San Francisco Offers a Little Fun for Everyone San Francisco is perhaps one of the most diverse cities in America. With the vast diversity among the people that make this great city what it is today, San Francisco really is a melting pot. Not only have the different cultures and flavors had a great effect on what this great city has become, they also have an incredible impact on the city that is seen by those visiting. There is very little you can look for in a vacation that can't be found in San Francisco. The real appeal of San Francisco as a vacation destination is that it has a little something to offer everyone. From families with small children, families with teens, young couples, older couples, to those of different lifestyles and ethnicities there is a little something that should appeal to all. San Francisco has a great history that celebrates its diversity and a future that looks, well, golden. From the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman's Wharf and everywhere in between San Francisco has a lot to offer visitors in way of art, entertainment, shopping, and incredible, mouth watering food. You don't have to take my word for it though, wander on over to Fillmore Street and see for yourself. If you've been having too much fun taking in the sights and playing in the wonderful parks that can be found throughout this fabulous city, take a trolley on over. Just make sure you bring your appetite. If you have young kids along there are both fun and educational adventures that abound in this great city. If you aren't careful, you just might find that you can't really tell the difference between the two. More importantly, neither can they. Even skeptical, difficult to impress teens will be hard pressed to pretend to be bored throughout your entire trip to San Francisco. Between the interesting cultures, the good food, and the hip trendy atmosphere of local shopping centers, there is something that will be likely to appeal to your teens. They just might find themselves having a lot of fun at some of the plays, museums, and parks in the area too. For the just married, there is a ton of romance in this fair city. From the exhibits and museums dedicated to the perseverance of the people of this great metropolis, to the beauty of the Golden Gate Bridge and the many parks in the area. There is also the great food and shopping to consider. From trendy small boutiques to national chain stores San Francisco has it all. For more mature crowds this city is hard to beat when it comes to arts and entertainment. Not only are their shows playing almost nightly, there is also a great cultural arts community here as well. There are enough museums here to make a great vacation in and of themselves. Add to that the great food and the little boutique shops that abound and you are well on your way to having a great time. The cultural diversity of San Francisco, California could be a book in and of itself. In fact, there are probably several books on the matter. There is a rich history of many cultures here that is readily available for exploration. From China Town to Little Italy and a stop in the Castro District in between there is a vast treasure trove of cultures, ethnicities, and fabulously wonderful people to investigate. If visiting San Francisco, California is something that you've been considering, what are you waiting for? Check out all the great things that this city has to offer and keep in mind that when it feels like it's a thousand degrees outside in the South or forty below in the north, it's probably a fairly mild day on the Frisco bay. The temperatures year round here are generally within the realm of comfortable which makes it that much more appealing. Add the pleasant temperatures to the beauty and fun that is waiting, I can't believe you're still here and not booking your trip already. San Francisco Offers Fun in Sun and the Water If you like water sports and activities that involve the water, then San Francisco should be at the very top of your must visit list. There are so many water activities in San Francisco your head will spin. In fact, bring your suit and prepare to spend a great deal of time enjoying the water and the great recreation that the water has to offer. If you like the water but have little real experience at manning the wheel of a boat or navigating narrow straights, you will probably be best served by chartering the services of experts rather than attempting a go of it on your own. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to do this. One of the most common ways is to take a ferry out to Alcatraz or Angel Island. You get the benefit of time on the water with no work involved whatsoever. You also get the added benefit of a tour of some sort on the other end of your trip. Many visitors each year enjoy this means of water travel and it is both an economical way to travel by water and a low stress way to do so. You can also elect a sunset or sightseeing cruise around the bay on a chartered sailboat or motor sailor that is fully crewed. Some of the charter companies even offer team-building activities if you are traveling to San Francisco on business. Sailing is a great way to build a team and bond them like nothing else on earth. If you've never been sailing before, I highly recommend chartering a boat for an outing even if it's only for a small period of time. It's a great way to find out if you have sea legs that's for sure. In addition to finding out if you have sea legs, a short tour will either leave you knowing this isn't for you or hungry for more-in which case, you might wish to take sailing lessons and consider purchasing a sailboat of your own someday. Sailing lessons are a great thing to give yourself while on vacation in San Francisco as well. The bay offers a protected, or at least relatively protected area in which to learn the finer aspects of sailing and there are many schools locally that can offer excellent instruction in the finer points of sailing and navigation. Sailing however requires more than an afternoon of lessons in order to have any degree of competency but a few lessons while on vacation is a great place to begin and an even better excuse to return. If you have some experience with navigation and sailing, there are some companies that will allow you to rent a boat for a day or even a weekend. This allows you to be your own "Master and Commander" and can make for a great family day for the entire family. I firmly believe there are few things on earth that are better than tasting the salt of the sea while feeling the wind in your face, but I've always felt more at home on water than on solid ground so I am more than a little biased towards enjoyment of water based activities. Which brings me to my next suggestion. Some are not content to merely ride the waves but would rather create waves of their own. For those who prefer a more hands on and muscle powered trek through the water, perhaps a rowboat or paddleboat rental would be in order? There are places in Golden Gate Park where this is easily achieved and the lake is an ideal setting for these kinds of boats. And of course there are kayak rentals that seem to abound in the San Francisco area which offer a whole new level of fun for all involved. No matter how you look at it, there are some great ways to spend a day on the water in San Francisco. Come found out why so many people have left their hearts here and enjoy the peaceful serenity of a day 'at sea'. Young and Old Alike: Fun Abounds in San Francisco San Francisco is one of those rare cities that offers almost timeless appeal. One of the greatest things that can be said about this great city is that the things that attract its youngest visitors are also quite often the things that bring in its older visitors. In fact, the very museums that fascinate youngsters have lessons to teach their older visitors as well. Art is a common language among us all and the entertainment that can be found in this great city from opera, symphonies, concerts, plays, and musicals, to street entertainment are both top notch and appealing to people from all sorts of backgrounds and circumstances. The diversity of this great city is as much a part of its appeal as are the attractions that are designed to bring in visitors. Perhaps one of the most attractive draws to this city for older audiences is the significant history of this city and its people. There are many places-museums and galleries, where you can learn about the history and tragedies that this city has endured, overcome, and now celebrate as part of its heritage. The cultural diversity that this city offers is also a large draw to older populations. From the Asian history and culture, to the Latin history and culture, to the African American this city celebrates it all. I think that is my favorite thing about this city. It celebrates the good and the bad of its history side by side. Not many places on earth can do that, much less do it as effectively as San Francisco does. In addition to all of these things, which are quite appealing in and of themselves, San Francisco has the trolley tours, Alcatraz Island tours, the Presidio, The conservatory of flowers at Golden Gate Park, Wine Tasting and winery tours, concerts and cultural events, plays and musicals, as well as Thoroughbred racing at Golden Gate Fields. There are so many activities that are available in San Francisco that it is quite difficult to narrow them down to what you can actually do in the span of a few days. If you want to feel young again take a tour of Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf. Try taking a tour of Filoli Estates in order to see how the other half live. If you are feeling particularly playful head out for a day at the Exploratorium, this great place isn't only for kids. You can also take a tour of Hearst Castle. This castle was the dream home of William Randolph Hearst, and whose dream wouldn't it be? With 165 rooms and 127 acres to explore this tour could be an excellent way to spend the day. One feature of the tour that will be sure to please is the film "Hearst Castle-Building the Dream" that tells a little more about the man and his castle. Another really neat attraction for more mature audiences is the Old Faithful Geyser of California. This is a little off the beaten path as it is located around an hour and a half north of the city but if you like nature and serenity it is worth a detour. If you like nature you may want to try one of the train tours offered by Roaring Camp Railroads, or both. There are two different tours offered you will want to be sure to check for times. Also keep in mind that during the month of December there is a special Holiday Train Lights Train and reservations must be made in advance for that special ride. As I was saying, there is a little something for everyone in the great city of San Francisco and just because something appeals to a much younger crowd, in no way indicates that it can't appeal just as well to an older or young again crowd. I remember some of the things that fascinated me most as a child still spark those feelings of happiness and joy (we won't say how many) years later. The important thing is to choose the activities