San Francisco Sightseeing Whirlwind: day 1

San Francisco Sightseeing Whirlwind: day 1

#SanFranciscos #culture will charm you like no other, with its incredible 44 hill tops, Victorian rooflines, and of course The Golden Gate Bridge. Along with the mystical fog and Alcatraz Island, there is no shortage of Iconic landmarks filled with #history to kick start your curiosity into this fabulous city.


One day in San Francisco is not enough! I admit it; I regret it and I will return. When we booked our stay in San Francisco we had no idea how much character this little town had, I just knew the Golden Gate Bridge was there.

Two nights in San Francisco is not enough

The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge

We arrived late at night after a full day of travel. One flight from New Orleans to Denver, where we had a 4-hour layover in a packed airport, before flying to San Francisco. We got in a taxi and headed to our hotel in Nob Hill, it was about $55, oh yes we had expected San Francisco to burn a hole in our pocket and the first night didn’t disappoint.

After the most amazing sleep in the charming Huntington Hotel we had to get moving. We had a full day of activities planned and not enough time to do it all.

A short walk down the hill and we arrived at a streetcar stop. The streetcars were packed as they passed by, but it wasn’t long before one stopped and asked us to hop on board because of the children. He was very entertaining and a lovely guy as he chatted to everyone as we made our way down Mason Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. Tickets are usually $6 per person, however we were given a free ride since we were so close.

The girls by a street car in San Francisco. Our hop on - hop off tour bus. 
The girls by a street car in San Francisco. 

As we walked to our destination we spotted a Ross Dress For Less. No one had any warm clothes so we stopped in for a bit of shopping. We were headed on a camping trip North after San Fran and knew we might hit some cool weather. I love this store, it's cheap with branded items which means quality for less.

Big Bus hop-on hop-off Tour

Loaded with our new purchases in our new backpack we found our way to the office of the Big Bus Company and headed onto the Hop-On-Hop-Off service. One of our favourite ways to see a city is via these buses. Not only is it a fast way to see a lot in a short time, it is entertaining and educational. But the best bit for us is the children can nap and we still get to enjoy all the sites.

One of our favourite ways to see a city is via these buses

The girls by a street car in San Francisco. Our hop on - hop off tour bus. 
Our hop on - hop off tour bus. 
We got seats in the back 
We got seats in the back 

The tickets are $40 per adults, $20 per child, under 5 free. If you book on the web with a fixed date you get 10% off. The tour highlights are - Painted Ladies, Pier 39, Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach & Little Italy, Union Square, Civic Centre, Haight Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, and Embarcadero Ferry Building.

from  $40

Big Bus Tour San Francisco

Culture
 San Francisco, CA, United States
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We stayed on board for the majority of the stops as the kids had fallen asleep. We enjoyed the architecture and the crazy 44 hills in the small city. They are so steep too, it’s just incredible.

crazy 44 hills in the small city. They are so steep too, it’s just incredible

Black and white
Black and white

When we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge it was exhilarating and we could not help but wake the children and hop off at the viewing spot for some photos of this iconic landmark. 

When we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge it was exhilarating 

Having fun on the bus driving over the Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco's Iconic Golden Gate Bridge
Having fun on the bus driving over the Golden Gate Bridge 
Posing like a rockstar
Posing like a rockstar
Having fun on the bus driving over the Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco's Iconic Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco's Iconic Golden Gate Bridge
Having a moment with my baby girl
Having a moment with my baby girl
And now the whole family
And now the whole family

Back on the bus our next stop was Chinatown for lunch and exploration. The tour guide mentioned how small it was compared to New York, but we still found it a considerable size. We had lunch at the famous Nan King, but after actually eating in some of Asia’s best restaurants we found it to fall short of our high expectations.

Chinatown
Chinatown

We had a walk to Washington Square before hopping back on the bus. We realized we were back at the begging so jumped off at Union Square and walked a few minutes up the road to catch the bus back at the end. Unfortunately the last bus we caught was a multi-lingual bus, which means headsets instead of a live guide. While just as informative I missed the banter the live guides provided and would recommend catching the bus with the live guides, they are fabulous.

would recommend catching the bus with the live guides, they are fabulous

It was late in the day when we got off at Pier 39 since we had a boat to catch to Alcatraz that night at Pier 33. We did a quick walk around the famous and delightful Pier 39, which somewhat reminded me of Brighton Pier in England or Santa Monica Pier in LA.

Alcatraz

A brisk walk to Pier 33, we collected our tickets from Alcatraz Cruises. Tickets are $30 per adults, $18.25 per child, under 5 are free. They have family passes and note the night tours are more. Tours run everyday except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. 

Alcatraz
Alcatraz

We joined the queue which moved slowly, but eventually we were all on the ferry. The ferry crossing was brief and not at all to be compared to Cozumel or Vieques. It had great views and went by fast, about 15 minutes. 

Movie-like
Movie-like
Approaching Alcatraz gave me the creeps 
Approaching Alcatraz gave me the creeps 

On arrival the visitors were divided into groups and each set off with a guide up the ¼ mile steep incline to the prison. Those who are unable to walk could ride a tram. They are strict about keeping it to physically unable people, however Caius just passed as a stubborn 3-year-old who would never had made that walk. It’s an easy climb though with plenty of stops and the tram goes as fast as those walking.

At the top you are given a headset and sent on your way. You have as much time or as little time as you want to walk your way through. The recording is very informative and I found myself fast-forwarding quite a lengthy bit. The prison has astounding stories of escape and intrigue interwoven in its histories and I was surprised to realize that some of the inmates are still in another jail even today. That’s a long time to be in prison.

astounding stories of escape and intrigue interwoven in its histories

Waiting in the queue
Waiting in the queue
Explaining stuff to little Caius
Explaining stuff to little Caius
Criminals had to live like this in Alcatraz Straight out of a horror movie the Alcatraz Infirmary The ship to take you back from the Alcatraz Island 
Criminals had to live like this in Alcatraz 
Criminals had to live like this in Alcatraz Straight out of a horror movie the Alcatraz Infirmary The ship to take you back from the Alcatraz Island 
Straight out of a horror movie the Alcatraz Infirmary 

The kids got restless as the time passed and so we headed back down the path to the bottom. Going down was not half as bad. We stopped in to watch a quick Nat Geo movie before getting back to the dock for the 8:40pm ferry ride home.

Criminals had to live like this in Alcatraz Straight out of a horror movie the Alcatraz Infirmary The ship to take you back from the Alcatraz Island 
The ship to take you back from the Alcatraz Island 

Once we were back at the Pier we took a private taxi back to our hotel for $25. We ordered room service, dressed in big fluffy robes and happily watched TV on our big screen while the kids were off in dreamland.

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