Monday, February 4, 2013

San Francisco, California

There are so many wonderful things to see and do in San Francisco!!  I already blogged about my visit to Alcatraz Island but there's so much more!  In this blog post I will attempt to give you a taste of San Francisco.

In the past we usually stayed near the Union Square area.  It's close to shopping and it's at one end of the cable car route.  It's also decent walking distance to Chinatown.  But the rooms are generally really small!  One year we barely had enough room to open the door to our room because the bed was so close to it.  And another year we could see the people in the room next to us taking a shower!  The rooms are small due to the older buildings but the price is still high!  Well, at least they were small for the hotels we stayed in.  The super pricey hotels maybe have larger rooms but they weren't in my budget.  

This year we decided to stay near Fisherman's Wharf (the other side of the cable car route).  The rooms were still pricey but much larger.  It was also a nice experience to stay in another area.  It's, in my opinion, much more family friendly.

Boudin is right on the main strip.  You can eat, shop, tour,
or, for free, you can watch through a window on the main strip.
The main baker is even equipped with a headset to answer questions that
by-passers have.  Notice the cute sourdough turtles she is making?

Sourdough lobster!

We didn't tour because we didn't notice the option until we were out of time.

I had passed this many times in past trips but never stopped.
It was a mission for me to visit Ghirardelli this time.
The carmel filled chocolate squares are my favorite!!!

My son is snacking on a limited edition flavor they gave us a sample of at the store.
There are so many flavors they offer that I could never find at home!

We checked out the ice cream shop.
I read a review that it was overpriced and wasn't worth it.
Since it's San Francisco and a famous place - I wasn't shocked by the price.
It's the price you pay for the experience....
I think this sundae was priced at $8.  My only problem was it was too sweet.  

I purchased a few of the specialty candies that I can't get in my home town.
To my surprise, I also had to buy a bag to carry it in (I think this one was 25 cents...).
Okay - it's only a quarter but it still threw me off that I had to buy a bag...

Of course we had to eat at the Rainforest Cafe!
It's located right on the main strip of Fisherman's Wharf.
I love the locations that have the bench with location sign!
We also visited the Hard Rock Cafe but I forgot to take a good picture
(there was a huge event outside the door when we were there).

There are a ton of street entertainers!

You can get great sketches done for really cheap.  I think it was $2.75 ($3.75 if you wanted it in color).
That is much cheaper than the $25 we spend at our local cartoonist!!!

The sea lions at Pier 39!  They are so entertaining and free to watch.
Although, there is usually a crowd so finding a good spot to see them isn't easy.
Oh - and they are kind of smelly!

A higher view of a section of the Wharf.

We were so happy to discover In-N-Out right by our hotel!!

Free to view all of the things on the pier.  Small charge if you want to tour any of the ships.

Along the maritime pier there are many of these.
They show you different types of knots and provide rope for you to practice with.

One of the ships you can tour for a fee.
We did not know about this pier so we didn't have any tours of the ships in our schedule.

Beach side view of the ship.  Also, there are so many piers -
it was nice to see a good clean place to play in the sand and swim
(it was a little too cold for my kiddos to swim).

The normal view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Fog is common so take advantage of the few times you can see the bridge.
For our last full day in Alcatraz we decided to finally purchase tickets to ride the cable cars and public transportation.  This would help us get around to a few other areas of the city.  There are many options to buy.  Since we were only going to use it for one day we bought a pass to hop on and off for the entire day.  Why use public transportation?  Parking in the city is very limited and can be expensive.  Especially when you start adding up the charge to park at the hotels!  And, it's a busy city that I would rather not drive in.  We opted to not rent a car until we were on our way out of San Francisco (headed to the second part of our vacation).

In past trips to San Francisco we purchased 3 day tickets.
Usually there was some "time" left to use them when we were done.
We gave those to the homeless people to re-sell the remaining time.
This trip I didn't see the homeless doing this.  I think it was a law that is now enforced... 

The first priority was the cable cars!!  One end of the route was near our hotel so that worked out great!    We took the cable car from Fisherman's Wharf to the other end - Union Square.  There are two routes that the cable cars take.  You can tell which go with each route by the street names on the car.  One route stops at the top of Lombard Street (mentioned later in this blog).  It's the cable car in the picture which I think is the Powell & Hyde St car.  

