Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Our Most Amazing California Adventure: San Francisco

{This is the first of a five-part series of a mom-daughter vacation that my teen daughter and I took to California this summer...very generously provided through Disney Parks Canada &Travel California.}

Now that our city is covered in snow for the winter, I can't help but to think back to the most amazing California adventure that my daughter & I enjoyed this summer. If winter has you thinking of a warm weather family vacation in the not-too-distant future, I have some great suggestions on where you may want to visit. Let's start with San Francisco, shall we?

Where do you go when you want to enjoy a vibrant city, shopping and lots of exciting adventure?  My daughter and I were completely smitten with this city from the moment we got off the plane. Every wonderful thing you have ever heard about San Francisco is.... absolutely true! This city we discovered on our short stay there left us with such an impression that we are eager to go back again to explore more!

While in San Francisco for only a few days, we were treated to a city that is not only amazing in beauty, but full of life and with endless things to do.  My teen daughter loved it so much that she declared that she would like to move there one day! Here are a few of the fantastic things that we enjoyed about San Francisco while there and that we highly recommend as a fun family experience!

The Westin St. Francis
We loved our stay in this historic hotel which has been a part of the San Francisco landscape since opening on March 24, 1904. Not only luxurious, but it was  located right in the heart of downtown San Francisco which gave us a feel for the real pulse of the city. Within walking distance to a myriad of shops and restaurants, it provided us with a walk-around experience that was completely awesome for finding fun and adventure in the city.. From the comfortable beds, the beautiful lobby and the fantastic breakfast buffet...we would not hesitate to recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to San Francisco.
The Golden Gate Bridge
It is amazing to see this  beautiful piece of engineering in real life. We walked only a small distance across it, but it felt much larger in real life than from seeing it from a distance. You could walk, run or rent bicycles to ride across the bridge, but my daughter is afraid of heights so we opted for just a short walk on the bridge. But another time, we would have loved to pack a picnic lunch and maybe go for the bike ride across.It's such a scenic area.
The Hornblower Dinner Cruise
The Hornblower Dinner Cruise was our very first dinner cruise and we loved it!. The delicious food along with the relaxed atmosphere and lovely views of the San Francisco Bay area were a completely enjoyable experience. We left in daylight and we returned in the evening and  I could not believe the changing beauty of our surroundings in the golden light of sunset. Look at this beautiful shot of the Golden Gate bridge I captured at sunset as we were cruising by. Majestic.
The Walt Disney Family Museum
Located in San Francisco's Presidio area, this museum explores the history of Walt Disney's fascinating life and his many, many contributions to the fields of films, animation, music,  and photography...along with many artifacts such as one of the first prototypes of an underwater camera. There are many of Walt's original drawings and sketches of his ideas, as well as a full scale model of Disneyland. The day that we visited this museum, a Kite Festival was taking place as part of the Tyrus Wong  VIP exhibit. Tyrus Wong was an original animator for Disney who contributed to the film Bambi, among others. Now 102 years old, Mr. Wong was on site at the Presidio flying kites that day and we could see him in the distance with family members.
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a tour of the infamous Alcatraz Penitentiary. Now closed for decades, the Prison is left mainly as it was when it was abandoned  almost 50 years ago.My daughter and I  both took part in the audio tour of the prison where we wore a headset and listened to a tour given by former inmates and prison guards. It was fascinating listening to the history of this prison through the voices of those who had actually experienced life on Alcatraz. This was definitely one of my teen's favourite stops in San Francisco. And did you know that there is an Alcatraz Reunion each summer where former inmates, prison guards and their families get together to visit and reminisce about their lives on the tiny island?

My daughter and I have been to more than a few science museums across Canada, but we have never experienced anything like the Exploratorium before. Seriously. If you have kids of any ages, go there! This internationally acclaimed and  recently expanded museum of science,  art and human perception on Pier 15 has the most amazing exhibits.With more than 600 exhibits, with more than 150 of them brand new, there is something there for every age and imagination. Here is my daughter trying out one of the 'perception challenging' exhibits....water fountain in a toilet bowl. {Could you drink from a fountain in a toilet bowl?}
Pier 39
Full of shopping and restaurants and sea lion attractions,  this is another great stop if you are in San Francisco. We had time to stop here for a tasty lunch at the Players Sports Grill and a little shopping and it really had great views of the bay. I always love visiting the water front of a city because it is always so vibrant and full of energy.

If you are looking for adventure that is not too far from home, I think that San Francisco offers lots of great experiences for every member of the family. The city is not only friendly and easy to get around, but there are so many things to do within a short distance, that you will never be looking for something to do...more like you will be trying to choose which things you have time to do during your stay. My daughter and I had a most fabulous time and we are definitely eager to get back to visit very soon to see more of this truly gorgeous city.

This is Part 1 of a mom-daughter vacation that my teen daughter and I took to California in August 2013 as guests of  Disney Parks Canada &Travel California. All opinions are my own.
For Part 2 on our visit to the beautiful Castello Di Amorosa Winery in Napa Valley, please go HERE
For Part 3 on our fine dining and wine experiences at Disneyland, please go HERE.

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