I spent the last week of my daughter’s summer vacation taking her to San Francisco to have fun for a few days. What follows is a summary of things I liked, tips, and a few photos from the vacation.
- The California Academy of Science is pretty amazing, combining an aquarium, a natural history museum, a bit of a zoo, and a science museum into one. It’s expensive but worth it. Also expensive but worth it, the restaurant in the basement called The Moss Room, run by the chef behind SF’s Sliding Door restaurant.
- Ghirardelli Square was a bit of a letdown in that there’s no real chocolate factory to tour, it’s basically just a mall and you can buy chocolate and ice cream there as well as other shops. I never went here at a resident of the city and now I know I didn’t miss anything.
- The cable car system is still a tourist novelty that was down/broken half of our stay and that trains were few and far between making the whole thing feel overpriced and slow.
- The Clipper Card system was incredible! After living in the Bay Area for several years, I used to be annoyed by having BART tickets, cash for Muni, and separate Caltrain tickets. One clipper card for each of us worked on every system we used (Muni, BART, Caltrain, AC buses) and was easy to refill at any station. It finally felt like SF caught up to what every other major world city offered nearly a decade ago.
- Visiting Pixar was a treat, but so much of the campus is restricted to outsiders that we basically just got to see how much energy they put into storyboarding movies before they’re ever made. I always knew they spent years on each film, but it didn’t sink in until I was there that storyboarding and tweaking a story is about 80% of the effort going into their movies.
- About two years ago I stopped renting cars when visiting the Bay Area and this trip felt like the first time that could be permanent for future trips. We went all over San Francisco, down to San Carlos, over to Emeryville, and back to the airport all on quick, easy trains. Mass transit was also possible due to a bunch of handy apps, like Embark, which can tell you down to the minute where the nearest bus or train is heading.
- The Exploratorium was fun and I love the new location and building they’re in. There are many more exhibits than I recall in the old space, it’s about a 10 minute walk from the Ferry Building, and there are tons of cool demos to entertain and inform kids.
- Being briefly a single parent during this trip wasn’t as hard as I thought. Plane rides are much easier with iPads, and as someone told me when you’re the only parent around, every parenting decision you make is the correct one.