Entries in ‘San Francisco’ Journal

14 for 2014 — Ideas for Kid-friendly Trips

Tuesday January 28, 2014 at 8:08 PM | 0 Comments

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Kicking it palapa-style at Dreams Nueva Vallarta.

Dreams Resort, Puerto Vallarta Mexico

For a great all-inclusive resort vacation, I highly recommend Dreams just north of Puerto Vallarta. We stayed for a week in this lovely paradise with enormous crystal clear pools, beach palapas, entertainment, all manner of activities and fantastic restaurant. To lounge and read with feet in the sand and a drink in a coconut shell while the kids splashed around or painted ceramics was, in a word, dreamy.


Train Town, Sonoma, California

Did you know that there’s an amusement park for the shorties in Sonoma! And it’s dirt-cheap! This adorable destination is located a mile from Sonoma Plaza. Zip though tunnels and over bridges on the quarter-scale railroad on your way to Lakeview, the miniature town and petting zoo.

There is also a Ferris wheel, scrambler, roller coaster, and carousel to further delight the young’uns.

Camping in Big Sur, California

I’m not much into camping, but it gets us outdoors, it’s affordable, and kids love it. Fernwood on the Big Sur River offers different levels of lodging —cabins, tent cabins, campground, and a motel. We scored a nice site next on the riverbank to pitch our tent. The kids went tubing, climbed trees and simply explored. Upstairs the hill at the lodge are shops (with lattes in the morning), a restaurant, and a tavern. A nice getaway for nature lovers who also love city amenities.

Legoland, Carlsbad, California

These Danish plastic bricks have taken the world and my son’s bedroom by storm. And Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, Calif is up there next to Disneyland as the ultimate children’s fantasyland. It’s home to to more than 60 rides, shows and attractions and they debuted their first U.S. hotel there last spring. Continue the fun straight into your hotel room!

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California

A salute from Legoland, Carlsbad, California


Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Acres (71,028 to be precise) of pristine coastline are located on the Point Reyes Peninsula in Marin County. The water is best explored with a wetsuit but since kids are generally impervious to cold, why bother? Pack the sand toys and have a castle contest! The hikes range from easy/moderate to difficult and the views are spectacular. Plan ahead and reserve the Windsong Cottage yurt for an unforgettable family getaway.


Ocean Beach dunes/Java Beach Café, San Francisco, California

Being a city dweller close to the ocean, taking the kids to the beach is one of my favorite go-to adventures. Our usual routine is grilled cheese and soup at Java Beach Café then watching the sun set on Ocean Beach. There is a treacherous undertow on this beach (with scary riptide warnings), so the kids mostly stick to rolling down and hiding in the massive dunes.

Kids’ Suite at the Hotel Union Square, San Francisco, California

I love this room! If you’re visiting San Francisco with little ones, this is the place to stay. It’s spacious, cheerful l and equipped with all manner of well-curated kids’ toys and books. From baby toys to a Wii, there is ample in-room entertainment. Then, just step out the door into bustling Union Square for great shopping and restaurants.


The kids' suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

The kids’ suite at the Hotel Union Square in San Francisco.

New York City

Last summer, I hit the road with the kids for a (very, very hot) summer on the East Coast. My daughter was the right age (eight) for NYC and fell in love with it. My little guy not so much — I ended up leaving him with my mom while Parker and I explored the city on foot, subway, taxi cab, and the Staten Island ferry. We had a blast. There so much to do there with a curious kids — Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, Empire State Building. Even driving through Times Square at night is a thrill.


Fairyland, Oakland, Califoria

Oakland’s adorable Fairyland is where Walt Disney got his inspiration for Disneyland. It is sweet and kind of run down but in a charming way. It definitely skews toward the really young crowd. Take the train to get the lay of the land then visit one of the shows. There are lots of rides, play areas, and a decent café on the premises. Oh, and good luck getting them out of the giftshop!

Boston, Massachusetts

I come here frequently to visit family and one of our rituals is to take the kids to the Boston Public Gardens to ride the swan boats. After, we go for chowder at Union Oyster House that claims to be the oldest restaurant on the East Coast. It certainly looks like it could be with its low ceilings and narrow passageways. You can gaze out the window and picture Paul Revere riding down the cobblestone streets out front.

 Ice Skating at Embarcadero or Union Square, San Francisco, California

This is a fun way to while away the afternoon during winter break when they kids have been cooped up. The Union Square rink is especially festive during the holidays with the humungous Christmas tree nearby. The Embarcadero is less crowded though, and you are right across for the Ferry Building Marketplace for lunch.

Chinatown, San Francisco, California

This is one for slightly older kids who like to explore on foot. It’s always pretty crowded but there are so many interesting and outrageous sites. A bunch of live frogs in a bucked anyone? A must stop is at the Fortune Cookie factory, a teeny hole-in-the wall on a narrow pedestrian alleyway where you can watch the old ladies make the cookies and taste a sample. Don’t forget to have lunch at one of the many dim sum counters.

Coastal Maine

While I might avoid it in the dead of winter (like right now where it’s 10 degrees), Maine has a beautiful austerity. Summer in charming Oqunquit or Kennebunkport is where it’s at. The kids loved the hot summer weather and enjoyed Portland, a laid back Northern town with gorgeous brick buildings, cool people and great seafood restaurants. Maine in fall is lovely also with a spectrum of colorful leaves on the trees.

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

Ogunquit Harbor, Maine

San Francisco Insider Tip:

Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, Ca

While it might seem too touristy for us adult folk, kids love Fishermans Wharf. For some tips that we all can enjoy, I suggest a trip to the Musee Mechanique, a collection of 200 antique penny arcade machines. There is also a restored WWII submarine, the Hyde Street Pier with its collection of vintage sea vessels, and the cool Aquarium of the Bay nearby.

Post contributed by Lisa Dion of Friscomama.com



How To Ride a Cable Car in San Francisco

Tuesday August 6, 2013 at 3:03 PM | 0 Comments

San Francisco, cable car

Welcome to San Francisco! Hop on a cable car.

Still one of the most romantic forms of transportation, San Francisco’s Cable Car network continues to be an excellent way to visit city landmarks like Union Square, Nob Hill, Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. As a cable car ride currently costs $6, consider purchasing a Muni Passport online or at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center at 900 Market Street.  Currently they charge $13 for unlimited rides for the entire day (multi-day passes are also available.) There is also a cable car app that points out places of interest along the way.

Start your cable car ride by Union Square in San Francisco

Avoid the long cable car lines at end-of-the-line stations by starting your journey on the Powell-Hyde Line (at the corner of Powell and Post Streets) by Union Square. Since many passengers depart here, good seats are more readily available. If you want to take pictures, it’s wise to select a bench seat instead of hanging on to the sidebars so your hands will be free.

Arrive early to the area and have breakfast at Sears Fine Foods – order the Swedish pancakes.

Chinatown, San Francisco

Ride a San Francisco cable car by Chinatown

Powell Street cable car

During the first 15 minutes of your cable car ride along Powell Street you will pass 12 stops, many at world famous hotels like the Top of the Mark with its spectacular 360 degree panoramic view from the rooftop bar. Next you’ll pass through the San Francisco neighborhood of Chinatown. Here you’ll have a great picture opportunity when the cable car slows down to make a left-hand turn onto Jackson right by the Woh Hei Yuen Park (Garden of Peace and Joy) with its graceful arch. As the cable car begins to climb up into the affluent Nob Hill neighborhood, you can jump off to visit the nearby Cable Car Museum.

Hyde Street and Lombard Street

The cable car turns right to travel along tree-lined Hyde Street passing many charming San Francisco townhouses. If you love unique shopping opportunities, hop off at Green Street to browse Hyde & Seek Antiques, a consignment store that is as interesting as a museum! A few stops further is the famous Lombard Street with its curves flanked by flower gardens where you’ll surely want to snag your personal version of this classic San Francisco photo.

Classic San Francisco dining

As you continue down Hyde Street you’re probably starting to get hungry from all the delicious smells wafting into the cable car. Get off at the Lincoln Highway and walk a block west down to Ghirardelli Square. Although there are many restaurants in this famous brick complex, the classic San Francisco dining experience can be found at the McCormich & Schmick’s Seafood and Steak house with its expansive view of San Francisco Bay (including the infamous Alcatraz Island.)

San Francisco, cable car

Where to ride a cable car in San Francisco

Aquatic Park, San Francisco

Jump back on the cable car for a short ride to the end of the line at the roundabout in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park. Stretch your legs and walk off your lunch with a stroll around the waterfront, checking out the old ships that are like floating museums and admiring the playful harbor seals. For the perfect afternoon pick-me-up, return to the corner of Hyde and Beach Street and settle in at the Buena Vista Café for a mug of their famous Irish coffee while nibbling on some sourdough toast. If you want to take the cable car back to the starting point, it’s wise to pack along bottled water because you can wait in line for an hour without shade or refreshment at the Fisherman’s Wharf turnaround.

