I loooove planning trips. I get it from my dad. As a child, we would travel as a family once or twice a year, and my dad was the king of travel itineraries. He would always have a list of the things were doing on the trip, how we were getting there, hotel and car rental information, food we needed to pack or a grocery list of things to buy when we got there... and I am the exact.same.way.
I have even been known to make a few different slide shows of possible travel destinations to present to my family, and then hold a vote of which destination looks better to them. This was the case with our latest trip to San Francisco. San Fran was chosen over Denver by a landslide. Sorry Denver, we will catch you some other time.
And it was a good choice. The kids loved it! We have kids ages 14, 11, 9 and 6, and there was something for everyone on this trip. We packed a lot in, so 4 days ended up being a pretty good amount of time for us.
First of all, the location of the hotel we stayed at was extremely convenient for our family. We stayed at the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf Hotel. It is directly on Fisherman's Wharf. There was a Safeway right across the street, which was nice to pick up a few groceries and water bottles when we got in. The hotel was nice and they let us check in early. There were also trolley and bus stops blocks away, easily within walking distance.
Which leads me to my next thought. While in San Francisco, we did not rent a car. We almost always rent a car whenever we fly somewhere, but in this case, it did not make sense. Parking in San Francisco is expensive and hard to find good parking. We ended getting an Uber XL to take us from the airport to our hotel. It was there within 5 minutes of us requesting it, and it cost about $40 to take all six of us.
Once at our hotel, we either walked or took the many other easy transportation options around. The bus and trolleys run constantly and are easy to locate and follow. Plus, you can't go to San Francisco and not ride a trolley! If you are traveling to San Francisco, I highly recommend not getting a car.
For things to do, I ordered the San Francisco City Pass. It included the following:
3-Day Cable Car and Muni Bus Passport (which was super nice and convenient)
Plus, if you are smart and plan ahead, you can trade out the Blue & Gold Cruise tickets for Alcatraz tickets. I waited until the week before to try and get tickets to Alcatraz and they were sold out. We went in the beginning of April over Spring Break and things were busy while we were there because of it. The only way I could find Alcatraz tickets was to buy them through a company called BayCityGuide.com. It was more expensive than just Alcatraz tickets, but it included a Big Bus Tour and 4 optional walking tours. Buying them through Bayside worked out for us though because it included the Bus Tour, which we ended up loving, so no regrets. :)
Ok, so as far as what we did, this was our itinerary: (the short version)
Ride Cable Cars and more exploration of China Town and Fisherman's Wharf
(and the long version)
Our flight came in early on Wednesday morning, so we had some time to kill while they got our hotel room ready. We ate breakfast at IHOP (which was right next to our hotel) and explored the Wharf. Our first stop was Ripley's Believe it or Not. I love weird stuff like that, another thing I got from my dad. After Ripley's we checked in to the hotel. And of course, the first things the kids wanted to do, was swim. Which was fine by me and Dan, because they had a nice little sitting area with a fire to sit by while we watched the kids swim.
After the pool, we walked over to the Musee Mecanique. It's an old arcade place with super vintage arcade games. It was super weird, but cool to see, again, we love us some weird stuff. Fun for the kids, though and worth a quick stop, in my opinion.
Day 2 started a block away from the hotel at the Big Bus San Francisco bus tour. This tour took you all over San Francisco, which also included driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. It ended up being a good thing it all worked out that way, because I don't know if we would have made it over to the bridge otherwise. The kids loved going over the bridge and our youngest said it was even funner than Disneyland! ;) The tour was informative and fun to drive through all of the different districts and hear about some history of San Francisco. It took about 2 hours to do the whole tour.
We got off at the second to last stop, which was the Exploratorium. This was the first stop that we used our City Pass on. It was a hands on science museum. This place was awesome! We ended up spending hours there, until closing, and we would have stayed longer if we had the choice, there was so much to see and do.
But from there, we took a bus over to China Town. We ended up eating dinner in China Town, and that's about it, as it was starting to get late by the time we made it over there and the kids were winding down. But the kids were enthralled by China Town, so we knew we would make it back there. We took a trolley home and called it a day.
Day 3 was rainy. It rained all day long. But luckily, we had planned the California Academy of Sciences, which was all indoors. This place had an aquarium, a planetarium and an indoor rainforest exhibit. It was really cool. The kids were kind of tired from the full day the day before, so we only ended up spending a few hours here. This was the only other time, besides the airport, that we took an Uber XL. It was about a 20 minute drive in the Uber. We could have taken buses, but it would have taken an hour, and we didn't want to worry about waiting in the rain.
After the California Academy of Sciences, we drove back to Ghirardelli Square. We ate some yummy ice cream sundaes and took a trolley back to the hotel.
The kids wanted to re-explore China Town, so we spent a few hours there. After that, we ate dinner at the Boudin Bakery, (yummy clam chowder in a bread bowl for me) then did the cute little bakery tour. The smell of Sourdough can be smelt a block away from this place. Yummy.
Alcatraz day! The kids were looking forward to this the most. We went over on the 10:30am tour. The ferry ride over was a quick 15-20 minutes. The tour is an audio tour, with personal headsets that you wear. It is narrated by former prison guards. It walks you through the jail with different stories and experiences and information. Our youngest daughter thought some parts were a little scary, but she liked it overall. We even got to meet a former inmate in the book store on the way out, he had written a book about his experience in Alcatraz.
When we got back over to pier, we did the Aquarium of the Bay. This aquarium wasn't huge, so we were through it in about an hour, but still fun to see. But it was on Pier 39, which was a fun pier to visit, with tons of shops and stores and restaurants. We ate lunch on the pier, had some killer cookie dough from a place called Doughp, and caught an Uber back to the airport.
Overall, I highly recommend San Francisco as a travel destination with kids. I think we could go back 2 or 3 more times and still have plenty of new things to discover and enjoy! The kids are already asking if we can go back next year.