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DAY 3: SAN FRANCISCO

 
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A DATE WITH THE GOLDEN GATE

You’ll have gotten great views of the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE from the boat trip out to Alcatraz yesterday, but nothing beats seeing this SAN FRANCISCO landmark up close. And it’s even better if you can experience it from the back of a bike. Pick up your wheels from Blazing Saddles’ main store on Hyde Street, near the Powell/Hyde cable-car turnaround [open daily from 8am | bike rental from $8 per hour, includes helmet, bike lock and map | kids’ bikes, trailers, tag-alongs and baby seats also available, plus tandems], and set off for the bridge. A scenic and car-free bike path runs along the waterfront, through parks, past marinas and across open marshland, before climbing up to the bridge. It's a dramatic 2.75km ride across the channel – you cycle on the pavement and are protected by railings – and you’ll either be atmospherically shrouded in mist or enjoy fantastic views of the city and its bay. Once over the other side, freewheel down into the relaxed Northern California town of SAUSALITO and grab a bite to eat before taking the half-hour ferry ride back to San Francisco; from Sausalito, Blue & Gold Fleet ferries run to Pier 41 [$12.50, under-12s $7.50, under-5s free], whilst Golden Gate Ferries run to the San Francisco Ferry Terminal, further south, on the Embarcadero [$12.50, $6.75 with a Clipper Card, under-18s $6.25, under-5s free].

Drop off your bikes (Blazing Saddles have stores at both Pier 41 and the San Francisco Ferry Terminal) and head across the city to GOLDEN GATE PARK; it’s easier and quicker to get there from the ferry terminal, just over twenty minutes on the N-Judah metro line from Embarcadero to Irving St & 9th Ave. Golden Gate Park is San Francisco’s largest green space (it runs for over three miles down towards the Pacific Ocean) and is home to the city’s most visited museum: the CALIFORNIA ACADEMY OF SCIENCES [open daily from 9.30am to 5pm, from 11am on Sunday | $39.95, under-18s $34.95, under-12s $29.95, under-4s free, free with CityPASS]. It’s expensive, unless you’re visiting with a pass, but there are hours of interest here, with something for kids of all ages. The star of the show is the four-story rainforest dome, where tropical butterflies and birds flit around you, though there’s also a hands-on naturalist centre to explore, a planetarium and an aquarium (remember, if you’re pushed for time, that you’ll also be visiting the excellent Monterey Bay Aquarium at the end of your trip). The schedule of daily talks and events includes penguin feeding and Q&As with scientists.


TOP TIP The metro to Golden Gate Park passes within six blocks of ALAMO SQUARE, a great spot to enjoy a picnic (if you haven’t already lunched in Sausalito) and to soak up some of the most famous views in San Francisco, the PAINTED LADIES (a row of picture-perfect Victorian houses) providing the scenic foreground to a spectacular cityscape.





THE LIJOMA LOWDOWN

CALIFORNIA INSIGHTS

Delve deeper with our tips on what to read and watch before you go, foods and drinks your kids must try, and some key cultural advice

OUR FAVOURITE PLACES TO STAY IN CALIFORNIA

From beachfront hotels to B&Bs in Downtown – our pick of the most memorable places for families to stay in California


NEED TO KNOW

WHEN TO VISIT CALIFORNIA

A handy overview of California’s weather and climate throughout the year, with recommendations for the best time to visit

CALIFORNIA ESSENTIALS

Pre-trip practicalities, including getting there, visas and passports, health and safety, and how to get around


 

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