Growing up in New England, I visited my grandparents in the Bay area every summer, and dreamed about moving to California one day. Well, that dream has come true, and we love living in Southern California. But I will always have a fondness for Northern California where I spent so many childhood summers, and we love it every time we get a chance to visit.
This particular trip was a work trip that turned into a family trip. I was invited to give a talk at the American Psychiatric Association annual meeting on compassionate and dignified multidisciplinary approach to dementia care. It was a great honor, BUT my presentation was scheduled on my son’s 4th birthday. I couldn’t imagine being away from my son on his birthday, so I planned a trip for all of us for the weekend.
We spent 50 hours in San Francisco. We took a quick flight from Orange County to San Francisco, and arrived Friday afternoon around 3pm. We returned to the airport Sunday at 5pm for our return flight home.
Once we landed in San Francisco, we rented a car and drove into the city, where we checked into our hotel – the Lodge at the Presidio.
I had checked the weather forecast ahead of time, and it looked like steady rain all weekend. I was a bit disappointed, because what I love most about San Francisco is exploring and hiking the beautiful outdoors. However, I knew that with some creativity, I could figure out fun things for our family to do.
I felt the need to make the most of a brief no-rain period Friday evening, so I reached out to an instagram friend @flyingzapata, whose adventures around the Bay Area are always so inspiring. I asked her if we could only do one hike, which one should we do. She suggested that we take the hike down to hidden gem – Marshall Beach.
Friday: Hike- Marshall Beach, Presidio
We parked at the Golden Gate Overlook parking lot, and took the trail (Battery to Bluffs) down to Marshall’s Beach from there. The beach takes a bit of effort to get to. You take a long path downhill from the bluffs to the beach, and the way back is all uphill. It’s also important to note that the rocks down at the beach were very slippery – if you are coming with children, it is a good idea to watch them closely.
I wanted to share the disclaimer that this beach is a “clothing-optional” beach. When I mentioned to our hotel concierge that Marshall Beach was recommended by a friend, he gave me a look and recommended we consider a different vista point. My friend then reassured me that when she has gone with her family, there either haven’t been nude people or a few hiding somewhere. Jason and I decided to take the chance – it was Friday, overcast and chilly, and 5:30pm . We didn’t see any nudity while we were there.
Saturday: Rainy Day Fun – Museum of Ice Cream and the California Academy of the Sciences
Saturday Morning : Museum of Ice Cream: 1 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108
My presentation was scheduled for 8-9:30am, so I was able to take an uber to the convention center, give my talk, and then have the rest of the day to spend with my family. I met up with Jason at the boys at the Museum of Ice Cream, where Brian had requested we go to for his birthday. As you can see from the photos, we all had a blast!
The kids loved every room, but the grand finale (the sprinkle pool) was the biggest hit! They didn’t want to leave, and thanks to the no time limit, they were able to go up and down the slide to their heart’s delight!
Eventually, we did leave and I yelped nearby places for lunch. Lucky for us, one of Jason and my favorite ramen places was just a block away!
Saturday Lunch: Ippudo Ramen, 18 Yerba Buena Ln, San Francisco, CA 94103
Jason and I have been to the Ippudo in NYC. What a treat to be able to find it on the west coast, and so convenient to where we happened to be! We arrived around their opening, so were seated promptly. On this cold and dreary day, the ramen totally hit the spot. Their pork buns are pretty tasty too!
Saturday Afternoon:California Academy of the Sciences, Golden Gate Park, 55 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118
I’m not sure if it was due to the rain or just Golden Gate Park weekend traffic in general, but it took us awhile (maybe 30 minutes) to find parking near the California Academy of the Sciences. It waws worth the effort, as we ended up having such a good time at the California Academy of Sciences. I’ve been to many science museums and children’s museums and this one might be my favorite!
We bought our tickets off Groupon, which saved us a few dollars per person*.
We didn’t want to leave. But, the museum closed at 5pm, so we had to. I asked about returning and found a reasonable deal for a community value family pass for $159. If we could apply the credit from the tickets we already paid for, it would be cheaper to get this membershpi than buy another round of tickets for all. But two things deterred us from following through 1) *tickets bought through groupon can not be applied to the annual pass, vs regular tickets bought through their kiosk or website 2) the Bay to Breakers race was the next morning, which would mean near impossible access to Golden Gate park.
Saturday Dinner: San Tung Famous Dry Fried Chicken Wings, 1031 Irving St, San Francisco, CA 94122
The chicken wings at San Tung are considered amongst San Francisco’s best! They’re “dry-fried” and tossed in a sweet and spicy (you can choose non spicy as well, if you prefer) glaze . We ordered a plate of regular and a plate of spicy for our table, accompanied by sauteed garlic green beans and fried rice.San Tung was very close to the California Academy of the Science, which worked out well. It’s important to note that this is a hot spot. Parking can be tough, and Jason had to circle few times. Tip: there is a San Tung 2 right next to the original. It’s menu is more limited, but the popular chicken wings are available with significantly less of a wait.
To our foodie family’s delight, the weekly Picnic at the Presidio took place right on the lawn (Main Parade Grounds) in front of our hotel – the Lodge at the Presidio. After checking out of our hotel, we were able to enjoy a picnic lunch with samplings from several different food trucks. We sampled Sam’s Clam chowder, Hotbird southern fried chicken, sushi, poke bowls, and refreshing watermelon sandia. The Picnic at Presidio is open every sunday 11-4 from March 31 through October 2019 (TBD), and is free and open the public.
Sunday afternoon: Muir Woods, 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
It started to rain lightly again as we were finishing up lunch, but we decided to head to Muir Woods anyhow as the forecast did not show heavy rain. Thank again to the instagram community, I was made aware that reservations are required for parking or shuttle via gomuirwoods.com in order to visit Muir Woods. It’s $8 parking per vehicle, and I pre-booked our time slot prior to leaving for San Francisco.
Muir Woods National Monument is in Marin County, California. It is about 30 minutes drive north from San Francisco. The 558-acre monument preserves one of the last remaining ancient redwood forests in the Bay Area. Some of the redwoods are nearly 1,000 years old and stand as tall as 250 feet. Muir Woods National Monument is home to more than 380 different plants and animals, including 27 species of mammals, 50 species of birds, 12 species of reptiles, and 5 species of amphibians. Redwood Creek, which runs through the forest, is home to Coho salmon and steelhead trout. Muir Woods National Monument is managed by the National Park Service as a distinct park unit within Golden Gate National Recreation Area. You will need to pay entrance fees (in addition to the parking/ shuttle) to visit – fees are $15 per adult (over 16). Kids 15 and under are free. Of note, the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass (we have the annual pass) admits pass holders and up to three other adults to Muir Woods.
The boys completed their Junior Ranger tasks and were so pleased with their wooden pins that they received at the end of the hike.
Sunday Snack : Starbread Bakery, 211 Gellert Blvd, South San Francisco, CA 94015
This was another highly recommended foodie stop, and fortunately for us, on the way (with a slight off the exit <10 minute detour) to the airport. We were cutting it close to returning our rental car, but I felt it was worth it to try the highly recommended Filipino pastry- “senorita bread”. One friend recommended we get “a hundred”, so I got 50. These rolls are buttery, sweet and come out piping hot , soft and melt in your mouth delicious. We each had 4 before we even got on our plane.
We packed a lot of outdoor and indoor fun into our short time in San Francisco, and also sampled a good variety of delicious food. I hope that this guide is helpful to anyone who is planning a trip to San Francisco. There is so much more to see, do and eat – we hope to bring the boys back again soon! Please check out our instagram page for more family fun and travel ideas!