that appeal most to you and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible. It shouldn't be too hard! San Francisco offers Great fun for Kids of All Ages If you are looking for a great place to visit and bring the kids, look no further than San Francisco, California. This city is a wonderful vacation destination not only for grownups for little ones alike. There is so much to see and do that will appeal to young and old alike. The real beauty of San Francisco to me is the fact that many of the best attractions for kids are also educational as well. Even better is the fact that the educational values are so cleverly disguised as fun, your kids won't even know what hit them. In fact, mom and dad might find themselves learning a thing or two along the way. You might even find yourselves having just as much fun as your little ones are. My suggestion though is to be careful not to overdo it. We all want our kids to have fun and enjoy the vacation experience but if you cram too many activities into a small span of time, you will have children who are overloaded, cranky, and tired. This will make your day miserable and will affect their memories of the time they spend here. I will give a brief overview of several great things for kids and families to do in San Francisco, hopefully this will help you choose more selectively the activities you feel are can't miss activities and those that you can live without. Also remember if you don't get to do everything this trip, don't try to force activities in. Consider is a good reason to come back. The first thing that I want to tell you about is the Exploratorium. This is definitely one of those destinations that disguises education as fun. The great thing about this one is that it will not only appeal to the little ones but also offer education and fun for the grown ups as well. If I were to point out one 'must do' thing for your family trip to San Francisco this would be it. If you're planning to be around Fisherman's Wharf (which I highly recommend) you might find Pier 39 to be an excellent destination. The Magic Carpet Ride is sure to please everyone in the family and the little ones will love the San Francisco Carousel. The Pier 39 Marina offers powerboat and sailboat rides that are sure to please the entire family and the Riptide Arcade will delight the little gamers in the family. Perhaps the biggest attraction though, is the Aquarium of the Bay. This is another activity that I highly recommend. There are many more activities available at Pier 39, you'll just have to check it out and see what you find most appealing to you. I could personally plan a trip to Frisco and never leave the Fisherman's Wharf. Fairyland is a great destination if you're looking for a relatively inexpensive day of fun. With the admission price for everyone over the age of 1 being 6 dollars, it is a really inexpensive way to spend the day. A day at Fairyland will definitely be a highlight of your trip for younger children and will provide parents and other family members with some fond memories as well. Another fun thing to do for the entire family is to take a Jelly Belly Factory Tour at the Jelly Belly Candy Company. The tour is free and offered daily between the hours of 9 am and 4pm. While it isn't the height of educational fun, kids will definitely think it's cool to see how these tasty treats are made. I saved the best two for last. The San Francisco Zoo and Six Flags Marine World. I cannot say enough about either of these attractions. The magic they hold for children is undeniable and well worth the price of the tickets. The best advice, by far that I can give you about bringing your children to San Francisco, California is to relax and have a good time. Everyone will have a much better vacation experience if you take that advice. San Francisco is not just Child's Play Visiting San Francisco, California is great to do with a family; it is even better to do as an adult without children along. Frisco has a thriving nightlife and plenty of entertainment that simply isn't meant for children. From the slightly off color to the seriously bawdy, San Francisco nightlife has entertainment of almost every flavor. Of course there is still plenty to do during the daylight hours too. If you're looking for a taste of nightlife that is 'belly busting' funny, there's Comedy on the Square that offers comedic variety shows. You can also check out Lila Theatre for some of the best long-form improvisation. If you need a good laugh these are great places to start. 50 Mason Lounge is also a great place to go to get in on the laughs. The problem with San Francisco is that there are so many great comedy clubs they can't all be listed in one place. My suggestion is that you ask around for suggestions and find out who's playing. You never know when someone you recognize might be popping in for the evening. In addition to the great comedy clubs there is the general 'gentleman's' nightlife alive and well in this fair city. I would be remiss if I failed to mention some of the more unique adult entertainment that San Francisco has to offer. In addition to the typical gentlemen's clubs such as Broadway Showgirls Cabaret, which boasts more luxurious surroundings than other clubs, there is Crazy Horse, Inc., which has totally nude live shows, The Gold Club, and Larry Flynt's Hustler Club. There is one club that goes above and beyond what any of these clubs offer though and is worth checking out with a date if you and your partner are so inclined. This club is called Power Exchange and while there are a few places like this around the country, they are extremely rare. If you aren't easily offended and are the least bit curious, I would recommend checking it out. San Francisco is swimming with active and awesome nightclubs and as such it is quite difficult to single one out as superior to any other. I recommend finding a nightclub that is within walking distance of your hotel. This diminishes the odds of your driving while intoxicated. As always it is important to enjoy responsibly. If you want to make the most out of your trip to San Francisco, be sure to remember that while there is plenty to do at night, you want to be awake and aware for at least part of the day so don't have too much fun at night. If you are very brave and adventurous and looking for more adult only entertainment you can try one of the nude beaches in the area. While these beaches are not for everyone and they aren't exactly nighttime activities, they do offer some adult only entertainment that is worth considering if it floats your boat. You can also rent sailboat and powerboat cruises in the bay, if you are with a loved one, try one of the sunset cruises. These cruises are romantic time away from the crowds of the city. Even if these times aren't exclusively for adults, if you close your eyes and imagine, you can whittle the world down to just the two of you. Whatever your pleasure in this great city, I hope you have found some ideas for great fun and entertainment that will get your trip off to a great start. Remember to have fun and enjoy the time you spend visiting San Francisco, California whether that time be day or night. If none of the things I've mentioned above have struck your fancy there are always more cultural undertakings such as museums, guided tours, or trips to Alcatraz. Just remember the purpose of a vacation is fun, if you aren't having fun where you are, go somewhere else! San Francisco is Tops in Romance If you're looking for a romantic vacation or honeymoon, perhaps you should consider visiting San Francisco, California. This great city offers a little something for everyone in addition to some very romantic destinations. There have even been songs about how romantic San Francisco is. Tony Bennett left his heart there if memory serves and who could resist a view of the Golden Gate Bridge when there's a full moon? San Francisco has been designated one of the most romantic cities in America don't you think it's time your found out why? It could have something to do with the climate, the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge, the many beaches around that are great for talking long walks at sunset or the many parks in the area where romantic couples can walk together, hike, bike, and simply enjoy being together. In addition to activities such as this, there are other ways in which to enjoy the great outdoors of San Francisco as a couple. You could take a sunset cruise in the San Francisco bay is you want to make a very romantic night of it. If you want to have a truly romantic experience you could schedule a couples massage at one of the many day spas in the area. This is an experience that neither of you would be likely to forget anytime soon. While there are spas across the country, there are quite possibly as many spas as there are Starbuck's in the city of San Francisco so you can be a lot more selective in the one you choose. Another romantic thing to do while vacationing in San Francisco is to tour the various vineyards in the area. While San Francisco is not literally part of wine country, it is only a stone's throw away from some of the most famous vineyards in America. It would be a literal sin to come so close and not tour these American legacies. Check with the wineries you want to visit ahead of time, as some require appointments for tours. Rest assured that visiting the beautiful countryside and enjoying the tasting of various wines will make for quite the romantic outing. Be sure to taste responsibly. Still need some romantic activities? Try a picnic in Golden Gate Park. After your picnic, perhaps you can rent a rowboat and take a trip around the lake or bicycles. Use your imagination and let your sense of romance rule the day. Walk into a flower shop and buy every daisy in the store (that may be a little dramatic, but you get the picture). The most romantic things that have ever happened in my life, were not planned, they were spur of the moment gestures that touched me far more than any contrived venture ever could. Take your loved one to the Equinox, which is a revolving restaurant and bar at the top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel. While the dining experience can be pricey, the spectacular view will take some of the sting out of the meal. Besides is there really a price that is too high to pay for romance? If either of you have the slightest interest in art, San Francisco is full of museums and galleries that should appeal to your artistic nature and provide plenty of topics for discussion. Even if you aren't a fan of traditional art, you may actually surprise yourself by liking the art you find in this diverse city. Any trip to San Francisco would have to be determined to be a romantic dud if it didn't include a trip to either Fisherman's Wharf, China Town, or Little Italy. These areas provide great food, beautiful and interesting sites, as well as a taste of cultural diversity that is hard to find in this day and age. It would be like traveling to New Orleans and not visiting the French Quarter. I whole-heartedly recommend devoting one entire day of your trip to one of these places if not each of them. Fisherman's Wharf is by