Just one California city stands out from my childhood that I really wanted to share with my family. Big old hilly San Francisco. It wasn’t too hard to convince the family to go to this big city, to put up with traffic so we could drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. That’s the only thing they really wanted to do. So here’s what a day in San Francisco for non-city goers looked like.
Ever wonder why San Francisco is so hilly? Its built on 43 hills covering 49 square miles and surrounded by water on three sides.
There’s plenty to see here, and enough of it to be Free Admission to satisfy both the family and the pocket book. This may be one of the most expensive cities to live in in the USA, but it doesn’t have to require ‘an arm and a leg’ to visit it for the day as a tourist.
We parked our skoolie in Napa and drove into the city. It was recommended that we just drive & park in Vallejo and take the ferry into San Fran but multiply the cost for 7 (Adults $10.70; kids $7.10), plus a return fare and parking & you can see why we opted to drive right down to Fisherman’s Wharf. Besides, some of THE touristy things we wanted to do required us to have a vehicle.
I got a really handy area map for free from Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals & Tours even though we didn’t rent bicycles. They certainly appear to be a very popular way to tour around San Francisco including riding across the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring Sausalito for a while before returning to the city via ferry.
There’s tons of things to do in San Francisco. But we didn’t do them. Others might think we wasted our time, but we were all happy about what we did, and the feel we got for the city.
We introduced our kids to Painted Ladies. Drove up incredible inclines and down streets that make you worry about brakes. Walked along Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39…mostly entertained by all the barking shoving sea lions.
We watched the cable cars down at the turnabout but didn’t jump on at $7 a person. Our feet were already sore from walking and nobody was interested in walking back even if it was down hill. And too cheap to pay another $7 to hop back on, or pay $17 per person to hop-on-and-off all day long. Multiply everything by 7 people and it adds up really quick.
Please, don’t take that as a complaint. There are tons of awesome things about having a large family, and I really do feel blessed and rich with all these kids in my life. Just saying it makes one consider finding other less-expensive things to do for our gang.
Our non-city goers just wanted to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. That was the thing they wanted to do the most in San Francisco. And so we did.
So there isn’t much to tell. Just some photos to share, and hopefully a video in the next few days. Let’s find some strong wifi somewhere’s, Babe.
We parked at Anchorage Square Parking which is right across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf making it really handy for exploring. All parking is expensive in this uber-expensive city, so expect to pay $40. But for us it was a whole lot cheaper (for 7 of us) than taking the Vallejo Ferry into the city and then not being in the position to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge on our exit out of the city.
Can you see Alcatraz Island (the infamous prison) through the chain link fence? We could also see the Golden Gate Bridge through these locks but it was an obstructed view.
We drove down Lombard St which is a crazy 40% grade. Speed limit is 5mph. But we were all IN the van so we don’t have any photos. If you want to walk Lombard St there are stairways (without curves) on either side of the street for pedestrians.
Cable cars were first introduced to San Francisco in 1873. The idea was conceived by wire-cable Andrew Halide after he witnessed an accident in which a horse-drawn carriage faltered and rolled backward downhill, dragging the horses behind it.
The first cable car was an immediate success, creating a vital link in San Francisco’s public transportation system, but it meant that building on steep hills was now possible!
Throughout the 1890’s, eight transit companies operated 600 cars covering 21 routes with a total of nearly 53 miles. After the 1906 earthquake and the subsequent fires that destroyed most of the cable car system, few lines were restored. A municipal railway replaced most of the lines.
Today, San Francisco’s beloved cable cars are the only vehicles of their kind still in operation and are designated National Landmarks.
On our way back to Napa right after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge we stopped to checkout Sausalito. Nice little marina town, maybe we’ll sail into it sometime.
So there you go…San Francisco for non-city goers. Our near-perfect day in the city.
10 Road Trip Hacks From People Who Know
We've traveled 250,000kms+ in 10 years with our 9 kids... and lived to tell about it!
Get 10 Hacks to help make your next Road Trip the Best One EVER!!!