From there we decided to walk to Chinatown.  There was a lot to see on the way!

Main entrance to Chinatown.

There's a lot of culture!

And a lot of fun statues (for sale) to have your picture taken by.
Chinatown is full of stores where you can find great deals on items.  Of course, it never fails that you think you found a great deal only to walk another block and find the same item for less.  There are a lot of very authentic restaurants.  I have never tried them due to my fussiness and fear of strange food.

My son - he wanted to buy more things (there's a lot of stuff to buy)
so he sat down and held out his bag for more money.
The homeless people were rubbing off on him ;-)
Of course we let him know that is not why the homeless needed money.
The hills in San Francisco are huge!!!  Unfortunately we found ourselves in a position where we had to walk a ways to get back to public transportation (or more importantly the cable cars).  Since we also wanted to see Lombard Street, we decided to continue walking.  The cable car stops at the top of the curvy street so we just walked with a plan to hop on the car (headed toward Fisherman's Wharf) after checking out Lombard.

Lombard Street (the famous curvy section).
It runs only one way and cars are usually lined up to drive down it.

There were a lot of stairs to get to the top of Lombard!
Okay, long story short, the cable cars are busy and the opportunity to fit a family of 4 on the car in mid route is near impossible.  Since it was all down hill to our hotel we decided to just finish the walk back.

Next we decided to hop on the city bus and head to the Palace of Fine Arts.

How fun to be able to stand while the bus was moving!

I have always LOVED this place when I would watch "The Rock".  You know - the movie about Alcatraz in the scene where Sean Connery goes to meet his daughter.  I thought the location in that movie was amazing but all the times I have been to San Francisco I had no idea what it was - or that I could visit it for free!!!!  You do have to pay to go inside the actual museum (we did not do) but exploring this section is free to roam - it's absolutely amazing and peaceful!!!

Having fun while taking a picture of some details.

Once through the palace we were really close to the Crissy Field.  So we headed that way to check it out.  

Look - you can actually see the bridge!
And there is plenty of parking which isn't common in most areas of the city.

Another place to play in the sand (and swim).  What a great view!

A little hard to see but there is a strip that can be used to get a wheelchair out a ways into the beach.

There are a lot of other cool places in this area.  I saw that they have The Walt Disney Family Museum!  How cool is that???  It's more on the factual/history side than my kiddos would have liked so we didn't visit there.  But, I would love to another day!  He was an amazing man that I find interesting to learn more about.  But, it's not about the rides and "real-life characters" that my kiddos enjoy.

During this trip we did not go to a lot of the areas we have been to before.  But they are surely areas that deserve a mention!  

The Haight/Ashbury district.  Fun place for the more relaxed "hippies".  There is an Amoeba records (that my husband likes to visit).  I also have great memories of eating at "Real Food Cafe" with my dad!    This area is also very close to Golden Gate Park which has so many great things to offer.  I still need to explore the park more but that will have to be another vacation.  I highly recommend taking a drive (car or bus) through the park.  During one drive through the park we were able to see the live buffalo that live there.

We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel in Fisherman's Wharf.  It was then that I relaxed there is so much more to the city than I have seen!  We passed the baseball field and at the time they were in the finals to possibly go to the World Series.  I know very little about sports but it was clear during our visit that people were really excited about the upcoming game.  We also passed a huge Farmers market that was a few piers down from our hotel (not close enough for walking).  I'll have to make a full weeks vacation out of San Francisco some day - if I could afford to stay there for a full week....

Tip:  the taxi driver told us something interesting that most tourist get confused about.  Apparently all the odd numbered piers are on one side (the Wharf side where we were) and the even number are on the complete other side.  Nice to know since many of the big activities are at piers.  

Note:  on each side of the Golden Gate bridge there is a place to stop and take pictures.  Pay attention to the direction of the sun.  We passed the stop on the way out of San Francisco but stopped on the other side of the bridge (the side we were familiar with).  Unfortunately it was hard to get a good picture without sun glare (the sun was shining directly into the camera.  The opposite side might of had the sun shining in my kids eyes (as I took pictures) but I think I could have found some shade due to the trees that were there.

My son claims that it is impossible to look at the camera and smile at the same time ;-)

Have you been to San Francisco?  I would love to hear your experiences!

Here is the link to my post about a movie tour we took in 2014.

No comments:

Post a Comment