Author Topic: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please  (Read 3806 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« on: June 24, 2015, 07:53:09 PM »
I was lucky enough to win a trip from New Zealand to New York for 5 nights (6.5 days). I have managed to add to that a 2.5 day stopover in Los Angeles and a 3 day stopover in San Francisco. I am taking my non-MM, but also non-wealthy, sister (we'll see how much I can change her attitude to money in the long flights ahead ;-) ). I do not want to waste money, but at the same time don't want to regret not doing anything.
Accommodation in NY (not sure where yet) is included in my prize, as is a dinner at Grammercy Tavern, airport transfers and a shopping trip, I have to cover all other costs.
I need to cover all costs in LA and SF, currently looking at AirBNB, would rather not have to drive, so suggestions on areas to stay would be great.
I would appreciate any tips on things to do in the short timeframes we have in each city. Is The New York Pass worth it, anything I should book in advance (I was told Alcatraz should be) etc...
We will be shopping, so much cheaper there, so any advice on where to do that (nothing fancy, just nice, classic and decent quality)?
I do not expect this to be cheap, I won't be depriving myself, but want to be frugal about it.
Oh, NY is from 12 October, LA before, SF after.
Thanks in advance.


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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #1 on: June 25, 2015, 09:01:52 PM »
If you like wine I would recommend doing a day trip to Napa valley while in SF.  It won't be mustachian but October in Napa is beautiful.  You can look up day tours to Napa from SF usually pick up from downtown.  You can drink and not have to worry about driving.  The tour guides also provide some historical info which I like.

It all depends on what you like to do.  Let us know and we can give you more specific ideas.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #2 on: June 25, 2015, 10:47:18 PM »

I'd look for a place on Nob Hill, Russian Hill, or North Beach.  I've never lived in any of those places but think they are probably best for tourists.  Pay attention to how far the place is from convenient bus lines and how steep the hills are getting to the bus.
Rent bikes near Fisherman's Wharf and bike over the GG bridge to Sausalito.  If you are so inclined, continue onto Tiburon and take the ferry back.
Visit the Ferry Building for the Farmers Market, walk on the Embarcadero afterward.
Bike through Golden Gate Park, stopping at whatever you'd like.  Then go down the bike path along Ocean Beach.  Stop at Java Beach or the Beach/Park Chalet on the way.
I'm partial to Sonoma over Napa, especially further North, but it's probably more difficult to do without a car.


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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #3 on: June 26, 2015, 01:16:03 PM »
What a great itinerary! Lucky you! Gramercy tavern, wow, haven't been there in forever--I'm jealous!

I love LA, hard to know where to suggest staying as it is indeed quite spread out. I like Beverly hills near LACMA, rodeo drive, the tar pits--it's pretty walkable and there are buses on the main drag.Or if you stay in Venice/Santa Monica, plenty to do near there within walking distance.

Cheap NYC things abound:

Ride the staten island ferry to see the city skyline and the statue of liberty (deboard and reboard at the SI terminal, it's very easy)

Visit the Met museum or AMNH, both donation based--wander in Central Park before or after, or walk from one to the other through the park if the weather is good! October is a wonderful time of year to visit

The Cloisters is a great museum too, way uptown in Manhattan (Met affiliated, also donation based)

You might still be in season to go to coney island if that's your thing and the weather is warm (the wonder wheel should be operational on weekends until the end of October), you could also ride the tram to roosevelt island for the cost of a metro ticket (2.50)

Eat in chinatown, murray hill ("curry hill")

See free shows at the UCB (usually these are late night) or elsewhere

I'd skip the NY pass, but I live here so I have more leisure time to see everything.

I also love the views from the brooklyn heights promenade, and brooklyn bridge park is great. Walk from downtown to dumbo on the brooklyn bridge, or vice versa. You can get a pizza at grimaldis in dumbo, at strange hours of the afternoon it is not that packed.

There is hardly any need to spend money on admission to anything because there are so many neighborhoods to wander, cheap foods to eat, and free cultural resources.

Definitely check out the full length of the high line in chelsea--I believe the new whitney will be pay what you wish on friday nights, too. The high line can be crowded, so off hours are better (assuming late at night or early in the morning)

Times square is an obligatory stop but terrible. If you like theater however you can get rush or lottery tickets at some places. I think that Book of Mormon has a day of lottery and is supposed to be worth it. I would not book anything in advance besides Alcatraz, event wise.

Also, bring comfortable shoes, be prepared to walk, and be prepared for a range of weather options.
« Last Edit: June 26, 2015, 01:27:29 PM by norabird »


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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2015, 04:36:55 PM »
For San Francisco there is an organization that give free walking tours:

These are genuinely free given by residents who donate their time.  They will ask for donations (similar amount to a tip) at the end but no pressure to give even that.  They have a large variety of tours and the quality has been great on those I've taken.