far my favorite to visit for the sights and sounds, but both China Town and Little Italy have great things to offer as well. Plus, the food is too good to pass on without at least giving it serious thought. Romance is a state of mind; it's just much easier to get to that mental place in a city like San Francisco. Take a trip with your beloved and see what all the talk is about. San Francisco Feeds its Guests Well If you have a healthy appetite for good food and good drink, then visiting San Francisco is probably a great plan for you. While you are visiting, there are several places that you really should check out. Not only do these great places offer tours that will explain how they make their goodies, but many of them also offer samples. Even better, some of the tours are absolutely free. While not every good thing in life is free, there is no doubt that some of the best things are. Among those outstanding freebies is a tour of the Scharffen Berger Chocolate Factory. I love dark chocolate and while I won't go so far as to say they have the best dark chocolate (can't do that as I haven't tried all the dark chocolate there is to have in the world), I will say that there dark chocolate is definitely among the best. The only drawbacks I have found is that children must be at least 10 years old to attend, you must make reservations and you have to wear close-toed shoes (I live in Birkenstock's so this is a minus for me). I really believe that their chocolate is worth the sacrifice however and will gladly send the husband off with the kids to the arcade for an afternoon while I enjoy learning more about this awesome chocolate, err, chocolate company. The tours are free which means if you don't have young children it isn't too difficult to talk your traveling companion into going with you. If for some odd reason there is resistance you can always use the divide and conquer rule. Let them do an activity that you don't relish while you enjoy yours. Second on my list is Takara Sake. Another freebie, I can't seem to help myself. The Takara Sake Company has a museum that is free of charge and opened daily from noon until 6:00 pm. This museum contains historic implements for making sake as well as a history of sake making in the USA. This is the only museum of its kind in the USA and is well worth taking a look. While you are there, you should consider participating in a sake tasting, which is free as well. Another must see freebie on my list is the Jelly Belly Factory. See how these renowned beans are made and have a nice relaxing lunch at the cafe. This is a great way to beat the heat and have a nice relaxing and educational afternoon. Your kids will love you for it. If you like beer or just know someone who does, the tour of the Anheuser-Bush Brewery will surely be a highlight of your trip. This is another great freebie that will educate and entertain guests of all ages. All ages are welcome and the tour is wheelchair accessible. Samples are available to those who are legally old enough to partake. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and definitely worth checking out. If these tours aren't enough to keep you happy and full, there are plenty of restaurants in and around San Francisco in addition to a many wineries that will be sure to satisfy your thirsts. San Francisco is a city that definitely wants its visitors to leave well fed and content with drink. The really great thing about visiting any of these places is the fact that most of them have stores where you can purchase plenty of their products to bring home with you. 5 Free Things to do while Visiting San Francisco Anyone who knows me well knows that I like cheap and free things to do with the family. It isn't that I'm not willing to pay good money for good fun, I just happen to believe that the best fun is sometimes as free as the wind. The same holds true when visiting new cities like San Francisco. I will invest a great amount of time looking for activities that me and other members of my family can enjoy for little or no money. This saves money for other things like good food and souvenirs. I'm also a big fan of David Letterman and in that spirit I decided to devise a top five list of my very own in honor of Mr. Letterman's Top 10 list. My big 5 list consists of things to do for free when visiting San Francisco. 1) Golden Gate Bridge. This is a favorite among tourists for many reasons. One of those reasons is the fact that it is one landmark that belongs only to San Francisco. It is uniquely a part of this city and represents, for many, your entire trip. Another reason is that there are so many ways to get there. I recommend walking and if you're up for it, try one of the guided walking tours-this will provide valuable background information about the bridge as well as insuring that you don't get lost on the way. 2) Golden Gate Park. This park is larger than New York's Central Park and in my opinion equally grand. There is so much to do and see in Golden Gate Park that you could spend a good portion of your vacation here alone. 3) Cable Car Museum. Kids of all ages will find this museum interesting, especially big and little boys. This museum definitely offers a great deal of education and excitement for the family. In addition to learning about these neat cable cars which have become a trademark of San Francisco transportation. This is one museum I would pay to go to, the fact that it is free is a bonus that I can't resist and the primary reason it is on this particular top ten list. 4) Walking Tours of San Francisco. These free walking tours are not only entertaining; they are also very informative as well. Learn about the history of the neighborhoods that this city is famous for as well as the great people who rebuilt a grand city, literally from the ashes of what it once was and made it even better. San Francisco has a wonderful story to tell and these guides narrate it wonderfully. 5) San Francisco Fire Department Museum. For the big kid in all of us that wanted to grow up to be a fire fighter, this museum takes the cake. Not only does it provide great historical references and artifacts but it is also really cool! I can think of no greater compliment to give a museum than that. This one, even your children will enjoy and beg to go back again and again. Whether you are a big kid, a little kid, or just a kid at heart these activities are a great and inexpensive way to pass a day or two while on vacation. If you can't stand the thought of saving money or not spending it, I'm sure each of these places will be glad to accept donations or at the very least sell you something at the gift shop (if the place you are visiting has one). Regardless, I hope my suggestions have gotten your mental wheels turning and you are coming up with your own great ways to enjoy the day without spending a lot of green. 5 More Freebies for San Francisco Entertainment If the thing you look least forward to on vacation is wracking up vicious amounts of debt on your Master Card, then you've come to the right place. I'm here to offer advice on free things to do while visiting San Francisco. Granted, it is not wise to think that you can go on vacation without spending any money and have a good time. However, it is quite possible to be very selective when deciding where to spend your money by having alternative entertainment options that cost little or no money. Rather than a top ten list, which can be a little long winded, I'm going to provide a top five list. My sincere hope is that you will use this list as inspiration for finding your own free or low cost entertainment while visiting San Francisco. On to the list: 1) San Francisco Botanical Gardens. The climate of San Francisco provides a unique atmosphere that allows the growth and maintenance of plants from around the world. As a result the San Francisco Botanical Gardens offers a look at plants that are rare almost anywhere else on earth. The Gardens are 55 acres and host more than 7500 plants from around the world. 2) Chinese Culture Center. This center offers resources about the Chinese culture in San Francisco in addition to many programs that are available to learn about the artistic and cultural contributions that the Chinese community has made to this great city. 3) Fort Point National Historic Site. This site has special historical significance. Its original intent was to prevent invading forces from entering San Francisco Bay. By the end of the Civil War the massive cannons that had been used for this purpose were obsolete. The last of the original 126 cannons was removed around 1900. During the 1930's, the fort was used as a headquarters for the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. This Fort has played a vital role in our history and is worth a visit, especially considering the fact that it is free. 4) Stern Grove Concerts. These concerts only take place on Sunday afternoons during summer months but are well worth checking out if you have a sunny Sunday afternoon available during your stay. The goal of these concerts is to educate the masses and potentially inspire future musicians. A love of music is the second best gift you can give a child, second only to a love of reading. It's a great way to spend an afternoon, and it's free! 5) Wells Fargo History Museum. This museum is a fun side trip for the family. Not only does it tell the history of Wells Fargo as it pertains to San Francisco, but it also tells of Black Bart and other stagecoach robbers while providing visitors with the awe inspiring story of the great earthquake of 1906 and the role of Wells Fargo in the recovery process. I believe that young and old alike will find this museum to be a lot of fun, especially for the price. If you are visiting San Francisco and need some great family friendly activities to fill your days, then this is definitely a great place to start. I hope that you can find a few more things than I have mentioned here to help fill in gaps and entertain the young and old on your vacation alike. Remember not to over plan your trip, as some of the greatest times to be had are spontaneous rather than planned. The Incredible History of San Francisco I grew up watching cowboy movies and tales of the old Wild West on weekend television with my dad. I can't help but think of those old black and white movies whenever I think of San Francisco or California in general. Whenever I think of visiting San Francisco there is a part of me that visualizes the San Francisco of old, long before the earthquake of 1906, or not so long before actually. If you share my vision of a Wild West San Francisco or just wonder what it would have been like to walk down the streets of old, then perhaps one of these museums will help give you a taste of the good ole west without the outhouses (the one thing I never really could wrap my mind around). Even if you can handle a world without indoor plumbing, the idea of enjoying the greatest of the past while still experiencing the comforts of modern existence is quite appealing to me. That being said, the first Museum on my list is an outdoor museum known as The Gold Rush Trail. To walk The Gold Rush Trail is literally to follow in the footsteps of history. Even