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San Francisco Anniversary Trip
Old 03-07-2014, 07:21 PM   #1
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San Francisco Anniversary Trip

OK, so we have settled on the San Fransisco area for our anniversary trip in September. We are looking for a place to stay that is conducive to touring both the city and the wine country. We plan to have 5 days in total for the trip. Any recommendations on where to target our lodging search? We aren't crazy about small hotel rooms, we would rather rent a house or suite if possible (read, not astronomically priced).
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Old 03-07-2014, 08:01 PM   #2
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If you want to be between the city and wine country, then somewhere in Marin County might work out for you (San Rafael maybe).
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Old 03-08-2014, 06:56 AM   #3
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If you want to be between the city and wine country, then somewhere in Marin County might work out for you (San Rafael maybe).
I concur. Marin County has it all and is within easy access to both locations. Plus amazing access to outdoor activities, what with 75% or so of it's land being designated as open space. Sausalito is closest town to Golden Gate Bridge, but we crowded and touristy as a result. Mill Valley and Tiburon are both terrific options, with further out, slightly less upscale San Rafael and Novato being next in line. You really can't go wrong staying anywhere in Marin Cty IMHO.
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Old 03-08-2014, 10:33 AM   #4
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I concur. Marin County has it all and is within easy access to both locations. Plus amazing access to outdoor activities, what with 75% or so of it's land being designated as open space. Sausalito is closest town to Golden Gate Bridge, but we crowded and touristy as a result. Mill Valley and Tiburon are both terrific options, with further out, slightly less upscale San Rafael and Novato being next in line. You really can't go wrong staying anywhere in Marin Cty IMHO.
Thanks for the suggestions, I will center our search in the Marin Co. area. 1 question, would Sausalito be overrun with tourists in September or has the crowd thinned a little bit by then?
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:24 AM   #5
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Thanks for the suggestions, I will center our search in the Marin Co. area. 1 question, would Sausalito be overrun with tourists in September or has the crowd thinned a little bit by then?
September is one of the nicest months weather-wise in the Bay Area, so you can still expect sizable crowds, though a bit thinner than during the summer months.
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Old 03-08-2014, 11:34 AM   #6
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Thanks for the suggestions, I will center our search in the Marin Co. area. 1 question, would Sausalito be overrun with tourists in September or has the crowd thinned a little bit by then?
We spent a month in next door Mill Valley in April, so slightly off high season. Sausalito was packed on the weekends, less so during the week. I would imagine September would be same.
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:20 PM   #7
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There is an Embassy Suites hotel in San Rafael/Marin County. Stayed there many times, breakfast and cocktails included. I have flown into Sacramento on occasion rather than deal with the City. Beautiful area. Enjoy!
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:29 PM   #8
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I should have added we rented an apt using VRBO.com. Lots of Bay Area rentals in all kinds of price ranges, usually inclusive of cable, WiFi, small kitchen, laundry and parking. We're sold on renting via this website after our Mill Valley rental experience. It was hassle free, and the unit was everything the website said it would be.
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:42 PM   #9
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Mid-Sept through Mid-Oct is the best time to visit San Francisco. It has most chance of being sunny and clear. It is also warmer then vs summer when it is typically overcast and cooler temps. SF is a city to walk around, so wear good shoes and experience at the street level. Walk through Chinatown, see the side streets and alleys, not just the main drag. North Beach just past Chinatown has some of the best Italian restaurants you will find. Also some great neighborhood bars to stop and rest with a drink of your choice. Pier 39 is touristy, but fun to see the seals and some of the attractions around. Fisherman's Wharf is just down the road and has some good sights and food options. Get a crab bowl in a sourdough bowl on the street there. Just a bit further down is Ghirardelli Square and the home of the chocolate company. Also a bit touristy, but some neat shops. The Cable car has a stop at Ghirardelli. Cable car is fun to do once, expect to wait in long line. Cable car museum is right by Chinatown, is free and it is actually the place where the cables are powered from and you can see some of the actual operational equipment. CC museum is also free. Civic Center and Market st is where all the shoppoing and designer stores are at. SF is really a town that you can walk, it does have hills, but try it and have fun.

As for the wine country, I will offer an alternative from Napa Valley area. NV is way touristy, has the huge wineries and all of them charge money. Go to Livermore valley, it has smaller wineries, that are not so touristy. Very good wineries and wines, but at a slower pace and more intimate feel. You can actually talk with owner and winemakers themselves. Some charge, but many are more like the older times. You can stay in Livermore, Pleasanton or Dublin and take BART (the bay area version of subway-like public transportation) into SF, going under the bay in the trans-bay tunnel. Driving and parking in SF is pain and expensive. BART is great to avoid the hassles.

Napa Valley is beautiful to see and some of the wineries are incredible. Just be prepared for the more commercialized feel. If you stay in Marin County, Sausalito is crowded and will be expensive vs further north like San Rafael or Novato.
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Old 03-08-2014, 07:52 PM   #10
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The Cable car has a stop at Ghirardelli. Cable car is fun to do once, expect to wait in long line. Cable car museum is right by Chinatown, is free and it is actually the place where the cables are powered from and you can see some of the actual operational equipment. CC museum is also free. Civic Center and Market st is where all the shoppoing and designer stores are at. SF is really a town that you can walk, it does have hills, but try it and have fun.
+1 on the walking. Also, if you want to avoid long lines, the cable cars on the California line are much less crowded than the ones on the Powell/Hyde line.

