Do you ever go somewhere and not totally enjoy it and then look back and realize you had an incredible time? That’s how I feel about our time in San Francisco. There were so many people and so many cars and so much waiting and so many traffic jams that I was ready to get outta dodge. But now that I’m looking though my pictures, I am reminded that we had a good time. We saw so many neat things and added memories to the memory bank.
The reason we were in San Francisco in the first place is because Little Mister wanted to go to Alcatraz. It was a really cool experience and I’d recommend it if you are in SF. I had the great idea to book 9am tickets thinking the island would be less crowded. While that was the case, I didn’t realize we would be headed into San Francisco during morning rush hour. Doh. We had to leave the campground ridiculously early but we didn’t get caught in rush hour and we made our ferry with plenty of time to spare.
Alcatraz Island is gorgeous. Not only is the architecture cool, the flora is stunning, and the views are to die for. There are even good views from inside the prison.
You absolutely must get the headphones for the Cellhouse Audio Tour. Get off the boat and walk to the very top of the island to get your headphones. The audio tour walks you though the prison and the grounds and gives so much history. You can go at your own pace so there’s time to see everything.
I did not realize that American Indians occupied Alcatraz Island for 18 months after the prison closed. They were attempting the claim the land for the tribes of North America but were unsuccessful in the end. Evidence from their time there is all over the island.
There are incredible views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge around the backside of the island so be sure to go outside. If you’re listening to the audio tour it will take you out there.
The hills at Alcatraz are no joke but if you have mobility issues there is a tram that will take you to the top of the island where the main prison is. Once at the top, the prison is easy to get around so as long as you can get on and off the ferry and can walk (ride or roll) around on flat surfaces you can enjoy Alcatraz.
Golden Gate Bridge
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is so cool and totally worth the $7 toll. At least once. We also stopped near the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center to get a closer view. We were hoping to grab some of the rentable bikes to ride across the bridge but they were all in use.
Muir Woods National Monument
I was surprised to find that Muir Woods National Monument is basically in the middle of the city. They have limited parking so if you want to park on site you have to make a reservation. The other option is to take a shuttle into the park. We made parking reservations for first thing in the morning and I’m glad we did. There were few people in the park and it was still very peaceful.
The canopy is dense and it was chilly! Be sure to bring warm clothes. One kid was in shorts and sandals so we didn’t stay terribly long. We walked the trails that bordered the stream and it made for a lovely morning walk. I would loved to have taken one of the trails that takes you above the tree line. Next time.
Point Reyes National Seashore
After leaving Muir Woods we headed up the Pacific Coast Highway/Highway 1 to visit Point Reyes National Seashore. This was my first time on the PCH and holy moly is it narrow and windy. There are some great spots to stop and take pictures though.
There is a lot to do in Point Reyes but it’s pretty spread out. At the advice of a ranger we headed to Drakes Beach. Wowza…it is gorgeous.
There is a small gift shop that sells food and coffee and we were so thankful. It was cold and windy so we grabbed warm drinks before heading to the shore.
We spent sometime walking along the beach looking at all the neat rocks, shells and crabs.
We stopped at the Cypress Tree Tunnel on our way out of the park to take a walk through the trees. It was a beautiful walk, albeit people were illegally flying drones through the tunnel.
We stopped by the Inverness Store to buy peanut butter because we left our jar at the campground. The store is rather pricey so I would advise not leaving your lunch at the campground. Since we were there we took the short walk behind the store to see the shipwreck.
San Francisco North KOA
We stayed at the San Francisco North KOA and it is one of the better campgrounds we’ve stayed at. First of all, and most importantly, they have an awesome game room! We had a blast playing air hockey, teaching the kids to play pool, and setting high scores on the arcade games.
The park is huge and there is tons to do, particularly if you have kids. Every evening they had a train or wagon ride go though the park around dusk. They were bumping kids music and everyone looked to be having a ball. We had a back-in spot in the Redwood Grove Area and it was awesome. I would definitely stay in this spot and campground again.
Tips for Visiting San Francisco
Have a big ‘ole dose of patience with you. I am not use to big city driving which includes leaving extra, extra early to account for the seemingly never ending traffic jams. I have friends from the Bay Area and they know how to get around this so maybe next time I will go with one of them.
Make reservations in advance for all the activities you are interested in to avoid missing out. For us that included booking ferry tickets to Alcatraz and a parking pass for Muir Woods. There really is so much to do and is was neat to see some of the iconic San Francisco destinations.
After San Francisco we made our way back to Arizona but not before stopping at my favorite bakery in L.A., Erin McKenna’s.
If you missed the other posts from this trip check out: