For 11 years we were DINKS (double income, no kids) and traveled to Europe 2x a year. If that sounds fancy, it was not, the hotels were $100 a night, and often the shower leaked into the sleeping area. But it was Europe and we were seeing history.
Along came our son 10 years ago. At age 7 we started traveling around America with him, we felt Europe was too far and he was too young. Our 1st stop was Las Vegas! That was more relaxing at great pools and seeing crazy sites than discovering this great country, and it was our first experiment with a long flight. From their we stayed closer to home and visited Boston, Washington, D.C., and Montreal. We knew in our hearts the next most important city in North America to take our son was San Francisco. We had been twice and had wonderful experiences, we felt that there was a tremendous amount to do and see with kids, so the planning began.
As a blogger the first thing I did was to contact the San Francisco tourist folks. They were helpful in giving me contacts for various venues around the city and that is how we found the contact for our perfect hotel on this trip, the Hotel Nikko (see that review here!).
They provided us with free booklets for the adults,from San Francisco CityPASS, and we immediately purchased one for our son upon arrival in this great America city. This pass included admission to 6 city sites and had unlimited transport on the city’s muni system which includes the cable cars. Thanks to this pass we used those cable cars every day, a major highlight for the family, especially our son!
With tickets in hand, we jumped on our first cable car. This was #1 on our list of things to do with our almost 10 year old son. It was also the very last thing we did. As many great and amazing things as there are to do in San Francisco, this was my son’s favorite adventure, holding on, riding on the outside, and feeling the wind on his face as we zoomed down the hills of San Francisco at 15 miles per hour! I hope you are all following me on Twitter and Instagram (@gaynycdad on both!), I got some great shots of him like the following:
Now, where would a mixed family of Jewish and Italian heritage go first in San Francisco, your first hint, it was lunchtime:
Several locals told us San Francisco’s Chinatown was not what it used to be. Phooey. We had a Zagat’s guide which we used to find a wonderful lunch. Trust me, we have been to this area on all of our other trips, and we will continue to return!
From there we went to the Embarcadero and visited Pier 1 with all the food shops. It was very difficult not to eat again, but we have a family rule, you must wait at least 1 hour before having another full meal!
The next morning our plans were to visit a local jail:
We had never been to Alcatraz, as adults we thought we were too cool for that, but boy were we surprised We went because of our son, but quickly realized it was a beautiful island rich with 20th century history. It was a glorious day to see the local flora and fauna, and we enjoyed looking at the jail cells, hearing about the attempted escapes, and learning about recent native American history (they tried to take over the Island in the 70’s!). Since that day. it has been all we can do to get our son to wear something other than his Alcatraz t-shirt, in fact one of our tourist bus drivers nicknamed him Alcatraz, he couldn’t have been happier! Should I be worried?
We also used our CityPASS booklet to do a cruise under the Golden Gate bridge on an extremely cloudy day, this made for a great juxtaposition from our Alcatraz ride:
FYI, my spouse and I never took vacations where we rested. Traveling is an opportunity to see the world. We do leave some pool time now that we are traveling with our son, but to go and “rest” on a vacation seems like a waste for us. We can rest at home on the weekends if need be. If we are going to be in a major world city, we have to be out and enjoying the sites. That is how our family adventures occur! If all my pictures make it seem like we are very busy on vacation, it is because that’s how we do it!
Included in our CityPASS was admission to the Aquarium of the Bay at Fisherman’s Wharf (we were at the Wharf for a few days!) and it was a lot of fun to enjoy their indoor moving side walk while viewing the surrounding fish tank above and around us.
But the #1 sea life viewing is on the side of the Wharf:
Some have suggested that is really my family at the end of Thanksgiving dinner. It is not!
The San Francisco tourist board also provided us with tickets from City Sightseeing. We used that to get to the Walt Disney Family Museum (separate post), the Presidio, Sausalito, and the bowels of the Golden Gate Bridge (plus a fort for my son to hang out in!).
We ran out of time on our last full day in San Francisco to go to the Golden Gate Park, and that is one of the many reasons we are already planning our return trip. We ended up at Children’s Creativity Museum in SOMA. This is where I pulled out my AARP and AAA cards for a small discount! I never leave home without those! We had lunch plans and that’s why we stayed local, my son had such a blast that we ended up back at this Museum after lunch as well. Turns out it was our one rainy day so as luck would have it, the day worked out perfectly without us planning ahead! Mr. Tough Guy (my son) made animated video here!
I have checked, this is age appropriate as scared as it makes the Dads!
Lastly, I met my old swim team buddy, Stu, who I haven’t seen in over 35 years. Thanks to Facebook we had been back in touch, and it was great to meet up in person after all these years!
For more information and to plan your trip to San Francisco, please visit San Francisco Travel.
You can also follow along and get more information on Facebook and Twitter!
Disclosure: We received the CityPASS booklet for 2 adults and some other complimentary items. All opinions are always 100% honest and our own.
Chavonne H says
Absolutely awesome! San Francisco is my hometown. I always wanted to get a CityPass and just explore and have fun. Looks like a great time!
Phil P says
So glad to see you all had a great time. I agree with you regarding holding off for that Europe trip (at least until the kids are 12). Although we have visited California with our son we remained in the South and havent been to San Francisco. Its a trip thats definitely on our list. We are also in the planning stages for a cross country roadtrip. Any suggestions? Thinking of visiting all the National parks. Continued happy travels!!!!!!!!
lorayne gothard says
I love seeing all the cool stuff you did in San Francisco!! We will probably be traveling there in the future and have ideas of what to do!!
I’ve never been, but you make it sound like I’m missing something. I really don’t travel well though….and I really think I want to visit more places in my own home state.
Trish Williams says
I’ve always wanted to visit S.F. and now I really, really want to go! The Aquarium of the Bay would be my first stop! The picture of your son riding in the cable car is priceless..that smile is amazing!
Shauna Brackeen says
I LOVE San Francisco and am lucky enough to live within an hour, but have yet to do many an the tourist things like a cable car ride. Sounds like fun!