Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > America - USA > San Francisco
Reload this Page >

Thoughts on 8 day trip to San Francisco and Monterey 1st time with family

Thoughts on 8 day trip to San Francisco and Monterey 1st time with family

Old Dec 24, 18, 10:43 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Boston, MA
Programs: Hilton Gold, SPG Gold, CC Gold, UA Silver
Posts: 370
Thoughts on 8 day trip to San Francisco and Monterey 1st time with family

Family of 4 with 11 year old boy and girl twins visiting SF 1st time from Boston. We are active, foodies and enjoy exploring cities. We arrive around 11am Friday April 12, 2019 and leave following Sat April 20 at Noon. I was thinking of staying in San Francisco Friday April 12 until Wednesday April 17. I am Hyatt member and could stay at Grand Hyatt in Union Square, Hyatt Regency near Embarcadero or Hyatt Centric Fisherman Wharf. I am leaning toward Grand Hyatt to be in middle of everything unless anyone else had suggestions. I also like having the use of Regency club for breakfast and snacks (I have explorist certificate I can apply). Some thoughts I had for our time in the city -

Friday - Probably just relax, do some light sightseeing since long flight from Boston. Chinatown, North Beach, Union Square area
Sat - Thinking Dylan Tour to get accustomed to area, get to see a lot of highlights including Muir woods, Sausilito, Golden Gate Bridge, open to other ideas
Sun - Alcatraz (Plan to purchase when they go on sale 90 days out), Fisherman Wharf, Embarcadero, Farmer Market
Mon - Golden Gate Park, Haight, Mission District or go to one of the museums

Other things we would possibly plan is Science Museum, Giants baseball game, Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts. Open to ideas. I think 4 days gives us lots of time to explore SF.

Tuesday to Friday Night - I thought about renting car, driving down to Monterey and staying Hyatt Monterey or at Hyatt Santa Cruz. I figure take our time driving down stopping along way with plan to stay in one of the 2 hotels for rest of stay. We would want to do whale watch, Monterey Aquarium, Santa Cruz boardwalk, train ride through Redwoods, Henry Cowell. Day trip down coast and Big Sur

Friday night, head back to San Francisco, stay at airport hotel. I was thinking Hyatt SFO. Our flight is not until 12pm Saturday but figure not worth hassle going back into the city. Anything else to do Friday night near airport or Sat AM? Is traffic bad coming to airport area on Friday night. Wondering if better to stay in Monterey and drive to SFO in AM. I think if we leave at 7AM, we should get to SFO by 10am at latest to return car and check in. We are flying back Jetblue Mint and have TSA pre for everyone.

Questions I had:

- Wondering if worth it going down to Big Sur and Carmel? From what I have been reading, Big Sur is likely 2 hours one way and 2 hours back for best scenic routes.

- Do you think doing Dylan's tour good idea or just explore on our own since we have good 5 days in city? I thought getting full day tour with Sausilito and Muir Wood would be good for family. If not, we can save our money and explore on our own.

- Is Muir woods recommend if exploring Henry Cowell and possibly Big Sur? Would you do Muir woods instead?

- Open to suggestions for other ideas. Appreciate the insight
cdoobiest is offline  
Old Dec 24, 18, 7:18 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco
Programs: GM on VX, UA, AA, HA, AS, SY; Budget Fastbreak
Posts: 5,305
Fabulous! Your planning looks great.

i think 5 days in sf (no car) and 3 days in Monterey is great! Monterey has so much. The Monterey Hyatt has a pool and has hosted golf events before. There are nearby driving ranges if you are interested.

For friday night, there are great dining near sfo in Burlingame, south San Francisco, and San Bruno. Just check in at hotel, unpack your gear, get dinner, and have a leisurely Saturday morning for car return and check in etc.

we spend 7 nights in Carmel every year and love it, but you can see it with Big Sur at a later visit!

muir Woods / Sausalito are nice and CROWDED nonstop with cars. If your tour guide includes transport to these places, then you can avoid parking hassles. We drive north at times and often pass official highway signs that say Muir Woods Parking Full etc

any giants game might be fun...

If you go to Haight ashbury and enter golden gate park near there, keep aware of your surroundings and safety more than normal.

Loads of good food in sf but Hyatt club breakfast is almost impossible to beat :-). I have great memories of the Hyatt Huntington Beach club breakfast!

ask anything, I’m a native...
gaobest is offline  
Old Dec 25, 18, 10:14 pm
  #3  
2020 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Nov 2018
Location: SJC
Programs: Marriott, Hilton, Delta, National
Posts: 10
Questions I had:

- Wondering if worth it going down to Big Sur and Carmel? From what I have been reading, Big Sur is likely 2 hours one way and 2 hours back for best scenic routes.

- Do you think doing Dylan's tour good idea or just explore on our own since we have good 5 days in city? I thought getting full day tour with Sausilito and Muir Wood would be good for family. If not, we can save our money and explore on our own.

- Is Muir woods recommend if exploring Henry Cowell and possibly Big Sur? Would you do Muir woods instead?

- Open to suggestions for other ideas. Appreciate the insight
-Carmel is definitely worth visiting, and nice mission there too, if you are into this sort of things. You can also go to Carmel Valley for some wine tasting. Regarding Big Sur - you can drive at least to Bixbie Bridge, and if you decide you liked it so far, continue all the way to McWay falls (Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park). Another must see on the way there is Point Lobos SNR.

- Muir Woods on a weekend is not a good idea, unless you tour has the parking problem solved. Parking in Muir Woods requires reservation in advance - it is that bad. You may consider skipping redwoods there and see them later - in Henry Cowell SP or, better, Big Basin SP. The latter has the biggest trees, but farther from main roads. Muir Woods has nicer “redwood forest” part IMO but hopelessly overcrowded. Out of the 3, I would do Big Basin, skipping Muir Woods and Henry Cowell together with Roaring Camp Railroad - it is for younger kids anyway.

- btw, Santa Cruz boardwalk is still low season on your dates and will operate only limited rides, so you may reconsider going there. The mini golf in Neptune Kingdom is nice, though.

Have you considered Hyatt Carmel Highlands instead of Hyatt Regency Monterey?
Andykh is offline  
Old Dec 30, 18, 10:35 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2016
Location: SFO
Programs: AA,UA,AS
Posts: 159
I'd recommend staying at either the Grand Hyatt or the Hyatt Regency in the Embarcadero. I'd stay away from Fisherman's Wharf. Fisherman's Wharf is worth a visit, but not a place you would want to stay at for 4 days. Fisherman's Wharf is very commercialized and is centered towards tourist.

As for seeing Muir Woods and Sausalito, I'd say the tour is the way to go since you now need to reserve parking at Muir Woods. In addition if you went to Muir Woods on your own you would need to rent a car as it takes about an hour from downtown SF. It is doable on your own and I'm not a huge fan of tours thats just me, but if you enjoy tours I'd take the tour. If you end up not doing the tour it is possible to see Sausalito by taking a ferry which leaves from the Ferry Terminal at the farmers market.

Ferry Link: Golden Gate Transportation District

I'd save Big Sur for another time, between Carmel, Santa Cruz, and Monterey there will be plenty to do. I would recommend staying near SFO on your return just for peace of mind. As gaobest said there are plenty of great restaurants near SFO.
freeagent is offline  
Old Dec 30, 18, 11:29 pm
  #5  
Community Director
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Anywhere warm
Posts: 29,746
Originally Posted by Andykh View Post
Have you considered Hyatt Carmel Highlands instead of Hyatt Regency Monterey?
I agree with this suggestion. There is a big difference between the two properties. The Hyatt Monterey is a big motel, whereas the Carmel Highlands are a true destination resort. There are stunning views over the Big Sur coastline from the Carmel Highlands Hyatt.
SanDiego1K is offline  
Old Dec 31, 18, 4:18 pm
  #6  
Moderator: Hilton Honors, Practical Travel Safety Issues & San Francisco
2020 FlyerTalk Awards
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: San Francisco CA
Programs: UA, Hilton, Starwood, Priceline
Posts: 10,593
Friday - Probably just relax, do some light sightseeing since long flight from Boston. Chinatown, North Beach, Union Square area
While San Francisco is a great walking city, if you're getting in 5:55 PM, to your hotel by seven, walking around Chinatown North Beach and Union Square would take a while. If you're staying in Union Square, I'd pick Chinatown or North Beach and maybe get an Uber or a cab and have dinner.

Sat - Thinking Dylan Tour to get accustomed to area, get to see a lot of highlights including Muir woods, Sausilito, Golden Gate Bridge, open to other ideas
Sausalito is pretty – visiting Sausalito is what convinced me to move here 30+ years ago – but having just been there a past couple of weeks is even more touristy than it used to be. If you're doing a bus tour, the combination of Sausalito and Muir Woods might be great, but you might think about making a reservation from your words you could spend some time there. But I've taken that actual bus trip and it's pretty pleasant.

