Our trip to California back in March was our first big family holiday abroad, and with a 9 month old in tow it was a very different experience to our holidays pre-baby. But we weren’t going to let having our little dude hold us back and stop us from exploring the beautiful city we were visiting. Although our trip to the states was primarily to visit family in Discovery Bay we weren’t going to go all that way and not explore San Fransisco! I mean, its one of those iconic American cities that you simply have to see isn’t it. But in all honesty I knew very little about the city so I set about doing a bit of research to see what the city had to offer for a first time family visit. Only other issue was the fact we only had 48 hours there! Eek! But if you have seen any of our other travel posts you will see we are well versed in making the most of our mini breaks abroad and packing in as many attractions as we can.
Yes I will hold my hands up and say we decided to hit up the most common touristy spots on this visit, rather than the more obscure and lesser known attractions but this was because we know we are unlikely to be able to visit again for a very long time and because of our tight time schedule. I wanted to be a stereotypical tourist visiting somewhere new and visit all those iconic places you hear people talking about when thinking about San Fran. Luckily San Fransisco Travel was a great help for us and provided me with a tonne of information, maps and a San Fransisco City Pass to make our stay simple and cost efficient! I would totally recommend the San Fransisco City Pass for anyone visiting the city if you intend to visit any of the major tourist attractions.
So these are our top places to visit in San Fransisco with a small child in tow, we loved it all and would totally recommend others doing it.
Aquarium in the Bay – Its only a small aquarium in comparison to some we have been to, with around a dozen smaller tanks at the start full of tropical fish and interesting sea life, followed by some stunning jelly fish tanks downstairs and the amazing walk trough tunnels featuring sharks and other larger sea creatures. Lastly you have the touch pools for seeing and touching stingrays, star fish and sea anemones up close and the sea otters enclosure. The whole thing probably only takes around 2-3 hours to explore, but both us and the little dude loved it. Plus if your happy to hang around a bit there are some really interesting talks that happen throughout the day, we loved the shark talk and found the staff really knowledgable and helpful.
Pier 39 – There are a load of other Piers in San Fransisco but Pier 39 is the one everyone will hear about. Yes its the tourist hotspot of the Bay area, so is busy and slightly over priced, packed with restaurants and tourist shops (which isn’t really our cup of tea) but the atmosphere there is great, its a hive of life, with street performers and artists. So it is totally worth a little nose if you have a chance.
Sealions – The sealions of Pier 39 are famous! And they are kind of crazy to see! There were probably well over 100 Sealions all piled on top of the pontoons, cwtched up together, mostly asleep but some making their little yelping noises. It is a pretty busy tourist attraction throughout the day so I would suggest visiting earlier in the morning as it is much quieter so you will get a good view point of the sealions. This is a fun one for the kids as it’s unlikely they have seen wild sealions before.
Red Bus Tour – If you are on a short break and trying to cram lots of attractions into your short time in the city then a bus tour can be a great way to do this. Sometimes you don’t need to go into an attraction, simply to see it, like the painted ladies for instance. But walking or getting separate public transport to each of the places can be time consuming and costly, so a bus tour like the Big Bus Tours are perfect. Most city bus tours will take you past or at least very near to any major attractions so you will get to see them, or you can hope off take a better look at the attraction and hop back on the next bus. We took the full tour around San Fransisco on the bus and got to see a tonne of things we would not have had the chance to see otherwise. Plus it goes across the Golden Gate bridge, which is just something you need to do in San Fran, to see the bridge up close is amazing, and its just fun.
Alcatraz – This is probably the biggest and most well know tourist attraction San Fransisco has to offer and I would 100% advise everybody to visit it! There isn’t many places in the world where you can visit a genuine prison, and the history of this place is just a little crazy! You can see lots of clips from our visit in our San Fransisco Day 2 Vlog. Just in case you don’t know you need to take a cruise liner to get to the island and I would advise booking your slots and buying your tickets in advance as it is really busy all day every day. You can stay on the island as long as you want to, then just hop back on the next ship back when you are done. We spent a good few hours on the Island as the audio tour takes probably around 90 minutes and we didn’t want to rush it.
Madame Tussauds – Now this might not be up everyones street but it can be a pretty fun place to spend an hour, and older children will probably enjoy the movie star and musician section. We had fun seeing how tall celebrities were in comparison to us mostly! The quality of the wax works is amazing! Neither me or Jon had visited a Tussauds before so we really enjoyed seeing just how detailed the faces and hands were. Its just like a typical Tussauds you might have visited elsewhere in the world. It isn’t a particularly big one so won’t take you hours to visit. We went in about 2 hours before it closed and it was really quiet there so I would advise to maybe wait till later in the day to visit.
I have finally finished all our little American holiday vlogs and you can see the full playlist on our YouTube channel but here are day 1 and 2 of our San Fransisco trip
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