All this gloomy weather we’ve been having in Southern California until recently was reminding me of my years living in San Francisco. It is foggy and cold there almost all summer long. I was there last summer during the end of August, and seriously, I was colder there in one night than the entire winter I lived in Chicago. Don’t doubt me until you’ve done it.
The moral of that little rant is: Visit S.F. (don’t call it San Fran in front of the locals) in September or October. Yes, I know the kids are in school. But that is really the best time to go, especially if you want to enjoy the outdoors. What some travelers may not realize is that yes, San Francisco is a foodies’ heaven, and a sophiticated metropolis, but it is also a outdoor lover’s playground.
So my top thing to do with kids in the City by the Bay, which isn’t in many guide books, is to bike along the bay. Trust me on this – it may sound like a lot of work, but it is the best day you may have there.
Here’s how we did it last summer:
First go to Chinatown. Head straight to one of the kite shops – easy to find. We bought a colorful and inexpensive kite here. This is a must.
( If you have time you can walk the streets here..it’s more crowded and not as clean as North Beach, the Italian area of the city, or Japantown, but still is interesting.)
Next stop: Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals at 2715 Hyde St at Fisherman’s Wharf near Ghiradelli Square. www.blazingsaddles.com
Note to readers: There are five other Blazing Saddles locations, so if there is one you can walk or take public transportation to, I recommend it. Parking is difficult to find and expensive.
We rented bikes for our two older kids, and my youngest sat in a cart attached to my bike.
From there we took one of the most picturesque rides from Ghiradelli Square…through Aquatic Park..all along the bay. You have a great view of Alcatraz…and sailboats dotting the water. Go forward through Fort Mason….then to the Marina Green.
By the way – all of this is easy to find because there is one main MOSTLY FLAT bike path which you simply follow…and secondly because our bikes came equipped with GPS attached to our handle bars. Pretty nifty.
The Marina Green is a long plot of grass along Marina Blvd with fantasic mansions on one side of the street, and the bay on the other. This is a great people watching spot that teams with sunbathers, roller bladers, joggers,volleyball nets and the St Francis Yacht Club a little farther west.
BUT what makes this a stand out spot is: it is ALWAYS windy. Enter stage right: the kite from Chinatown.
Take some time and fly the kite – if you can’t fly one on the Marina Green, you can’t fly one anywhere. If you can fit it in a backpack, a blanket would be handy so you can relax and watch your kids fly once they don’ t need your help anymore.
Hungry yet? Up on Chestnut St in the Marina district, (near my old apartment!) is my favorite deli – Lucca.
It is in institution for those who are patient enough to wait on the long lines for one of their fresh sandwiches and deli meats. It has been around – or I guess I should say survived considering all the chains that have gone in on Chestnut St – for 80 years. It is a family owned business, and is located in what used to be the garage of a three-story apartment building. That being said, just by the nature of the deli’s size, it is always crowded. Better to keep the kids outside while you go in and admire all the hand made ravioli, prosciutto hanging from the ceiling, and gourmet cheeses. Order a few sandwiches and drinks and go on your way… hop on the bikes and head to Crissy Field, just west of the Marina Green.
Crissy Field recently underwent a major restoration that preserves it’s environment and makes it more visitor friendly. We stopped at the nice kid-friendly beach where wind surfers flock….ate our lunch and played baseball at a nearby picnic area….and then rode all the way to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The kids loved it. And shall I go for the cliche and say I left part of my heart there too?
The next top two SF spots for kids coming up later this week.