San Francisco is a city that I had wanted to visit for years! While we knew about the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, there was so much we didn’t yet know about this city. San Francisco impressed our whole family on many levels! There was endless amounts of things to do, so much to see, and so much beauty there.
Since it was in our Trails Collection with Thousand Trails, we stayed at the San Francisco RV Resort, about 15 minutes south of the city in Pacifica, for a great price! The location was perfect and the closest we could get for exploring San Francisco, but the temporary safety fences that obstructed the view, and the super close parking spaces weren’t ideal. We wouldn’t have been happy to pay full price to stay here, though I do think that the close proximity to the city and Pacifica beach would make it worth it. The pool and hot tub were nice too! Pacifica has an interesting small, yet populated, town vibe. There are stores and restaurants within walking distance of the RV resort, there are nice houses, and there are a few run down houses, and just down the street, the most beautiful sites of the black sand beach and the coast that we have seen so far!
On our first day at our RV resort, after we got settled in, we walked down to view the beach. Unfortunately, there was no beach access from our resort, and there were double fences up to keep us from walking close to the cliff because of erosion under the edges of the cliff. We still spent time sitting at a picnic table and enjoying the sounds and smell of the ocean below. We took a drive around town, and ended up at the beach just down the road by the pier. The kids loved running from the waves, chasing birds, and getting dirty with the coffee ground-like black sand. They had so much fun, and were sooo dirty! We carried them to the car and gave them good showers immediately on our return to the RV!
The next day, we headed into San Francisco. Before leaving, I researched places to see in the city, and places to park for those locations. I am so happy I did! I used Parking Panda to find a place where we could park from 9am-6pm for only $13 which is a steal around there. Instead of driving around comparing parking prices and paying a small fortune, we put in the address of the hotel parking we had booked on the site, scanned our ticket, and drove right in! We were only a block from Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, which were two locations to see on the to-do list that day.
First, we walked to Pier 39, and enjoyed seeing the Christmas tree, decorations, and all of the shops there. We were ready for lunch, so we headed to the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant. I ordered a signature (for the area) bowl of clam chowder soup in a sourdough bread bowl, the kids got pasta and broccoli, and David got the Fried Platter of varied seafood that we all shared too. It was an enjoyable lunch with a nice view of the bay, at reasonable prices, so a win.
Next, we checked out the carousel, and shopping area, and headed to the pier to see if we could spot some of the sea lions that we heard are there different times of the year. We got a good view of Alcatraz at this location, and it didn’t look too far away! We didn’t realize that tickets book in advance for Alcatraz, and they were all booked up for the weekend, so we didn’t get to go this time. I did hear though that if you go to the ticket window before 7:30am you may be able to buy a same day ticket (even if they say they are sold out). We walked down the pier to the left, and saw about 100 sea lions, mostly laying, and some barking, on the dock rocks. It was really cool to see and the kids got barking sea lions at a nearby souvenir shop that they were so excited about! After we took the site (and smell) of the sea lions for a bit, we headed to the nearby Aquarium of the Bay where we got 50% off with our AZA membership. We enjoyed the Aquarium. It wasn’t the largest aquarium that we have been to, but we especially liked the “Under the Bay” exhibit with sharks, touching the stingrays and starfish, and the 4 big Otters at the end were our ultimate favorites. We arrived to this exhibit just in time for the 2:00 show where the biologists, trained the Otters and showed us some of their tricks while they fed them.
From there we headed to Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping to get some warm beignets on the short walk over. There were a lot of restaurants in Fisherman’s Wharf, and some street performers, and we hear that early in the mornings you can see the fishermen bring in their daily catch on the nearby pier.
Our next stop was right down the road at the Maritime National Historic Site. This is the country’s only floating National Park site! We didn’t realize we could go on ships nearby with our National Parks Pass, but we were happy that we figured it out before we left because it was super cool to walk on the Tug Boat, large Sail Boat (felt like a pirate’s ship), and a huge historical Ferry Boat! There is also a Maritime Museum that we didn’t have time to stop at on this visit.
We did, however, have time to stop into Ghiardelli Square right across the street! We had been promising the kids ice cream all day, so we had to follow through, right?! Little did we know, there were 3 Ghiardelli shops in this small shopping area, so we went for the first shop we saw…the crowded little one on the ground floor. The 3 scoop sundaes were around $12.95 each, which we weren’t too excited about, so we decided to split the Crissy Fields cookie sundae between the three of us, and little Eliana got her own Chocolate Shake (we shared that too of course). We then walked up the steps, and saw the original Ghiardelli Shop and the larger one there. It was pretty to see this area decorated for Christmas also!
The next day was Thanksgiving Day! We decided to start the day with a walk by the beach in Pacifica. We walked the trail up the cliff and took in the beautiful sites! It was a good hike for the kids, and we ended it with a small breakfast at the Chit and Chat old coffee shop on the fishing pier.
