**Guest Post by Erin Rheinschild, San Francisco Travel Association; Visitor Information Center
The Visitor Information Center at Hallidie Plaza is celebrating its 40th Anniversary serving visitors arriving at the Powell BART Station from the airport, staying in the hotels of Union Square, or starting their day at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market. Serving more than 300,000 visitors a year, by our calculations that’s well over 12,000,000 visitors served in our 40 years of operation. As the official front desk of the San Francisco Travel Association, we think we know a thing or two about what’s best in San Francisco, and what visitors are looking for. Here are a few practical tips from us and a fun one, too, for good measure.
We have a well-kept shopping secret of our own – a gift store featuring classic San Francisco souvenirs and a selection of some of the best SF MADE products from local small businesses we could find for $25 or less. We think it’s pretty great and locals and tourists alike would be proud to give these gifts.
Frequently asked for by visitors…
Public Transportation and Hop-On-Hop-Off Buses, All Things Vacation:
You’ve probably seen the signs in the window at just about every convenience store selling unlimited use 1, 3, and 7-day Muni Passports for visitors, or hop-on-hop-off bus tickets. The Visitor Information Center offers these, too, but we’ll create a transit plan and tips for a visitor’s entire stay. Those other guys will sell you a pass; we’ll give you an entire experience.
We also offer ticket packages at a discount, tours to Yosemite, Wine Country and beyond San Francisco. We represent all tours and experiences in San Francisco without bias- we care most about finding the right experience for the visitor standing right in front of us.
And, of course, we’ll give them a free map.
Our Sister Store and Union Square’s Only Post Office:
San Francisco Travel recently partnered with Macy’s Union Square to open a new and improved, official Visitor Information Center on the Cellar Level, directly next to Union Square’s only USPS. The new center keeps the same hours as the store, open as late as 9pm Monday – Saturday, and 7pm on Sundays. This is a great alternative for late hour visitors looking for help, or when our other downtown location is closed on Sundays in the fall and winter.
We’re often asked where to go to exchange foreign currency. When they come to us, we give them a brochure from Wells Fargo to take to the Union Trust location at Grant and Market. The brochure has a special offer to waive the transaction fee for the exchange, and we like our visitors to get a good deal.
Pre-Paid SIM Cards:
At the Visitor Center our partner Verizon is advertising 4G LTE Data Unlimited Talk and Text for $40, up to 1 GB of 4G. Many international travelers want to stay connected but don’t want to deal with the hassle of changing their plan while they travel; prepaid SIM cards are very popular with these travelers. They have multiple locations in Union Square, the Powell and Market, Westfield San Francisco Centre, and Market and Third.
If You’re Asking Me….Something Fun:
Axiom Hotel Happy Hour: This newly opened hotel has a very cool modern design, and an even better happy hour. I’ve liked every glass of wine I’ve had here and all for $5! You won’t find some crummy blend on tap here. It runs until 7pm, so take your glass of wine to the level overlooking the bar to check out their free vintage arcade games while you sip. I promised you something fun. Duty done.
Erin Rheinschild. Director, Visitor Experience
Erin oversees the Visitor Experience services for San Francisco Travel, including the city’s official Visitor Information Centers and desks at Moscone Center. MYSF is SF Travel’s newest offering to the tourism community, allowing local businesses to become visitor ready by providing destination and tourism training to the front line. Erin’s background includes management of ticketing and attractions, including the grand opening of the California Academy of Sciences in 2008.