My daughter and I went for a post-high school graduation trip to the US, starting in San Francisco. We had two days to explore San Francisco – so here’s our two day itinerary!
We flew from Sydney to San Francisco on Qantas, catching the latest possible flight out — 5pm—to make the most of the time difference and catch some zzzz on the flight.
We landed at 9am and grabbed a pre-paid SuperShuttle to our hotel, The Argonaut located on the touristy but fun Fisherman’s Wharf area, full of souvenir stores, brand name bars and restaurants. The Argonaut is a block away from the bustle and noise. The nautical theme and friendly staff help you feel welcome.
The first half of the day was spent exploring the different wharves of San Francisco, including Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. You can expect to see lots of restaurants specialising in dungeon crab, candy stories, and antique stores selling lots of Italian glass and colourful sculptures.
Pier 39 is also famous for its sea lions which holler to each other, wrestle and bask in the sun.
There’s a viewing deck from the wharf, but if you go up a flight of stairs you can get a private viewing platform all to yourself to take some great pics without jostling other visitors.
Next, we caught a Hop on/Hop off bus to take us through all the areas of inner San Francisco. You can buy tickets online or through a concierge to save money. The bus stops were located in convenient locations and there were usually staff near major stops to help you.
We stopped off at Union Square where we found a T Mobile store and bought an unlimited data sim card. We had three weeks travel still ahead of us, and I don’t think you can make it in the US without a smartphone. It meant we could book and access all tickets easily, saving money online and skipping long queues.
After browsing through floors of department stores and wandering through the shopping district, we hopped back on a bus (they run about every 20 minutes) and went to Golden Gate Park. There we jumped on a ‘trolley’ bus with a reggae loving driver, who drove us to Sausalito on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge. On the way, he stopped at another viewing point where we could take great photos of the bridge and the bay without all the crowds.
A couple hours in Sausalito gave us time to check out the craft stores, boutiques and grab a late and light lunch at a deli. We hopped onto a trolley bus back to the Golden Gate Park, and another Hop on/off bus to get back home. The buses are a great (if a meandering) way to get around. It takes you through the different neighbourhoods and gives you ideas of where else to go.
Dinner was at the Blue Mermaid: overpriced but tasty and close to our hotel room. I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat there, but we had a discount voucher from the hotel and we were very jet-lagged. Next time I’d try one of the many stalls or cafes around Fisherman’s Wharf.
Alcatraz. We booked our tickets directly weeks before we left Australia, as it sells out apparently. Our ferry was at 11.30am, but we had to get there at 11am to board.
A short ferry ride and you’re there, where a park ranger gives you a quick intro to what’s on the island before setting you free to check it all out. The free audio tour takes you through the prison, but then you have plenty of time to see everything at your own pace. The views from here are fantastic.
We spent about two hours but most people stay longer.
Ferries run frequently back to the city. The Alcatraz souvenir store has great stuff and it’s cheaper than some of the mainland shops for souvenirs.
Lunch was back at Fisherman’s Wharf at Boudin Bakery, famous for its sourdough. There’s a museum and cafe, but we chose to eat in the upmarket restaurants upstairs. It was delicious and relaxing, even if it’s touristy.
Around the corner from The Argonaut is a CVS (convenience store), perfect for picking up snack foods, drinks and anything else we needed to get us through our trip.
In the later afternoon we caught a Super Shuttle to the airport to get our flight to LA. The airport is about a 45 minute drive from Fisherman’s Wharf, without traffic. The bell man at the hotel was so friendly, he gave us a warm hug goodbye after loading our suitcases onto the van.
We also wanted to rent bikes (a popular way to get around) but smoke from major bushfires meant that air quality was poor.
Tip: There are parts of the CBD (like the Tenderloin) that are not welcoming parts of the city: common with drugs and crime, even in daytime. Overall the city itself has a significant drug and homelessness problem, worse than other similar-size cities of the US.
Regardless, San Fran is beautiful and has a lot to see and do. It’s wise to know to expect the city’s problems, but doesn’t mean you should avoid visiting it. We enjoyed our two days in San Francisco, despite the jet-lag!
Trip taken November 2018
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