San Francisco / Napa travel itinerary work in progress

Reader submitted travel itinerary:

I settled on going to San Fran for 2 days then Napa for 2 days in mid-May. I am going with another couple (who enjoys eating almost as much as I do).

I am going to post my tentative itinerary, please let me know if it sounds good, I am missing anything and/or if it s doable…

I am staying at a hotel in Union Square in SF for the first two days. I arrive on Wed at around noonish. I have no plans for the first few hours. Late night, when the other couple arrives, the four of us plan on going to Zuni Cafe for some food and drinks. That is all for Wednesday and Wednesday night.

Thurs- We plan on waking up and doing an Alcatraz tour at 10am-ish until 1. After the tour, lunch in Chinatown. After doing tenative research, Great Eastern and R&G seem like good places… Are any better? Maybe House Of Nanking on Geary? One person said it was slipping. Another said it is a “low-budget looking place, but always packed with lines out on the sidewalk during peak hours and is great.”

Thursday afternoon, do toursity things around Union Square then walk around the Pier area until dinner at Scoma’s at the Wharf. Thursday late night we want to hit the town, what is a good area for bars/lounges and which ones in particular?

Friday morning- tour to Muir Woods and Sausalito from 9-2ish. Afterward, drive out to Napa where we are staying at the Cedar Gables Bed and Breakfast. Are there any must-stops along the way, and what is a good, scenic route to getting there? We have no current dinner plans or vineyard tours planned yet in Napa.

Saturday all day we want to do some sort of wine tours. Sunday morning, after the Breakfast part of the Bed and Breakfast, we are driving back to the SFO Airport and taking off for NJ.

Basically, I want to know what, if anything, I am not planning on doing, that I should. Any advice or recs regarding where I should lunch on Wed. in SF, a Chinatown lunch, Scoma’s, winetasting in Napa or methods for doing so, restaurants in Napa or anything else would be much appreciated!

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  1. Krink says:

    In addition to Scoma’s, Alioto’s at the wharf is another good place. Although touristy, the wharf area really is a must-see when visiting SF. Hell, grab a crab cocktail and a bowl of cheddar in a sourdough bowl off a street vendor.

    Muir Woods and Sausalito are a given. Before doing that however, you may want to stop at the “rest-stop” kind of area at the northern end of the GG bridge, then walk the bridge itself. The photo ops are endless. Then driving directly across on the Pacific side of the bridge are the Marin headlands which offers even more incredible views of the city and bay. Caveat- the parking for these places fill up fast.

    After that it’s a straight shot up 101 towards my town, Novato. About 25 minutes from the bridge (in Novato), you’ll then exit on Hwy 37 East and head towards Napa. At Infineon Raceway, make a left onto Hwy 121 which will take you straight to Napa Valley, after passing through some preliminary wine country. You might want to stop along the way in the town of Sonoma. Beautiful historic square, and the site of the “Bear Flag” rising which led to CA independence from Mexico.

    Once you hit the hwy towards Napa proper make a left at that light, and don’t turn around until you hit Calistoga! After you pass through about 10 miles of “commercial Napa”, you’ll then hit 20 miles of endless wineries on both sides of the road, the absolute heart of Napa Valley through Yountville, St. Helena, etc. The St. Supery Winery self-paced tour is a great introduction to the wine-making process. The old Christian Brothers monastery/winery, now the CA Culinary Institute is also a nice place to stop.

    Restaurants along the way include Mustards Grill (my fave), Bouchon, The Martini House, Brixx, it’s all good.

  2. Cat says:

    First off- please bring a sweater 🙂

    If your legs need some stretching and you want some food when you get in, walk down to the Ferry Plaza Building(East end of Market street) for some lunch at Taylors Refresher(upscale diner food) or at any of the joints in there – it ranges from market type pick your own to sit down mod Vietnamese(and its on the water). If you don’t feel like going that far, go to Market and Montgomery’s Boudin Bakery for clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. Im a native and I still LOVE this.

    You may want to try and hit Dottie’s True Blue cafe for breakfast- it can have a line down the block, but is worth it (Jones and Geary).

    Chinatowns R and G is great – my whole team goes there for lunches sometimes- nice staff and helpful with ordering too.

    Scoma’s rocks- maybe its the docks, but it feels kinda gangster-y too. From there go straight to the Buena Vista, home of the Irish coffee- its a great scene.

    Late night- there are a load of options depending on your tolerance/bedtime. Look up Bourbon and Branch- its a speakeasy! For fun dancing sometimes the Cat Club on Folsom has an 80s night, look them up though, you may hit goth night mistakenly! Harry Denton’s Starlight room is also a classic, and near Union Square.

    Check for restaurants and services- its a big help.

    There is so much in Napa, I cant even begin. Sonoma is a great spot for lunch. The girl and the fig is great, theres a deli at one of the hotels on the square(el dorado maybe?) Again – seek Yelp. And YES!! Mustards IS fantastic. Have a great trip!!

  3. Dian says:

    Don’t forget to go the The Buena Vista for Irish Coffee. Also the Japanese Gardens in the Park are lovely.

  4. tc tc says:

    You might want to try Kuleto’s for lunch or dinner on Wed.

    221 Powell St.

  5. SF says:

    The Buckeye Roadhouse is not too far from where you’ll be after Muir Woods, and would be a great lunch stop.

    I’ve had very good meals at Tra Vigne, Bistro Jeanty, and Market, all the in St Helena/Yountville area.

    Very high on my list though would be Ad Hoc (in Yountville). I had a fantastic meal here. It’s “American family-style” cuisine, with a set menu every night, and a great way to sample Thomas Keller’s cuisine without the prices of French Laundry. I may never have beef stroganof that good ever again…

    Of course, if you want to go all-out – go for French Laundry!

    Oh, and in San Francisco, I second the person who suggested stopping by the Ferry Building – it’s a beautiful place, especially for someone who loves food! 🙂

  6. DrKoob says:

    If you still need Napa recommendations here are two. It is probably too late to get into French Laundry, plus the cost is $$$$$$$$$.

    But we have eaten three times at Greystone, the restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America. OUTSTANDING every time.

  7. Chris from Seattle says:

    When in Napa I recommend Napa Wine Shuttle. Carl was our guide and he was great! He loves to talk about wine and teach you a think or two. He pulled out coupons at different wineries and even got us in to some of the clubs for free. I thought it was reasonable at $60pp. Picked us up at hotel and dropped us off, and even went to wineries that people requested by name. Our group was small, 3 parties and a total of 8 people. Carl managed all our wine purchases while we were inside enjoying ourselves. You can find their info at

    When we stayed in SF we liked the Kimpton hotels. Both the Hotel Triton and Harbor Court Hotel are fun places. Harbor Court had a great location for the price too. I loved the sushi at Akiko’s Sushi Bar which is close to Union Square.

    Also book your Alzatraz tickets in advance. They sell out quickly.

  8. Kim Cybulski says:

    I found a company called The Traveling Grape and for a small fee they planned our entire trip in Napa. They were great and so friendly, took all the guess work out of it. Give them a try!

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