).

Brutus's picture

Funny you mention this.  It's a long standing joke around here that most first time visitors to San Francisco will leave with a crappy fleece that has "SF" emblazoned over an image of the Golden Gate.  They sell these things everywhere for a lot more than they are worth.  Why? Because everyone comes here expecting a sunny California experience and end up freezing their arses off.  Glad to see you had the good sense not to buy one.  

BABuckeye's picture

People in SF get all worked up when some refers to the City as "Frisco." If you want to avoid the dirty looks, try SF or San Fran.  Of course, if you want to piss off some snobby little hipster, then...
The fog season has ended (July and August) September and October comprises summer in SF.  It should be warm, sunny, and mostly fog free.  Berkeley is less foggy than the City anyway. 
Aside from the fog, California gets cool at night (even in Southern California), so it is a good idea to keep a sweater or jacket nearby.
The game is a late afternoon game so the sun will set during the game.  When it does, it could blind half the stadium, and make the shaded half very chilly. So in addition to a sweater or jacket, I recommend taking sun glasses to the game.

mshaf's picture

About a mile Zack man

zack_man99's picture

thanks man!  i had to ask, got a bit of a heart issue, do not want to exhaust myself.

Brutus's picture

Zack, Berkeley itself is pretty hilly in spots. The walk to the stadium is actually on a slow but steady incline and you'll have to climb a lot of stairs depending on where you sit. It is all very manageable and not too strenuous as long as you don't try to do it in a hurry.  Just give yourself time to go at your own pace and you'll be fine.  Just FYI.

mshaf's picture

I think there may be shuttles from Bart to the stadium. You can go to the Bart website and check.

Paulillo's picture

Awesome post Brutus! I've lived in SF for the past 9 years and have fallen in love with the city and the bay area in general. I'll try to fill in the watering holes section, since that is one of my favorite pastimes. I've focused on SF, since that's where I live and would recommend people stay because there's more going on here and taking the BART to the game is easy. I've limited myself to 3 bars for each category, but if anyone has questions on any particular place I'd be happy to chime in. Yelp links are included for each spot, so you can get a better feel for what they're like. Here are some of my favorites:
Cocktail Bars
-Alembic - this is a great spot in Upper Haight near Amoeba Records (great record store!) and the entrance to Golden Gate Park. They make a mean Old Fashioned and serve good food. They're owned by the same people that own Magnolia Brewery (just down the street), so they usually have some of their beers available too.
-Tradition - this is a swanky spot with 2 floors and an outstanding cocktail menu. It has a really cool atmosphere. However, it is in the Tenderloin neighborhood, which is sketchy. So, be careful.
-HiLo Club - this is a neighborhood spot for me and is run by super cool people. They have a number of house cocktails and a good beer selection in a low key atmosphere.
Dive Bars
-Doc's Clock: great spot in the Mission that has a shufflepuck table (best bar game ever) and a non-internet jukebox, which is always a welcome site. Lots of seating too.
-Vesuvio/Specs - these spots are across the street from each other, so they make for a nice 1-2 punch and are both SF institutions. They are in North Beach, which is the Little Italy of SF and a cool neighborhood to visit. Vesuvio is where all the Beat writers used to hang out and has an antique sort of vibe. Spec's feels more like a cool thrift store and has a cheese wheel.
-Edinburgh Castle - hipster spot in the Tenderloin with a good whiskey/scotch selection. Lots of seating with a pool table and darts. 2 floors with a cool atmosphere.
Beer Bars
-Amsterdam Cafe - right across the street from Edinburgh Castle; this place has a ton of good beers on tap. It's brightly lit, so it does feel more like a cafe, but it's a chill spot to try some beers.
-Rosamunde Mission - there's a Rosamunde in Lower Haight too, but they don't serve beer, so you want the one in the Mission. They have a good selection on tap and also serve some delicious sausages and the best french fries in the city. Small patio in the front with large picnic tables inside.
-Shotwell's - cozy spot in the Mission that may not have as many beers on tap as other places in the city, but always a good selection and just a nice looking place to have a beer. 

