San Jose and San Francisco Trip

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Rose
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San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Rose » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:30 am

Hi Bogleheads,
I will be traveling in mid-August with elementary age kids to San Jose and San Franscisco area.

What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?

Other than typical touristy places such as Golden Gate area, Muir Woods, Winchester house (first time for the kids to be in the area), what are good places for kids to visit?

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celia
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by celia » Sun Jul 16, 2017 2:36 am

I'd skip the Tech Museum in San Jose as lots of things were broken when we visited. We didn't have kids with us and it trys to be kid-oriented so we didn't stay long. I didn't think it was worth the cost.

Do see in San Francisco:
Cable cars, cable car museum, Bart
Rent a rowboat at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park
Take the Ferry to Sausalito or San Quentin (advanced reservations needed)

If you will be there over a week, drive to Santa Rosa to see the Charles Schulz Museum (creator of Peanuts cartoon strip/Charlie Brown and friends). On the other side of the parking lot is a restaurant where Schulz would hang out. He built the adjoining ice rink for the locals.
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/24523

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Raybo
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Raybo » Sun Jul 16, 2017 3:26 am

In some way, it depends on how much you want to spend. If your kids like baseball, you might try to get some tickets for the Giants. Note that there is a free standing room only viewing area for games that is very crowded. The stadium is nice to visit, either way.

The number one attention for kids interested in science is the Exploratorium, on Pier 7 (?) in SF. There is also the SF science museum in GG Park. It is expensive but well done.

Hiking on Mt. Tamilpias is great, if the kids like hiking.

If you aren't renting a car, which is more useful outside SF, BART runs more often than Caltrain. BART covers SF and Alameda County but doesn't go to San Jose. Caltrain goes to San Jose but only runs consistently during commute hours.

Note that SF weather in August can be very foggy, cold and windy. Bring an extra layer or two for everyone. There are webcams surrounding the bay that you might want to check out to see how things look. Check google for URLs.

If you want to go to Alcatraz, get tickets well in advance (they may be sold out already). Go to alcatrazcruises.com for tickets.

If your kids (and you) can ride bikes a bit, rent bikes at GG Park, ride to the ocean, turn right (uphill) and ride to the GG Bridge and take the ferry back from Sausalito, with the tourist hordes.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

Longdog
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Longdog » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:46 am

celia wrote:I'd skip the Tech Museum in San Jose as lots of things were broken when we visited. We didn't have kids with us and it trys to be kid-oriented so we didn't stay long. I didn't think it was worth the cost.

Do see in San Francisco:
Cable cars, cable car museum, Bart
Rent a rowboat at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park
Take the Ferry to Sausalito or San Quentin (advanced reservations needed)

If you will be there over a week, drive to Santa Rosa to see the Charles Schulz Museum (creator of Peanuts cartoon strip/Charlie Brown and friends). On the other side of the parking lot is a restaurant where Schulz would hang out. He built the adjoining ice rink for the locals.
http://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/24523
In San Francisco, go see Exploratorium and possibly Aquarium of the Bay
Consider the Computer History Museum in Mountain View
Steve

sbaywriter
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by sbaywriter » Sun Jul 16, 2017 6:56 am

Lived near San Jose for 20 or so years but not sure why anyone would make a special trip to visit it unless there for business or family when there is so much to see in SF. In SF 4 art museums that might have special programs for kids. There's Chinatown for different cultural feel. Golden Gate park has DeYoung art museum with tower view over the city. Also some other museums in the park, botanical gardens, Japanese tea garden. Ocean beach except it will probably be cold and foggy that time of year. Zoo.

Near but not in San Jose: Lots of beautiful places in mountains nearby (Big Basin Redwoods) but I guess you see same beautiful mountains if you head north from SF. Likewise the Pacific Coast is beautiful but you have to drive 30 min or so to get there and you could do same driving south from SF.

Only other place I don't remember seeing mentioned is Great America theme park in Santa Clara.

Rose
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Rose » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:21 am

Thanks for the ideas of memorable places!

May I have input for the $ side:

What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?

