Mr. Oscoey and I have always loved San Francisco. We went there once many years ago by ourselves for a whirlwind 18 hour trip and had always wanted to go back but never found the time or money. Last fall (while I was laid off mind you) we heard about a screaming deal on plane tickets out of the newly opening Paine Field in our area. Our little kids had never been on a plane before and we figured that leaving from a smaller, much less crowded airport would be a good introduction and test of air travel. Our kids get overwhelmed in crowds and with all of the new experiences they would have with flying we thought taking off from a small airport with less people would help them get used to the idea. Unfortunately the government shut down at the beginning of 2019 and some of the airport permits did not go through in time so we ended up flying in and out of the much busier Sea-Tac and it ended up working out. Our kids were very excited and even though security lines were so long we almost missed our outbound flight, there were no dreaded airport meltdowns and our first plane rides were a success!
We stay fairly close to the waterfront and were able to walk to a lot of destinations. Since we were close to everything the hotel was a little bit pricey but we continued our tradition of finding a place to stay with a kitchen and after stopping at Trader Joe’s we had some pretty inexpensive meals ready to go. Our kids get up at 5:00 in the morning and not many places are open at that time so we bought some milk and cereal for them to eat before we left in the morning. We also bought snacks and some bacon and spent about $30 total for 6 days worth of breakfast and snacks.
The plane ride and following shuttle went smoothly but I was pretty disappointed that the kids were not more interested in watching the plane take off. They were too busy watching Octonauts…which I am grateful kept them busy during the flight. The first place we stopped was the Ferry Building where we ate the most delicious gluten-free pastries ever and walked around seeing the sites. We walked out onto a pier and got a beautiful view of the Bay Bridge. The kids were very excited and walking around got most of their wiggles out. One of the ways we saved money was by buying a Citi-Pass. With that we got into the California Academy of Science, bus/cable-car rides, a cruise of the San Francisco bay, into the Aquarium of the Bay, and into the Exploratorium. Our son is three and he was free at most of those places so we only needed three Citi-Passes for all four of us and it ended up being a good deal.
The second day we spent most of our time at the California Academy of Science. We loved the aquarium on the lower floor. It was so big we had to stop mid-way for lunch! Our kids love fish and the way the aquarium was organized it was easy for even my three year old to understand that they came from different places around the globe. We learned a lot about our oceans on this trip for sure!
My absolute favorite area was the underwater Amazon Rainforest area. You can’t tell from this picture but these fish are seriously 8 feet long and it was amazing to watch them swim around overhead. I had no idea that freshwater fish could get that big!
Part of the gigantic Rainforest Exhibit was a sphere similar to the Amazon Spheres we visited last fall only with way more plants and animals. It was much cooler and we got to see so many things with great displays that taught my kids about how coffee grows, where in the canopy different animals live and how we can protect the rainforests for the future. I am a plant person so I loved looking at the plants and got some ideas for how to lay out a garden.
We spent most of the day and explored a large chunk of the California Academy of Sciences, including the amazing roof but we still did not see the whole thing. We definitely want to go back next time we are in San Francisco!
Our second full day we took a boat tour of the bay. This was something that was out of my comfort zone and honestly if we hadn’t bought the Citi-Pass we never would have gone on it. I get really seasick and boats are something I usually avoid but the water ended up being pretty calm and besides being a little bit cold we ended up having a great time. Our kids loved looking out at everything and seeing where we had been from the water. We went under the Golden Gate bridge and it was eye opening to see how big it actually is up close. We also went past Alcatraz and got some great views.
After the boat tour we went to Aquarium of the Bay which was right next door to the boat dock. Although it is a little bit small (you can do it in about an hour) it was jam packed with fun and we ended up going through the entire Aquarium twice because we loved it so much. Our favorite part was these two long tunnels that went under different types of fish. The coolest one was the shark tank! You can see sharks up close and they are swimming all around you which the kids loved. They also had a great area where you could feed rays and our daughter got to feed one which was super cool. We would definitely go back here next time we are in San Francisco!
We made a stop in the evening at Ghirardelli for some ice cream. The kids loved it! They got to eat sugary treats and we picked up some chocolate as gifts. There were shops to explore and most importantly a fountain to jump around.
Our last full day we had coffee with a friend, went to the Exploratorium and rode the cable car. The Exploratorium is basically a gigantic warehouse with tons of science experiments. It was a lot to take in and we let the kids wander and look at what they were interested in. There was no way we would be able to do the entire thing in one day. It seemed to be geared towards a little bit older children. Our 5yo had a great time but there was a ton of reading to do to be able to do the experiments and although our 3yo had a great time I think he would have gotten more out of it if he had been a couple years older. Our favorite part was the outside exhibits where the kids could run around. The inside was pretty crowded and echoey which my kids had a hard time with. There also wasn’t a lot of room to run around since it was packed with experiments. We would definitely go back but probably not until the kids are older. ‘
That evening we rode the cable car and it was fun but we were super tired from a long week and we ended up cutting it short and heading back to the hotel to sleep. We packed a lot into our trip and even though we took naps every day we were pretty exhausted by the end of our trip.
Our last day we had some time in the morning so we went to the beach and hung out for a while before driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. Our kids are early risers so we were able to get there early enough that we had the beach to ourselves. We walked around, looked at the bridge from another angle and then drove over and looked at the city from across the bay. It was a nice way to end our trip reflecting on where we had been and what we had seen.
We had a great time in San Francisco and I am really glad we decided to rip the bandaid of air travel off with our kids. We are excited for more plane rides in the future and we are already talking about going back to San Francisco possibly next year. It is definitely one of our favorite places to go!
I don’t have any affiliations with the places listed below but here are links if you are curious: