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Planning Trip to San Francisco, wine country

New Orleans, LA
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Planning Trip to San Francisco, wine country

My wife and I are both in our early 50's and though we've visited Southern Cal several times and have gotten as close as Carmel, Monterrey, and Lake Tahoe, this will be our first trip to San Francisco. We're tentatively looking at 6-8 days in late April or early May and I have a number of want-to-do's and questions:

Our likes: Good dining, theatre, music, good wine, general sightseeing, historical sites, natural beauty (e.g. Muir Woods), typical touristy things. Also like some of the things usually reserved for the locals--We'd love to be able to time our trip to coincide w/ a street fair or a festival of some time.

How many of our days should be allocated for visiting the city itself? Any insider suggestions on special events or tours during that time frame?

What part of the city should we stay in? I'd been looking primarily at the Union Square area, but a friend insists it sould be Fisherman's Wharf area (suggested hotels from him: Argonaut or Radisson). Would like to stay in the $200/day price range.

Restaurant suggestions are appreciated. We live in New Orleans, love seafood, but definitely would like things we can't get here, such as Dungeness crab, Cioppino, good Asian (esp. Dim Sum); We love Italian food but the tomato-based sauces of Southern Italy are probably our least favorite. We'd like some moderate priced options for lunch and dinner--great views appreciated--as well as one night for something more upscale, dressy, and special. Some uniquely San Francisco experiences would be great!

Any after hours suggestions? Yoshi's in Oakland is definitely on my agenda since I'm a big time jazz enthusiast.

Outside of San Francisco, our options are wine country and/or Yosemite. I visited Yosemite as a child, but would love to see it again w/ my wife. Are the falls active in late April? Can we do a quick one-day tour and see the essentials (we're not backpackers or extensive hikers)

Regarding wine country--Sonoma or Napa or a day of each? We'll visit the city over the weekend, so the Yosemite and wine country excurisions would be mid-week to avoid crowds and save some $$'s.. Don't want anything as expensive as French Laundry, but other restaurant ideas would also be great.

Okay, long post, but thanks for any help (and if you want any New Orleans suggestions, let me know).

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for Milwaukee
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1. Re: Planning Trip to San Francisco, wine country

I stayed at the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf for a business conference last fall. The hotel was good and I was surprised at the convenience of staying in the Wharf area. I had always stayed on knob Hill or Union Square in previous trips. Some will say the Wharf is too touristy, but guess what? You are a tourist. One thing I liked about the Wharf is you can walk without going straight up or down a hill. The public transportation also allows you to get around town from the Wharf. Union Square is nice too. It is closer to theaters and shopping. Either is close to Chinatown.

There is an area near the Wharf called North Beach. It has lots of Italian restaurants. We found one called Trattoria Cntadina, on Mason and Union Streets that had a great, more contemporary menu, not mama's spaghetti and meatballs.

You don't need a car for your time in SF. You can rent for the day and combine Muir Woods, or Armstrong Redwoods Park with a wine country day trip. We enjoy wine country, so end up spending more time in Napa and Sonoma than SF. Sonoma is a little more laid back. We were there last fall on a busy weekend and it still was not so crowded to be annoying.

All of the wineries are fun to visit and a little different.

San Mateo...
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2. Re: Planning Trip to San Francisco, wine country

Let's start with your questions about Yosemite. You can see the "basics" in 1 day, but because the drive to Yosemite from SF is 3 1/2 hours, it would probably be advisable to spend at least one night in or near the park. If you can afford up to $200 night, you have your choice of several hotel options both inside and just outside the park (check the reviews on this website for Yosemite Lodging). The Ahwanhee Hotel inside the park is by far the best, but most people can't afford the $350+ a night.

Most of the sights you will want to see will be in Yosemite Valley, and the others, e.g Tuolomne Meadows, will most likely still be unaccessible at the end of April due to snow on the road. The road usually does not open up until the end of May. As for the waterfalls, they should still be going strong due to all of the snow we have received already this year.

As for local festivals going on in SF during the time of your visit, I was unable to search out any on the local websites. The Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown occurs during April, but none of the listings specified what 2 weekends in April it falls on this year. If my memory serves me correctly, I recall the festival being more towards the beginning of April. There is usually a Cinco de Mayo parade, but I don't have much info. on when and where that is either. All of the more prominent festivals (North Beach, Union Street Fair, SF Pride Parade) take place in the summer. And the Chinese New Year's Parade (always fun) takes place in February.

As for restaurants, Yank Sing is always a winner for Dim Sum. Check out the food guide on this website: sfgate.com for more restaurant suggestions and descriptions. One fun restaurant that I enjoy in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood is Cha Cha Cha's. They serve tapas (small plates) and tasty sangria. The atmosphere might remind you of New Orleans, which might be too much like home. Another great restaurant is the Slanted Door, which is located in the Ferry Building. They serve contemporary Vietnamese food and everyone raves about it. Regardless of whether you want to eat at The Slanted Door, a visit to the Ferry Building is a must, in order to see this historic building. The last suggestion for food is a cute little restaurant in the Mission District (on 16th St. near Valencia) called Ti Couz. They serve wonderful buckwheat style crepes, both savory and sweet. You'll get a taste of the Mission District while your there too!!

Finally, as for your question about visiting Wine Country, it really does depend on how much time you want to spend visiting the wineries. I prefer Sonoma over Napa, as the town is very quaint and laid back. You can get a nice tour at Sebastiani winery, which is just off the town square. A 2 night stay might allow for a more relaxing trip. Some consider "Wine Country" to encompass much more than just Napa and Sonoma. St. Helena and Calistoga (north of Sonoma) offer well-known spas and small wineries as well.

One last suggestion....if you are remotely interested in baseball, you should try to catch a Giants game at SBC Park (hopefully they are in town during your visit). A day game would be preferable, as it allows you to see all the sights that are viewable from the park. Regardless of how the game is, a trip to SBC Park is always enjoyable (at least in my opinion!)