First of all, we flew into Oakland and were able to save a few dollars that we could spend elsewhere. Once in Oakland, we took BART into San Francisco and disembarked in Union Square. Here we found a transit office and bought public transportation passes that let us use the cable car, street cars and bus system at will. You can find information at http://www.sfmta.com/cms/
The famous cable cars run directly in front of the St. Francis and the street cars are just a couple blocks away in Union Square. You have to take at least one ride on the cable cars all the way down to the bay and back.
Don’t forget to jump off at the top of Lombard Street to view one of the crookedest streets in the world.
I personally preferred to ride the street cars from Union Square to the bay. There are several cars running on the F route. These cars have been brought to San Francisco from all over the world and restored to their former glory. The route runs past Union Square to the Ferry Terminal and then along the bay to Fisherman’s Wharf. I thought that it was a quicker mode of transport than the cable cars because you tend to have to wait in a long line to board them.
Just a short walk from our hotel was Chinatown. Here there are many trinket shops and restaurants to visit. In an alleyway, just a block off the main street, there is a fortune cookie shop where you can see how they are made. They sell the typical cookies that you get anywhere, but they also sell chocolate flavored cookies. We bought a large bag of broken cookies in both regular and chocolate flavors for around $3. Delicious!!!
One of the main attractions of our trip was a tour of Alcatraz. We weren’t able to get a ticket for any of the daily cruises to the island, but our hotel concierge was able to get us on the night cruise. This is a little pricier, but your boat of passengers are the only people on the island, kind of like a private tour.
The ride to Alcatraz allows you to forgo a bay cruise, as it is almost the same. You get a great view of San Francisco on your way to the Rock.
Once there, you get a full tour of the prison and the Park Rangers even rack the cell doors allowing you to hear what the prisoners heard every night of their stay.
We also rented a car for a day and drove to Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge. This town is an artist area and there are many galleries to be browsed. After lunch there, we journeyed to Muir Woods, just a short drive away. I recommend an early morning visit here so you can grab a close parking space. The tranquility of the sequoias is amazing. It is very quiet in the woods and wildlife abounds.
By renting a car on the last day of our visit, we were able to use it to get back to Oakland and fly home.