though it isn't a museum that is filled with relics of the past, if you close your eyes and listen intently perhaps you can hear the ghosts of yesterday as they tell you the story of how this fair city began and what it has become today. The next point of interest is The Society of California Pioneers. The society offers not only a museum but a library as well that are both open to the public and feature programs that focus on California. If you need snapshots of the vibrant history of California as well as San Francisco this is a good place to begin your search. If you don't find what you are looking for in the museum check out the library and see if they have something that will quench your thirst for historical knowledge. The Museum of the City of San Francisco is next on my list of places that offer a glimpse into the past of this phenomenal city. If you haven't found what you are looking for on your first two stops, then perhaps this museum will provide the answers, or simply the moment in time, that you are seeking. This is by far my favorite for learning about the history of San Francisco specifically. With exhibits dedicated to events such as the Gold Rush, the earthquake of 1906, and the building of the Golden Gate Bridge, there is no doubt that you are getting the history of this city, not the state, and not the country. I think there is a lot to be said about history and how it always seems to have such a profound effect upon the future. If you are able to visit this museum I would certainly recommend it above most others in the area for an authentically San Francisco ambiance at the very least. The history of any city is a vital ingredient in what makes that city the success or failure that it has become. Not only do the events in a cities history have a significant impact on the future of a city, but also the people of a city. It is the people of any city that recover, rebuild, and remain or pack up and leave. Isn't it incredible that we have the opportunity to learn about these great people? Walking Tours give Unique View of San Francisco History If your boots were made for walking, then a walking tour of one of San Francisco's many fascinating neighborhoods or districts may be the perfect activity for you while visiting San Francisco. Even if you aren't all that into walking but enjoy learning about an area and the things that make that area unique, this is the tour for you. Combining education and entertainment with physical activity is a great way to trick your body into getting out, getting a little sun, and having a lot of fun. The best thing about these tours for me is the fact that they are free. Don't get me wrong, I love learning about the history of the areas I visit. Even more than that, I love hearing about the great and quirky people that made the history; but I have to admit, I love doing things that provide entertainment and don't cost a great deal of money. A donation is recommended and I can honestly appreciate that much more than an overpriced amusement park ride (or worse paying that much just to walk through the gate and never actually riding a ride). Not all walking tours of San Francisco are free, but the ones that are led by the San Francisco city guides are. You really should check them out at some point during your visit. They offer a great selection of walking tours each and every day that will appeal to a very diverse audience. In fact, there are tours that are geared towards specific groups of people so if you are with your family, it might be a good idea to allow each member of your family to select at least one of these walking tours that is of interest to him or her. That way, everyone is motivated to sit through the selections of the other in anticipation of the trip he or she selected. The tours typically begin in easy to identify and very public places and most of them even meet near access to public transportation in order to accommodate visitors coming from other areas of the city. The tours go to great lengths to avoid being overly strenuous but the Streets of San Francisco are not always accommodating, as they are well known for their steep hills. I think taking one of the walking tours early in the day is a great way to start the day. You get to get a little fresh air, a little exercise, and you are enjoying these things before the day gets too terribly warm. Not to mention the fact that starting your day off with something that is fun and free is a really good way to start your day. If you are among the really brave, you might want to try one of the many 'Ghost Walking Tours' that are available. There are ghost walks of City Hall and the Palace. If you prefer something a little mellower, there are plenty of walks from which to choose. Some of the more popular walks are the Golden Gate Bridge walking tour (this tour provides great insight into the mind of the man who dared to dream of this bridge and tells the story of what it took to build this bridge it is very much a tour worth taking if you have any love for the many great bridges of the world), the Ferry Building walking tour (recently renovated, this building was once of major importance to San Francisco, it has now been replaced by roads and bridges but remains an important component in the history of this great city), and the Coit Tower Murals walking tour (the tour allows peeks at murals that aren't always opened to the public as well as a glimpse into the murals that depict famous scenes from the 1930's). While visiting San Francisco, there are few better ways to completely enjoy your trip than taking one of the many walking tours available in the city. Finding one of the many free walking tours is even better. You will not only get a unique insight into the city or for the icon you are touring, but you will also get a much better view than if you were simply driving by. Trains aren't a lost art in San Francisco One of the greatest things about visiting San Francisco is the close proximity to nearby attractions. You can stay in one city while visiting several. You can not only get the conveniences of being in the city, but the beauty of nature is not too far away from almost any point within the city. In fact, a short train ride will take you rather quickly to some nearby attractions that are definitely worth checking into. One of the first train tours I'll mention isn't only a train tour but a bus and train tour. This tour goes from San Francisco to Yosemite Park. This trip requires transfers back and forth from bus to train but offers some beautiful scenery and the ability to enjoy it without the worry of driving, rest stops, and a need to simply stretch your legs. Sometimes a little inconvenience is worth a lot more convenience later in your trip. The train portion of the tour lasts about three hours and you get to spend three hours in Yosemite. For some it isn't worth the hassle and for others it is just what the doctor ordered-time to rest and relax while on the way. This is by far the most complicated of the train tours heading out from San Francisco, at least the tours I will be discussing. The second tour is to wine country. The beauty of these tours is the fact that you can enjoy your wine tasting experience without the worry of who's going to drive. Everyone in your party can enjoy the outing equally. Even more than that however, is that many companies have made the train ride itself more the event than the wine tasting. With offerings such as 4 course meals and Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre for your enjoyment it is no wonder that this has become an event of choice for many San Francisco visitors. While this may be a more than moderately pricey option, it is well worth the expense. You can always cut costs elsewhere in San Francisco to make up for the expenditure. Roaring Camp Railroads offers two train rides that are both equally appealing in vastly different ways. The first is a trip back in time. This is probably my favorite. On this trip you travel to the summit of Bear Mountain while hearing tales of Roaring Camp's history. This train tour lasts a total of one hour and is a great deal of fun, especially for any little ones you may have with you. The second offering by Roaring Camp Railroads is the Beach Train, which will take you to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The round trip from Roaring Camp to Santa Cruz and back is about three hours and well worth every penny if you have a budding or future engineer among your young ones. Perhaps the most magical of train tours is the Christmas Train Tour from Oakdale. This tour includes Santa, his elves, a little Christmas magic, and you can come in your jimmies. What more could you ask for? Well, I guess that depends on whether you made the naughty list or the nice list. This train ride is magic for everyone that partakes, young and old alike will enjoy the magic that only Christmas can bring. Whether you are a big kid, a little kid, or somewhere in between, I'm willing to bet that the magic of a train ride hasn't been completely lost over the years. In fact, I'm willing to bet if you allow yourself to really sit back and enjoy yourself, you will find that there really is something to be said about sitting back, relaxing, and enjoying the journey. I can think of few better ways to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. The Teen Scene in San Francisco Offers Many Opportunities for Fun Teens are beautiful and unique creatures. At least this is what we as parents keep telling ourselves. The problem with teens is that their tastes and wants change almost hourly so it is quite difficult to determine at lunch what will appeal to them at dinner. Fortunately, if you are planning a visit to San Francisco, California, there is most likely something that will appeal to them no matter what mood they are in at the moment. I always recommend allowing older children and teens (even younger children in a limited capacity) to have some voice in deciding what activities to do while on vacation. After all, it is their vacation too and just because we think they will like it doesn't necessarily mean they are remotely interested in it-this goes back to the beautiful and unique creature statement. The great thing about San Francisco is that while your teen may swing in vicious cycles between being a child and thinking he or she is grown, there is quite a lot that will appeal to both sides of your teen's personality. Fisherman's Wharf is probably my favorite San Francisco destination. Pier 39 offers a great number of attractions for teens. From Frequent Flyers where your teen can experience the feeling of being air born to the Riptide Arcade, with shopping, sea lions, and entertainers in between there is a lot that this area has to offer the teen in your family. You can also rent a kayak and let your teen do the navigating, if you're really brave that is. Another attraction at Fisherman's Wharf that your teen might find more enjoyable than anyone else in the family is the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. I think even a teenagers won't find trolley tours beneath them. In fact, your teenager might have a great deal of fun taking one of these tours as