We got back to the RV just in time for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (my favorite), and I was happy to see that the kids were interested in it this year too! After the parade, David and I cooked a Thanksgiving dinner for lunch that we ate at a nearby picnic table near the fences as close to the ocean as we could get. It was a nice day and we enjoyed a wonderful meal complete with coffee and dessert!
After we ate, we could have easily taken naps and fallen into at turkey induced food coma, but we were in San Francisco!!! So we headed into the city to do some touristy things. Our first stop was at the Painted Ladies houses and Alamo Square Park. We easily found free 2 hour street parking since it was Thanksgiving Day (remember to turn your wheels toward the curb on these hills, or I hear you can get a ticket, or a runaway car)! The kids had fun playing at the playground in the park. You may recognize those Victorian houses behind us from postcards, pics of San Francisco, and from the Full House intro! The real Full House home was 5 minutes down the road, so we drove by, but the people around weren’t too friendly (I am sure they are tired of their neighborhood being a constant tourist attraction), so we took a quick picture, and moved on.
We headed to nearby Lombard Street, and drove down the famously crooked street that we all agreed would be crazy to live on! There were tons of tourists here too, and we knew there were probably less than usual since it was Thanksgiving dinner time. San Francisco is a major hilly city, but this road was the most unique drive ever!
We decided we might be able to sneak in our first glimpse at the Golden Gate Bridge, so we headed to the South Vista Point to see it. It was very busy here, and we couldn’t find parking right away, so we headed to a nearby Battery Park parking lot, and took some great pics there and on trails leading up to the bridge. The sun was just setting, and the sky that Thanksgiving night was beautiful shades of bright pink, and pretty pastels! We had come at the right time! This was a perfect way to end Thanksgiving Day in San Francisco. Tyler especially enjoyed this bridge and recorded a perfect video of tips for seeing the bridge.
The next morning, since I had another day off work for the holidays, and this was our last day here, we headed back to the city bright and early! We headed to Labyrinth Trail because I heard there were some magnificent views there, but as is common in this area, the fog was too thick to see anything, so we didn’t hike on the trail long, but is was still pretty. I can imagine how pretty it is when there is less fog!
Our main goal for this third and final day of being in San Francisco, was to explore the huge Golden Gate Park. We did things a little out of order of the way we realized later would have been best for us to have done, so I will list the way we should have seen what we did. We should have visited Bison Paddock first. It is a fenced in area where the 4 bison that are there’s ancestor’s have roamed for the past 100 years. It was cool to see the American Bison, but they were also very fenced in, so a couple of minutes of viewing here were enough.
We should have then headed to the huge San Francisco Botanical Garden around it’s 7:30am opening time to get in for free before 9am. We instead went a little later in the day and had to pay $16 to get in. We knew that we could get into the famed Japanese Tea Garden for free on Monday, Wednesday, or Fridays between 9-10am, so since it was 9am, we headed there. We loved the tea garden, and got a pot of Sencha Tea and some Japanese cookies at a tea shop in the middle of the garden.
We headed out of the park, and had lunch at Nopalito’s Mexican restaurant, which was gourmet Mexican food. It was right up our alley and we enjoyed this tasty lunch! Next, David looked for some good coffee at one of the few Blue Bottle locations in the city. He wanted to stop at more coffee shops, but it was hard to get parking in the areas.
We had planned to see the tree lighting in Union Square and had reserved a nearby parking spot in valet parking with SpotHero, but when we got close to Union Square on Eddy Street, and didn’t feel too safe. There was police presence nearby, which made us feel a little better, but we decided we didn’t want to park in the parking spot we had reserved because the area didn’t feel good about it, and we didn’t want to walk back to the car at night with the kids. I called SpotHero, and they easily refunded my money when I told them we wouldn’t be using the parking space, so I will definitely use them again!
Instead, we headed to the Ferry Marketplace, and enjoyed a nice afternoon there complete with Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream. David got a Cascara Soda from the outside location of Blue Bottle, that was so much less crowded than the inside location of the same coffee shop! We watched some of the boats come in while we ate our ice cream behind the Ferry building, and the sun started to set.
We enjoyed a nice view of the Bay Bridge on our way back to the car, and David and I agreed that the Bay Bridge, with it’s sparkling white lights was quite possibly even prettier at night that the Golden Gate Bridge! In the daytime, however, the red-orange color of the Golden Gate Bridge wins!
Needless to say, there is an endless amount of things to do in San Francisco! We would love to walk the Labyrinth Trail when it is not so foggy, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, go see Alcatraz, visit the Children’s Creativity Museum, the Exploratorium Museum, ridden a cable car, and possibly go to more of the museums and the Flower Conservancy that are located in the same area in Golden Gate Park as the Botanical Garden and Japanese Tea Garden that we visited!
See you later, beautiful San Francisco!