Last fall we found cheap tickets to San Francisco on Alaska Airlines, so we decided that we'd give the kids a weekend in San Francisco for Christmas 2014. Best decision ever. It was nice to have a small Christmas with a few gifts, but having a trip to look forward to in the Spring, to get us through the worst part of winter, was awesome. I have a feeling the trip idea is what we will be doing for Christmas gifts here on out.
We flew out the morning of Ryan's birthday. We dropped our bags off at the cute apartment we rented on airbnb, bought our muni passes, then hit the streets. We went down to Embarcadero for the Saturday Farmer's market. The food and smells there are AMAZING!!! After sampling lots of food/treats we got some lunch then walked up to Coit Tower. It's a steep walk with LOTS of stairs but the kids were awesome and it was fun to look at all the flowers. One house along the way had beehives and the bees were everywhere. I loved it. Berlin wasn't so sure about all the bees.
After Coit Tower we took the cable trolley back down to union square. Finley loved hanging on to the outside and for the rest of the trip refused to ride it any other way. He became a pro as squeezing his way to an outside pole.
After the trolley ride we walked along Market street and did a little shopping before heading to Chinatown.
For all the fancy, trendy, and overpriced stores in San Francisco - nothing beats Daiso, the Japanese dollar store. So many fun, little things to buy for dirt cheap. This was the beginning of the kids obsession to collect as many Japanese erasers as possible (atleast until they ran out of their $25 in spending money).
Then we headed over to China-town. It was not our best idea knowing full well that thousands of people were there to wrap up the Chinese New Year festivities. But it was fun none-the-less. Besides, what better way to celebrate turning 40 than with a bunch of strangers in Chinatown. It's like they decorated just for him.
Berlin did not like seeing all the dead animals hanging in the windows. It grossed her out a bit. But they taste so good!
We got ourselves some freshly squeezed juice to cool down (it was blazing hot). The funny story with the juice, the kids and I all ordered pineapple juice. The lady didn't understand us apparently and we ended up with Papaya juice. Disappointment all around. It tasted kinda weird at first but we were so hot and thirsty we downed it and by the end we kinda liked it.
Finley wanted to look at all the swords. He was determined to bring one home and was quite upset and moody when we told him that he couldn't get one because we couldn't take it on the plane. Once the fireworks started picking up we started heading out. Berlin hates the sound of fireworks - especially poppers which all the little kids were throwing out in the streets. And they are way louder than the snaps you get for 4th of July here in Utah.
After that we headed back to the apartment to make a grocery list and head to the store to stock up on food so we didn't have to eat out for breakfast. Rather than going to the whole foods that was just down the street, we sought out a slightly more affordable option at the Safeway a few bus rides away. That was an interesting experience and we discovered that some areas of San Francisco are not so great at night. It would have been better to just pay more at whole foods. Needless to say, by the end we were all grumpy - all for a bunch of eggs, milk, yogurt and fruit.
The next day we went to Golden Gate Bridge. It was a beautiful day - chilly and breezy, but perfect.
After that we got on the train and headed over to the mission district. Honestly, the muni system in San Francisco is amazing. We took the buses, the trains, trolley's and the cable cars all over. In the mission district we walked down to Mission Dolores. As we were paying to go inside the museum clerk grilled Finley with questions about Missions and what they were made of etc. Finley said he didn't know and the old man looked so exasperated and told Finley he should know these things in 4th grade if he lived in California. We told him we were from out of state and he wasn't so hard on Finn after that. 4th grade is the year all California students do a mission project. I remember when I did mine back in the day. Instead, Finley gets the Mountain Man Rendezvous in a couple months. That's how Utah rolls.
After the mission we found a great place for lunch. Excellent mission burritos were had by all - well, except Ryan. He had beef tongue tacos. Then it was off to Bi-Rite Creamery for their ice-cream. The Orange Cardamon was exceptional. We ate that on the lawn at Dolores park and people-watched. No better place for people watching than Dolores Park on a Sunday folks. Trust me.