This is a guest post written by Lela Lake, a travel writer for HostelBookers. HostelBookers provide luxury style but cheap hotels in San Francisco and other global destinations. Photos courtesy of travel writer Nancy D. Brown.

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Walt Disney Family Museum

Monday June 10, 2013 at 5:05 AM | 5 Comments

In the shadow of the majestic Golden Gate Bridge lies San Francisco’s historic Presidio. Formerly a military base, the Presidio is now home to several visitor centers and interesting sites. Of these, the Walt Disney Family Museum is on the “must see” list for anyone visiting the Presidio and San Francisco.


The Walt Disney Family Museum

 Looking out over the Presidio’s parade ground, the Walt Disney Family Museum is dedicated to the life and legacy of its namesake. Whether or not you grew up with a love of Disney, the museum is a great way to spend a few hours in San Francisco. Co-founded by Disney’s daughter Diane, the museum takes visitors on a journey through Walt’s life. It features 10 permanent displays, starting with Walt’s family history and ending with his death from cancer in 1966. The museum also houses a collection of the 200-odd awards Walt Disney won during his life, including several Oscars.


Walt Disney Family Museum

San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum, in the historic Presidio, is a great way to spend some time in the city.

Permanent Walt Disney exhibits

 The permanent displays at the Walt Disney Family museum offer something for everyone. There are original plans and drawings by Disney, colorful animated clips, and more artifacts than you could count. Every way you turn there’s something new to see, with plenty to look at for children and adults alike. When I went, the children seemed to be enjoying it just as much as the adults and vise versa, although they gravitated toward different parts of each exhibit.


Changing Disney exhibits

 Along with the 10 permanent exhibits, The Walt Disney Family Museum also has an area for non-permanent exhibits. Currently, there is a special showing of “Down the Rabbit Hole,” a collection of paintings by artist Camille Rose Garcia. The exhibition runs through November 2013, and is a new take on the art of the Disney classic Alice in Wonderland. Past exhibitions have included everything from Snow White to Christian Louboutin.


Fantasia-inspired movie theater

If you need to take a break from walking around the museum, stop for a moment in the Fantasia-inspired movie theater on the bottom floor. There, the museum has daily screenings of classic Disney movies. After exploring the exhibits dedicated to Walt Disney and his work, it’s hard to resist.


The Walt Disney Family Museum features several changing exhibits. This is from the current "Down the Rabbit Hole," a collection by artist Camille Rose Garcia.

The Walt Disney Family Museum features several changing exhibits. This is from “Down the Rabbit Hole,” a collection by artist Camille Rose Garcia.


Of all Walt Disney’s work, perhaps none is better known around the world than Disneyland. It was the crowning jewel of Walt’s Disney empire, and is more popular now than he could have possibly imagined. As such, a large part of the Walt Disney Family museum is dedicated to Disneyland, and how it came to be (the inspiration for the entire park came from a train he had installed in his home). From footage of the early days of the park to an incredibly detailed 12-foot round scale model, anyone who’s heard of Disneyland can appreciate this part of the museum.


Disney magic

 Walt Disney Family Museum

Walt’s impressive award collection, including several Oscars, on display at the Walt Disney Family Museum

The so-called “Disney magic” is present at every turn, from Mickey Mouse and his earliest form (Steamboat Willie) to Walt’s visions for EPCOT and beyond, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a great place to visit for anyone who has ever seen a Disney film, been to Disneyland, or just enjoys movies and history in general.

Most people have seen at least one Disney animated feature, whether it be classics like Snow White or more modern flicks like Tangled. However, you don’t have to be a fan of Disney movies to enjoy the Walt Disney Family Museum. When it comes down to it, Walt Disney was just a struggling artist who eventually found success doing what he loved. Walt Disney was a fascinating person with an interesting story, who happened to create one of the most successful media empires of all time. The museum bearing his namesake celebrates the years of both struggle and success, and everything in between.

Insider Tip

If you find yourself wanting a snack during your visit, the museum café has several options. However, these are a little on the expensive side, so I recommend bringing your own snacks or grabbing a bite in one of the restaurants or cafes in the Presidio. For souvenir collectors, the Walt Disney museum also has a gift shop.

For additional insider tips follow Luxury Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown on Twitter and follow @WDFMuseum on Twitter.

If You Go:

The Walt Disney Family Museum
104 Montgomery Street
The Presidio, San Francisco
San Francisco, CA 94129



Open Wednesday-Monday: 10am-6pm

Related Post: Visiting San Francisco with Kids