NorCalDad
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by NorCalDad » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:34 am

Cal Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park and Lawrence Hall of Science in Berkeley are great options. Agree with the Giants game - one of the best stadiums in MLB and tickets are dirt cheap on Stubhub since the team is so awful this season.

I'm a big fan of Embassy Suites with kids (you get your room, they get theirs). There are two near the SF Airport (Burlingame, South SF) between San Francisco and San Jose. Also one in Santa Clara if you don't want to be near the airport.

Based on everything you've said, I'd lean toward car. You have to travel throughout the Peninsula, and you'd have to lug two boosters around the city if you went the Uber route unless you can find a driver each way with boosters. If there's a hotel shuttle, you may be able to figure out a way to use BART/Caltrain without a car, though.

somekevinguy
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by somekevinguy » Sun Jul 16, 2017 8:49 am

Rose wrote:Thanks for the ideas of memorable places!

May I have input for the $ side:

What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?
Id agree with some others and largely skip San Jose unless you have family or some other reason to be there. I'd plan for a hotel or Airbnb etc in/near SF (either the city proper, probably best) or slightly south near a BART station (i.e. San Mateo, Daly city, etc). I'd plan to rent a car (which you dont so much need if youre going to stick around SF) so that you can get to other places (ie consider a drive to Monterey and the aquarium there, even a 2 day trip to Yosemite, etc).

Agree with exploratorium, cable cars, alcatraz (if tix available), GG Park (ie Ca acad of sciences), biking/walking across Golden Gate, possible giants game for SF proper.

FoolStreet
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by FoolStreet » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:02 am

Rose wrote:Thanks for the ideas of memorable places!

May I have input for the $ side:

What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?
Based on the responses, you are being advised to skip San Jose, so stay in SF.

Unless you plan to visit Santa Cruz, Big Basin Redwood Park or Stanford campus, or unless the kids are old enough to visit some of the tech company campuses, then skip San Jose and the peninsula entirely.

I think it would help if you told us your preferences.

Uber and bus is perfect for the city. A cable car ride is fun at least once. No experience with hop on/off buses in sf. Not an option in SM. Uber around San Jose will add up for multiple small jaunts in SJ. Caltrain is reasonable between SJ and SF but slow

annie20
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by annie20 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:59 am

With two elementary age kids I would definitely check out the San Francisco CityPass. It includes many things that I would recommend with that age group: Exploratorium, cable cars, CA Academy of Science, Aquarium of the Bay, and a boat ride. Makes it a bit more economical, as well. I agree with others, unless you already have established what you want to do in San Jose it may not be worth it. At most maybe a day trip? On trips to San Francisco I usually stay in Mill Valley, in part to avoid paying 30-50 to park a car at the hotel. The Holiday Inn Express Mill Valley was comparatively cheap, nice (for what it was), and it is right on the way to Muir Woods/Stinson Beach. But Mill Valley is the opposite direction of San Jose so if you are considering going there more than one day ditch my idea.

mrsbetsy
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by mrsbetsy » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:34 am

There is nothing in San Jose and parts of it are skanky so I wouldn't spend any time there. We only go there for hockey games.

However, if you want to go about an hour further, the kids all love the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Monterey in general is beautiful, although definitely can be foggy in August. Rent a car for the day to go.

If you are going to stay within San Francisco, you will not need a car. I would use the cable cars, BART, Uber XL, and ferries. They would love Alcatraz, but you have to get tickets well in advance. The hop on/hop off bus is a great way to go.

If they like to hike, an easy hike would be Lands End. It is near the Cliff House and the historical Sutro Bath remains. You will have outstanding views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Pier 39 is just fun, but can be culture shock for some. There are street acts everywhere and they just pass their hat at the end for a tip. The sea lions should be back by August and they have been hanging around the docks for years. They leave for the summer to birth, but are usually back by August. It is really fun to watch them play "king of the hill". It's touristy, but certainly a must-do.

Lunch at the Rainforest Cafe was always fun when my kids were youngsters.

Yes, definitely take the John Muir hike. Most of it is on a walkway and easy for kiddies. You will want to go early because parking can be a challenge, although I hear they are working on that.
Last edited by mrsbetsy on Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:41 am, edited 1 time in total.