well as accidentally learning some small nugget of information about San Francisco history that will stay with them long after the vacation is over. If you feel up for a ride, you might consider taking your teen to Paramount's Great America in San Jose. In fact, this is a trip that the entire family might enjoy. Little kids can enjoy the Nickelodeon characters and the rides that are designed especially with them in mind. Teens and adults can enjoy some of the more thrilling rides created for the adrenaline junkies in your life. Your teen might get a kick out of a trip to the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. This museum offers realistic recreations of people, events, and horrors beyond imagination-well my imagination. This is definitely one of the more interesting destinations in San Francisco. Take a walk through history or onto the set of the latest horror movie. It all seems so real and the characters so life like. Your teen may really enjoy one of the Alcatraz tours. They offer a day tour and an evening tour. I seriously recommend the evening tour if at all possible as there are more features than on the day tour and it makes a much more 'thrilling' experience. You may also wish to combine a tour to Angel Island with your trip to Alcatraz. Angel Island also has a rich history as well as some breathtaking views and great trails for hiking and biking. You could also consider making a day of your trip to Angel Island, especially if your teen enjoys either of these activities. And then there's the shopping, a favorite pastime for teen girls and a potential bonding experience for mothers and daughters. Conversely, men can bond with teenaged sons and/or daughters over a nice sports game. The bay area offers many options for sports lovers. No matter what your teenagers tastes at the moment, I have no doubt that you will find something in this great city that you can all agree on. Be sure to work in attractions that you wish to enjoy between the attractions of your teen. This will make the interests of the other more tolerable for everyone.
The Shows of San Francisco When visiting San Francisco, finding a way to unwind at the end of a long day of sight seeing isn't always the easiest thing in the world to do. After dinner the choices for entertainment often seem limited because you don't really want to become too wired from your activities to find peaceful sleep later. Perhaps this is why most shows are shown in the evening. San Francisco certainly has quite a few options for shows to see. If you like old musicals, then 42nd Street Moon is a great place for you to look for your entertainment. They like to take old Broadway musicals that haven't been over performed and rehash them to the delight of the audience and the cast. By breathing new life into these sometimes lost classics they are doing a service to both the original masters of these musicals and to the audiences they now play for. If you need something a little less rowdy and rambunctious to see you into your night time routine, then perhaps the Smuin Ballet will have something that is more in line with your needs. This ballet company is bringing new appreciation to the art of dance and delighting audiences in the process. By bridging the gap between traditional ballet and modern dance this company is reaching a much broader audience than many dance troupes that have come before and since. Really and truly if you have the opportunity to see one of their performances I highly recommend that you do so. You just might find that you are their newest fan. If you have varied or eclectic tastes, then Old First Concerts may be a great place for you to unwind after a long day of shopping, sight seeing, and touring wine country. This interesting venue presents concerts of many colors and voices it would seem. There is no one particular style of music that is allowed or disallowed here, rather the professional quality of the musical style is more important than the actual style of the music. I think that this very fact alone makes it quite unique and worth a listen. You might hear something you've never heard before and leave with an appreciation you would have never discovered had you not dropped in. If you haven't guessed, I'm a huge fan of trying things that are different and slightly outside the realm of the mundane. I have no problems stepping away from the conventions of normal society and wearing many different hats. Perhaps that is the reason that I find my next suggestion so appealing and fun! Beach Blanket Babylon is the perfect way to mock societal norms. The costumes are outrageous and the hats are bigger than a tall tale and it's all in the name of good clean fun. I seriously recommend this show to anyone who has ever had even the slightest hint of a sense of humor. We all know that it is often difficult to unwind in a new city where you only know those that you are traveling with, you aren't sleeping in your own bed, and you are missing some of the comforts of home (like a work day and a commute to exhaust you). For those of us who have been there and done that, it is much easier to unwind after enjoying a nice show or entertainment along similar lines. It could be something as simple as taking in a movie that you might have wanted to see but never find the time to at home. A vacation is your time to rest and relax, make the most of it. The Best Way to See San Francisco is from the Air If you have plans of visiting San Francisco you really should consider seeing it from a birds eye view. There are many ways in which you can do this, but few, if any are more romantic than doing so from the basket of a hot air balloon. In fact, if you've never been in a balloon before, this is a great place to start. There are many tours that are offered and each one offers spectacular views and a feeling of weightless wonder that is unrivaled by any other feeling on earth. Imagine watching, as everything on the ground gets smaller and feeling completely at ease with the process. It's a truly amazing way to travel for those who have never experienced it. Young and old alike will thoroughly enjoy the awe of this particular form of travel. Some of the tours linger along the coastline while others will take you up into wine country. You can even charter tours that will combine the hot air balloon excursion with ground transportation and accommodations at one of the many area bed and breakfast inns for a nice romantic weekend get away in California's wine country. Another great way to enjoy the beautiful views that abound in the bay area is to go hang gliding. There are several places in the area that not only offer lessons but will also take you up with a trained professional after cursory instructions. This allows you to enjoy the sensation and freedom that hang gliding affords without spending days or even weeks taking classes before you ever get to experience the sensation of soaring with the birds. If that isn't enough to get your adrenaline going and give you the best possible view of this great city, you can always try skydiving. Like hang gliding, sky diving offers tandem drops that mean that you can actually experience the freefall and enjoy the serene beauty of San Francisco without actually going through a rigorous training regiment. If you want the ride of a lifetime to make your trip more memorable, this is definitely the way to go. Of course, there are those who prefer flight by mechanical means. There is absolutely no shame in that. The good news is that there are a couple of great ways to take in the scenery with machinery as well. There's nothing to say that you can't make your mechanical experience just as daring as any of the other experiences available. You could view the great scenes of Frisco from the cockpit of a biplane. In addition to the awesome scenery, you are perfectly free to book on of the aerobatic biplane rides, which will be best planned before meals rather than after them. In addition to these exciting ways to tour the San Francisco area, you can always choose one of the many helicopter tours instead. This offers what many consider a more sane, I mean safe, mode of transportation while still providing the birds eye view that simply cannot be rivaled from the ground. There are many tours that are available and each one offers something exciting for the adventurous ones that choose to take them. Each of these modes of transportation can be found in the San Francisco area and each one offers something valuable to those that will find them interesting. Not only the views but also the experiences in and of themselves will make this trip a memorable trip. Even if it isn't your cup of tea, remember that someone you are traveling with could find one of them to be the memory of a lifetime and what greater gift can you really give someone? I hope, more than anything, I've planted the seeds in your mind that will open your eyes to seeing this great city from an entirely different perspective. There is nothing quite as magnificent as enjoying the city lights from the sky or seeing endless miles of nature stretching out before you. I truly believe there is no better way to enjoy San Francisco than from the sky. Science Museums Teach Children to Seek Truth If science is the language that moves you, and for many of us, it is just that, then you really might want to visit some of the San Francisco museums that focus on science more than art. I find both to be of equal importance but there are those, many in fact, that would disagree with me. Whatever your feelings about it, if you have a child that you want to encourage to pay more attention to science courses in school, it is an excellent idea to take them to a museum such as this in order to fan that flame of curiosity. Science answers many questions about the past and offers many hints at the future of our world and universe. Without science there is much we wouldn't know and even more that we would not understand. I think any of use would be hard pressed to identify the single most important scientific discovery throughout history. There are so many things that are all very significant to the very lives we enjoy today and yet each and every scientific discovery happened because someone, somewhere, asked a question. I find that truly amazing. When you think about it; physics, chemistry, mathematics, astronomy, none of these things would be studied today if someone hadn't found them curious at some point in history. That is precisely why I believe that museums such as the Exploratorium are so important in developing future scientist. If we spark the curiosity in our children at young ages there is nothing to prevent them from great discoveries later on. The Exploratorium encourages children to explore the world around them, even how science affects other things they enjoy (such as skateboarding). If you can use a skateboard to teach physics, imagine what you can do with a car. The Morrison Planetarium is a great place to take the family if you are truly interested in seeing the stars. I'm not talking Hollywood starlets but real stars. If you or one of your children has the slightest interest in studying the stars, this will be a treat for you all. I