If you go to Napa, forget about the Saint Helena Highway. The Silverado trail is a much nicer (and less congested) drive.
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Old 03-09-2014, 08:19 AM   #11
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I have to give an endorsement to Sonoma and Healdsburg for wine tasting. Lots of free tasting rooms still abound. You can use Yelp.com to find them. Plus, in Sonoma you can visit California's northern most mission and enjoy free cheese tasting at several places.
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:26 AM   #12
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If you have a Visa Signature card this is a nice benefit.
Visa Signature Winery Guide

There some great apps for Napa/Sonoma wineries, Taste Pass was a good one.

100_2524.jpg
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:47 PM   #13
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Thanks for the information guys, this sounds fantastic. I've actually been to the SF area a couple of times on business, once to Santa Rosa and once to San Jose, but this trip will obviously be different with the DW and being our 30th Anniversary. I see the great suggestions about BART use, what about the ferry system, would that be worth trying from the northside into the city?
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Old 03-09-2014, 07:58 PM   #14
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Sure. 25 min ride if from Sausalito, $5 each way if 65 or over. Larkspur would also be an option I would think if staying in Marin County. Looks like last ferry is before 9pm weekdays so may have to work your schedule around that but you beat all the traffic and get a nice ride. Take some jackets.
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Old 03-09-2014, 08:17 PM   #15
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From Marin county, your best bet to get into the city is the ferry. From the East Bay, I'd go with BART.
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Old 03-09-2014, 09:52 PM   #16
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BART does not run in Marin county. See link below to show the stations and routes:
Station List | bart.gov

The ferry is a good idea from Marin county. If you do this, check out the farmer's market at the ferry bldg, located at the end of Market St.
Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

I used to live in east bay area and my wife and I would take BART into the city and just spend the day and into the evening in the city. BART runs late, so not any time worries. Bring a backpack to hold a few items like a light jacket, and to hold anything we bought. Then walked around and enjoyed the city.
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Old 03-10-2014, 10:13 PM   #17
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I concur. Marin County has it all and is within easy access to both locations. Plus amazing access to outdoor activities, what with 75% or so of it's land being designated as open space. Sausalito is closest town to Golden Gate Bridge, but we crowded and touristy as a result. Mill Valley and Tiburon are both terrific options, with further out, slightly less upscale San Rafael and Novato being next in line. You really can't go wrong staying anywhere in Marin Cty IMHO.

I think that last line meant Marin county not Marin city. There is a Marin City and it's mostly low income housing. You don't want to stay there.
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Old 03-11-2014, 08:41 AM   #18
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+1 on the walking. Also, if you want to avoid long lines, the cable cars on the California line are much less crowded than the ones on the Powell/Hyde line.
I'll disagree just to be different.. I've been to San Francisco only 3 times (2 as tourist, 1 on business) and actually enjoyed driving around. It was great to get away from the touristy parts and drive around the neighborhoods and see the cool and funky houses, drive down the beach fronts on the Pacific and over the bridges, etc.. We rented a tiny little snotbox of a rental car so it was easy to whip around in the tight streets and park in the parking spots. Mind you, I agree parking was expensive but hey, you're on vacation !

Last time we went it was midweek October. Weather was great, crowds weren't bad. The car was also good as we went up to Marin Cty, Wine Country and even as far south as Carmel.
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Old 03-11-2014, 12:09 PM   #19
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I'll disagree just to be different.. I've been to San Francisco only 3 times (2 as tourist, 1 on business) and actually enjoyed driving around. It was great to get away from the touristy parts and drive around the neighborhoods and see the cool and funky houses, drive down the beach fronts on the Pacific and over the bridges, etc.. We rented a tiny little snotbox of a rental car so it was easy to whip around in the tight streets and park in the parking spots. Mind you, I agree parking was expensive but hey, you're on vacation !

Last time we went it was midweek October. Weather was great, crowds weren't bad. The car was also good as we went up to Marin Cty, Wine Country and even as far south as Carmel.
I won't disagree with you. If your goal is to visit the outer neighborhoods, the coast, and wine country, then renting a car makes sense. I own a car and it serves exactly that purpose. Driving through downtown and over the bridges, on the other hand, can be a very frustrating experience if your timing is off. Unless you enjoy sitting in traffic that is. Traffic is lightest on weekends but you need to make sure there is no Giants Game or other event. Even then, it will be slow going if you have to cross downtown. The Golden Gate Bridge is only about 5 miles from where I live and it can easily take over an hour for me to make it across to Marin County.
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Old 03-11-2014, 12:16 PM   #20
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If it were me, I would use San Francisco as "home base" for the trip and take a day trip or 2 to Marin, wine county - rather than the other way around. Perhaps find a place in the North side of the city with easy access to the GG Bridge and places North. Or ... indulge yourself for 3 days at a wine country spa resort like the Sonoma Mission Inn.
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