Definitely don't get a car for San Francisco.  Public transportation is much more convenient than looking for parking.


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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2015, 07:20:09 PM »

I would not rent a car in San Francisco, just take public transportation.  I believe you can book a shuttle from the airport to wherever you are staying--double check.  You may want to find a place to stay at that is close to public transportation/cable car pick-up/drop-off.  Ride the cable cars.  Go to Union Square and Chinatown.  Take one day and spend at Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39.  Maybe take a ferry over to Sausalito and back.  San Francisco is sooooo much fun!!


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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2015, 03:28:37 PM »
In NYC, you can probably save some money by buying an unlimited 7-day metro card for the subway, rather than buying individual trips.  Personally, I find the super touristy things (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Times Square etc.) to be sort of meh and crowded.  Various art museums and the Natural History Museum are excellent, and considering it's easy to spend an entire day in one, a pretty good value too.  I don't know what your interests are, but I also have really enjoyed fabric shopping in the garment district, walking across the bridges (excellent views, but unlike the tall buildings free!), eating good ethnic food, visiting the big libraries, the arboretum in Brooklyn, and going to plays (not just broadway either, there are lots of lower profile theaters that put on excellent productions and are cheaper).  Actually, if you do want to see a "broadway" show you might be better off seeing if any of the touring companies are in SF or LA and do it there instead of NYC to save money. 

If you're going to go to a beach, I'd go in San Francisco.  If you're used to New Zealand beaches, the ones in NYC will probably just gross you out, although Coney Island is fun if you like amusement park rides and beach food. 

If you are shopping to save money on basics, you might rent a car for one day and go to chain stores somewhere suburban.  In my experience, stores in city centers (NY and SF anyway, haven't been to LA) tend to be a bit more expensive and boutique-y.


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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2015, 03:45:28 PM »
Hey Kiwimust - I'm a kiwi living in NYC.  Good on ay on winning the trip!

First - Do your clothes shopping in NYC - there is no clothes tax here for items under $110.  There is tax in California.  If you visit the Macy's or Bloomingdales visitor counter and show your passport you can get a discount card for the day.  I'm not a Macy's fan but visitors seem to like it!

This is what my kiwi visitors enjoy the most:
 - Highline (free)
 - Top of the Rock - less of a time suck than empire state building and still great views.  It's not cheap but you can't come to New York and not go up high!
 - Staten Island Ferry (free)
 - Big Apple Greeter tours ( - need to be pre arranged (free but you should tip the volunteer)
 - Walking around West Village, SoHo, Lower East side (free)
 - Art Museum - they tend to enjoy the Met the most (donation based entry).  MoMA can get too crowded to be enjoyable.
 - TKTS - cheap tickets to broadway, tip the South Street Seaport opens earlier than Times Square although it may be inconvenient to where you are staying.
Things visitors are disappointed in:
 - Statue of Liberty (time suck - just see it on the Staten Island Ferry).
 - Asian food - this is generally better in NZ, stick to classic American food and other ethnic food and you'll be happy - Burgers, Pizza, Bagels!  Gramercy Tavern is amazing!
 - Central Park - too big to be enjoyable it seems and visitors want to see it in 5 minutes and move on to the next site ...


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #8 on: June 28, 2015, 12:50:22 AM »
Wow, thanks so much everyone! I am even more excited now. I have to admit I had never heard of Gramercy Tavern, so I'm glad to hear it is a good place to go.

So much to think about! My sister is big on cycling, so getting bikes to go to Sausalito sounds perfect, hopefully I can keep up.

I am going to get my head around all this and come back with more questions, I am sure. Thanks again, so great!


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco - Holiday tips please
« Reply #9 on: June 28, 2015, 03:35:44 AM »
LA - FYI laws surrounding airbnb are quickly changing, so keep an eye out on any rentals you book. Some cities only allow 30 day rentals, other places require the homeowner to be there.
What you do really depends on the vibe you're looking for - glitzy/ritzy, beach scene, artsy/culture, outdoors, etc. I'd definitely suggest picking a general area each day cause you can lose a lot of time in traffic if you're using highways (or crossing them)

If I had guests in LA for two days (who hadn't been before), this is probably what I'd do: Hollywood/West Hollywood/Beverly Hills one day; walk around Hollywood/Highland (for Walk of Fame), Farmers Market for lunch, and walk around Rodeo Drive area (stop at Sprinkles and get a cupcake from the ATM!) Sunset Strip probably will have happy hour specials if you want to see that area. The other day I'd do Venice Beach, Santa Monica Pier, and somewhere in Malibu for sunset (Lots of great beach restaurants to catch a drink - It won't be cheap but it's one splurge I definitely would take, if that's up your alley.)

Theres also TV show tapings, but you may spend half day on that (they usually have you arrive a couple hours early and just wait). It's pretty easy to find those if you search the web.


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