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dm200
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by dm200 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:42 am

Many years ago, on a family trip when our son was little, we took a nice several hour bus tour of the high points of San Francisco.

Be prepared for the weather/temperature differences - both between San Jose and SF, as well as different parts of SF. I recall that I was on a job assignment for a few weeks in San Jose and on a nice, warm, sunny Saturday I went to a baseball game at Candlestick park - and it was cold, cloudy and miserable.

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Watty
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Watty » Sun Jul 16, 2017 10:59 am

sbaywriter wrote:Lived near San Jose for 20 or so years but not sure why anyone would make a special trip to visit it unless there for business or family when there is so much to see in SF.
+1

If there is something you specifically want to see in San Jose then I would still stay near San Francisco and just make a day trip to San Jose.

Unless you are actually staying in downtown San Francisco instead of looking for a specific city for the hotel I would look for a hotel that is a short walk from a Bart station so that you could just take the Bart train into the city and then take a bus to where you want to go to if it is not near a Bart station. The Bart fares and all the time it takes to do this will add up though. If you are only saving $50 a night by staying outside the city a more expensive hotel in San Francisco might make more sense.

For the most part you really don't want a car when you are in San Fancisco since parking at the hotel and wherever you are going will be expensive and difficult. I would just rent a car on the days that you need one to see things outside San Francisco.

A couple of tips;
1) Check the prices on flying into San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. One of the other airports may save you enough to make it worthwhile.

2) If you are flexable on your dates then be sure to check a week or two before and after your planned date. The hotel prices can vary a lot depending on if there is something big going on or not.

3) For the hotels in downtown San Francisco also check Hotwire where you buy the hotel at a discounted rate before you know which one it is. You can sometimes get good rates there for business hotels on the weekends when they are not busy. You can check BetterBidding.com and often figure out which hotel it is before your buy it.

http://www.betterbidding.com/

I would want hotels on that web site to have a 90% or more recomendation percentage.

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celia
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by celia » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:10 pm

Rose wrote:What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?
It depends where you are flying? into. We've flown to San Francisco many times (from SoCal) and just used public transportation. There is NO parking in San Francisco unless your hotel has it. There are shuttle buses that go from SFO to any hotel you want in SF. BART also goes to SFO and is useful if your hotel is near a BART line.

I would stay in an AirBnb instead of a hotel. The city taxes for rooms at AirBnb or hotels are very high in the city so it makes prices higher.

Travel light and forget car seats and excess weight. SF is hilly and unless you are downtown, you will have to carry whatever you bring up and down the hills. Use public transportation and Uber/Lyft. The transportation itself can be interesting to small kids. Then forget going outside the city. They won't remember anything that you do. They might think of SF as a huge amusement park just being on various kinds of rides.

If you want to go outside the city for one day, look for the flyers at the hotels that take you on a tour of Muir Woods or other nature sites.
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madmartigan
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by madmartigan » Sun Jul 16, 2017 12:25 pm

Rose wrote:Hi Bogleheads,
I will be traveling in mid-August with elementary age kids to San Jose and San Franscisco area.

What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?

Other than typical touristy places such as Golden Gate area, Muir Woods, Winchester house (first time for the kids to be in the area), what are good places for kids to visit?
San Jose resident here. I'd advise against a car in San Jose, unless you're used to driving in extremely bad traffic and tight quarters. I do not enjoy driving in SF; the day and overnight trips I've done with family have been much more fun just taking public transportation and Ubers. The average wait time for an Uber is 2-3 minutes in the downtown area. Consider skipping booster seats if your children are right on the edge of weight / height limits; it will make the overall experience much better.

If you're going to Muir woods, I *highly* recommend going there on a weekday, and getting their early. Parking fills up fast, and it's much better when there are less people around. Consider also spending time in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, a equally beautiful area and a similar day trip as Muir woods.

What specifically are you looking to do? Enjoying touristy goodness? A lot of hiking? Checking out museums? Mostly kid friendly activities?

