The zoo is just fantastic - not only for the animals, but for the layout, architecture, and the foliage of the place. They've got to have at least as many botanists working there, as there are vets!
As for the animals, they have the all-time favourites pandas and coalas, as well as Tasmanian Devils, capibaras, cloud leopards, and tapirs - a collection not easily matches elsewhere. The shows with animals and zoologists are superb, don't miss those!
The opera in SF is absolutely amazing. Tosca was the best one last season, but there's something amazing every year, so I make a point of going to everything that I haven't seen before.
Simple advice on battling the prices: come to the box office on the day of the performance, and ask for either student tickets ($15), or standby tickets ($10, but you do have to stand through the first act - then you can sit on any vacant seat).
A great date idea: order a table in the caffee for the 2nd intermission. The coffee and desserts are just superb, and the treatment you get is fantastic, while not being too expensive. You'll forget you stood through the first act :)
The best thing this place did was limit the number of attendees per day. It provides for a calm and quiet experience. Everything else that's included in the price - free morning juices and coffee, pictures, wetsuits and snorkels, SPFs, excellent lunches, etc - is just the icing on the cake.
The animals you'll interact with are fairly standard - rays, coral reef fishes, dolphins, various birds and miniature reindeer - but the fact that there's noone trying to shove you away while you're petting a ray is priceless. The prices are high, of course, but the experience is worth it.
This is the place for a serious horseback rider. The owner, Tia, works with all ages, but she's especially stellar in brining the best out in girls who are just starting to ride. She insists on hard work, spotless work ethics, gentle treatment of animals, and performing early and often. The horses and riders on the farm get an amazing number of awards, especially astonishing for the size of the establishment, not backed by any millionaire beneficiary or corporation.
The place has a great vibe - spacious grounds and apartments, fountain at the entrance, HUGE kitchen layouts, everything new and shiny. It's not too close to campus (unless you're a real walker), but there's a bus shuttle just for the residents, so classes are easy to get to.
You need to watch out for several issues, though:
- frequent chages of local management (which means any deal or payment you already had, you'd better be able to back up by paperwork, they won't "remember" anything when a new manager comes into the office);
- extra charges (like a beautiful $275 per person "re-painting" charge when you're moving in - dont' know any other place that would charge that!)
- payment schedule. Keep a receipt of every single penny you give them. Literally.
The place used to have good rates (my friends got $430/mo for a 2-bedroom apartment, with 1/2 off summer months), but they've been hiking them up indecently. While the location is nice - by the river and forest, great grounds for pets - the fee for a pet is exorbitant. Short-term leases (6 months, no shorter) are also extremely expensive. The landlord comany is trying to explain these by making the apartments "nicer" - which means they are adding a gameroom, instead of renovating the older apartments, and that also allowed them to have the pool closed for half of this year. The office is staffed by airheads who don't know anything - they just sign the leases. If you want any problem solved, contact the headquarters directly. The best route, though, is not to live there in the first place.
These apartments are right above the Levi Plaza, so there's lots going on literally on the ground floor of your house: movie theater, tanning place, lots of little eateries, coffee shops, bookstore, etc. The apartments themselves are quite spacious and new, and security is rather better than in any of the surrounding complexes. Parking is especially reserved for the residents in the garage, so it's not much of a problem. However, life's little luxuries do get expensive here, and sharing rent with a few roommates is recommended.
This movie theater is the one closest to campus, and that's probably reason it's so well off: location. Otherwise, the place is nothing to wright home about - small theaters, odd schedule, pop movies (real Oscar contenders, like this year's "Vanity Fair", "Kinsley", or "Being Julia" don't even make it to the screen here). Once in a while the theater hosts university events - like digital short movie contest, or screenings sponsored by PSUB. Parking has been tight lately, since outside of the movie parking lot (i.e. by Neon Cactus on Levi Plaza etc) the cars get towed, so be careful.
Vons Cards and beads should have been called "amazing odds and ends", because that's what it has. Cards, beads, plush toys, and jewelry it has galores, but also fossils of snails, preserved butterflies, geological marvels, incenses, and other unique memento-type sundries. The place is quite a bit of fun to roam, and a great source of last-minute gifts, right by campus.
I drove slower on the way home from there, because I realized there was just no point :) No matter how fast you drive on the highway, you won't beat the speed and control of an actual racetrack experience.
After getting your initial certification with them (a half-day feat), you can pay for extra laps and come as often as you like. The suits they give out are a little silly (not to mention they don't have tall sizes), but I understand it's for safety...