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Help planning a trip to San Fran.

I am so glad that I found your site. My husband and I are planning a trip on June 13-18.. I know we want to visit Alcatraz, Golden Gate Bridge, and most of the usual tourist sites.

Question. Will a rental car be necessary or is public transit better?

Is the BART the best?

Also what is the best area for hotels?

We also want to go to wine country and muir woods. Would you think a tour is better or should we rent a car for the day?


Thanks so much

Hi Connie,

I’m very excited that you and your husband are getting the chance to visit San Francisco. You are going to LOVE it!! Here are some answers to your questions.

Will a rental car be necessary or is public transit better?

You do not need a car in San Francisco to get from attraction to attraction. Public transportation is the best as parking is really difficult throughout the city. You will spend more time looking for parking sometimes than actually visiting the attractions.

If you plan on seeing all the main attractions, you should also consider looking into the Hop On/Hop Off bus. They usually offer a 48-hour pass, which allows you to easily get from one major attraction to the next for two full days. This is just one example: Hop On/Hop Off. These start around 9am and run until around 4pm or 5pm each day (depending on where you end up).

They stop at the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, Union Square, Chinatown and several other places around the city. They give you a map when you get on the bus, so you can easily determine your route. They are also fun as they offer narration, so you can learn more about the city as you drive around.

Is the BART the best?

The BART line is limited within the city. It runs from downtown and Union Square to Civic Center and then over to the Mission. You can use this if you are planning on going from one of these districts to the other. However, it does not reach as far north as Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park.

However, the public transportation options within the city will get you to anywhere you need to go. I recommend getting a muni passport when you arrive, so you can just hop right on and you don’t need to dig for change each time you want to take the bus. You can choose from a 1-day, 3-day and 7-day passport.

You can buy the passports as part of the CityPass discount card (click here to learn more about this) or you can buy it separately at one more than a dozen locations throughout the city (click here to go to the Muni site to learn more).

It includes unlimited rides on SF’s Muni system as well as the cable cars for the allotted number of days.

Also what is the best area for hotels?

The two best options are Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square.

Fisherman’s Wharf sits on the northern side of the city and is perfect for first time visitors. In this area, you can quickly get to the Alcatraz Ferries, Pier 39 and other SF cruises. It’s the main tourist area of the city and there are plenty of things to see and do here. You can check out my recommendations for hotels in this district here.

Union Square is where you will find the largest concentration of hotels. This area is centrally located which makes it perfect for anyone that wants to expand their visit to see The Haight Ashbury district, The Mission and some other neighborhoods that are on the western and southern sides of the city.

Union Square is also a better place to be if you enjoy great food (several AMAZING restaurants) and nightlife (great bars, wine bars and its close to the theater). It’s also perfect if you love to shop! It’s also easy to get to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square. It only takes about 25 minutes.

Click here for my recommendations for Union Square.

We also want to go to wine country and muir woods. Would you think a tour is better or should we rent a car for the day?

If you have not been to the Northern California wine regions before, I recommend doing your first trip with a tour. My reason for this is that you will learn more about the regions, but you can also sit back and enjoy the scenery vs. concentrating on how to get to your next stop. If you plan to enjoy any wine, then I think this is a must. Your journey back into SF is over the Golden Gate Bridge. It is tough to navigate if you are not used to bridges and after a little wine, well, it’s even more challenging.

You can do a combined tour of Muir Woods and Wine Country or you can do them separately. Check out both my Muir Woods page and my Wine Country page to learn more and determine the best tours for your trip.

Thank you for reaching out to me. I hope this information helps. If you have any additional questions Connie, please add a comment and I will help you find what you need!

Enjoy San Francisco!!


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