Seattle & San Francisco Recommendations

Thursday, April 30, 2009

We are finally starting to really put some thought and planning into our "itinerary" (I use the term very loosely since we're not planning to totally schedule our vacation) for our upcoming anniversary trip to Seattle and San Francisco.

So, if you've ever been to either city, I want your help. What are your suggestions for must-sees in each city? Must-dos?

We've received some advice from several people (thank you, if any of you are reading), but we'd like more opinions.

We are going to be in Seattle for 4 full days (one of which we plan to spend up in British Columbia). Since we don't have a ton of time there, we want to at least go into it with a narrowed-down list. So tell us: what should make the list? What should be skipped? I've been to Seattle several times, and actually lived there when I was younger. Therefore, I've done a lot of the touristy things. But Michael hasn't. Help refresh my memory on the good and the bad!

Same thing for San Francisco. We'll be there 4.5 days. We definitely want to do Napa, but have no idea where to go/what to do in Napa. Or how much time we should plan to spend there (full day? half day?). Recommendations?

Any other general tips? We are planning to rent a car (if Shatner would cut me a break and accept my bid on Priceline!) in Seattle since we're going to be staying with a family friend outside of the city. We're planning on using public transport in San Francisco, except for the day we go to Napa--we'll rent a car for that.

Restaurants? We are not the type of people to be into really fancy or expensive meals, so your casual, at least semi-budget-friendly suggestions would be appreciated.

Alright, my San Francisco and Seattle-dwelling readers (or those who have visited): On your marks... get set... go! (In the comments, please!)


Anonymous,  April 30, 2009 at 9:21 PM  

Long-time reader, first-time poster here. :) My husband and I recently trekked out west to San Fran / wine country for our belated honeymoon, and had a fantastic time.

Recommendations for things to do (besides the "obvious"):
- Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park (gorgeous grounds)
- Sausolito (take the ferry, have lunch, a lovely little town for site-seeing and shopping)
- Muir Woods (group of redwoods just north of San Fran and Sausolito...right on your way to wine country. We stopped here for about an hour en route. One of our favorite parts of the trip!)

More importantly, recommendations for places to EAT!
- Honey, Honey (a casual breakfast joint near Union Square)
- Bocadillos (hip, awesome tapas near the Financial District)
- Hunan Home in Chinatown (this place was recommended NUMEROUS times to us -- just FYI...when the menu indicates 'spicy,' it's not kidding around)

MOST importantly, as far as wine country goes, I'd recommend you stick to the Napa Valley / Yountville area. There are some fantastic wineries (Far Niente, Silver Oak, Hook & Ladder) along the main drag. We actually booked a driver for the day (we stayed in Sonoma County, and toured Russian River Valley).

Another idea is to look into a tour that departs from San Fran, and goes up to Napa (there are several options for this).

Sorry to ramble...but we had an absolute blast in San Francisco, and I would love for some of our 'experience' to help out fellow travelers! Have a great time :)

~ Kristen M.

Linda April 30, 2009 at 9:28 PM  

Where are you staying? If you are downtown, of course Pike Place Market. I love wandering around Fremont and the Wallingford neighborhoods (a little farther north). Ballard (where the locks are) is also great. A ferry ride to Bremerton would also be great.
The Space Needle is another tourist attraction. I would recommended going to the top of Queen Anne for view and pictures. Alki is another great spot for pictures.

amybyrd April 30, 2009 at 9:39 PM  

whenever I go to San Fransisco--I just buy a loaf of sourdough at Boudin's right of off Pier 39--baked fresh and some cheese from the farmer's market!

We went to a cool little bar in Seattle the Cascadia I think--we saw it on Giada's travel show--awesome little appetizer burgers!

Leen,  April 30, 2009 at 10:06 PM  

For San Fran, definitely hit up Pier 39 - lots and lots of shopping! While you're there, go to Bubba Gumps restaurant (you know the restaurant Forrest Gump was dreaming up in the movie? This is it in reality! It's got Forrest Gump sayings and pics all over the restaurant). We had to eat there again before we left! So delicious! Gorgeous view of Alcatraz while you're eating too!