sincerely hope you will at least check it out. The Natural History Museum offers many exhibits that deal with various aspects of life. Perhaps the neatest thing about the Natural History Museum is the fact that you are allowed a very hands on approach to learning here. From actually handling fossils and skulls to really cool artifacts, very little is off limits. This means that even the most difficult child to amuse might find something of interest here; at least, that is the hope. Finally, there is the Steinhart Aquarium. This is not the Aquarium at the Bay but a municipal aquarium that holds the distinction of being the oldest operating municipal aquarium in America. Among the awesome exhibits that can be found here are several rare specimens that can no longer be found in the wild. The tide pool is perhaps one of the most anticipated attractions of this aquarium. This is where little hands actually get to touch some of the animals that their little eyes are watching in the tanks. Just be careful that you aren't going home with a car full of future marine biologists as this experience can ignite a passion for marine life that will last for quite a while. Science is a great thing to be studied and explored. I can think of few things I would rather see my children pursue than an endless search for truth and the evidence to support those truths. I hope that by introducing them to opportunities such as these I will have contributed to a life long process of seeking answers that will serve them well. And it can all be owed to a trip to San Francisco. San Francisco's Original Chinatown, Accept no Substitutions When visiting San Francisco, California there are so many things to see and do that it is often difficult to decide which things you should do and see in which order. Perhaps one of the most interesting things to note about San Francisco is the diversity of the many 'neighborhoods' throughout the city. Of these many diverse neighborhoods, perhaps the most famous is San Francisco's Chinatown. With more than one hundred restaurants, Chinatown owes no small part of its fame to the great delicacies that can rarely be found outside this part of town. There is something about the ambience and atmosphere, the smells, sights, and sounds that make the food that much more appealing to the average diner. If you have tried Chinese food elsewhere, be sure to try it here and compare. I think you will find that there really is no comparison and it's hard to go back to dime store Chinese food once you've tasted 'the real thing'. In addition to the great food you will find readily available within the Chinatown area, there is a vast wealth of architectural beauty that will take your breath away. Some of these buildings aside from being stunningly beautiful have a rich history as well. Some of the more traditionally Chinese buildings that can be found in Chinatown are the Bank of Canton, the Sing Chong Building (which was destroyed during the earthquake of 1906 and rebuilt), and the Bank of America building which as 60 dragon medallions on its fašade in addition to the many golden dragons that adorn the rest of the buildings exterior. Chinatown is made up of 8 streets: Clay, Commercial, Grant, Jackson, Pine, Sacramento, Stockton, and Washington; and 11 alleys: Beckett, Hang Ah, Joice, Old Chinatown Lane, Ross, Spofford, Stark, St. Louis Place, Walter U. Lum Place, Waverly, and Wentworth. Tucked in the nooks and crannies of these streets and alleyways, you will find herbal shops, gift shops, restaurants, and all of the many sights and sounds that make the Chinatown area of San Francisco a truly unique travel destination. Portsmouth Square is literally the heart of Chinatown. Not only does it mark the beginning of this section of town, which has grown and expanded since the beginning of its days, it also remains to this day the area for monuments and celebrations regarding the Oriental Community of San Francisco at large. If you have even the slightest bit of interest in history, this is an area that you will find monumentally appealing. If you are more interested in art, entertainment, and good food, you should find plenty of that here as well. As I have said before, Chinatown is really a great place to explore while visiting San Francisco. Make sure you have plenty of time to explore the roads and alleys and that you bring a healthy appetite with you. If you have little ones in your life, whether they are making this trip with you or you are going solo, you will find that there are plenty of goodies to buy as souvenirs that will provide both delight and challenge. While there are newer 'Chinatown' areas cropping up within San Francisco, the original still remains the greatest draw for tourists. In fact, Chinatown rivals the Golden Gate Bridge as a tourist attraction and has been rumored to be even more of a draw. The original Chinatown of San Francisco remains an important gateway to the past as it represents an important segment of the history of San Francisco, this country, and immigration to America. I strongly urge you to remember that when during your visit to San Francisco and that you will take a stroll down the streets and alleys of Chinatown to see for yourself how much American history Chinatown really does represent. Even if you aren't hungry when you begin walking the streets of Chinatown, I can pretty much guarantee that you will be before too long. The wonderful smells of great cuisine simply cannot be escaped when strolling along these city blocks. It's both wonderful and torturous at the same time. Be sure to enjoy a dish or two while you are there and have lots of fun. That, after all, is what vacations are all about. Overbooking your Time is a Vacation Destroyer When planning a vacation it is often very difficult to set priorities from a distance. San Francisco is really no different than any other vacation destination in that manner. In fact, as a vacation destination, this city has so much to offer that the problem isn't finding enough stuff to do; it is limiting yourself to only doing the things you want most to do because of time constraints. Unless you are going to be in this great city for a month, it would be very easy to overload your itinerary. Here are a few suggestions for pacing yourself while traveling as well as providing adequate downtime for all family members while visiting San Francisco. 1) Remember that this is a vacation not a military exercise. Be especially aware of young children as they can tire easily and aren't much fun when overtired. Plan rest times in addition to activities in order to provide much needed breaks for everyone that is traveling with you. 2) Remember that the little ones have things that are important to them too and your ideas and their ideas about what will interest them the most aren't always the same. You don't want a child with hurt feelings, especially when that could have been so easily avoided by simply offering your child a choice. 3) Keep in mind that while most things are great to do as a family, some alone time or split time, isn't necessarily a bad thing-even when on vacation. 4) Plan your day with extra time in between attractions to accommodate for transportation issues, bathroom breaks, and any number of things that can come up. There is no point in being frustrated over the unavoidable, especially when on vacation. 5) Limit yourself to activities in the same general area of town on a given day so that you aren't spending the vast majority of your day getting from point A to point B or looking for a parking spot. It is best to park and walk as much as possible or rely on public transportation in San Francisco whenever walking is unavoidable. 6) Let your young ones select at least one place a day (within reason) to eat. Obviously no one wants to eat at McDonald's every day of your trip except your little ones, but by allowing them to have a choice you are making them feel special and giving them something to look forward to when standing in a long line for something you want to do more than they do. 7) Plan activities for younger children in the middle of other activities. This will keep them somewhat appeased if they know they have something to look forward to later and will save you from a long line of endless tantrums. 8) Plan for some sort of restful activity in the middle of the day if you aren't close enough to your hotel for an afternoon nap. Even if it's ducking into a library or bookstore to read quietly for an hour. You will be amazed at how much just a quick rest can do to perk up the spirits of everyone in your group. These things won't guarantee a smooth trip but will greatly increase the likelihood of less bouts of angry, overtired children and fed up over tired mom and dad as well. The most important thing about any vacation is that you take the time to enjoy yourself and your time together as a family. Golden Gate Park offers more than just a Play Date With its moderate temperatures year round, San Francisco is one of the best cities in the world in which to go outside and play. No matter what time of year it is, there is probably something you can find to do outside that is a lot of fun. Even if it is just "Singing in the Rain". Beyond singing of course, there are plenty of activities that are best enjoyed out of doors. And there are few places in the world better to enjoy these outdoor activities than Golden Gate Park. If you like wheels, there are plenty of places in the park where you can either rent biking and skating equipment. Of course if you plan on skating, it is quite easy to bring your own equipment along on your vacation. If you have children and are looking for fun activities that you can enjoy together, these are among the top on my list. Of course there are several more that you will find at Golden Gate Park as well. I can keep my kids occupied for hours with one little Frisbee tossed between the three of them. And there are plenty of open spaces in this great park where Frisbee tossing is quite possible. In addition to Frisbee there are several other outdoor activities that can be enjoyed by you or your family. There is an archery field and a shop where you can rent all the equipment you will need. In addition to equipment, which can be purchased or rented, you can also buy lessons for that equipment as well. If this is something you've never tried before, you should at least stop by and take a look. I think it's a great sport that is incredibly fun for young and old alike. It's also something that isn't as commonly found as it should be so may actually be a real treat for your children. If you love the water as I do, you will be delighted to find that in addition to beaches which offer surfing and sea animal watching, there is a huge lake in the park which offers paddleboat and row boat rentals. This is good fun and clean living if you ask me. Of course, I'm a water baby so I'm a little biased. If water isn't your thing, have you ever tried swing dancing? If not, it's time you considered Lindy in the Park. Every Sunday, weather permitting, there is swing dancing from 11:00 am -2:00 pm with free lessons offered at 12:30 pm. Young and old children alike get a real thrill out of this and