Seeing the sights of San Fran

What can one say that hasn't been said about San Francisco? The mere mention of the name conjures up thoughts of fresh seafood, Ghirardelli chocolate, an infamous prison, and cable cars. A city with more faces than a quick change artist, set on hills providing an exquisite view.

Seeing the sights of San Fran

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by lubmac on October 21, 2003

There are so many great things to do, so it's hard to say which is best. Treat yourself to the almost cathedral-like hush of the towering coastal redwoods at the Muir Woods National Monument, just a few miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Check out the Rodin sculptures and Monet paintings in the Legion of Honor Art Museum. Embark on the audio tour of Alcatraz -- seeing the infamous prison and dispelling the myths surrounding the place and its roster of inmates. Ride the cable cars up and down the steep grades of Market Street and Hyde Ave or drive down the serpentine zigzag of Lombard Street. Drink in the panoramic view of the bay, the bridges and the city from the top of Coit Tower. Eat in Chinatown or hear the call of the gift shops from Pier 39 to Ghirardelli Square (maybe even answer the call if you can't run fast enough!).${QuickSuggestions} If you're going to be in town for several days and want to see the sights, get a $36 City Pass. The City Pass is available online at and includes admission to 4 attractions (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Exploritorium, Legion of Honor, California Academy of Sciences & Steinhart Aquarium), a Muni and Cable Car 7-day Passport, and a San Francisco Bay cruise with Blue & Gold Fleet. If you purchase the pass directly from Blue & Gold Fleet (an extra $2.25 fee), you can trade the Bay cruise for an audio tour of Alcatraz. If bought separate, it would cost almost $80. If you don't want all the extras, just buy a 3-day Muni pass for $15.${BestWay} The best and least expensive way (see above about a City Pass) to get around San Francisco is by using the Muni. This includes buses, street cars and cable cars. The buses are clean and run on time for the most part. Get a good, clear bus route map and figure out what routes you need to take and what stop is closest to your destination. Be prepared ahead of time to signal a stop -- usually at least a block -- so you don't miss and have to walk further. The buses run on approximately 12 minute intervals.

Chelsea Motor Inn

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on October 25, 2003

We stayed at the Chelsea and were quite pleased with what we found. The rooms were large, comfortable, clean, and nicely decorated. In a city where parking can cost you an arm and a leg, the Chelsea offers free parking in their own street level and basement parking areas for all guests. Bus service (Muni) to Fisherman's Wharf and Union Square is only a block away, which is also nice.

The staff was very helpful throughout our stay: making recommendations, giving directions, and even handling some faxes for me. We liked the security of the Chelsea too. The only way to get to the inside corridor rooms is to have a room key, which also accesses the elevator lobbies at street level and in the basement garage. I booked my room on the net here and got a great Internet rate of $79 a night for a king bed room.

As much as I like the Chelsea, there is one drawback to its location. Lombard starts to get noisy with traffic around 6:30-7am. If you want to sleep in, or you're a light sleeper, ask for a room that isn't on the Lombard or Fillmore side of the motel. The inside rooms don't have much of a view, but they are somewhat quieter.

Chelsea Motor Inn
2095 Lombard Street
San Francisco, California, 94123
(415) 563-5600


Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on October 22, 2003

We wanted to eat seafood on the wharf and so chose Alioto's due to an article I had read about the place. It turned out to be the right choice!

We were treated to impeccable, friendly service and mouthfuls of fresh-caught seafood. My wife ordered Stuffed Rex Sole, which was bursting with baby shrimp in a cream sauce with chives, served on a bed of tender fresh-steamed spinach. I asked the waiter what he suggested and went with an item not on the menu. He recommended grilled Halibut (caught that morning), drizzled with a light lemon butter/white wine combination, with pan fried potatoes and some of the same succulent spinach that my wife enjoyed with her meal. It was wonderful! Along with the meal came a side salad and (of course) fresh, hot sourdough bread.

To top everything off, the restaurant has an unobstructed second story view of the adjacent marina and west toward the Golden Gate Bridge. When a restaurant has been in business as long as Alioto's, they usually figure out how to do things well and it shows! I would definitely recommend Alioto's, it was worth every dime we paid and every minute we stayed!

Alioto's Restaurant
#8 Fisherman's Wharf at Taylor Street
San Francisco, California, 94133
(415) 673-0183

Mel's Drive-In

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by lubmac on October 23, 2003

Right down the block from where we stayed was a plethora of restaurants. We stopped in to Mel's because it looked like a fun place for a casual lunch of good ol' 1950s-style drive-in/diner fare. It proved to be just that, but at a somewhat higher cost than back in those car-hop days. The place is decorated with drive-in memorabilia, plenty of stainless steel, and icons from the '50s and '60s. At each table are tabletop jukeboxes with a collection of available hits that span over five decades of music.

