City Guide

San Francisco Long Weekend

It’s been many years since I’ve visited San Francisco, so C and I decided to tag on to one of the husband’s work trips for to see the sights. The weather was beautiful and we discovered a bunch of cool things that made C very happy!

What made it easy to make an impromptu trip, is that long haul travel alone with C is no longer a terrifying prospect.  On this flight (around 10 hours) she largely entertained herself – looked at books, ate a lot of snacks, and watched a lot of Paw Patrol. On repeat. It was pretty delightful.

After making it through the surprisingly long immigration line (I thought SFO was meant to be better than LAX….?) we caught the BART.  The BART was actually very straightforward, well sign-posted and largely step-free so we made it to downtown in about 35 minutes.

We stayed at The Palace Hotel – central, good-sized quiet rooms and lovely staff (and the foyer is huge – the hotel opened in 1875 as the largest hotel in the world and it’s lost none of its grandeur). Would highly recommend if it’s in your budget.

Next day we headed out to explore the waterfront area of downtown. The weather was ridiculous – no fog, clear skies, quite windy, but perfect for sightseeing.  We had no real plans, so ended up walking all the way around the bay, over to the Presidio and along to the Palace of Fine Arts (which has a fascinating history and is worth a visit itself).

Saturday morning was time to visit the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Today’s weather was more traditionally SF (fog and drizzle anyone…?) so it was nice to make a start in the museum and then explore the park in the afternoon when it warmed up. See my separate post San Francisco – 3 Museums for kids to see our thoughts on this museum.

On Sunday we decided to head down to the Pier again (on a street car, which C loved, though bear in mind you might have to queue!) to visit the Exploratorium.  This place is amazing for young and old – basically an opportunity to get hands on with thousands of science experiments in really accessible and interesting ways.

After a busy morning (check out my post here to see what we thought of the Exploratorium), it was time for a walk through Chinatown and to get an early dinner. My husband’s favourite Chinese place in SF is Z&Y and the chicken with explosive chili pepper definitely lived up to its reputation. The staff were also very helpful and accommodating about C’s peanut allergy which is super important to us.

Next day my husband was back to work, so C and I checked out SF MOMA. The headline exhibition was an Andy Warhol retrospective, which we both enjoyed, but honestly there is so much other great art to enjoy there without paying the additional entry fee for a special exhibit. And more family-friendly than you might expect (usual rules about ‘if you have a child who just can’t help touching things you might find this place stressful’ apply).

Tuesday morning was C and my last opportunity to do something before we caught a flight in the afternoon. As we hadn’t been to a playground for a couple of days we went to the Yerba Buena Gardens which incorporates a large playground area, and the Children’s Creativity Museum. C is still a little small for the museum (it is aimed at 6 and up) but if you have older children the combination of SF MOMA, the Yerba Buena playgrounds and Children’s Creativity Museum should have everybody covered.

And then we were off – back to London after a fun 5 day break!

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