We wanted to go to a movie with the kids so we found a tiny, random, 1 screen movie theater with like 20 seats and watched this movie. It was darling. If you ever have a chance to watch it - do so. The message, feel, and look of the movie are beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes because the little boy and girl remind me of Finley and Berlin and the relationship that they have with each other.
The next day we got up early and went to the Japanese Tea Garden. It's free on Monday's if you go before 10am. We got there at 9:45 - just in time! It was beautiful. Finley, who is in love with all things Japanese, asked why our backyard didn't look like that. Ummm. I wish it did too buddy. I sooo wish for this....
After the Tea Garden we walked across the street to check out this museum. You can walk to the very top of the tower for free. Just our luck - it's closed on Monday's. It was a cool building though. It reminded us of Maze Runner. Berlin of course got mad over something and pouted by a fountain. She is such a cute pouter.
After lots of shopping at all the fun shops in Japantown we had some ramen for lunch at a restaurant just off the courtyard square. Then we went back for some more shopping! One of our favorite stores in Japantown (we have many) is Ichiban Kan. It's a slightly higher quality version of Daiso and things are not just a dollar. But it's still inexpensive. I bought some porcelain bowls for less than $4 each and they are so fun. The kids all picked out some fun chopsticks, japanese candies, and some other fun things. These chocolate covered gummies are our favorite:
Meiji Choco Gummy (muscat flavor)
Finley was in heaven today with all the food we ate: Ramen for lunch, a Japanese crepe filled with ice-cream shaped as a cute animal for snack, and sushi for dinner. We have raised a picky eater, but not in the traditional sense. This kid has an expensive palate - just like his mom and dad!
On Tuesday we had ferry tickets out to Alcatraz in the afternoon so we decided to head down to the wharf for the day. After taking the train in, we hopped on the trolley. This is seriously the kids favorite thing to do.
It was probably the coldest day of the trip. Good excuse to buy a cute fox hat for Berlin after jumping off the trolley. We went and looked at the sea lions. Usually there are a ton of them. I don't know if it was too cold or what, but there weren't that many. There was one off the side a bit closer to us that was diving off the platform and chilling out once it jumped back on. Berlin thought it was cute. The kids rode the merry-go-round, played some games in a cool vintage arcade, then shared a chowder bowl and calamari for lunch.
Next up, Alcatraz. This was pretty cool actually. I have never been there on past trips to San Francisco and I thought the self-guided walking prison tour was interesting. The kids loved being able to set their own headsets and follow it. It wasn't as creepy as I thought it was going to be. I actually loved the colors of the hospital ward/infirmary. Ryan thought that was weird. Everything was white and pale minty green. It was a fun activity to do with the kids.
Welcome, to the Rock.
Afterwards we grabbed a bite to eat and then walked over to Ghirardelli Square. We shared a couple desserts and called it a night.
On our last day our flight wasn't until 8pm so we told the kids we could go back to Chinatown and get some dim sum for lunch and look at the shops (we were hoping it would be less crowded than our first day - it was!).
Berlin found the Totoro pillow that she wanted. I was surprised that she had enough money to get him after all the erasers they bought. Finley, still holding out for a sword was let down once again. We had to explain over and over that we couldn't take a sword onto the plane in our carry-on and that we weren't paying to ship it home. Finally, we figured we should get food in his belly and end the discussion. That's when he headed to Yu's Dim Sum for steamed pork buns, pork dumplings, and other things that I have no idea what they are, but they are good. The kids wanted more so we let them go to the counter and order more. It's weird watching your kids grow-up what seems like 5 years in 5 minutes. They're getting so independent and it's bitter-sweet at times for me.
After Chinatown we decided to squeeze out a few more touristy things. A trolley ride to Lombard street where we walked all the way down and then back up.
Caught another trolley back down to Union Square where we took a bus to see the Painted Ladies.
Then we headed back to the apartment, grabbed our bags and said our goodbyes. We love San Francisco. Finn's already dreaming of our next trip back.