Student ‘Cheapskate’ Tour

Many tourists who travel to San Francisco are often caught unawares by how expensive it is to tour the main sites, eat decent food, and rent a nice room at a decent hotel. Well, if you would like to visit San Francisco, but do not want to burn a hole in your pocket, than this is the tour for you. There are so many fun and interesting venues in San Francisco just waiting for you to stumble upon them. This tour will guide you to just a handful of such places.

The first stop is the artistic, edgy, trendy, and hippie Haight and Ashbury district. A good place to start is at the McDonald’s at Stanyan and Haight. Yeah, not the best for you, but nothing beats a McDonald’s breakfast. There are many thrift shops offering cheap high end clothes of all types and if you can not bear McDonald’s, there are plenty of small cafes. But do not be fooled by the grungy look of the Haight. Some places are quite expensive. If you have some room in your budget to be flexible, you can get a cheap Cuban sandwich at Cha Cha Cha’s. It’s best to walk east down to Masonic Avenue than make a left until you get to Fulton. At Masonic and Fulton, catch the 5.

Next on the tour, Saigon Sandwiches, located at 560 Larkin Street at Eddy. Exit the 5 between Larkin and Hyde on McAllister. Head west to Larking and make a right. Keep going up north for just shy of three blocks and you will run into this little shop in the heart of the tenderloin, also known as Little Saigon. Though it is in the tenderloin, do not fret!! As long as you get there before 11:30am, it is safe and the line is not that long. Most importantly, you can buy delicious Vietnamese sandwiches at $2.75 a pop. This is truly one of the cities biggest deals. In fact, buy a few for throughout the day. Most other shops in the city can not compete with this bargain. The sandwiches come with either tofu, pork, chicken, or other slightly more expensive combinations. After packing up on cheap-n-good food, take either the 19 or 31, headed inbound. Exit at Market and hop on the F-Line or Underground, and make your way toward the Embarcadero.

The Embarcadero is a beautiful stretch the runs from downtown all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf. However, your first stop after exiting the F or underground stations is the Ferry Building. There is a farmer’s market on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays where you can buy many cheap things to snack on and at the same time bask in the beauty of the bay and glimpse the beautiful Bay Bridge. Next on the tour is the fashionable and historical Levi’s Exhibit in the Levi store just outside of Union Square on Post and Stockton. Simply take the F or underground to Powell Station or Market and 4th. Vear right on to Ellis and make a sharp right on to Stockton. Follow stockton directly to the Levi store. The exhibit is on the ground floor and is interesting because the centerpiece at the first showing was a long display case that showed Levi’s wares chronologically, from 1920s “waist overalls”, Jell-O colored jeans of the novelty-loving 1970s, and to a pair just purchased. Framed boxes on the wall provided a concurrent timeline of American history from the California Gold Rush to current events. The most captivating aspect was a darkened corner of monitors showing television advertising campaigns created over the past 30 years by Foote Cone & Belding in San Francisco, which, with one predecessor, has handled the account for 67 years.

After you have been wowed by Levi’s Exhibit, head west on Post to Post and Powell and catch a $5 dollar ride on the cable care. (**Please be sure to get your receipt and transfer pass. The cable car operators are notorious for not giving receipts and slipping the $5 dollars in to their own pocket. Then when you get off the car you will not be allowed to re-board.)  This will take you to Jackson and Mason, where you can exit. Head one block south to Washington, and check out the free Cable Car Museum. The Cable Car Museum was established in 1974 and is run by a non-profit organization. From the first run in 1873 to the present, you will learn about the inventor and technologies that led to the cable car heritage in San Francisco. The museum also houses a collection of historic cable cars, photographs and mechanical displays.

From the Cable Car Museum, its just a few blocks walk to North Beach, commonly known as the Italian district. Simply head east to stockton than north right up to Columbus. You will instantly be taken aback by this lively and Mediterranean-style area. There are a number of amazing coffee shops and eateries on Columbus, but let’s get off the beaten trail and head first to Ciocolatto’s between Green and Vallejo. This shop is special as you can sample the fudge for free and help yourselves to as many free samples of the saltwater taffies that you can handle. Just do not leave with a tummy ache!!! Also, feel free to explore this area. There are a number of great restaurants and shops to explore. Perhaps coffee at Tosca Cafe between Vallejo and Pacific or Cafe Trieste between Vallejo and Broadway. A really nice and affordable place to east would be Steps of Rome.

Now, let us hop on the 39 at Stockton and Union and head north to Pier 39. Exit the bus at Stockton and Beach and head a few blocks north to the Embarcadero which eventually turns in to Jefferson Street. Head west on this strip in the Fisherman’s Wharf. Along the way you will see many street performers displaying a litany of talents ranging from magic tricks to painting. You will also come across another free museum, Musée Mécanique. I find this museum to be quite entertaining as they have mysterious fortune telling machines, old arcades, and cool displays of carnivals than can be activated with a quarter. Close by, there is also a submarine. If you get back on to Jefferson and head west, you will past the Fisherman’s Grotto, spot barking seals, and eventually come to Jefferson and Hyde. Turn left and head south one block to Hyde and Beach. Than continue west to Ghiradelli Square on Beach and Larkin. Be sure to head in to Ghiradelli, looking as inconspicuous as possible. Why you ask? Well, at the entrance next to the Ghiradelli ice-cream parlor, you will be given a free piece of Ghiradelli chocolate. I generally head in-and-out about three times.

The last thing on the agenda is catching a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge around dusk at the coastal and vast Crissy Fields Park. To get there, head south on Larkin to Bay Street and than right until you come to Van Ness Avenue. You will want to board the 30 heading outbound and get off at Broderick and Jefferson Streets. Head north on Broderick for about a block until you come to Marina Boulevard and than head west to Crissy Fields and enjoy the priceless views.

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