- Muir Woods (could be a scary but fun drive up the mountain!)
- Take the trolley down Market Street (it leads you to Lombard St, the crookedest street seriously!)
- Take the double decker bus tours if you'd like to get a quick general feel of SF's neighborhood
- Golden Gate Bridge (of course!)
- Alcatraz Island Tour. It cost $24 a person for our ferry ride and tour of the prison. You can really get a gorgeous view of the SF from Alcatraz too!

We went last June and I cannot emphasize enough how having a light jacket on hand helps! It can be very cold at times - especially at the Golden Gate Bridge!! Hope this helps!

Michelle April 30, 2009 at 11:47 PM  

Heather, Check out the NorCal Nest Board. Lots of people from San Fran and Napa who have a good local insight.

You guys are going to have such a great time!!! For sure take the ferry to Sausalito. The view of the city from the ferry boat is breathtaking.

Lindsey May 1, 2009 at 8:20 AM  

The Seattle Underground tour is pretty entertaining as a "touristy" thing to do.
Also, if you are looking for good restaurants in Seattle, there is Cutters Bayhouse and any of the Ivar's restaurants.

Alcatraz is of course a must see.

Victoria, BC is a great city! We had a great time at the Sticky Wicket Pub (on the roof) which is at the Strathcona Hotel.
Buchart Gardens is absolutely beautiful as well.

Lesley Rae May 1, 2009 at 8:29 AM  

Ok, Steve's uncle Joey owns a restaurant in Napa. It's called Piccolino's. It's an Italian place (if you couldn't tell by the name - haha) but I have NEVER been there. I've heard it's really good, but of course I only hear it from family - haha....but maybe check it out? And if you do, if you see a large man, with big blue eyes, who is the owner/chef, say you know Steve and I. He might give you a discount.

And the other places in SF (that are pretty obvious) are Lombard St and China Town. And just a tip - don't try running down the street on a steep hill in SF. Tried that and almost tumbled the entire way down. I know, I know, you and Michael are smarter than me and my three idiot guy friends who dared me to do it. :)

Mands May 1, 2009 at 9:34 AM  

I love San Francisco!

San Francisco: Lombard Street, Trolley ride, Pier 33, Redwood Forest right over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Napa Valley/Sonoma Valley: Tedeschi Winery, Russian River Pub (featured on Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins, & Dives" show), Clos du Bois winery.

Mands May 1, 2009 at 9:36 AM  

Oh, and definitely go to Alcatraz. Very cool place to go see.

Charlene and Chris May 1, 2009 at 9:45 AM  

San Fran - I'll focus on the eating!

The Thirsty Bear in the financial district: Organic Brewery, reasonable, fun and really good. They have a website.

Vesuvio bar - funky little bar great for getting a cocktail. Jack Kerouac hung out there and there is a great bookstore right by the place.

Crab on the pier - it's touristy but worth it - so yummy. You can also see the seals on Pier 39.

Palace of fine arts in San Francisco is a great place to have a picnic - there is a bus line that runs right to it.

We enjoyed chinatown and also got a public transportation pass so we could ride cable cars whenever we wanted.

Alison May 1, 2009 at 10:58 AM  

We went to San Francisco for spring break in college and it was one of the most fun trips ever! I don't think you'll really go wrong with any of the touristy stuff there, it's just kind of what you're into!

I would definitely suggest hiring a driver or doing a tour for Napa, though. Those tastings might be tiny, but they add up!

Kim,  May 1, 2009 at 11:19 AM  

I went to San Fran with my family in June 2007. One thing to know (that I definitely did NOT until I got there with only one sweatshirt to last me all week) can be pretty chilly even in the summer and especially if you're going out on the water. I'm from Florida so feel free to take my definition of "cold" with a grain of salt, but still, it's probably best to be prepared!

That being said, I definitely recommend going to Alcatraz because that was a lot of fun, and you should most definitely eat breakfast one day at Sears Fine Food in/near Union Square (it's on Powell Street). Their world-famous pancakes are to die for! Mmm makes me want to go back there just for that. :o)

Anonymous,  May 1, 2009 at 11:40 AM  

In Seattle, a ferry ride and lunch on Bainbridge Island is beautiful!

Or a hike on Mt. Rainier.

Or you can take the water taxi from downtown to Alki beach(West Seattle).

Have fun!