labuck's picture

North Beach is pretty good for a pub crawl and good eats as well.  This place has some great pizza. Dont wait in line to go inside the restaurant just order it from next door and eat outside. There is also a Rogue Brewery restaurant with all the Rogue beers.  I would highly recommend it if you like Rogue.  Also, this place has the best Cioppino I have ever had in my life and would highly recommend it to anyone in the north beach area.  There are a couple of dive bars in the North Beach area as well.  Lastly it is very close to fisherman's wharf/ghiradelli square so you can walk to all of these places.  My girlfriend and I walked to all of these places as well as Lombard st. (same general vicinity) in an afternoon.  Just be ready to walk up or down some hills.  Buses and cabs are very convenient as well.  We stayed in Nob Hill and just walked toward the water.  Super easy walk (all downhill) through the edge of China Town and it took about 20 mins.

Brutus's picture

Thank you both for the insights.  This is exactly the type of input I was hoping for.  I like to have an agenda when I travel, particularly when it comes to food. Exploring new cities is great but nothing ruins a good vacation for me like walking into a restaurant not knowing what to expect and walking out disappointed.  I swear by Yelp nowadays.

hetuck's picture

couple things I've read:
1. America's Cup. My understanding is the HQ is at pier 29, but the race can be seen anywhere along the bay front. The boats they are using push the safety envelope and will get near 50 mph. One guy was killed earlier in the year.  Sort of like a nautical NASCAR race without restricter plates. There will be a race Saturday, wind-dependent.
2. BART parking. There is no parking at the downtown Berkeley station. Use either North Berkeley or El Cerrito.    

Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.

Vince Lombardi

doodah_man's picture

In fact,the finals (race 1 and 2) are this weekend. The boats are incredible.

Jim "DooDah" Day

"If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio.” --Wilbur Wright, 1910

pjtobin's picture

My cousin lives somewhere around there? I talked with him about the wife and I camping at his place for the weekend. I thought it would be fun. And I have never been to an away game. So what a perfect opportunity I thought. My cousin was in. His wife was in. My wife was in. I was in. My funds were not in! Owning my own remodeling business often times means I am just getting by. If I would have had a better spring/ summer I would have gone. I was looking forward to seeing some of Cali. I have never been there. Oh well. There is always next year!

Bury me in my away jersey, with my buckeye blanket. A diehard who died young. Rip dad. 

CALPOPPY's picture

Well, when you do go to California, post on here and ask about places. I lived in the Sacramento area for 9 years and have been to every region of the state. I know lots of the natural areas and have been to many of the tourist places, although not as much in SoCal. However, there are many people on here that have been to those places so just ask. That's the beauty of a large fan base.

I'm a hurtin' buckaroo.

Zimmy09's picture

I know it has been said a few times but everyone remember to bring a jacket, sweatshirt, long sleeves...something.  I lived up in N.California for 10 years and never went to the Bay area without some sort of sleeves on.  Even if it is hot at first it will get cold quick. Beautiful area though, you all will love it.  I will be bringing the wife and son up from Hawaii to attend the game.  

AeroBuckeye2001's picture

Thanks for the tips, definitely helpful. I'll be in SF Thursday through Monday, so I definitely plan on making the trip to Napa.

The Ohio State University Class of 2001

BS Aero & Astronautical Engineering

labuck's picture

Get a driver if you plan on doing tastings unless you have a planned DD.  Limos are a pretty good option.

KBonay's picture

My favorite Sushi in SF is Mas Sake. It's loud, it's small and the servers are something special :
Nice place to grab a beer, day (really fun day crowd) or night. I didn't eat here but it's rated in the top 100 and was featured on TLC :

BKLYN_Buckeye's picture

BEST COFFEE IN AMERICA: Philz Coffee (1600 Shattuck Ave Ste 100, Berkeley, CA)

dwcbuckeye's picture

I have lived in SF since 2004 and it is a beautiful City.  Just like everyone has said, be prepared for some potential coolness (fog) and wind.  You never know.  Wanted to mention another place to go and meet some fellow Buckeyes.  There is an Alumni group meeting the Friday night before the game at Pedro's Cantina.  I have heard Chimdi Chekwa will be in attendance.  This is a Mexican bar/restaurant across from the SF Giant stadium.  Wear your 11W swag and see you there!