April 25, 2012

Spring Break with Kids in San Francisco

 I'd love to do a big, long, detailed show & tell of our trip to San Francisco/Sacramento at the beginning of this month, but eeeshhh...we accumulated over 300 pictures, in just 3 days. I stare at my huge file of photos and the thought of narrowing them all down for you, resizing them, and then giving a play by play is SUCKING my life force away.   So let me break it down as quickly as I can. Y'all know I talk too much, so no worries that this will be TOO BRIEF. 

Day 1: We arrived in S.F. around 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.  I thought we made great time; we left home around 7:30 in the morning and made an hour stop for lunch outside of Coalinga.  We checked into our room at the Mayflower Hotel.  After trolling on TripAdvisor for hours, I picked the Mayflower for the price, the location, and it's historical charms.

The place is old, but clean (well, the rooms were clean. I thought the public areas could use a good dusting.)  How many hotel rooms give you 2 walk in closets, with a pull-chain light-bulb?  And the old-fashioned cage elevator was a hoot.
Old cage elevator

Only a little freaked out by the rattling between floors...
We walked down about 3 or 4 good blocks to Union Square, where we had dinner in a kitschy '50s diner.  My suburban kids were totally charmed by the funky city vibe all around us.

Day 2: Awoke early, ate our bowls of cereal and continental breakfast fare from the hotel, then started our Day of Walking.  We walked a LOT this day. From our hotel, we walked to Chinatown.  I would've liked to have spent a little more time perusing the trinket stores, but we got there so early, some were just barely opening. We found the fortune cookie factory down an alley, and spent some time watching how fortune cookies get made. (Quickly, it turns out.)

From Chinatown, we walked to the (free) Cable Car Museum, which is worth a stop, because it's not just a museum, but a working garage where they repair the current cars, and you can see all the giant spools turning the cables that run under the streets, and have the mechanism of how they work explained.  Very cool.
From there, we walked onward...up and down some of the town's very steep streets.  While we stopped to catch our breath, we admired the great panoramic views: 
Coit Tower, in the background
Onto Fisherman's Wharf, where we ate lunch at the Boudin bread cafe.  Sourdough bowls of chowder for the adults, pizza on sourdough crust for the kids.   Then we spent a few hours at Tourist Central, aka Pier 39. Of course, the kids had a good time in the candy store, staring and laughing at the sea lions, and doing the Mirror Maze over & over.
Not about to walk all the way back from Pier 39 to Union Square, we finally caught a cable car.  At $6 per person, one-way, it's hardly the cheapest mode of transport, but how could we not take a ride?
Cable Car turnaround. The drivers get out and literally push the cars around.
After a brief rest in our room, we hit the streets again to go find some dinner, not the easiest thing to do around Union Square with kids in tow.  We found a little Italian joint where the kids split a spaghetti plate and the mister and I had deli sandwiches.  Again, the kids had fun taking in the sights of the city. Such as they were.
Day 2:
Checked out of the Mayflower, and headed toward Golden Gate park, where we spent most of the day at the California Academy of Science.  I have a lot of photos of fish, sharks, butterflies, frogs, lizards, etc. in my files.  I think you can get the gist of it.
It was a fun, interesting place, and I don't think I heard much whining at all from the kids during our hours there. We saw a cool film about the origins of life inside the planetarium, got all muggy in the "rainforest" section, and somehow totally missed the penguin exhibit. That said, if I had to do it over, this is the one part of our trip I'd change.  In retrospect, I wish we'd just explored more of sprawling Golden Gate park and all of its sections (like the Japanese Tea Pavilion) rather than have spent the majority of our last day inside the Academy of Science. Oh well.  We knew this was a quickie trip, and my husband and I already have a small list of things we'd like to see in the greater Bay Area on another, longer visit someday.

After we left the Academy, it was already getting on to late afternoon. We promised the kids we'd find the Children's Playground in the park, and I'm glad we did. Otherwise, they'd have missed the awesome concrete slide:
"Why don't we have anything like this where WE live?!" demanded Lily.  (That's her in the pink sweater up there.) Because we don't live in a cool place like San Francisco, I explained.  (Granted, we're only an hour away from lovely Balboa Park in San Diego, but they don't have anything like this there, either. )

After we dragged the kids from the playground, we consulted the GPS again, this time to get to Chrissy Field. I'd read that this was a great area for capturing some photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. And it would've been great...but the clouds were rolling in, making for a rather washed-out, low-contrast view.  (See the very top photo, above.)  Oh well. At least we got to see it. (On the list for next time: walk, even for just a bit, on the bridge itself.)  
Kids with Alcatraz in the background. I originally thought we'd do an Alcatraz tour on this trip, but changed my mind. I think it'll be better to return when Tucker is just a little bit older...and maybe we can do the night time tour of the old prison, which sounds cool and spooky.  For now, it was windy and chilly, so we got into our car and headed back to the Bay Bridge, bound for Sacramento. Of course, we left town right during rush hour, so we got to spend a good while sitting in traffic.  Farewell, City by the Bay.  Hopefully we'll return within the next couple of years for a longer visit.

Even though we weren't even there for a full 24 hours, I've decided to break up the Sacramento leg of our trip into another post entirely, so expect that next week..and thanks for coming along on our Spring Break trip up to the northern half of our state.

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