San Francisco

January 21, 2017

After a few days visiting wine country, it’s time to head back home.  One of the nice things about Napa Valley is most of the activity is during the day so the towns tend to shut down early right after dinner.  This means you can easily plan for an early morning to head back to San Francisco and add a day of sight seeing.

Heading back into San Francisco, we took the most direct route but came back in from the north again.  This way when we made our way over to Lombard Street, we were coming from the right direction as it is a one-way road.  We simply drove down the “crookedest street in the world” but some may stop and walk to enjoy the stroll and gardens.  From here it was a short drive over to Fisherman’s Wharf to park (and please note, it is expensive to find parking).

Our only time commitment of the day was a tour of Alcatraz.  Please note, tickets for Alcatraz sell out months in advance so be sure to book your tickets at the same time as you book your flights.  And while you may not think this tour sounds that exciting, it really is one of the highlights of San Francisco.  Taking the boat ride over to the island (which had a low fog over it the morning we visited) made for some great views of the island; the nearby Golden Gate Bridge and back over the San Francisco shoreline.

Once you arrive on the island, most people will stand around and listen to the welcome but we recommend starting to walk up to the entrance as soon as possible.  This will get you away from the mass of people who arrived on the same boat.  There you can pay a small fee for an audio walking tour of the prison.  It moves you around the prison easily and after the first few minutes, it starts to slowly add in the background sounds of a full prison – which gave me chills the first time I heard it.  The history and views make for a trip we highly recommend.  Afterwards, we made our way back to the next boat to get back to San Francisco.

The rest of our items can be planned around the timing of your tour.  For us, we had parked by the Alcatraz tour, so we made a quick walk down Pier 39 to see the sea lions (possibly a hundred or more and a record of over 1,700 one time according to the history).  Pier 39 has a few chain restaurants and t-shirt shops so we did not spend much more time there than watching the sea lions.

Afterwards, it was Boudin Bakery for breakfast – a famous restaurant in the Fisherman’s Wharf where loaves of bread make their way by conveyor belt from the back; all around the large building; and back to the counter for sale.  And tucked away, just behind the bakery is another hidden treasure buried deep in the TripAdvisor reviews which we recommend to everyone.  There is a small entrance to the Musee Mechanique which is a working arcade comprised of nothing but antique games.  You can easily spend an hour (and a number of quarters) playing these games in what might be the largest collection of these oddities.

From here, you can spend time riding a trolley, visiting the nearby park and beach or strolling along the famous Hyde Street and Ghirardelli Square.  Of course, we highly recommend stopping in to the original Ghirardelli for some chocolate or a shake (our recommended shake is the Salted Caramel).

Finally, if you have more time, you can take your car a bit further south and visit Chinatown.  For us, it was time to head back to the San Francisco airport after having seen the Golden Gate Bridge (three times – driving it, once from above and one from below), Sausalito, the Oakville Grade, Napa Valley, Lombard Street, Pier 39, Boudin Bakery, Musee Mechanique, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Alcatraz – all in a four day weekend.

And for more details on surrounding areas see our full itinerary for San Francisco and Napa Valley or our destination notes for Sausalito and Napa Valley.

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