I got the Avocado Burger - a 1/3-pound hamburger with bacon, avacado wedges, and all the usual veggies (tomato, lettuce, pickles, and red onion). After adding fries to the plate and a soft drink, the cost was over $10 per person without tax or tip. The food was excellent, as was the service, but another catch to watch for - no free refills on the soft drinks. We enjoyed the food enough to go by later and pick up a coffee shake. It was thick and blended to perfection. The flavor was awesome, but the $4 price tag was a little steep. If you don't mind the cost, this would be a worthy lunch spot. If the prices stick in your craw, keep walking--there are many more places to try.

Mel's Drive-In on Lombard
2165 Lombard St
San Francisco, California, 94123
+1 415 921 3039

Bay Watch Restaurant

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on October 23, 2003

If you're looking for a great place for breakfast or lunch, try the Bay Watch Restaurant. The restaurant has a light, casual atmosphere with an attenive waitstaff. For breakfast, the menu has a variety of options, from big country breakfasts to light, healthy selections. One morning I had the Hungry Jack--two eggs any style, bacon, and your choice of pancakes (I went for the fresh blueberry pancakes!), and it was more than enough to satisfy a big appetite. The pancakes were light and fluffy, yet loaded with fresh blueberries and the bacon was done to perfection. We liked the place so much that we ended up going back the next day for breakfast.

That next morning I tried their house variety of French toast. The toast is made the traditional way, except they use raisin bread instead of the typical Texas toast. It was wonderful! Admittedly, I did add a side of their scrumptous bacon to my meal, but it sure was good! The restaurant had great coffee, but I also enjoyed the fresh-squeezed orange juice one morning and the unfiltered apple juice the next morning. The prices were very reasonable for breakfast and although the OJ cost a little extra, the fresh-squeezed taste was worth it!

Located adjacent to the Cow Hollow Motor Inn, Bay Watch is convenient to the Marina and Pacific Heights sections of town.

Bay Watch Restaurant
2150 Lombard
San Francisco, California

Eagle Cafe

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by lubmac on October 25, 2003

We had booked an early tour of Alcatraz and weren't sure how long it would take us to get to the Wharf from our hotel by bus, so we decided to find something for breakfast near or on the Wharf. As we looked around, we saw the Eagle Cafe up on the second floor of the Pier 39 shops and thought we'd walk over to see what they had to offer. We read the menu and decided to try the restaurant out.

The Chef's Special Omelet sounded good, so we split one. It ended up that it really was enough for both of us. The omelet was jam-packed with bacon, sausage, mushrooms, onion, bell peppers, and tomatoes. It was coupled with some well-seasoned home-fried potatoes, which were delicious also. With juice for me and milk for my wife, we only spent $8 and were set for the morning's activities. We wanted to go back and try lunch sometime, but never got around to it. I guess there is always next time.

219 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, California, 94102

Cy Belle's Pizza

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on November 2, 2003

We were walking down Chestnut, looking for someplace casual to just sit back, watch the game and have a bite to eat one evening and stumbled onto Cy Belle's. We had already passed several restaurants and we weren't sure what we were hungry for, so I think it was the smell that grabbed us and lured us into the establishment. The aroma of the fresh baking pizza and tangy sauce whet our appetite and we were not disappointed.

The decor is pretty much bare bones, no-nonsense, a table-and-chairs type of pizza place. All the attention is on the food, not some drippy candles and checkered tablecloths.

We ordered a couple slices of the freshly made pies and settled down at a table to eat and watch the World Series on the tube. The first bite made me smile. I had a slice of pizza with a topping of pepperoni, Italian sausage, and mushrooms. It was great! The toppings were plentiful, but what I really liked was the sauce. So many pizzas have so little sauce on them or the sauce is so bland that all you taste is crust, toppings, and cheese. To me, the sauce wraps it all together, and Cy Belle's sauce did just that. It had a fresh, full-bodied taste, with just the right amount of spices to bring the pizza alive. I ate the 2 slices I had originally ordered, went back for 2 more and stayed around to finish watching the game.

So if you get tired of the high-dollar fancy places, and want to just relax and enjoy the food, try some pizza at Cy Belle's. Oh, and by the way, they do deliver and their veggie pizzas are great too!

CyBelle's Pizza
2105 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, California

Alcatraz Island

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on October 24, 2003

We've all heard about the notorious characters that once were residents at Alcatraz. The tough reputation of the prison itself is widely known and portrayed in many movies. Taking a tour of Alcatraz helps sort out the facts from the fiction. The only way to get to Alactraz is by the Blue and Gold Fleet ferry boats. The boat disembarks at the dock and there is usually a ranger or volunteer that gives a short synopsis of the island's history and myths. Things like the fact that Robert Stroud (the Birdman of Alcatraz) never had his birds while imprisoned there, and that the island started out as a Civil War fort, then became a military prison prior to becoming the infamous federal penitentiary.

Next, we proceeded up the 1/4 mile, 12% grade to the Administration Building/Cellhouse, where we picked up our audio equipment for our tour. The audio tour is made up of interviews and comments from both former guards and former "guests" and really brings the tour to life. With the tales told while walking through the prison, you get a better perspective of how things were during the time that Alcatraz was in full use. Stories are related about a near-riot over spaghetti, a foiled escape due to the key being pushed too hard into the lock, and listening for a woman's voice as the echo of New Year's Eve revelers came across the water from Fisherman's Wharf.

If you have any interest in history, you'll enjoy this tour. Be sure to carry a jacket with you when you go - while we were there, the fog rolled in and the wind picked up. It got cool enough that I probably could have gotten a decent price for my jacket from some of the poor souls in shorts and T-shirts. Oh, and by the way: Sean Connery's furnace room in the movie "The Rock" was all Hollywood.

Alcatraz Island/The Rock
San Francisco Bay
Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, 94133
(415) 705-5555

Point Reyes National Seashore

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on October 25, 2003

Point Reyes was a surprise to me. It has such a variety of terrain to see! There are rolling grassland hills, rocky outcrops, farmland, and beaches. As we drove from the Bear Valley Visitor's Center to where the Lighthouse Visitor's Center is (over 20 miles), we passed through historical ranches that are still in operation, one of which had a herd of elk grazing along the hilltop. We saw over 30 deer along the way to and from the lighthouse, too.

When we got to the Lighthouse Visitor's Center, it was closed and enshrouded with fog, but the vistas from the overlooks by the parking area were awesome to see and well worth the drive. The rugged beaches and cliffs with the waves crashing against them were mesmerizing to look at, so much so that it was hard to get back in the car to leave. As we drove back toward Route 1, we saw a buck along one of the fences. I stopped to look, and then as I started to drive slowly along, the buck trotted along too, as if to say, "You're in my territory and I'm watching you until you leave." Anyway, if you want a nice drive or like to hike in the open, try Point Reyes Seashore.

Point Reyes National Seashore
1 Bear Valley Road
Point Reyes Station, California, 94956
(415) 464-5100

Muir Woods National Monument

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by lubmac on November 5, 2003

The Muir Woods National Monument is not only a place to observe the majesty of the towering coastal redwoods, but it is also a hushed respite from the noisy rush of San Francisco.

You have to be going to the Muir Woods NM to find the place – it’s not just right off the highway unless you're cutting across to the beach. Park in the main lot off Muir Woods Road and walk over to the entry station where you'll need to pay the $4 per person entry fee prior to entering the park(believe me- the $4 is more than worth it).

After entering the park and striking off down the boardwalk trail, it occurred to me how quiet and peaceful the woods were. It was as if in the presence of such colossal creations, everyone wanted to speak in reverent tones, daring not disrupt the quiet. The trees tower over 250 feet above your head, formed in 'family circles', springing from the root systems of what had been solitary redwoods that died. As we hiked, we noticed the enormous ferns growing at the base of the trees, thriving in the moist and often fog-laden valley. An 8 point buck browsed through the foliage for tender shoots not 15 feet off the trail, no one daring to make a sound and cause him to run. As I mentioned earlier, the trail is made up of boardwalks and bridges to prevent the human visitor traffic from trampling the foliage and packing the earth around the trees. One of the deadfall trees that the path has been cut through fell due to over-compaction of the soil around its root system by the multitudes and their foot traffic.

Redwood Creek trickles through the valley of redwoods and is the spawning ground for coho salmon and steelhead trout from mid-December to March. You can see young fish in the pools throughout the spring and summer months and watch some swim from pool to pool along the rivulets in the stream. At about the halfway point along the trail, there is a brochure kiosk where you can purchase (only $1) an additional map which is also a wonderful guide to the trails and information about the plant and wildlife in the park. When you reach Cathedral Grove, you'll want to sit awhile and enjoy the stillness. Don't rush off down the path, pause, take time to drink in the surroundings, and perhaps reflect. When you head back to the car, I think you'll find yourself as refreshed as I did and ready to carry on again.

P.S. The gift shop has redwood saplings that you can have for your very own. Just be sure to write down the care instructions for the generations to come – it’s gonna be a long time watering!

Muir Woods
Muir Woods National Monument
Mill Valley, CA , 94941-2696
(415) 561-4700

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