We drove into San Francisco via the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge. It was foggy and pouring rain, but it was still a pretty awesome experience! As an FYI for other RV travellers (or anyone towing something behind their truck/car/motorcycle - yes, even your motorcycle), the toll price per vehicle is $7.50, but if you are towing anything behind your vehicle then you pay per axle. This fee structure brought our total cost to $30, something we found out when we called to coordinate payment, as their online payment structure doesn’t allow for a Canadian Address. It is definitely something that is good to know ahead of time! Not that there are alternate routes, but even so.
Our fist day in San Francisco was my Mom’s birthday, we met her and my Stepdad at the California Academy of Science, where we purchased a City Pass to make the most of our week long visit. We had so much fun at the Academy of Science, they had some amazing exhibits - including a rainforest, a mini aquarium and a dome style planetarium, where we viewed an awesome Habitat Earth film. We came back to the RV to prepare a birthday dinner for Juliette’s Mom, which included green curry and a delicious Sinless Sticky Toffee Pudding from the Oh She Glows blog. It was our first time hosting diner in the RV and it worked out really well. We can easily seat six in our u-shaped booth, and brought a folding chair in for one more spot.
Our second day in San Francisco dawned bright and sunny for Adele’s birthday! We woke up and had breakfast paired with present unwrapping. We have a selection of fabric wrapping that we use for birthdays and other holidays, which includes a couple of swaddling blankets we used with Adele when she was newborn and in the NICU. We like to focus on activity based gifts, but it is still really nice to have something to open. We did the park and ride that day, via the BART train system, then transferred over to the MUNI system afterwards. MUNI, cable and streetcars are included in the City Pass, which is so fantastic! We went on a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise via Pier 39, and followed this awesome harbour tour with a cable car ride. It was a big highlight for both Adele & Armand, and we learned a lot from the driver about driving trials and tribulations (mostly brought in by Uber drivers who are not familiar with the city and different road rules care of streetcar and cable car traffic) Apparently the cable cars are all 80 years old, and the the last update to the system was 40 years ago. The driver was adamant that it was time for a change! It was awesome to see that the cable cars are still driver operated, with a stick lever, much as they would have been back in the day. They are even manually turned at each end of the track, how cool is that?!
We followed our cable car adventure with a walk into Chinatown to have lunch at Lucky Creation Vegetarian, recommended by Happy Cow. We then visited the Willy “Woo Woo” Wong Playground, which the kids thoroughly enjoyed, before going to watch the Chinese New Year Parade. We found some lovely bubble tea at Plentea, which came in re-usable glass bottles that will be perfect for storing small amounts of nut milk and other liquids (smoothies perhaps!) We made our way past the parade (no small feat!) and took the BART train back to the park and ride station before meeting up at a Thai Restaurant right by the RV resort in Pacifica for dinner. Adele’s request was Tom Yum, and they had a lovely version of it.
We said goodbye to my Mom and Stepdad before driving out to Oakley, CA the next day to visit some dear friends we haven’t seen since we left St John’s. Their son was born shortly after we left, it was such a treat to meet him! The kids got along really well, and had a blast playing in their backyard all afternoon. Jenna and Juliette went out for a girl’s night with some of her friends, which led to an impromptu sleep over as the drive back to San Francisco takes about an hour and a half and the girls got home late. It was such a lovely visit, and makes us both wish we lived closer and also feel grateful that our travel adventure allows us this wonderful opportunity to reconnect with friends like this!
We spent the next day in San Francisco at Alcatraz, hopping on the ferry at 12:30 and spending the remainder of the afternoon on the island. We followed a brief guided walking tour before entering the main building and following a self-guided audio tour. All of us thoroughly enjoyed it, including Armand, who listened to almost the entire tour on his own. We learned so much, and Adele was so fascinated that she purchased a book about Alcatraz with her birthday money. We took the streetcar over to the Golden Era Vegan Restaurant, where we had some lovely Asian noodle bowls (one of our all time favourite meals!) So delicious! We walked by City Hall on our way back to the Streetcar, it was beautiful lit up for the evening. We drove back to our RV park in Pacifica for a very good night’s sleep, after covering a lot of ground that day!
