Do you like city and scenery? Great food and outdoor activities? TravelingMom Judy Antell ratcheted up San Francisco family adventures with a bike ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, a walking tour of Chinatown and delicious restaurants.
Visiting our college age daughter during winter term in Minnesota isn’t as appealing as meeting her in San Francisco. So when she had an Ultimate Frisbee tournament nearby, we made the ultimate sacrifice and planned a trip there in last month. Outdoor activities can be iffy in the city any time of year, but we lucked into a long weekend of sunny skies and mid 70 degree temperatures. What could be better?
Starting the day – and trip – off right
Our first plan was to rent bicycles and go for a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. But since we were sure we would be jet lagged, getting a good night’s sleep was paramount.
We were upgraded to a presidential suite at the Hilton San Francisco Financial District. Our immense room had 2 balconies with views of the bay. A giant couch could sleep a few kids; there was a separate king-sized bed in another room. A soaking tub and a separate glass shower with a rain head was the ultimate in luxury. There were also robes, a double sink, and the magical Toto toilet with a warming seat function, auto flush and auto toilet seat lid rise.
If you are worried about jet lag, this room, with blackout curtains and utter quiet, was the ultimate refuge.
The Hilton has an executive lounge with daily breakfast and evening appetizers. Since there are so many wonderful choices for lunch and dinner around the city, a simple breakfast at the hotel is a prefect way to start the day.
The lounge had plenty of fresh fruit, from cut up melon and strawberries to whole fruit like bananas and apples. The whole fruit is actually out all day, so if you stop into the hotel, you can pick up a cold or hot drink and a piece of fruit. The breakfast also includes cereal, breads, yogurt, eggs and a hot dish. One day it was crepes with blueberries.
Taking a spin: San Francisco family adventures on the ground
Many companies in San Francisco offer bike rentals. We chose Wheel Fun because it has GPS units that offered an audio tour. Unfortunately, the system was down. I downloaded the app with the tour, but the bike clip broke and my iPhone went flying. So, no GPS tour.
But it’s not really difficult to ride without the GPS guide. You bike to the bay, ride along the waterfront path, and follow the road to the bridge. Wheel Fun had ‘infinity shifting’ bikes that have unlimited gears. The rentals come with helmets and locks.
You can ride over the bridge and (mostly) downhill to Sausalito, then take the ferry back to San Francisco. Or, you can get lunch in Sausalito, a cute town filled with restaurants, cafes and boutiques, and challenge yourself to ride back uphill to return over the bridge.
You can even challenge yourself further and climb up the steep Marin Headlands. I’ve run marathons. Guess which option we took.
Exploring Chinatown: San Francisco family adventures for the eyes, ears, nose and mouth
The Hilton embraces its Chinatown location, with lobby decorations that include Chinese statues. The tour company Wok Wiz offers Chinatown Adventure tours that leave from the hotel. The tour focuses on history, culture, architecture and food. We visited a dress shop, a church and a temple where extra fruit offerings are in a bowl for the taking. At a fortune cookie factory, we saw workers deftly pluck hot dough off a belt and fold them into fortune cookies. We sampled these. At an an herb shop we watched alternative medicine to cure every ailment made with precision. Kids are welcome on the tour, and their tickets are less expensive. There is also an option for a dim sum lunch after the tour.
Fabulous Vietnamese Feast: more sensory adventure
Our bucket list dining included the Vietnamese restaurant The Slanted Door. The restaurant is a short walk from Chinatown, in the Ferry Building. You really can’t go wrong here. Our daughter is an adventurous eater and we shared vegetarian spring rolls with tour and mint, vegetarian Imperial rolls with taro, noodles and peanuts, a pressed tofu dish with shiitakes and roasted chili sauce and a grapefruit and jicama salad with pickled carrots. Everything had layers of flavor and was sensational.
We were too exhausted for dessert, but the Hilton had us covered. When we returned to the hotel, we had messages from the concierge. Could they send up chocolate chip cookies and milk? Indeed they could. The cookies were warm. The milk was cold. We were in heaven.
Note: San Francisco Travel arranged a complimentary media stay at the Hilton and the bike rental and Chinatown tour. Opinions expressed are my own.