Sandy May 1, 2009 at 12:00 PM  

The Ride the Ducks tour around Seattle is a lot of fun (it goes on land and water...starts near the Space Needle).

Also, good Seattle Food Tours which will take you through Pike Place Market and you taste samples along the way.

There's also the new Sculpture Park.

You can also drive to Woodinville and visit some wineries (tours at Chateau St. Michelle) and also do the Redhook Brewery tour.

I also highly recommend taking the ferry to Bainbride for the day (you can make a reservation to visit the Bloedel Reserve out there (so beautfil and sometimes you can spot eagles nesting in the trees I also recommend Four Swallows in Bainbridge for a delicious lunch/dinner.

Finally, I highly recommend taking a seaplane to Vancouver Island (leaves from Lake Union, only about 40 minutes and the views are long waits at the border crossing is another plus!). Outside of Victoria, you can drive around and visit some of the wineries there and I highly recommend having a romatic dinner at the Aerie Resort (we went there for our mini-moon).

Krystie May 1, 2009 at 4:17 PM  

Hey Heather. Well being that I've lived in the Napa valley my whole life and have made multiple trips to SF I have a few pointers. First off.
For Sf. Like most Said. Pier 39 is the biggest tourist stop. Union Square has a TON of high end/not so high end shopping. China town is neat. (stop by the fortune cookie factory and get a fresh cookie) For breakfast stop at Sears fine foods
( they have little pancakes!) Use to help guide you to your style of food for dinner. Def check our Alcatraz, bike across the golden gate into Sausalito and catch the ferry back. Be sure to eat In N Out burger!

As for Napa. The best way to go to Napa right now is to take a bus tour. If you go to each individual winery, due to the economy, you will end up poor. Each winery is charging $25.00 and up for tasting. So I recommend going on the platypus tours.

Have fun. Let me know if you have any questions!

Emily May 2, 2009 at 9:38 PM  

Never been to Seattle, but I loved San Fran! Make sure that you go to Ghiradelli at Pier 39 and get a chocoloate sundae. It's pricey, but so ridiculously yummy. Union Square has a 5 story Williams Sonoma (the flagship store) and is amazing. Also go to the Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park. It's gorgeous and they have a huge collection of orchids, one o fhte biggest in the world.

In Napa, we went to the Mario Andretti winery (and met him because he was in town for a formula 1 race). We had lunch at Rutherfod Winery (holy cow excellent swordfish). We also went to Mumm, where they do champagnes. It was my favorite. We rented a limo and I'm glad we did. We didn't have to worry about where we were going and all of us who got buzzed on the wine didn't have to worry about driving. :)

Alana,  May 4, 2009 at 6:03 AM  

As a Seattle native, I definitely recommend the whole Pike Place Market spiel which is also very close to the first ever Starbucks. Unimpressive in appearance, but just kind of something cool to walk 50 feet out of your way for. I love the aquarium and if you're big on REI, visit the first one in I think Fremont? I never drive there. Don't forget to see the Fremont Troll! Bainbridge island is definitely gorgeous too. I would say its something you can't miss.

I am a frequent SF visitor and I HATED Alcatraz. I didn't want to spend 4 hours out of my day there first of all, and second, I just really wasn't in awe. 4 hours was way too long to be stuck there with a bunch of other tourists when you could be doing so much more. Take a walk along Embarcadero at night. SO gorgeous. I usually stay somewhere near Union Square and just keep walking until I get there. I love it.

Anonymous,  May 4, 2009 at 2:05 PM  

Capilano suspension Bridge in BC!

E @ Oh! Apostrophe May 4, 2009 at 9:55 PM  

We were just in San Fran and did a great trip to Sonoma and Muir Woods with a company called Extranomical Tours... it was pretty inexpensive and we made stops at Muir woods, 3 wineries, Sonoma square for lunch, and then a park overlooking Golden Gate bridge on the way back. I think they do Napa too... hope that helps!

Avdb May 25, 2009 at 6:20 PM  

We went on a family trip and went to several of the islands as well as to Westport which is right on the coast which was very well worth it. Also you need to check out the Pike's Place Market, Seattle Aquarium which was great, or if you are into airplanes the Air Museum is very cool to go see. umm I think that is all I have for suggestions.

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