Frommer's San Francisco [With Map] Paperback – Oct 4 2011
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About the Author
Matthew Poole, a native Californian and San Francisco resident, has authored more than two dozen travel guides to California, Hawaii, and abroad, and is a regular contributor to radio and television travel programs. Before becoming a full-time travel writer and photographer, he worked as an English tutor in Prague, a ski instructor in the Swiss Alps, and a scuba instructor in Maui and Thailand. His other titles include Frommer’s California, Frommer’s Irreverent Guide to San Francisco, Frommer’s San Francisco Day by Day, and Frommer’s San Francisco Free & Dirt Cheap. You can follow Matthew’s weekly blog posts about travel adventures in Northern California at LocalGetaways.com.
A native San Franciscan, Erika Lenkert divides her time between San Francisco and Napa Valley, where she is forever seeking the next best restaurant, hotel room, and fun way to savor the region. She frequently writes Every Day with Rachael Ray party guides and off ers up tasty local tips on the region for other various magazines. In her spare time she tours the region with her husband, Colie, and daughter, Viva, and authors books, such as The Last-Minute Party Girl: Fashionable, Fearless, and Foolishly Simple Entertaining; The Real Deal Guide to Pregnancy; and Healthy Eating During Pregnancy.
From tracking gorillas in Rwanda to scuba diving with sharks during a South Pacifi c cyclone, there's not much Kristin Luna won't do for the sake of a story. Kristin has written guidebooks for Frommer's and Globe Pequot Press and was a former contributing writer for Newsweek, Forbes Traveler, and the Travel Channel. She also freelances for Islands, Robb Report, Sherman's Travel, Destination Weddings & Honeymoons, the San Francisco Chronicle, Toronto Globe & Mail, Real Simple, Glamour, Self, and more.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A bigger difference between the two books is types of activities and sights that they recommend. Lonely Planet has long sections describing the hipper, edgier parts of the city such as the Mission, Castro, and Richmond "Avenues" districts. This is the real San Francisco where that locals love to visit. Frommer's recommendations for exploring town are almost all in the more touristy Chinatown, North Beach, and Fisherman's Wharf areas.
I think younger travelers will be disappointed with the coverage in the Frommer's book. Mainstream travelers will probably feel right at home with Frommer's coverage, but I do recommend that they try so spend at least a couple of days visiting parts of the city outside the tourist areas.
The book is organized in various sessions covering a brief history of San Francisco, places for accommodation (with ratings for the hotels), meals, shopping, entertainment, as well as its vicinities places to visit. It also provides specific recommended itineraries for an one to three days visit. However, this might not be an one-size fit all recommendation due the variety of interests for the visitors. As example, this book excluded the Golden Gate bridge for the one-day itinerary which I think is a must visit place for anyone who is new to San Francisco. The other must visit place it did not emphasize much was the Fisherman's Wharf. It is a great for shoppers and diners.
I would recommend this book for those who are new to San Francisco as it provides a lot of good reference information which would make their trip planning a lot easier.
The guide suggests activities that should whet the curiosity before visiting, so the reader can choose must-sees according to personal interests and available time. There's never time to do everything, but with the depth of information given, visitors can have a memorable trip. There are hotels listed covering the whole price spectrum, but there's barely a mention of the bed & breakfast inns that abound or of the vacation rentals to be found on sites such as airbnb or vrbo. The restaurant listings provide a huge selection, and most are very good. But even the good ones close with alarming regularity and new ones take their place. Just ask around; every local has a favorite.
The book itself is very user friendly. Of course, the map tucked into the book is invaluable. It's printed on heavy paper that won't fray or blow around on a windy street. Even more thoughtful is the practice of printing a map of a neighborhood right in the section that describes that area. Another guide I reviewed has a separate section of maps that require searching both for the text about the area and for the related map.
For its variety and depth of descriptions, plus ease of use, this is the guide that works.
It gives you a history of the city, has one day itineraries of stuff you can do, recommendations of places to stay and restaurants to eat at - all the stuff that you expect from a guide book. The organization is good and there are local maps and more of these would have been helpful. As another reviewer has noted, it would have been helpful to have more lower end accommodations listed as well as some other options like AirBnB which has a BIG presence in the cities. Also some good bed and breakfast listings would have been helpful.
Finally would have liked some more lists of special interests like where the best second hand bookstores are or the chess clubs and the like.
On the whole, for a tourist to SF with usual tastes and interests, this is an excellent guide.
Basically, this book tends to be a bit too high-end for my tastes. Even when it lists 15 cheap or free activities, one of them is a cocktail lounge where "drinks aren't cheap"--but it's apparently worth it for the view. Another of the free/cheap activities is a website, which doesn't require being in the city at all. Taken together, these two suggestions imply that the Frommer's people don't really have a clue about how to combine worthwhile with inexpensive.
Now, I don't mind spending money where I think it's warranted, but I'd rather not be wasteful. I'll happily pay for meaningful experiences somewhere special (e.g., a safari and Kilimanjaro climb when I was in Tanzania), but I don't need to stay at expensive hotels or eat expensive meals every day in a North American city. I'd rather see the sights, experience the atmosphere, and generally get a feel for the city. But I found that the Frommer's guide was more focused on hotels, food, and spending money than on what to do in the daylight hours between meals. Fully a quarter of this 400-page book is dedicated to where to stay and where to eat, which I don't think is really necessary in the age of the internet and just adds weight if you want to take the book along while sightseeing. It didn't help that my attitude to accommodations is apparently quite different from theirs: in the section on Berkeley, the guide laments that it's "not even close to being a good hotel town"; the selection is mostly limited to "extremely basic motels and funky B&Bs". The guide goes on to recommend the one real hotel, even though it acknowledges that it's overpriced, when I would personally have been just as happy to see some details of these B&Bs.
It's not all bad, of course. First, I'm probably just not the right traveller for this guide; other people with other focuses may absolutely love it. And even I was able to find some things to like here: the generous colour photos make this an appealing book, and the transit maps on the back inside cover are extremely useful. There are some other useful maps scattered throughout the book, too, if you know where to find them (e.g., in the hotel section). Some people may also like the included pull-out map, which can be convenient in its way, though I personally prefer guides that have a map section included in the pages at the back--it's a lot easier to flip back a few pages than to open up a paper map while holding a book and walking around outside.
When it came time to actually walk around San Francisco, this wasn't the guide that I chose to bring with me; that honour went to the lighter, more activity-focused Lonely Planet Discover San Francisco (City Guide). And even though I'll be spending four more months in the Bay Area, I'll be returning this Frommer's guide to the library without purchasing my own copy. It just isn't exactly what I need, though it's a well put-together book that's sure to find a receptive audience elsewhere.