Sunday, September 24, 2006

Open Up That Golden Gate...


So next month I'm being sent to San Francisco on a business trip. I'm very excited, because I've always wanted to go there. It's consistently the one city besides New York that people have always told me they felt I "belong in." So I have high hopes to really like it.

As I've never been there before, though, I was hoping for some advice from any of you who have visited or lived there.

What advice do I want? Well, when I visit other cities where I have friends, I always tell them not to take me to any tourist attractions, but instead to take me to all the out of the way, eclectic, comfortable, amusing, etc. spots they love the most--the places they go to relax, play, and remind themselves that life is good. You always end up with a much cooler vacation that way, and you get a "local's eye-view" of the city.

One other thing to note: I'm the only one going on the trip and I have no friends who live in the city, so unless anyone in this training I'm attending is really cool and wants to hang out, I'm going to be all on my lonesome the whole time. So I'm looking for places that are single-person friendly and also at least reasonably safe for a woman traveling alone.

So--any suggestions along those lines for me? I'm open to anything.

Oh, and also, the city I'm living in is really low on the cool indie/hipster scale, so if there are some neighborhoods that are better known for that in which I could do some good clothes and shoe shopping, that would rock, too.

Thanks if you can help!

Here are a few other details to help with suggestions:
  • I've got 2-3 weeknights and one entire Saturday free to experience the city.
  • I'm not wealthy, but not so impoverished that everything I'd have to do would have to be under $10 or something. I could probably afford one or two extravagances.
  • I don't mind going to some tourist spots if they're interesting, or help me to get a "big picture" view of they city overall, but I'm also just as happy hanging out in cool spots and observing life around me.
  • I'm not big on sporting events, but otherwise anything artsy, cool, friendly, culinarily (?) exciting, music/entertainment related, beautiful, unusual, or quirky usually pleases me immensely. Places where locals are actually friendly enough to talk to you a little is nice, so you can learn some stuff about the city.
  • I'm staying close in to Chinatown and the theatre district.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Pinverarity said...

Hi -

I live in SF and would be more than happy to assist with some suggestions.

With a blog named Sexeteria, a trip to Good Vibrations would seem to be de rigeur (2 stores in SF).
http://www.goodvibes.com/Content.aspx?id=626

Depending on how adventurous you're feeling, Stormy Leather and Mr./Madame S are also wonderful(sorry, today was Folsom St. Fair day and leather was in the air). These are located "South of Market", though, not really in hip neighborhoods per se, so going to either would be more about shopping.

There are a plethora of extraordinary restaurants, so any hints about your favorite cuisines or stuff you'd like to try? Are you coming from the East Coast, Mid-West, South? I ask because it would help gauge what you might not get a chance to encounter all that often. Try www.yelp.com for SF restaurant reviews by patrons. The SF Chronicle's on-line site is http://www.sfgate.com/ and they have reviews as well, of course.

Um...what do you consider "hip"? Like Melrose in LA? SoHo? Are museums hip, or divey bars? I ask this one because there are many values of "hip" in this small city of ours.

For instance, the slightly grimy Mission District (great food, esp. burritos, which are very cheap and very good and very much a hipster San Francisco staple - see the list at: http://www.burritophile.com/directory.php?state=CA&city=San+Francisco)

Do yourself a favor and see a movie at the Castro Theater, which gave the famous Castro District its name. Gorgeously preserved single-screen movie palace from the days when they really cared about movies and the movie-watching experience. The Castro District is quite safe generally, by the way, though a little sleepy at night on the weeknights unless you're a gay man.
http://www.thecastrotheatre.com/

A *very* hip new bar, which aspires to a sort of old speakeasy feel, and has excellent cocktails, is Bourbon & Branch. Warning: dicey area of town for single women - highly recommend taking cabs to/from.
http://www.bourbonandbranch.com/

If you decide to check out this bar, eat dinner at a real SF landmark, Original Joe's. Also in the same general dicey neighborhood. http://www.themenupage.com/originaljoes.html

Feel free to respond on my blog (http://g-blog.net/user/Pinverarity) if you'd like me to go on at more length rather than clog up your comment space here.

9/25/2006 12:39 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Pinverarity: Thanks so much. Good vibrations! How stupid of me to not remember they were in SF! I am definitely going to go there.

Cuisine: I like anything, except I'm not too keen on chili-spicy food. I don't like chain restaurants. Of all ethnic foods, Thai is my least favorite. I also think French is fine, but kind of boring. (I know, I know, Philistine me...but w/out foie gras, I see no need for French restaurants.)

Hip: Is Melrose like 90210? Hip to me is East Villiage/Brooklyn-Williamsburg, lower-east-side, NYC. Soho is acceptable too, I suppose. I like museums AND divey bars. Anything that's cool but poseur free. In terms of shopping, think indie/emo type of styling.

9/25/2006 8:26 AM  
Blogger Mu Ling said...

It's been a while since I lived in northern California, but for what it's worth, my thoughts:

The Asian Art Museum is the only museum with a truly world-class collection. So if you are in a museum mood, do this one.

The Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park are really beautiful. When I was a kid, there used to be bison in a paddock in GGP. (Not in the Japanese garden, though.) I used to like to visit them although I thought they seemed a little sad.

Okay, another good museum: The Musee Mechanique has a collection of old coin-operated amusements and novelties. These are creepily fascinating. Don't go if clowns give you the willies.

There's also a very cool camera obscura by the Cliff House. At least, it used to be by the Cliff House.

People will tell you that Chinatown is touristy, and it is; Chinese people don't live there much anymore if they can help it (they all moved to the suburbs, aka the Richmond District). But it's still worth a walk. Chinese people DO come to Chinatown to shop, and the place packs an amazing amount of history-- some sad, some brave, some bravely sad or sadly brave--into a few blocks.

Have fun and post about it when you get back!

9/28/2006 10:12 AM  
Blogger Miss Syl said...

Mu Ling: Thanks! Hey, re the "Chinatown is touristy" comment--does that mean all the restaurants suck there, and are just overpriced tourist places? The Chinese food in the city I live in is laughable. And having grown up near NYC, where it is exceptional, I miss it sorely. I was kind of hoping since my hotel was right next to Chinatown that some of the restaurants there would actually be good. Any idea?

9/28/2006 5:39 PM  
Blogger Mu Ling said...

You definitely can still get good Chinese food in Chinatown. I wish I could recommend some specifics, but I can't. It's just been too long *sob* Apply the same criteria you'd use for a Chinese place in NYC. Look for a place where Chinese people are eating and where there isn't much ambience or decor, but there are lots of crowded tables.

Hong Kong-style dim sum can be found in Chinatown especially on weekends. You could even get a box to go and take it to Portsmouth Square to watch graceful old people do t'ai chi.

9/28/2006 11:37 PM  

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