it's a great way to trick yourself into exercising. Lindy in the Park is completely free and a lot of fun. If you are planning to include a trip to Golden Gate Park in your San Francisco visit, I strongly urge you to plan it for Sunday and plan to attend Lindy in the Park. In addition to these activities there are handball tables both indoors and outdoors that can be used for a quick game. If this is something that you find interesting you might want to stake out a spot close by because there are only a few tables and a great deal of interest. Other interesting activities in Golden Gate Park include lawn bowling, tennis, dog runs, basketball, and disc golf. . If all of that isn't enough there are several other sites and activities available throughout the park that should spark your interest. Among those is a favorite for young and old children alike--The 1912 Herschel-Spillman carousel. This is very popular among children and seconded closely by the nearby playground. If you think about it, a day at Golden Gate Park isn't your typical day at the park. With so much to do and see, it is hard to imagine that a day at this park isn't a vacation in and of itself. Fun Museums for the Child in all of Us If you are bringing young ones on your visit to San Francisco, you've probably wracked your brain trying to find activities and events that will not only be fun for them but also provide much needed mental stimuli as well. Well, look no further. I have five museums that are guaranteed to be completely kid friendly and fun for the entire family. Gone are the days of stuffy museums that are cold and unfeeling. These museums of old have been replaced with modern day museums that offer areas that encourage hands on activities and promote learning and education through activities that are well disguised as fun. Your children will have no idea what just happened and you will be able to rest comfortable in the knowledge that this event that they considered so much fun will remain with them for a long time to come. Knowledge is a great gift to pass on to your children, especially when they don't realize what it is that you are giving them. The first of these museums is the Cartoon Art Museum. You may wonder what your children can possibly learn from a museum such as this, but as with all art, comics often imitate life and this museum shows how comics have evolved and morphed over time. In addition to that, anything that will encourage your children to read is a good thing in my opinion, even if it is comics that they are reading. Next, there is the Bay Area Discovery Museum. This museum offers hands on entertainment for children of all ages. While most exhibits are designed with children ages 1-10 in mind, there are plenty of activities and exhibits that will appeal to older children as well as those entertaining the notion of a second childhood. This museum offers many activities and adventures both indoors and out that will appeal to your children while teaching them about other creatures, cultures, technology, and the world at large around them. This is definitely worth having a look. Be sure to check and see if there are any events being offered while you are visiting. If the Bay Area Discovery Museum isn't enough to get your little one's creative juices flowing and put you all into the supreme spirit of learning, then perhaps you should check out Zeum. Zeum is a multimedia arts and technology museum. By allowing visitors to hands on use of their equipment they are fostering imagination and igniting curiosity in the young minds of their guests. This is definitely unique enough for a closer look. I hope it spikes your inner techno guru as completely as it reached mine. There are many more places than this that you can visit in San Francisco that offer an equal spark for the minds and imaginations of your little ones. But the fact remains that you know your child's interests and talents better than anyone else. Find those things that will appeal to each child's personality and that above anything else will make this trip special for him or her. I also believe that it is important to allow your children an opinion on what to do and see while on vacation. You may be surprised to find the things that will appeal to them as well as the fact that they really do on occasion think about what you as a parent want for them. By giving choices and a voice you are teaching your children that they are important to you and that their opinion matters. Fisherman's Wharf, Famous for a Reason Fisherman's Wharf is one of the most famous of destinations for visitors of San Francisco, California and with good reason. There is so much to see and do in Fisherman's Wharf that you could quite easily plan an entire trip to Frisco and only leave the Wharf as you are leaving the city. The Wharf offers more than 2,500 hotel rooms, several restaurants, and an almost endless amount of shopping, history, culture, and attractions. Anyone would be hard pressed not to find something fun to do in Fisherman's Wharf. If you are interested in the sea faring culture and history of the Fisherman's Wharf, take the Port Walk, which is a walking tour that you can take at your own pace while learning about the history of Fisherman's Wharf through the various signs located along the tour. You can also tour the USS Pampanito, which was a WWII submarine, or the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, which is the last unaltered Liberty ship that is operational. Both of these can be found on Pier 45. If you find yourself a little hungry, perhaps it's time to check out the many restaurants that the Wharf has to offer or simply to stroll on over to Ghirardelli Square, okay, I confess, I could spend my entire vacation here. With its rich history of chocolate and chocolate making, no pun intended, this square is now home to some lovely little shops and for chocolates, clothing, souvenirs, and jewelry. Really, who could ask for more in a shopping center? Chocolate, jewelry, and clothes, the only thing missing is shoes. Back to reality and the fact that many of us travel with family. Fisherman's wharf has a lot to offer in the way of family entertainment. Check out Pier 39. Ever want to take a Magic Carpet Ride or star in your own musical video? What if I told you that you could actually do both? In addition to the Magic Carpet Ride there is the San Francisco Carousel, which children of all ages will love, Frequent Flyers (perfect if you have any aspiring acrobats among you), and Riptide Arcade (I recommend giving dad an allowance before going in here unless you want to spend most of your vacation rooted to the spot-or giving a time limit and leaving the guys while the girls go shopping). In fact, there are so many things to do at Pier 39 you could almost make a vacation here alone. Don't leave though without checking out the sea lions. I can't really mention Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, and families without brining to attention the fact that the Aquarium of the Bay is a great place for family entertainment. The aquarium is a great way for you and your family to spend the day. Not only is this a fun excursion that your children will probably remember long after you've gone back to the real world of your day-to-day lives, but it is also an educational experience that is cleverly disguised as fun. Your children will learn about all kinds of marine life, while having a great time and never know what really hit them. This is one of those times when it is great to be a parent and you can pat yourself on the back for providing an educational experience that they are enjoying. Even better, they never have to know. Last but not least, there really isn't enough that I can say about the fantastic shopping and dining experiences that are available all along Fisherman's Wharf. There are so many shopping areas at Fisherman's Wharf that it is hard to keep them all separate in your mind but this is a girls dream vacation while still offering enough activities to satisfy the men in your life. If the history, the culture, and the fun aren't enough to convince you, then perhaps the food should speak for itself. All you have to do is show up with your appetite; your nose will lead the way for everything else. Blending Cultures is the Key to Frisco's Greatness Cultural activities and events abound in the great city of San Francisco. There are even plenty of museums that not only promote awareness of the diverse cultures of this great city but also celebrate the contributions of these people to what this city has become. If you are planning to visit San Francisco, you will be robbing yourself of a real treat if you fail to visit some of the museums devoted to the cultural history of this city. Below you will find museums dedicated to the great and diverse people of a city that is only as wonderful as its citizens. San Francisco truly is a melting pot of cultures, beliefs, philosophies, and ideals. If you are looking in from the outside it may not be as obvious to you as to someone who has made a great study of it, however, it is still there. The differences of people here are celebrated rather than duly noted. It's a different world here and I think it's an example that the rest of the world would do well to follow. One of the first such places that I will mention is The San Francisco African American Historical Cultural Society. The goal of this society is to instill a sense of pride in African Americans of all ages, but particularly the younger generations, for their history, culture, and most importantly their heritage. The society offers art exhibits, educational workshops, cultural performances, and a vast wealth of knowledge to people of all cultures who come to learn about not only the African American heritage of San Francisco but around the world as well. This is definitely worth a visit especially for the library, which holds around 5,000 books written either by or about African Americans. The International Museum of Women is a favorite of mine for many reasons. First of all, it's a museum that celebrates the contributions that women have made throughout history while celebrating our roles as individuals, mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, friends, and wives. The International Museum of Women celebrates the many responsibilities that women face in the world today, not only to themselves as individuals but also to other women around the world. One of the primary goals of this museum other than celebrating the history of womanhood is to educate about the problems that women around the world continue to face on a daily basis. The Contemporary Jewish Museum is another place you can go to see yet another of the many cultural faces of this great city. The Contemporary Jewish Museum offers a place where people of all cultural backgrounds can come together and learn about the history of a people whose history is so epic and so tragic and yet so full of hope. I think this museum is a great way to showcase each of these things while celebrating life itself, the one thing that all of the people of San Francisco have in common. There are other museums and cultural centers that will work to showcase the