On our last day in San Francisco we parked close to the Children’s Creativity Museum - only to discover that it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays during winter months! We took full advantage of their beautiful outdoor park and carousel, so it was not a total loss. We then walked over to Delarosa for a lovely Valentine’s lunch, their pizza was delicious but the highlight for us was the tapas style appetizers, fried Brussels sprouts, warm olives and broccolini with chilis. We headed over to the Exploratorium (along the Embarcadero) and had a lot of fun testing out all of their hands on exhibits. Dom held the fort with the kids for a bit while Juliette went outside for a breather - all of the hustle and bustle of the big city was starting to feel a bit overwhelming after a full week! Fresh air and kombucha did the trick; after a brief break Juliette joined the rest of the crew and we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our afternoon there. We closed down the Exploratorium, and realized that the parking lot where we had parked our truck closed early, and went back to pick it up before driving over to the restaurant we had chosen for dinner (in the Mission District). We stopped for a tea at Samovar before walking to Cha Ya for a lovely Japanese style dinner. On our walk back to the truck we happened upon Dandelion Chocolate, a small batch, bean to bar chocolate maker that we first discovered and fell in love with in Victoria. Such a fantastic surprise, especially since they were still open at 8:30 pm, which allowed us to stop for beverages and chocolate. Yum! Such a treat!
San Francisco Highlights
City Pass - We were in San Francisco to celebrate a couple of birthdays, and elected to go with the City Pass to make the most of our visit! We loved that this City Pass included a MUNI/Streetcar Pass, it provided us with a fun trolley riding experience and also gave us a fantastic way to get around the city.
California Academy of Science - is a very cool museum/aquarium/planetarium located in front of the Golden Gate Park. We spent all day exploring the exhibits and found the variety of activities to be a lot of fun!
Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure - We really enjoyed our harbour cruise, we got up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge, a definite highlight for the kids!
BART - Park and Ride - we were staying at an RV park in Pacifica and found the park and ride worked well, although with the five of us the price was comparable to driving in (with less traffic to deal with!) In general, we've found that Park and Ride is a great option on the weekend, but fills up quickly during the week. Unless the Park and Ride is not operating over the weekend (I am looking at you Portland!!)
MUNI/Street Car/Cable Car - We were happy to have the City Pass, as it allowed us unlimited transportation on MUNI/Streetcars/Cable Cars for the duration of our trip. We had the pass for a full 7 days, but I believe it changed to a 3 day pass at the end of February.
Happy Cow - a fantastic resource for finding groceries and restaurants offering plant based cuisine!
Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant - located in Chinatown, this restaurant is small but the menu is extensive. It is not glamorous, but the food is good.
Willy ‘Woo Woo” Wong Playground - a fantastic play area for kids in Chinatown, with washrooms and areas for both big kids and toddlers (under 5).
Plentea - a great bubble tea spot, with multiple locations in town. We were excited to find a spot with dairy free options and reusable glass jars!
Alcatraz Island - we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Alcatraz Island, the Ranger led tour was lots of fun, and we all learned a lot from our self guided audio tour! The grounds are lovely, we were expecting it to be barren but the garden was beautiful.
Golden Era Vegan Restaurant - we really enjoyed the noodle bowls here! They have an extensive menu, and everything looks fantastic!
Children’s Creativity Museum - we didn't have a chance to visit, but the Children's Creativity Museum looks pretty amazing. They have a lovely play area and carousel outside.
Samovar - a lovely tea shop with multiple locations in San Francisco.
Cha Ya Restaurant - a fantastic vegan Japanese food restaurant in the Mission district.
Dandelion Chocolate - One of our favourite chocolate companies, we chanced upon the shop on Valentine's day!