Not Worth It!, San Francisco
There are many tour buses in San Francisco. Open Top Sightseeing Tour Buses do not have a narrator on board. They give you a cheap cheap earphone for an audio tour. You can't understand a thing. Our driver did not wait for us to sit before slamming on the gas, knocking our heads into poles and turning over one of our infants in her stroller. We got off at our first chance. The driver got off too, argued with us and refused to leave us alone. All the while the passangers on top watched the show.
Unique Suggestions: Call the number on the brochure to talk to the manager before getting a refund. He will return your call in about an hour. You will have to walk back to where you purchased the tickets and the formerly charming people who sold them to you will be confrontational and rude. However, since you spoke to the manager, you will get the refund.
Fun Alternatives: After that experience we did fairly well on the MUNI buses. However, breaking down two infant strollers everytime we got on one was a pain.
This is one of those places where they is an abnormal amount of gravity. Also its not the only place, there are other such places around the US as well as the world.
Its a standard American sucker fare... simply don't fall for these small useless hyped crap that just isn't worth a first look... As most american sights its well marketed for sucker to fall.
So avoid if you can.
Unique Suggestions: Just don't do it.......
Fun Alternatives: Do anything but this crappy trip - its so lame duck.
Update 2010 - This 'tip' is so friggin' old, I doubt it has any relevance or truth to it any more.
Seriously - how long can a place be a "tourist trap" and still exist? Probably been through at least 3 chefs since I originally wrote this.
In addition, I found a blog by a seemingly (never met her) wonderful person Michelle McFee
who along with being a true San Franciscan from the good ol' days,
seems to be a woman of very good taste - and she lists Rose Pistola as one of her faves.
(Get well and BE well, MM!)
So in lieu of time spent / past, and Ms McFee's recommendation, I hereby cast this old "tourist trap" tip into the dumpster. Please disregard what I wrote years ago (below) and go try it yourself.
(Here's what Michael Bauer thinks. (ps ... it appears to be even more expensive today)
Rose Pistola used to (maybe 5-6 years ago) be a good ligurian style italian restaurant in North Beach.
Used to serve a delicious pasta liguria dish with crustaceans in delicious green pesto-style liguria sauce.
Nowadays imho it is overpriced with average-to-mediocre food and service.
It's too bad, and I hate writing this because I used to love this place and take people here with pride all the time.
As Mike LaFontaine (Fred Willard) says often in 'A Mighty Wind:'
"wha' happened? "
Unique Suggestions: Have a drink and/or appetizer, then split.
Here's the (2010) current DINNER MENU
Fun Alternatives: Here's an alternative: FIX IT.
To all: PLEASE let me know if they get good again so I can take this down.
There are imo so many many better and less expensive places to eat in North Beach and Chinatown within walking distance.
The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park was a tough tip to place... thing to do or tourist trap??? Though it is an interesting and unique sight in San Francisco, it is also a major tourist trap as it charges $4 a person to see a tiny one-acre park. Though this doesn't seem like much, there really isn't a whole lot in the park to keep a person busy... maybe a 20-minute stroll and you are done. If you want more, you can always blow money at the gift shop and the $5 per cup tea shop. That is, if you can avoid the lines of tourists trying for the exact same photo as the last group of tourists.
Yes, it's nicely manicured and peaceful, but no park I have ever visited is worth $4 for a 20 minute stroll. Similar gardens such as Sun Yat Sen Chinese Gardens in Vancouver are more impressive, not to mention free!
Even the semi-public restroom was not worth worth the price as both the mens and ladies' rooms smelled pretty bad.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid the gift shop and tea house; visit on a quiet weekday in the fall or winter.
Fun Alternatives: The botanical gardens are across the street and free.
On our day trip along the coast to Monterey, we ended up in Pebble Beach. We had heard that the '17-Mile Drive' along the coastal area here was worth a look, so we paid our $8.50 to enter the Drive. This route winds through treed hills overlooking the coast, through elegant housing areas and 4 golf courses as well as some coastal scenery. However, in our case a large section of the drive was blocked off due to gas-pipeline work and the seal breeding area along the coast was a 'no-stop or see' zone from April to June. In addition, compared to the natural spendor of the protected coastline between SF and Santa Cruz, I found the man-made intrusions in this area to be second-rate (maybe it is because I am not a good golfer!).
Unique Suggestions: Enjoy what you can of the coastal part of the trip. Here, I was videoing 'The Restless Sea' off Point Joe, where an underwater rock shelf causes wave turbulance and has also claimed an number of unwary mariners.
Fun Alternatives: Try the next-door town of Carmen - it has lots of tourist boutiques and also a nice beach for sunbathing or swimming.
The exterior classical-style is a rebuilt relic of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition.
The Roman Ruin contrasts with the modern technological wizardry of the Exploratorium museum inside.
Unique Suggestions: Take a few photos enjoy the ambience and walk down to the beach. Give the inside a miss unless you have kids in toe.
Is only for children & not worth going into.
The PALACE of FINE ARTS is a nice looking building.
Unique Suggestions: Have a picnic lunch in the grounds.
Leave the kids inside to amuse themselves.
Fun Alternatives: Go down to the Golden Gate Promenade.
It's a pretty enough square, and the famous houses do look good against the backdrop of the modern downtown, but that's about it. I don't think the houses warrant the thousands of postcard shots and guide book entries myself. They weren't a colourful as many houses nearby.
The wax cabinet along the Embarcadero SUCKS. It's expensive and all the people really look like wax. Good lord , I've seen better work done by kindergarten kids.
Don't go there!!!
Fun Alternatives: I didn't go there, but the "Ripley's Believe it Or Not " is probably a lot better. I went to another one in Canada, and that one was slightly amusing.
Golden Gate Bridge.
Don't bother! It costs a lot to hire a bike, you may as well walk, its a nice walk along the water to the bridge, but not such a big deal when you're actually on it!