FB01
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by FB01 » Sun Jul 16, 2017 1:48 pm

Hi,

I stay near San Jose and I would suggest stay in SF only. There is nothing much to see in San Jose. Being parent of elementary kids, I would suggest do rent a car as there is lot to see in SF itself. I am not sure how many days you are planning but below are key things I believe your kids would love

- GG bridge - see from both the sides
- Go to Sausolito - nice town - eat Lappert's ice cream
- Muir woods
- Fisherman's Wharf
- Crooked street
- Coit tower
- Painted Ladies (Crooked Street, Coit tower and Painted Ladies are pretty much near)
-Baker beach in SF
- Go to Santa Cruz Boardwalk (Mystery Point) - may be an hour so drive from SF
- Cal Academy of Sciences
- I would not recommend Aquariam of the Bay ..it is kind of very small for the price they charge
-Take the ferry which goes under the GG bridge
-Alctraz - if you get the tickets
- Sea Lion at Pier 39 - we went 2 weeks back and there were not too many as they migrate in June July..but do check it out (there are Sea Lion at Santa Cruz boardwalk also)
-Trip to Big Sur - Bixby bridge - just check it out what part is closed
-On the trip to Big Sur - Caramel beach (very nice town) and hidden beach called Pfifer beach ..just google.. you won't see the sign on the road as it is hidden beach
-If you have time Lake Tahoe, Yosemite which are one night trip - depending upon your itinerary - but make sure to book in advance

These are pretty much thing that comes to my mind which your kids might enjoy. Make sure to bring a hoodie and long sleeve jacket for kids. SF and GG becomes pretty wind at any point of day.

gkaplan
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by gkaplan » Sun Jul 16, 2017 9:13 pm

Jack London Square and Lake Merritt in Oakland?
Gordon

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Hyperborea
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Hyperborea » Mon Jul 17, 2017 12:46 am

gkaplan wrote:Jack London Square and Lake Merritt in Oakland?
Unless the kids are into jazz or blues (or mum and dad are getting a sitter for them) and are going to Yoshi's then I'd skip Jack London Square.

The kids might enjoy chocolate tours / tasting so maybe Ghirardelli or the more hipster Tcho in San Francisco.

If you do go to Monterey then consider staying down that way instead of San Jose. Stay car free in San Francisco and rent the car to go down the coast somewhat to Monterey, Santa Cruz, and if you are going whale watching (highly recommended) go to Moss Landing. Take highway 1 down to Santa Cruz from SF and stop in Half Moon Bay for lunch and eat fresh fish. From Santa Cruz you can take the kids to the boardwalk for the day. On another day ride the old time lumber train into the mountains and back. There's also Kuumbwa for jazz in Santa Cruz if you can get somebody to watch the kids.

It's an easy day trip to Monterey from Santa Cruz for the aquarium and depending on the kids the Steinbeck museum. The old cannery row in Monterey is a big tourist trap and not worth your time, so see the aquarium and get out. It's also another easy day trip to Moss Landing from Santa Cruz to go whale watching. Everyone of my nieces and nephews who've come to visit have greatly enjoyed that.

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fizxman
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by fizxman » Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:26 am

The only reason I can think of to stay in San Jose is if you're there on the weekend because hotels are pretty cheap. Anyone who goes to San Jose goes for business and it's during the week so hotel prices drop quite a bit on the weekends. The same might be true for San Francisco as well but I'm not sure.

But having been to San Jose many times for work, I agree with others, there's not much to do there. There's the Winchester House and Great America Park in Santa Clara, but other than that I can't think of anything.

