Never having visited San Francisco before, I was very excited to see this unique city. Immediately I was in awe of the streets lined with three story townhouses, trickling up and down the steep roads.
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We drove past the row of homes known as the Painted Ladies, also famous for the introduction to the show Full House. This surprised us, because in our minds we pictured this area across from the Painted Ladies as a huge, flat park, but apparently in San Francisco there is no such thing as a huge, flat anything. In reality, the one block of “park” was up on a high hill, and it was packed full of people and trees, with no street parking to be found. It was still great to see in person. We did our best to snap a picture and kept driving.
Then we drove to the famous Lombard Street, known for being one of the crookedest streets in San Francisco, and also one of the steepest. Thanks to my online research ahead of time, we entered from a side road and skipped the long line of cars waiting to descend. As we turned and faced the top of the hill, my poor 8 year old pleaded with us not to go down the street.
It was a little bit unnerving at the top, but once he realized we could only go about 20 miles an hour down, he felt better. We zig-zagged down past mansions and lots and lots of tourists. Then we swung around the block to get a picture from the bottom looking up.
Next we made our way to Coit Tower. Amazingly we found parking at the top, and enjoyed views of the Bay. This was our first official view of the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, along with the hundreds of sailboats on the harbor. It was fantastic. There was quite a wait to go to the top of the tower on a Saturday afternoon, but next time I would allow time for it. It was great even without heading all the way up.
Then we drove to Fisherman’s Wharf, and walked along the piers. From here we saw the famous Alcatraz, which we plan to come back and tour another day.
U.S.S. Pampanito Submarine
A World War II submarine caught the attention of my boys, so we paid the admission fee and took a tour of the USS Pampanito. We enjoyed climbing down into the chambers, seeing how these men slept, ate, and even used the bathroom.
Golden Gate Bridge
Finally, we drove to and over the Golden Gate Bridge. We had read a book the previous day called The Man Who Built the Bridge, which gave all of us a nice history of the bridge, so the boys were looking forward to seeing it close up. My six year old was a little disappointed that it was not “gold” colored as the name indicates. (He decided that he would call it the “Copper” Gate Bridge from that point forward.) We enjoyed driving over it, and then parking at the vista point and walking about half way over the bridge. Of course we took a lot of pictures and enjoyed looking back at the San Francisco skyline from the other side.
There was so much to see that we came back the next weekend. We had hoped to explore Chinatown, which had been packed for a parade the previous weekend. Ironically, the same area had another parade on this particular weekend.
We chose to take a sightseeing boat cruise on the San Francisco Bay instead. The cruise gave us another perspective of the city, sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, and bringing us up close to Alcatraz. I tried to push away nagging thoughts about what would happen if an earthquake struck while we were on the boat. But, my husband assured me that would probably be the safest spot to be during an earthquake.
Once again, we saw sea lions fighting for space at the Pier:
Jelly Belly Factory Tour
During the week, the boys and I took a field trip to the Jelly Belly Factory in a suburb of San Francisco called Fairfield. It was a free, 45 minute tour, which was very interesting. They made us wear cardboard hats (mostly for the photo opportunity I believe). They allowed us to sample jelly beans at different points of their creation “process”. The coolest part was seeing the gigantic vats full of different colored jelly beans. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures during the tour. But, it was a great way to spend an afternoon.
San Francisco was such an incredible city. I’m sure we could have spent weeks exploring and not see everything.