Sun - Alcatraz (Plan to purchase when they go on sale 90 days out), Fisherman Wharf, Embarcadero, Farmer Market
I'll admit I don't understand the appeal of Fisherman's Wharf. Especially coming from Boston where you have your own great seafood places, it's nothing special and I find it pretty annoying and have for many years. Same with Alcatraz – I'd recommend the night tours it's pretty spectacular but to just walk around an old prison in the daytime doesn't do much for me. The farmers market is really fun, and will tend to be extremely crowded on the Sunday. But there's lots of little food shops within the farmers market at ferry Plaza to spend some time in.

Mon - Golden Gate Park, Haight, Mission District or go to one of the museums
I'm not sure how you're planning to do this – you could definitely do Golden gate Park and the Haight as they abut each other, but if you're planning on walking around the park and the district you would not have much time to get over to the mission as well. Except maybe your family is always a go go go – I am not , so take my words with a grain of salt.
I would probably skip Alcatraz and spend an afternoon in the mission and have dinner at one of the new chichi places that's opened up recently. I think mission is best visited in the daytime and dinner time rather than on evenings event.


Other things we would possibly plan is Science Museum, Giants baseball game, Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts. Open to ideas. I think 4 days gives us lots of time to explore SF.
I'm not sure if the Giants are here yet mid April? I haven't checked their schedule but that's a good afternoon and early evening which unless your baseball fans of the highest order you may not want to commit to.

Tuesday to Friday Night - I thought about renting car, driving down to Monterey and staying Hyatt Monterey or at Hyatt Santa Cruz. I figure take our time driving down stopping along way with plan to stay in one of the 2 hotels for rest of stay. We would want to do whale watch, Monterey Aquarium, Santa Cruz boardwalk, train ride through Redwoods, Henry Cowell. Day trip down coast and Big Sur
The aquarium is really spectacular – again the boardwalk is a bit touristy for me but your thoughts may differ. I haven't been to Big Sur in a few years since before the big flooding, so be sure to double check which roads will be open and which facilities will be as well. I also echo others who recommend staying in Carmel rather than the Hyatt Regency Monterey. The Hyatt Regency is fine it's just you've got very equivalent facilities in the Boston area where is the Carmel Highlands is really a beautiful place with attentive staff and wonderful resort field.

Friday night, head back to San Francisco, stay at airport hotel. I was thinking Hyatt SFO. Our flight is not until 12pm Saturday but figure not worth hassle going back into the city. Anything else to do Friday night near airport or Sat AM? Is traffic bad coming to airport area on Friday night. Wondering if better to stay in Monterey and drive to SFO in AM. I think if we leave at 7AM, we should get to SFO by 10am at latest to return car and check in. We are flying back Jetblue Mint and have TSA pre for everyone.
I am an almost paranoiac early airport arriver so I would never plan to drive back from Monterey to SFO. Yes you should be able to do it in three hours but you never know… If you do have a car, staying near the airport and having dinner at somewhere nearby – Burlingame, even San Mateo seems a better idea.


I can never get enough of the woods so I certainly wouldn't rule out doing both Henry Cowell and Muir Woods.
squeakr is offline  
Old Jan 1, 19, 12:26 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco
Programs: GM on VX, UA, AA, HA, AS, SY; Budget Fastbreak
Posts: 5,305
Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
I agree with this suggestion. There is a big difference between the two properties. The Hyatt Monterey is a big motel, whereas the Carmel Highlands are a true destination resort. There are stunning views over the Big Sur coastline from the Carmel Highlands Hyatt.
carmel highlands Hyatt might cost more than Monterey Hyatt. The Monterey Hyatt has nice facilities, more pools, a big shuffleboard area, a big Connect 4, and more non-luxury dining choices. I love the highlands inn and visit annually but other than the views, it doesn’t have a big shuffleboard deck or Nachos!
gaobest is offline  
Old Jan 2, 19, 12:14 pm
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Location: Boston, MA
Programs: Hilton Gold, SPG Gold, CC Gold, UA Silver
Posts: 370
Thanks everyone for input so far. I am leaning towards driving back now Friday night and staying near SFO. How is traffic Friday afternoon/night? Also, I was deciding on Carmel vs Hyatt Monterey but Hyatt Monterey is 15,000 points cheaper. If it was just my wife and I, I may splurge but with kids, we will be out in Monterey aquarium, and as long as the pools are heated, they will be fine!

