By Natalee Ward
|We had spent two days riding the famed cable cars from Fisherman’s Wharf to North Beach, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Chinatown, the theatre and financial districts, and Union Square, and we were yet to come across any ground that was flat. So when two of the boys in our family announced they were hiring bicycles, where they were going to cycle and how was not immediately obvious.|
The title of the self-guided tour booked by my husband Murray and 12-year-old David gave it away. ‘Bike the Bridge’ is a day trip offered by Blazing Saddles bike hire company based at Fisherman’s Wharf. For US$28 (about $37) each, the boys were given a bike, a helmet and a map, and sent on their way. The bike path winds its way along the coast to the Golden Gate Bridge, avoiding the massive hills. The bridge affords views of the city and the sea as riders pedal the 1.7km span on a designated cycle path, before coasting down to Sausalito, a quaint town with shops and cafes immediately north of the bridge.
The US$6 (about $8) ferry ride back to San Francisco past Alcatraz made it a two-in-one tour, and the six hours it took them to cover the round trip gave the rest of us – Sarah, 12, William, 1, and me – a chance to shop downtown in the morning and ride the carousel as part of a relaxing afternoon at Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco has a multitude of faces, from colourful Haight-Ashbury and bustling Chinatown to the Victorian timber houses of Pacific Heights. More than 60 companies and organisations offer hundreds of tours, including a fire-engine tour, a vampire tour and a six-seater bike tour around Golden Gate Park. The Ultimate City Tour is a self-guided exploration along 49-Mile Scenic Drive – for about $18, you get a map and a CD describing the sites, to play at your own pace, or you can download the narrative on to your mobile phone.
Good food and kids often don’t mix, but the House of Nanking is one of the best Chinese restaurants in the US and it warmly welcomes families. There wasn’t room for a pram here – in fact, there is hardly room for the diners packed into the tiny restaurant – but the family vote had us eating there two nights in a row. There’s a queue to get in, so arrive early to avoid longer delays.
Traditional American diners also proved great entertainment for the children and Mel’s Diner, famous for its role in the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, didn’t disappoint.
When it comes to traditional cuisine, you can’t beat a hot serve of garlic fries at another of America’s institutions – the baseball. The San Francisco Giants play at AT&T Park on the harbour’s edge. You can buy tickets on the team’s website or turn up to the box office on the day – 500 tickets are always reserved for last-minute guests. Seats cost from US$13 (about $17).
Contact: San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau
Phone: +1 415 283 0155
Getting there: United Airlines and Qantas fly Sydney-San Francisco direct. The flight takes about 13 hours.
Visas: Visas are not required for Australians for stays of under 30 days.
Weather: San Francisco has a moderate climate – in winter it rarely drops below 5ºC, while in summer the average maximum temperature is about 20ºC. Always take a light coat as the nights can be cool, year round.
Cultural tips: Tipping is expected – 15 to 20 per cent in restaurants, 15 per cent in taxis and $1 per bag for porters.
Currency: AU$1 = US$0.76
Accommodation: Handlery Union Square Hotel, 351 Geary Street, phone +1 415 781 7800 or visit www.handlery.com; Hotel Carlton, Van Ness, 1075 Sutter Street, phone +1 415 673 0242 or visit
www.hotelcarltonsf.com; The Fairmont San Francisco, Nob Hill, 950 Mason Street, phone +1 415 772 5000 or visit www.fairmont.com; Hotel Del Sol, Marina District, 3100 Webster Street, phone
+1 415 921 5520 or visit www.thehoteldelsol.com
More information: San Francisco City Pass, www.citypass.com; Blazing Saddles, www.blazingsaddles.com; The Ultimate City Tour, www.tourgi.com; San Francisco Giants, www.sfgiants.com