Avoid th­ese rookie mis­takes on your SF trip

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Anne Olivia Bauso

With a red-hot restau­rant scene, head­spin­ningly beau­ti­ful views and ma­jor high­lights, like the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and no­to­ri­ous Al­ca­traz, San Fran­cisco is se­cure in its ranks as one of the top cities to visit in the U.S. From charm­ing Vic­to­rian homes on fa­mously hilly streets to its funky coun­ter­cul­ture, the city has some­thing for ev­ery­one. (Just don’t call it Frisco.) As with any­where, San Fran­cisco has some par­tic­u­lar quirks that vis­i­tors should suss out be­fore touch­ing down. Read on for the rookie mis­takes to steer clear of in San Fran­cisco.

Rent­ing a car. Most cities in the U.S. re­quire a car in or­der to prop­erly see its at­trac­tions and var­i­ous neigh­bor­hoods. San Fran­cisco is not one of them. We can all but guar­an­tee that you’ll have a bet­ter time in San Fran­cisco with­out a pesky rental to deal with. Overnight park­ing costs can be ex­or­bi­tantly ex­pen­sive. Street park­ing isn’t a great op­tion, ei­ther, as it is hard to find and po­ten­tially stom­ach-drop­ping if you’re try­ing to squeeze into a tight spot on a steep hill. Even if you do find a space, street park­ing is me­tered seven days a week in the cen­tral areas.

Skip­ping public tran­sit. So you’re for­go­ing the rental car, but that doesn’t meet you should walk ev­ery­where. Yes, many parts of San Fran­cisco are walk­a­ble, but the city is home to a truly remarkable public tran­sit sys­tem that should not be missed. In fact, rid­ing one of the city’s iconic ca­ble cars is a real treat for vis­i­tors. The ca­ble cars are part of the MUNI sys­tem, which runs street cars and buses to many of the city’s ma­jor at­trac­tions, in­clud­ing Fish­er­man’s Wharf and Ghi­rardelli Square. The BART (Bay Area Tran­sit Sys­tem) is even more ex­ten­sive.

Pack­ing for sunny weather. San Fran­cisco’s weather is a far cry from the sun and warmth as­so­ci­ated with the Golden State. The penin­su­lar city, with San Fran­cisco

Bay on one side and the Pa­cific Ocean on the other, can be cool and cloudy year­round, with per­va­sive fog earn­ing it the moniker “Fog City.” May and June are the most over­cast months of the year, though the cloudy con­di­tions may stretch into the fol­low­ing months. All this is to say: Do as the lo­cals do and master the art of lay­er­ing. Bring a jacket or hoodie at all times.

Walk­ing is a joy here, but not in bad (or fresh-out-ofthe-box) walk­ing shoes that rub, pinch, slide off or of­fer zero sup­port. Go into your get­away in tried-and-true walk­ing shoes that can tackle San Fran­cisco’s in­sane hills and stairs. You’ll thank us when you hit the zigzag­ging walk­ing paths of Lom­bard Street, dubbed “the crookedest street in the world.”

Vis­it­ing the spine-chill­ingly fas­ci­nat­ing Al­ca­traz is a must in San Fran­cisco — for you and the thou­sands of other vis­i­tors in town dur­ing the same time. Make your reser­va­tions to the for­mer fed­eral prison (whose in­fa­mous gang­ster in­mates in­cluded Al Capone, Ge­orge “Ma­chine Gun” Kelly and Alvin Karpis, the first-ever Public Enemy No. 1) in ad­vance or risk find­ing tours all booked up, es­pe­cially in the spring and sum­mer. The na­tional his­toric land­mark is only ac­ces­si­ble by tour; fer­ries de­part daily from Pier 33, near Fish­er­man’s Wharf. The 15-minute boat ride glides past Golden Gate Bridge and An­gel Is­land. Night tours are ex­tra cool — and creepy — but even more lim­ited.

San Fran­cisco’s food land­scape is vast, di­verse and de­li­cious — even just a bite from a na­tional chain or sub­par place is noth­ing less than a missed op­por­tu­nity. Tar­tine Bak­ery is not to be missed for its truly su­perla­tive breads (get the sour­dough), pas­tries, tarts, sal­ads and sand­wiches. While in the North End, take a peek into Caffe Tri­este, where Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola wrote the script for “The God­fa­ther,” and have a drink at the his­toric sa­loon Ve­su­vio, a Beat-era wa­ter­ing hole fre­quented by Jack Ker­ouac and Bob Dy­lan. In Union Square, you can ex­pe­ri­ence one of the World’s 50 Best Restau­rants with­out break­ing the bank: The af­ford­able Miche­lin-starred Thai eatery, Kin Khao, is cur­rently ranked at No. 49.

Stay­ing in town. If your travel time al­lows it, bud­get at least a day trip to ex­plore San Fran­cisco’s sur­round­ing areas. Part of the Golden Gate Na­tional Recre­ation Area (and just 12 miles north of the city), Muir Woods Na­tional Mon­u­ment is a red­wood for­est that is home to some of the tallest trees in the coun­try. The nearby har­bor town of Sausal­ito has a charm­ing board­walk with out­door bistros and the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Some of the best winer­ies and restau­rants in the world are found in Sonoma and Napa coun­ties. For sun­nier, warmer beaches than those found in San Fran­cisco, drive south to Santa Cruz, the quin­tes­sen­tial Cali beach town with a beach­front amuse­ment park on the board­walk.

DREAMSTIME

San Fran­cisco may be in sunny Cal­i­for­nia, but the city it­self is cool and cloudy year-round. Eat­ing at a na­tional chain.

JACK CHANG/SACRAMENTO BEE

Al­ca­traz is a huge draw for tourists, so book your visit to the for­mer fed­eral prison in ad­vance. Wear­ing brand-new shoes. Not book­ing Al­ca­traz in ad­vance.

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