Your favorite aunt and uncle are coming to San Francisco for the first time, and they just let you know they’re coming in at 11 a.m. on Friday and have nothing planned. They can’t even check into their hotel until after 3, and you won’t be able to knock off work until 5, so they’re going to need something to occupy them and kill four hours. We teamed up with Expedia.com to share some things to do in and around SFO that will be more manageable than having your family wander the city without a guide.
Before even leaving the airport, and especially if your uncle is an aerospace geek, you can tell them hop on the AirTrain over to the International Terminal before they get their rental car and check out SFO’s Aviation Museum and Library. It will be open on a Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., it’s free, and the collection includes photographs, vintage timetables, vintage route maps (think Pan Am’s 1937 routes across the Pacific, when you had to stop to refuel five times to get to Hong Kong), airline memorabilia, and more. SFO also has a pretty strong commitment to art exhibits, and there’s typically ceramics or jewelry or something in display cases throughout the International Terminal, including pre-security.
First timers to California of course need to experience In-N-Out Burger, and since the only one in the city is way out by Fisherman’s Wharf, now is as good a time as any, just landed at lunchtime. The Millbrae In-N-Out is just about a five-minute straight shot south on the 101 from the airport, and you can either explain to the relatives the ins and outs (so to speak) of the secret menu, or you can just let them go with the basics. There might be fancier food if they explored further, or some good Chinese food in Burlingame, but a good burger and fries will be a nice, humble base to begin their afternoon, and you’ll probably be going out for a big-ticket dinner that night in the city anyway.
IT’s-IT Factory Store
Just a hop down the freeway in Burlingame is the headquarters of IT’S-IT, the Bay Area-born ice cream sandwich company, and the facility where they make and pack 100,000 of the cookie-and-ice-cream treats every day. Locals may not even be aware that they make seven flavors now (the most recent addition was Green Tea in 2016), and ice cream fans will therefore get excited by the opportunity of trying all seven, which you can easily do at the factory store. Unfortunately they don’t do tours of the facility, but you can read the full history of the sandwich, and the company, here on SFist.
See the Ocean in Half Moon Bay
Too often trips to San Francisco don’t include the beach, and that is too bad. While we may not be known for our beach weather, the beautiful coastline along Highway 1 shouldn’t be missed, and could make for a perfect first item on your family’s itinerary. Half Moon Bay is an easy, 35-minute drive from the airport and offers some beautiful vistas, as well as several places to stop in for a drink or a bite while you take in the view, like Miramar Beach Restaurant and Bar. There’s also the Ritz-Carlton if they’re looking for something more posh, and the Adirondack chairs overlooking the ocean are a perfect spot to spend an hour settling in—even though your relatives may leave with hotel envy. Also, surfing fans will be interested in Pillar Point, just off of which is the famed break where the big-wave Mavericks competition takes place. From here, it’s just a quick trip along the water up Highway 1 into the city, which is a better way to drive in than just about any other, except maybe the Golden Gate, but they can do that later.
Say Hello to Zuck
There’s not a ton to see in Silicon Valley — at least until Apple opens its visitor center at the new spaceship-doughnut campus—but that hasn’t stopped tourists from spending money on guided tours of all the big office parks, which generally don’t even let you inside. But, with just a map and a rental car, you can glimpse Facebook’s new Frank Gehry-designed campus off the 84 freeway in Menlo Park, complete with its lavish rooftop park, and curious tech fans can also breeze down to Mountain View and walk around the Googleplex there, though you can’t really get too close, and reportedly there aren’t even any public restrooms—just a public park nearby.
This post was written by Gothamist staff in collaboration with Expedia.com.