diversity of the people that make San Francisco the wonderful city that it has become as well as the important roles that every culture has played in the making of this city that is known around the world. Whether you share the culture of any of the groups represented or simply shares the humanity of us all, there is much to be learned from all cultures represented. Art Museums still manage to move the Masses With around 65 museums, it's no wonder that it is quite difficult to narrow down the choices and select the San Francisco museum that you absolutely must visit while vacationing here. The good news is that it is quite possible to narrow down the choices according to your personal preferences. Museums are a great way to discover the history, the art, and the future of a city. If that city gives a great amount of effort into building great places of learning about the art, music, history, and future of said city, then that city has a bright future ahead of it. Art is something that is becoming more and more often overlooked as budget cuts hit school curriculums and great emphasis is placed on learning specific facts and details rather than the learning process, but art is a vitally important component of societal development. Think about it, the one thing that survives the generations of old and appears in museum today is most often art of some sort. Art is a way of expressing who we are, what we dream, and where we hope we are going. If we take the art from our lives, we are stifling our societies and risking our progeny. In case you haven't guessed, I'm a little passionate about art and feel that art museums are an integral component not only of preserving our pasts but also of insuring our futures. The first art museum I would like to mention is of particular interest here because not only does it showcases artists that are local to the San Francisco area but it also deals with visual arts, performing arts, and film and video. The name of this museum is: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and I seriously recommend that you take a moment or two out of your busy vacation time be devoted to taking a look around this great center for visual and performing arts. Art comes in many shapes and sizes and few places showcase it as well as the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. From painting to sculptures to quilts this museum offers some fantastic collections of art as well as offering excellent exhibitions that rotate throughout the year. Give your senses a feast of color, light, and texture by visiting the de Young. If you have the time, you really should check out The Diego Rivera Mural Project. This project is about the necessity of blending all of the cultures and histories that make Americans American into one unified work of art. By using the historical artistic styles of the Indian, the Eskimo, and the Mexican and blending them a style will emerge that is Pan American Unity. While some may find the ideals behind it a bit lofty (I find them applaudable), it is impossible to deny that the mural itself is an impressive work of art. While this is not a museum, I really feel that this is an important work of art that is definitely worth mentioning. Whether you have a deep and abiding passion for art or not, it's hard to deny the power that art has to move and inspire people. For that reason alone I think it is important that we try to cultivate a love of art or at the very least an education about art within our children, museum exhibits are an excellent method of achieving that goal. Angel Island is a Diversion from the Ordinary Whether you are a true nature lover or simply enjoy the thrill of an educational field trip, you will find both the wonders of nature and a deep sense of history while visiting Angel Island. In fact, I would suggest making Angel Island a must see destination while visiting San Francisco. In the great city of San Francisco, which has so much to offer visitors, it's almost impossible to find that one thing that will be truly special and unique about your trip. Angel Island is just that thing. Wherever your interests lie, there is something that will attract the attention of people of all ages, economic situations, and other walks of life. If you can't find something that will interest you here, you really should rethink your interests. For the nature lovers there is plenty of interest in way of plant life, bird life, and other animal life that should be of interests. There are even specialized tours available that will highlight and focus on the wide variety of life on this great island. Not only are there a great variety of land animals but a good representation of sea animals can be observed here as well. If you love nature, this is a great place to get a good dose of it while in the big city of San Francisco. Not only can you enjoy the sea animals on the ferry ride over (if you choose a ferry for your transportation) but you get to enjoy the plant and animal life on the island as well. Don't forget the air animals either though. There are many varieties of birds that are well represented here as well. For those that prefer more active pursuits, there is plenty on Angel Island to keep you entertained and happy. First of all, there is plenty to offer by way of hikes. There are even guided hiking tours that offer the safety of numbers (very good for beginning hikers) and information about the island and its rich history. If hiking isn't really your thing, there are also bike rentals available on the island as well. With several trails to choose from with varying degrees of difficulty, even the beginner can enjoy a nice ride around the island. My personal favorite physical activity here would be the kayak tours. For the right price you can book a guided kayak tour around the island. The tour includes equipment rental, your guide for the day, and a picnic lunch this would be for the all day tour, which will take you around the entire island. There is a 2 and a half hour tour if you aren't too sure about the whole kayaking thing or want to have time to enjoy other aspects of the island on your trip as well. The beauty of a trip to Angel Island is that there really is no right or wrong way to go about enjoying your day. For sun lovers, there are several beaches where you can bring a blanket and lie down with a good book in order to catch some rays. I do not recommend swimming from Angel Island as the water isn't the cleanest nor is it the calmest. The tides are dangerous and can turn amazingly quickly. But if you love books and find that you could use a ray or two, let the kids and the rest of the family go biking, hiking, touring, and all that other good stuff while you catch up on the latest best seller at the beach. All of this and I haven't even really hinted at the rich history of Angel Island. There are many activities planned throughout the year that introduce visitors to the rich history of this island. From Civil War Days to the Potomac Tours to the Victorian Christmas there are brief snapshots into the history of this great island. Beyond these events there are tram tours that are offered almost daily during the regular season on the island that provide brief overviews into the islands history. This would be a great way to spend a day while visiting San Francisco. Wine Country Offers Great Family Fun If you are planning a visit to San Francisco and you love wine, you might seriously wish to consider taking a day trip to one or more of the many vineyards that are only a short drive away. In fact, many of these vineyards offer packages that leave you free to taste all the wine you can handle without worries about drinking and driving. Even if you've never really tried many wines or don't really find the flavor of the wines you have tried in the past to be pleasant, you may find yourself pleasantly surprised to discover that you do in fact have a great palate for the excellent wines that can be found in California's Sonoma Valley and Napa Regions. The wines you will taste here are generally great quality wines and are specially selected to showcase the best that these vineyards have to offer. Regardless of whether you find yourself a reformed wine connoisseur or not, you will at least have gained a really good education about both the wine making process and the many varieties of wines that are available. There are many companies that offer tours to different vineyards. Try one, or try a few. The drive is short if you want to go it alone-just be sure that the vineyard you are planning to visit doesn't require reservations before making the drive. The drive, should you choose this route, is quite beautiful and there are many things to see along the way. Be sure to have a designated driver for your wine tasting experience if you are going it alone. This detail alone could save one or many lives and is vitally important when planning your wine tasting adventure. If bus tours aren't for you but you don't want to have to drive after visiting and tasting all of the delicious wines that you will be discovering, you should consider one of the smaller SUV tours that are available. These will be a little more costly but for many the personal attention is well worth a little extra money. Another great benefit of the smaller SUV tours is that your smaller group can be accommodated by smaller wineries that aren't always available for visits from large bus tours. These tours need to be planned a little ahead of time, most requiring at least one week advance notice for reservations so they can't be as spur of the moment as a larger bus tour which will generally have openings available at the last minute. Here are a few suggestions to help your wine tasting experience be all that you dare hope for and more. First of all, avoid wearing scents; the scents that you wear will compete with the wine for both fragrance and taste. You want the wine to make its own statement without competition from the perfumes, aftershaves, lotions, and potions that you or other guests on your tour may bring along. Hold your wine glass by the stem to avoid warming the wine. It's always a good idea to eat something bland like saltine crackers or French bread between wines in order to cleanse your palate. Even if you've never tried a glass of wine before in your life, you will receive and excellent education about the various wines, the regions, the differences between the wines, what makes the wines of different vineyards unique and special, and suggestions on how to pair and serve the wines you're tasting. You will also receive and education about how to properly store the wines you may elect to purchase. This is very important knowledge in order to best maintain the integrity and flavor of the wines you choose. From novices to experiences wine connoisseurs and for everyone in between, there is a little something to offer everyone who takes one of these tours. Keep in mind that while all ages are welcome on these tours, only guests that are 21 and over are able to partake of the delectable wines available for tasting. Most importantly, have a day of good fun, good food, and great spirits.
InfoBank Intro | Main Page | Usenet Forums | Search The RockSite/The Web