Location Notes

By: Mike Kimball - Revised: 2006-06-20 devin


This is where you get to pick up a few tips, learn from my mistakes, laugh at my misfortunes...

map view of San Francisco
Downtown San Francisco

Moscone Center

moscone center flagsThe Moscone Convention Center is located downtown San Francisco on the east side of the peninsula. The main entrances of Moscone North and South face each other across Howard Street. Note on the map, just to the northwest of Moscone, there is a yellow circle numbered '7', this is the location of the Marriott Hotel (where the Pro Conference sessions take place), on the corner of 4th and Mission. Market Street is the next block to the northwest - it is a main vein to everything. I added the little red dot on the map, to indicate where I was standing for the next two pictures.

The exhibition floors are one level below the street. The auditorium where the keynote takes place is in Moscone South, though you will likely find yourself waiting in line on the north side ;)

[The picture to the right was taken from the catwalk between Moscone North & South, above Howard. The flags are in front of Moscone South.]

Where to Stay

Where to stay depends on your budget. Obviously the hotels located near the Moscone Center are more expensive. The Marriott is the first choice if you don't mind $200 a night - it is a block from Moscone, plus it has larger rooms, a big lobby, a restaurant, and happens to be where the Pro Conference sessions take place. After sleeping to the sound of traffic and then walking through the Market Street gauntlet a few times, I developed an appreciation for the kind of buffer a tall granite façade provides.

[Picture taken from catwalk between Moscone North & South; The Marriott is the tall building in the center.]

If you need to shave a few hundred off the cost, and lodging seems to be the only area where this is possible, then Days Inn Civic Center is not bad. For $94 a night, you can't complain too much, even about the cheesy polyester bedding, or the noisy bathroom fan, or the microwave oven that doesn't work. There are plenty of useful little shops nearby, good restaurants, and the comfort of the city's culture centers (such as the Performing Arts Center, the Opera, the Public Library, and City Hall).

Regardless, you may find that your bathtub/shower is your best friend to help with the road buzz. Bring your own shampoo & conditioner, soap, scrubber puff, bath salts, or whatever you prefer to make you feel at home, relaxed, and human again.


Airline Travel
I love to fly; yet I saw why I usually prefer to travel in my own car. Commercial airlines sacrifice a great deal of passenger comfort for the sake of higher profits. My flight was crowded, and the seating in coach reminded me of the tiny desks they put in third grade classrooms. First class didn't look a whole lot better, apart from having only four seats per row instead of six...

Hotel Transportation
My advice is, don't take a taxi. SFO to downtown is a lengthy and expensive ride, and even my dinky little motel (Days Inn Civic Center) had a shuttle service for $12. Take some time to look for your hotel shuttle - unless you think $35 to get to downtown is reasonable for the convenience (and you don't mind giving the driver directions to your hotel, since he probably doesn't know how to get there).

Getting Around Downtown San Francisco
cable car[Picture taken at 8th & Market] Learn the public transportation routes if you're not staying near the Moscone Center. The Days Inn isn't even on the map at the top of this page, so you can imagine I did a lot of walking before I discovered the relative pleasure of riding the bus. Walking is nice unless it starts raining (then it can really suck). The Days Inn is about five blocks west of Market and 8th; Moscone is near Market and 4th. It's about a 25-minute walk. Bring comfortable shoes. Also, there is a prominent billboard campaign for drivers to be more careful about pedestrians - this should signal to you that you should watch carefully for cars. They are much bigger and faster than you are, and their drivers are horn-happy and impatient (not unlike New York City). It's best to stay near Market Street so you can easily find a bus or a cable car, or use BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit). Make sure you have plenty of quarters or one-dollar bills.

Climate (Clothing)

Well obviously it rains a lot and is humid most of the time. Think waterproof. An umbrella or a raincoat will not likely go unused.


There are tons of restaurants and cafés all over. You should have no trouble finding somewhere to eat. However, with those names you don't recognize, it's a good idea to read the menu (which is often posted outside) first. If you can't understand it, don't order it. You may end up at Jardinière eating some silly, small, overpriced french dish that will make you say, afterwards, "so now, let's go get some dinner somewhere."

By the way, for you Starbucks junkies ;) There is one across the street from the Marriott (4th and Mission, thereabouts) as well as one across from Moscone South (3rd and Howard). I found that a venti mocha and a chocolate muffin worked wonders on my attention span, which is normally very short at 9am...

Fun Stuff to Do

Planet Hollywood, 4th & Market
ibook planet hollywood
[iBook playing DVD of Cannibal Corpse, Live Cannibalism.]

4th and Market is pretty cool - there's a Virgin Records store, a Planet Hollywood restaurant, and many other shops and entertainment villages I didn't have time to visit. Also, the Marriott has a very cool little pub called 4th Street Pub (I think) - a total sports bar, which helped me feel at home again. Hope you're either a 49ers or a Raiders fan...

Obviously you don't want to spend all your time downtown if you can help it. North Beach is nice, Fisherman's Wharf is cool if a little touristy, Haight-Ashbury is interesting, and there's always Golden Gate Park to the far west above Sunset. Don't forget to visit Chinatown. And the Golden Gate itself, of course.

A DVD-capable laptop is always a nice toy to bring. It impresses the "I'm so computer illiterate" people everywhere you go. It's also useful during meals, on the plane, or even late in the evening in your hotel room, to repel boredom.

Mac-mgrs.org Party

I think it's usually called the "night before the keynote party" because it takes place ... you guessed it, on Monday night before the keynote. This time it was at a little bar on 133 Beale Street (I forgot the name, was it Beale Street Pub?). The geek party was on the second floor. It was fun, I met some cool people, and drank free Guinness for hours. It made the midnight walk back to the hotel along Mission Street a bit more tolerable...

Down the Social Scale

Homeless people abound in downtown San Francisco. The highest concentration seems to be anywhere along Mission, or on Market Street between 5th and 7th (where most of the porno shops and adult entertainment bars are, which also happen to be a bit below the standard I'm accustomed to).

You may notice that people aren't very friendly downtown - even if you are well-dressed, other well-dressed people won't look you in the eye. (I actually had to help a poor lady who couldn't get directions from anyone, even while wearing a full-length leather coat.) Practically everywhere you go, there is a creative and enterprising individual trying to talk you out of some spare cash. I have never seen or heard such endless variations of "poor me, give me your money" stories as in the downtown areas I've been to (Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Denver, Albuquerque, and yes, San Francisco). People go into aversion mode, in reaction to the constant barrage of beggar come-ons. I found myself putting on a game face as well. Especially while carrying a $2000 laptop and an $800 digital camera.

My Overall Assessment

MacWorld seems to be more for users and not so much IT people. Some sessions were valuable, but most of the sessions and booths seemed geared for people with less in-depth knowledge of the OS from an administrative point of view. I was glad to go, and glad to be there, but I felt that the "Pro" conference should have been more intensive for its name. I would like to see a conference geared for IT professionals - something in between the fluff of MacWorld and the vast depth of WWDC.