San Francisco Area with teenagers


Jun 14th, 2018, 09:16 AM
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San Francisco Area with teenagers

Hello - We are staying in Mill Valley area for 5 days. First trip for our teenage boys to California. We really want to see the 'area'. So looking for things to do in the city and close drives outside of the city. We already have tickets for Alcatraz. And have read up on all the tourist attractions in the city. Planning a trip to Muir Woods. What are some of the top things we should do? And to venture outside of the city, what are some must see/do things? Should we travel south vs north or both?

Thank you for any input!

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Jun 15th, 2018, 03:15 PM
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Here are some of the things we did with our teens.

My kids liked riding the ferry across the Bay and eating at the Ferry Building. It's small mini-restaurants inside a large historic building that has been redone (and quite well). Between the 5 of us, someone got food at almost every little restaurant, and we really liked all of it.

Our teens loved riding the cable car and if possible, standing on that outer step. (Yes, it's allowed.) It's a wait to get on the cable car at all. I didn't plan this out well and we waited quite a while to get on one. Afterward, I heard that there are other cable car lines with a bit less of a wait. On another trip without kids, we took one in the evening with no waits, so maybe that is still an option. Hopefully the San Francisco natives can weigh in. Oh, and we didn't end up taking the car back.

They also liked walking around Fisherman's Wharf. Be sure to stop in at Musee Mecanique, which isn't really a museum. It's vintage coin-operated arcade games and they are just really cool. You don't pay admission. You pay to play the games... as many or few as you want. Also fun to get Ice cream and souvenirs at Ghiradelli's.. Don't eat dinner on the Wharf though; restaurants along the wharf are expensive and not good food. Go back to the Ferry building and try a different restaurant. Or look up a place ahead of time on Yelp.

So thanks to Stu Dudley here on Fodor's, years ago I learned about the City Walking Tours that are free. I have done 2-3 of them. I really think my teens would have loved the tour of Chinatown especially. It was fabulous, going down the back alleys, being granted access to a private temple and more. There are other good ones teens would enjoy too.

San Francisco City Guides: Walking Tour Schedule

On a different trip, my oldest and I went to a huge record/CD store in Haight-Ashbury called Amoeba Records. You can pre-listen to things you want to buy. There's also the DVD/blu-ray room. Really enjoyed it, walking the neighborhood and a drive up to Twin Peaks for the view. Warning: Parking was almost non-existent in Haight-Ashbury, and we had a Smart Car. So mass transit or Uber might be better.

Not sure if they would go for any museums? If you're at all interested in art, the DeYoung or the Legion of Honor are in Golden Gate Park. I also loved the Museum of Modern Art which is in the city. Other museums (not art) include the Exploratoreum, California Academy of Sciences or maybe the Cable Car Museum.

Golden Gate Park--wish we had made time to rent bikes and explore it all with them. Not the same as, but like Central Park with different areas and themes.

We did not make it to Coit Tower on the family trip. On another trip, I went and really enjoyed it, as well as North Beach. There are murals in the stairwell. I've heard you don't need the tour in order to access the murals anymore. If I'm wrong, the elevator to the top is still cool to do. Great views. Still some great Italian bakeries in North Beach if you like cannoli.

Adults really love Union Square but a lot of it is about the shopping. That may be less popular with all boys.
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Jun 15th, 2018, 03:51 PM
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Afterward, I heard that there are other cable car lines with a bit less of a wait.
Yes, the California line (goes from the foot of California up to Van Ness Avenue will have quite a bit less of a line than the Powell and Hyde St. lines (mainly because it doesn't go through tourist-centric areas, although it does go past Powell St. You might want to ride the cable car up to Powell St., then get off and walk downhill to the Ghirardelli area.
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Jun 15th, 2018, 04:58 PM
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If you click on my user name and look at my trip reports--you will see the report for the trip we took last year to San Fran and Monterey. It was a great trip!
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Jun 17th, 2018, 10:50 AM
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Thank you so much for the wonderful input!!! Greatly appreciated!
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Jun 23rd, 2018, 12:34 PM
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If you are driving to Muir Woods, be certain to get a parking reservation in advance (new requirement.)
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Jun 23rd, 2018, 01:30 PM
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Since you are staying so far north of the city, I'd go to Point Reyes. It's really beautiful there, and you can do some hiking or kayaking. Inverness is a nice little town up there where you an have lunch, or you could go to Bodega Bay if you are fans of the movie The Birds, but it's further north.
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Jun 23rd, 2018, 07:46 PM
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Very near Mill Valley and possibly just the thing for teen boys, check the schedule for events at Sonoma Raceway during your stay. My son raced motorcycles there and I even enjoyed it. Whodda thought.
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Jun 24th, 2018, 08:05 AM
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We were in Point Reyes yesterday. It is beautiful - lots of opportunities for hiking, there's a lighthouse, really nice beach (although neither the air nor water temp at the beach is what I'd call "beach weather", there were plenty of people sitting on the sand, playing volleyball and beach soccer, barbecuing etc. We just walked - about 5 miles round-trip). Point Reyes Station is a cute little town with a few decent places to eat (Coyuchi linens is headquartered there - and they have an outlet section in the store). Olema is a "blink and you'll miss it" at the crossroads. On the way from Mill Valley is Fairfax which is a great little town. This part of Marin County is called "West Marin" to differentiate it from "suburban Marin" and it's vastly different. We love it out there.
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Jul 12th, 2018, 08:14 PM
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My kids love Chinatown and riding public transportation. I hate driving in SF, and they find the busses/BART exciting. They like Little Italy, too.
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Jul 15th, 2018, 04:37 PM
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San Francisco - Stu Dudley's Recommendations

Stu Dudley
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Jul 15th, 2018, 05:41 PM
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They like Little Italy, too.
For clarification, it's not called Little Italy in San Francisco (and most people won't know what you mean), it's called North Beach.

If you choose to do Chinatown (I agree they'd probably enjoy it), be sure to walk both on Grant Avenue (the "touristy" part) and one block up (parallel) on Stockton (the "real" Chinatown). Both are fun. R&G Lounge is a good place to eat (on Kearny at Clay)

I also love the various stairway walks in San Francisco. San Francisco Stairways sorted by Location, Size and Rating

Be sure to see the art projects -- the Bay Bridge lights at night, and the top of the new Salesforce Tower at night.

If walking across the Golden Gate Bridge isn't on Stu's list, I would add it. We recently walked from Fisherman's Wharf to Sausalito, about 8-1/2 miles. It was great. Had lunch and a walk in Sausalito and returned by ferry.
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