One of the coolest cities we have visited. But getting around San Francisco is A LOT easier with a few helpful apps on your phone. #1 – SpotHero and #2 Transit App. You can see more about these apps here.
When we travel somewhere new we spend a good bit of time researching the best family things to do (we like when they are free or low cost) and we try to talk to people we know who live there or have lived there for their feedback. The best tips come from the locals.
Second, the public transportation in San Fransisco is great… but I recommend when riding the public transit you make sure you pull enough cash out to ride with exact change. You won’t get change back when you pay cash. The kids got a kick out of riding the busses and trollies… otherwise, Lyft or Uber would be a great option too.
Where to Park
We stayed outside of the city, so when we drove in to visit we needed a decent priced place to park. Using SpotHero I was able to find a place to park my car for $4 for the whole day. Rather than paying $30 for a parking garage, I rented a private residences driveway (the side they weren’t using). Spot Hero is kind of like AirBNB for parking and you can find some great places to park inexpensively and reserve / pay right online. Later in the day I had to extend our time, so I was able to do that easily on my phone.
1- Shen Kee Bakery
After parking we stopped at Shen Kee Bakery (a Chinese Bakery Shop) for some breakfast pastries on our way to Golden Gate Park. This was a win! We walked out with more pastries than we should have, but never regretted it! And come to find out this bakery has several locations… so if we could recommend anything to eat for friends visiting San Fransisco… we would at least recommend looking up Shen Kee Bakery. It won’t disappoint.
2- Golden Gate Park
We started our morning strolling through Golden Gate Park, which we only saw just a little portion of, but loved it! Mid-way through the kids spotted a pond (where you can also rent paddle boats and bicycles). Lots of walking trails (paved and dirt), trees, flowers. A great place to picnic.
3- The Financial District
We took the public transit system from Golden Gate Park across the city to the Financial District, which wasn’t necessarily on our top-things-to-see list, but just happened to be where we needed to change busses on our way to Pier 39. After getting off the bus we elected to walk a little way through the district. It was a fast-paced, big-city feel area with lots of hip coffee shops, busy people people with places to go, tall buildings, lots of sites and sounds. it reminded me of New York City, so we enjoyed the area with a stroll to the water where we picked up a historic trolly that took us to Pier 39.
4- Pier 39
There probably isn’t a more tourist-visited place in San Francisco than Pier 39. Stephanie and I have been here before, but this was the first time for our kids. So we wanted them to see the excitement at the pier, the water, crowds of people, the food and all that comes with it. A lot of fun here!
5- Fisherman’s Wharf
This is really just an extension of the hustle and bustle of Pier 39 with lots of dining, shopping, etc. At this point kids had to find bathrooms and it isn’t easy to find public bathrooms around in the City. But we found a hotel on the main road that let us in their lobby and use the bathroom… and we will remember that blessed place for our next trip! There is also a Ghirardelli chocolate store right on the street… so if you are into chocolate, here you go!
6- Maritime Park Beach
My favorite part of San Fransisco! Beautiful green grass lining the waterfront with views over the bay, and a long stretch of sand right off the walkway. We stopped and rested in the grass and let the kids get in the sand to play. If I lived in San Francisco, I think you would find me here a lot.
7- Golden Gate Bridge
We caught a bus to take us to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center (close to Fort Point) where there are trails and lookouts at the bridge over the bay. More beautiful areas for picnicking here. With the day getting late we found ourselves with some great sunset photos of the bridge and ended our trip at San Francisco’s most iconic landmark. From the welcome center, we caught a direct bus back to were we parked.
I know there are a lot of things we missed and couldn’t see on this trip. Steph and I have been to San Fransisco before, and still haven’t seen all that we want. But that gives us a great reason to come back again. Let us know you recommendations of things to see in Stan Francisco in the comments below.