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dm200
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:23 am

FB01 wrote:Hi,

I stay near San Jose and I would suggest stay in SF only. There is nothing much to see in San Jose. Being parent of elementary kids, I would suggest do rent a car as there is lot to see in SF itself. I am not sure how many days you are planning but below are key things I believe your kids would love

- GG bridge - see from both the sides
- Go to Sausolito - nice town - eat Lappert's ice cream
- Muir woods
- Fisherman's Wharf
- Crooked street
- Coit tower
- Painted Ladies (Crooked Street, Coit tower and Painted Ladies are pretty much near)
-Baker beach in SF
- Go to Santa Cruz Boardwalk (Mystery Point) - may be an hour so drive from SF
- Cal Academy of Sciences
- I would not recommend Aquariam of the Bay ..it is kind of very small for the price they charge
-Take the ferry which goes under the GG bridge
-Alctraz - if you get the tickets
- Sea Lion at Pier 39 - we went 2 weeks back and there were not too many as they migrate in June July..but do check it out (there are Sea Lion at Santa Cruz boardwalk also)
-Trip to Big Sur - Bixby bridge - just check it out what part is closed
-On the trip to Big Sur - Caramel beach (very nice town) and hidden beach called Pfifer beach ..just google.. you won't see the sign on the road as it is hidden beach
-If you have time Lake Tahoe, Yosemite which are one night trip - depending upon your itinerary - but make sure to book in advance
These are pretty much thing that comes to my mind which your kids might enjoy. Make sure to bring a hoodie and long sleeve jacket for kids. SF and GG becomes pretty wind at any point of day.
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dowse
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by dowse » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:05 am

I will add to those who have recommended Monterrey as a side trip. DW and I did this as a day trip last fall out of San Francisco. We rented a car for one day and drove down to Monterrery, visited the aquarium, went out to the 17-mile drive, then back to San Francisco. We got back to our hotel in the late evening, including a stop for a quick dinner. The aquarium is excellent and would be especially enjoyable for kids that age.

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dm200
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by dm200 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:37 am

dowse wrote:I will add to those who have recommended Monterrey as a side trip. DW and I did this as a day trip last fall out of San Francisco. We rented a car for one day and drove down to Monterrery, visited the aquarium, went out to the 17-mile drive, then back to San Francisco. We got back to our hotel in the late evening, including a stop for a quick dinner. The aquarium is excellent and would be especially enjoyable for kids that age.
Yes!!

t60
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by t60 » Mon Jul 17, 2017 3:39 pm

+1 on Monterey. Was just there a few weeks ago and the kids loved it. Free trolley that takes you up and down the main roads and lots of cheap parking.

If you are only visiting for a few days, I'd suggest only staying in SF. There is simply so much to see I wouldn't spend time in San Jose, which isn't exactly known as a tourist location.

If you do find you are "sick" of SF, check out the Oakland Zoo. Better than the SF Zoo IMO. You can also check out the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Parking can be expensive, but the beach is nice and playing games or going on some rides is fun.

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gunn_show
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by gunn_show » Mon Jul 17, 2017 6:29 pm

Rose wrote:Thanks for the ideas of memorable places!

May I have input for the $ side:

What city should we pick for our hotel if we will likely visit places both in San Jose and San Francisco? I notice Palo Alto, San Mateo, Daly City.

Should I go for Uber with two booster seats or just rent a car?

Should I just use Doubledecker bus/hop on/off type bus for downtown tour?
Agree with others, not sure why you would visit SJC unless you have work / business / family there to get to. Hot and crowded this time of year. Strip malls and business parks all over.

Thus most are recommending only SF, which Uber would be fine, unless you plan to try and get outside of the city, in which taking Ubers back and forth would get quite costly, especially if you have kid(s) and you would need to request larger than UberX vehicles (which you will, because SF gets some funky small vehicles for UberX, like the 12 year old Tacoma I rode in last month ...)

Whatever you do.. pick it ASAP... this is super high tourist season for anywhere bay area.. $$$$ ... even finding work hotels in SF / silicon valley / SJC right now is running $250-300 /min ... I would definitely scour the VRBO / Airbnb sites or Travelzoo or Expedia for deals, you will need it, unless you have a top-end budget or have secured places to stay in each location.
"I love competition. And I want to win." R. Murdoch

Rose
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Re: San Jose and San Francisco Trip

Post by Rose » Wed Jul 19, 2017 12:43 am

OP here.Thanks bogleheads for all great advice. As I suspect, majestic natural beauty and people watching seem to be the way to go. Really appreciate all feedback. Now off I go to make reservations.

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