American Roadtrip | California – Three Days in the Golden City of San Francisco

After a busy few days we were happy to be staying in one place for four nights and giving ourselves some time to explore the city of San Francisco.

We decided we wanted to be close to the city centre so we could park up the car and get out on foot and scooters a little more. However, finding central accommodation with onsite parking, preferably free, that didn’t completely break the budget was a little tricky. Logan worked his magic and found us a pretty good spot at Inn on Broadway (read our review here) and while it was much more than we had been paying in America, we were in a big city and not at a Wyndham property.

After our previous day travelling and exploring Yosemite National Park, we had a lazy start to our first day before heading out to see what San Fran’s waterfront had to offer. We headed up Broadway passing the Helen Willis Park and promising the boys we would stop here on the way back, then onto Hyde Street, which is one of the routes of the famous San Fran cable cars. We were on the incline and after not doing as much walking as we did through Asia I was expecting the steep streets to give us a real workout but they actually weren’t that bad. Once we reached the crest we were given some stunning views out to the bay and the infamous, Alcatraz.Hyde Street_Cable Car_San Fransisco_California_AmericaWe were also at the crooked section of Lombard Street and there were plenty of people around taking photos and slowly driving down this one block section that has eight hairpin turns, supposedly making it the most crooked street in the world. It was designed and built in 1922 and intended to reduce the hill’s natural 27% grade which was too steep for most vehicles. Obviously the design didn’t catch on as I don’t think there are any others like it around this hilly city and this has just become a tourist attraction.Lombard Street_Crooked Street_San Fransisco_California_AmericaWe continued towards Fisherman’s Wharf and were now on the decline, Lincoln got some good speed up on his scooter, thankfully his brakes worked well and Braxton was far more cautious. We walked and scooted around the different piers enjoying the November sunshine. There were some food stalls that we looked around as they had some tasty sounding seafood items but these street stalls were far more expensive than the Southeast Asian ones we love. We found some reasonably priced lunch a little further away for the tourist trap of Fisherman’s Wharf and did some people watching from our window seat while we enjoyed some chowder and savoury crepes.Fisherman's Wharf_San Fransisco_California_AmericaAfter lunch we found an arcade with lots of retro games and machines, some Logan and I remember and some dating back to the 1900’s. It was an interesting little find and the boys got a few turns on the machines as some of them were only a quarter.Musée Mécanique Antique Arcade_San Fransisco_California_AmericaAfter a good look around the area we got in the queue at the Hyde and Beach Streets cable car station to take at least one ride on these iconic forms of transport. It is a flat, one-way fare for all ages of $7 USD/$10.28 NZD per person, so it was going to be our one and only trip. We travelled a few blocks back the way we had walked in the morning and then, of course, stopped at the playground which got the tick of approval from the boys.Cable Car_San Fransisco_California_AmericaWhat would a trip to San Francisco be without a visit to arguably the most famous “rock” in the world. A few days earlier we had purchased tickets online to ensure we scored places on the first trip of the day at 8.45am. This meant that we were amongst the first on the island for the day and when most days number around 5,000 visitors, it was nice to get a jump on most of them. Alcatraz is managed by the National Parks Service however Alcatraz Cruises is the only place to get official tickets and transportation to Alcatraz Island. We purchased a family pass (for two adults and two children) at a cost of $120.25 USD/$175.64 NZD which included the round-trip ferry to the island, audio tour and daily optional programs and exhibits. This was a big part of our spend while in San Fran but it was something we all really wanted to do and Our Awesome World Adventure is not just about “the budget”.Alcatraz Island_San Fransisco_California_AmericaWe had a beautiful November day for a ferry ride out into the bay and a great time exploring and learning more. We found out that the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast was built on the island. It was also the location of an 18 month-long occupation by the Indians of All Tribes after the prison had officially closed and reminders of this occupation are still visible today.Alcatraz Island_San Fransisco_California_America_1The self-guided audio tour was really well done, as we walked through the different areas of the cell building we heard commentary and stories from past prison officers and inmates. We have really enjoyed many audio tours, and found them especially helpful for Braxton, who isn’t yet a fluent reader. So it means someone else doesn’t need to read everything to him and he can have more control over his own experience. Alcatraz Island_San Fransisco_California_America_2Once we had finished the audio tour and exploring the main buildings we were wandering around the outside and just happen to get treated to an extra special viewing –  a whale out in the bay. Fantastic timing.San Fransisco Bay_California_AmericaYou can spend as long as you like on the island, you just line up for the next ferry when you are ready to leave. We spent nearly three hours and Lincoln still recalls his favourite quote of the day, …. “Break the rules and you go to prison. Break the prison rules and you go to Alcatraz.”Alcatraz Island_San Fransisco_California_America_3Day three was another beautiful day so we decided to take the car out and visit the giant redwoods in Muir Woods, about a 30 minute drive from the city. Unfortunately we didn’t do enough research and didn’t know that we needed to make a reservation to park and enter. When we arrived the next possible time slot would have meant a two-hour wait and we weren’t that invested in visiting so we returned towards the city, stopping off at a couple of Golden Gate Bridge view points and enjoying a windy picnic lunch.Golden Gate Bridge_San Fransisco_California_AmericaComing back over the iconic bridge we stopped in at the Golden Gate Park, an amazing big (1,017 acre) green space in the city, 20% larger than New York’s Central Park. We clearly weren’t going to scratch the surface looking around in one afternoon so we entered near the east end and parked up near the Koret Playground, which received another tick from the boys. From the small area we walked around it looked pretty incredible with many different activities and areas.

Our three days in San Fran were fantastic and even if you aren’t a fan of cities, we would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful area. We love cities that have nice big green spaces to explore and enjoy and then there are huge national and state parks just across the bridge, as well as all over the bay. After visiting a few big cities around the world, there aren’t too many that I feel the need to return to, but San Francisco is definitely one that I would.San Fransisco_California_America

Average Daily Spend for 3 nights – $374.68 NZD ($87.18 over budget per day)

– Paula

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