I think the Dylan Tours may be good to see Muir and some of the highlights and then we can go back the next few days while we are in SF to hit some of the other highlights we missed.
cdoobiest is offline  
Old Jan 2, 19, 10:08 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco
Programs: GM on VX, UA, AA, HA, AS, SY; Budget Fastbreak
Posts: 5,305
Your family can rent Surreys near the Monterey aquarium. They’re so cute
carmel highlands inn is about 30 min south of Monterey. If you want to do Monterey / pacific grove stuff, then you’re definitely better off at the Monterey Hyatt. There’s also the monarch butterfly sanctuary
monterey has great easy family dining.
I love highlands inn because I do a lot of nothing here, which is very hard to do at home (and I have a lot of leisure time). I rarely go to Monterey unless we want to eat at CPK(!) because the CPK in sf is a pain for us.
gaobest is offline  
Old Jan 2, 19, 10:12 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco
Programs: GM on VX, UA, AA, HA, AS, SY; Budget Fastbreak
Posts: 5,305
Driving to your sfo hotel on Friday night isn’t too bad but factor 2 to 2-1/2 hours from Monterey to sfo on Friday on 101. Google maps is our friend (I don’t use Waze). With a hotel near sfo, I endorse dinner near hotel in Burlingame or south San Francisco or millbrae. No need to drive to San Francisco for dinner on Friday when you’re staying near sfo.

Ask anything, we are all San Francisco experts here!!
gaobest is offline  
Old Jan 3, 19, 2:55 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Location: Location Location (San Francisco)
Programs: Hyatt Globalist, airline free agent
Posts: 699
I live in SF with my 9 year old daughter. Thinking about the stuff that makes her happy leads me to a potentially interesting idea for you, but it may not be for everyone. While Muir Woods are beautiful, they are painful on the weekends for all the reasons already mentioned. They will be packed even if you go with a tour. Would your family consider doing a hike instead?

To me me one of the joys of living here is the easy access to natural beauty. There are so many ways to experience it but the most accessible is going for a hike. If this sounds up your alley I’m happy to recommend some that will take your breath away and let you have a patch of redwoods just for yourself, either in Marin county or in big basin. This might require you to rent the car a day earlier but worth it in my opinion.

I agree with the comments re fisherman’s wharf. You will only be among tourists... i only go for one reason: it is a great way to see the sea lions. Instead consider a walk along Crissy Feild to the base of the GG bridge (start at Aquatic Park and walk west). You’re likely to see some sea lions frolicking in the waves and no Bubba Gumps to ruin the vibe. Or do the Lands end trail in the northwest corner of the city and walk all the way down to the beach.

Lastly my daughter loves the California Academy of Sciences in GG Park.

On edit, get up early and ride the cable cars. Kids will love it. You might as well.

Hope this helps

Last edited by HSaxa; Jan 3, 19 at 3:00 am Reason: Ride the cable cars!
HSaxa is offline  
Old Jan 4, 19, 7:55 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 377
Humble recommendations:

Avoid pier 39 and Fisherman's warf.

Go go Exploratorium. Eat there.

Walk from Cliff house/Sutro Baths to GG Bridge. Visit

Jackets and Hats.

Kudos to you on planning Alcatraz in advance.

Walking even halfway across the bridge is an unforgettable experience.

Samovar tea in Yerba Buena Gardens.

4 Barrel Coffee on Valencia.

Always watch your step.

Leave NOTHING in view inside the car. That USB charger cord may seem insignificant to you but...
PaperGlider is offline  
Old Jan 5, 19, 7:43 am
  #13  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco
Programs: GM on VX, UA, AA, HA, AS, SY; Budget Fastbreak
Posts: 5,305
And leave nothing in your car if possible. If you want to put something in the trunk, don’t do it after you park. Park somewhere, put the thing in your trunk, and drive to where you want to go!
gaobest is offline  
Old Jan 5, 19, 7:45 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: San Francisco
Programs: GM on VX, UA, AA, HA, AS, SY; Budget Fastbreak
Posts: 5,305
You can definitely see the beauty of Muir Woods within sf - tons of park lands and forest stuff. Golden gate park, twin peaks, Bernal hill, presidio, et al.
gaobest is offline  
Old Jan 6, 19, 1:31 am
  #15  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: SF CA USA. I love large faceless corporations. And they cherish me in return (sometimes). ;)
Programs: UA Premier Gold/disappointed 1MM, HH Gold, IHG Plat, MB Gold, BW Diam Sel
Posts: 16,002
From the OP:

I think 4 days gives us lots of time to explore SF.


Not really. There is far, far, far more in SF than tourists (or even locals) can see in just four days. But, that's OK.


Also, be aware that there are lots of other threads in this forum on the topic of things to do and see in SF, so rather than rely solely on this one, you might search for those as well.
KathyWdrf is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search Engine: