An RV Trip to San Francisco: 8 Must-Do Activities
An RV Trip to San Francisco: 8 Must-Do Activities
Suggestions for a great trip to this iconic California city!
By: Kenny & Sabrina Phillips
Sabrina and I have been to California several times in our RV but never to San Francisco. When she found out that there was an educational conference going on in the city, we thought it was the perfect time to turn this into an RV vacation.
Now that we have just completed our trip, we wonder why it took us so long to visit. The city and surrounding areas have something for all ages and interests. We’ve compiled our top suggestions here for anyone else planning a visit.
Where We Stayed in Our RV Near San Francisco
When looking for a campground in the San Francisco area you have several choices, but as we started reading reviews, it was clear to us that we were going to go with our old faithful and stay with the KOA brand. We chose the San Francisco North KOA location, and it turned out to be a great choice. They had a petting zoo, red wood trees, a pool, and friendly staff.
This location is a little further out than the other RV park locations – about an hour to the big city. But we found it a nice retreat after a long day of city life.
Our Must-Dos for the San Francisco Area
We were in San Francisco for six days and honestly feel we could have used another day or two to do everything we wanted. I’ll share what we consider the must-do activities in case you have even more limited time to explore.
1. Start with a City Tour
Sabrina and I have done several Segway tours throughout the years and find this to be an excellent way to have fun and get a quick overview of the city highlights. Then, after the tour is over, it gives us a pretty good idea of what we want to go back and spend more time on.
Our tour was two and a half hours long and included fifteen minutes of training. The other great thing about the tour is that the guide also shares some city history along the way. We did a tour with Electric Tour Company.
The tour starts in Fisherman’s Wharf and takes you through historic areas as well as North Beach, which offers great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz. This is considered a beginner level Segway tour as there are only a few hill climbs involved.
If the idea of a Segway tour intimidates you, we suggest taking the Big Bus San Francisco Bus Tour. This bus allows you to hop on and off as you please as it takes you around to all the hotspots of San Fran.
2. Visit Alcatraz
For an up close and personal look of Alcatraz Island, we highly suggest the Alcatraz Tour. We did a day tour, but night tours are also available. For us this was one the best things to do in San Francisco.
You first board a boat to take you across the bay and when they say the boat leaves at a certain time, they mean it! We had a 9:20 a.m. depart time and we were leaving the dock right on time. So, arrive early or else you will literally miss the boat.
The boat coming back to shore was much more relaxed as you can stay on the island as long as you would like, then catch the last return boat at the end of the day.
We spent about three hours on the island and, if we did not have another tour to catch, we would have stayed longer. One thing I have never heard anyone say about Alcatraz is how beautiful the gardens are, so that was a very pleasant surprise for us!
What really made this tour amazing was the audio walking tour. You can wear a head set as you walk the grounds, and you control the start/stop of the device. It guides you through the property instructing you of where to stand and walk. You will hear the voices of guards and imamates of Alcatraz as well as some very cool sound effects that will have you looking over your shoulder. This is a “do not miss” activity!
3. Take a Boat Cruise to the Golden Gate Bridge
When we left Alcatraz we boarded the Red & White Fleet Tour boat to take a one-hour cruise in the bay that included going right under the Golden Gate Bridge. This is by far the best way to view the Golden Gate Bridge and learn some history about it as well.
The boat has a drink and snack bar on the bottom deck. But for the best views, you will want to head upstairs to the open rooftop deck.
4. Classic San Francisco: Cable Car Ride
Back in the city, we jumped on a cable car ride. You can either pay in advance for tickets at the booth or pay cash once on the cable car.
This was really fun and we wound up taking four cable car rides in total throughout the day, one of which brought us to Lombard street with the claim to fame as “the crookest street in the world.”
There is also a stop that lets you off at the free Cable Car Museum, which unfortunately I did not have time to check out. We also went up Alamo Square to see the “painted ladies” which are the colorful historic homes seen in the 1990s Full House show intro.
5. Walt Disney Family Museum: My Bucket List Museum
One of the days that Sabrina had a conference, I decided to go off on my own and I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum. I really like all museums, but mix it up with some Disney Info and what you get is me spending over five hours walking around trying to absorb as much information as possible.
This museum focuses on the life of Walt Disney, so if you are a huge Disney World theme park fan it might not be for you. (He actually died before the official opening.)
You will, however, find out about his time in France during World War I, how he became a cartoonist and then started his own animation studio which led him to films and then to the Disneyland Park. There are also tons of family memorabilia, including the 1:8 scale steam train that Walt built for his private residence.
The Walt Disney Family Museum is located at Presidio San Francisco National Park at the Golden Gate Bridge – a great place to visit on a nice day!
6. Presidio San Francisco National Park
When visiting this area, start at the visitor center to learn a little bit about its history, then go out and enjoy this beautiful park! Bring a bike, if you can, because there is a paved 1.5-mile that leads to the Golden Gate Bridge.
If you plan on walking the trail, pack a lunch or grab some food from one of the several food trucks on the property, as there are some amazing picnic areas on the way to the bridge. The national park also has a large playground for kids and large pet friendly green spaces.
I felt this was a great midway point during the trip, because it just felt slower and more peaceful than being down in the city.
7. Enjoy Mother Nature at Muir Woods
Just outside of the city of San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument and beach. This was another one of my favorite days!
Quick tip: book your parking ticket for the woods in advance. You are not able to just show up and park to visit the woods. However, the beach has parking, and no reservation is needed for that. You can visit the website gomuirwoods.com to reserve your space. Also, the beach is dog friendly but the woods are not.
This was another day that took me out of the hustle and bustle of the city, and I suggest saving this for the end of the trip as it’s a nice way to unwind. Here you are going to see some magnificent red wood trees and have some fun hiking on their paved trails. I found the walking trails to be very manageable even when I would step off to the dedicated unpaved trails. They seem to be easy to moderate level.
One thing that really stood out to me while walking around and taking in the sites is how easy it was to breathe the air out there. I kept taking deep breaths because the air felt so light and crisp! The Muir Woods trails also include four small walking bridge crossings and the area is home to several species of birds and animals.
I really enjoyed taking frequent stops listening to the stream and trying to spot different wildlife. You may want to dress a smidge warmer than usual for this trip as the temps are cooler than the city and surrounding area.
8. Sample San Francisco’s Food
Our trips are never complete without trying a restaurant or two. We enjoyed Barrio Bar & Restaurant which has indoor/outdoor seating that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. Their menu offers a variety of Mexican dishes, which we enjoyed while sipping our cocktails and watching the ships enter the bay.
Barrio is in Ghirardelli Square which we recommend checking out after your meal and grabbing a dessert.
Down in the center of the city we went to Kin Khao, a Michelin star restaurant. In fact, it is the only Thai restaurant in America to receive a Michelin star. We sat at the bar and received great service and conversation from our server. We wish we would have found this sooner as we would have gone back a second time during our stay.
During our Segway tour we had a ten-minute break in the historic Italy district where I grabbed a slice of pizza from the Slice House. If you are a fan of Pizza like me, you will enjoy the several choices of slices they have to offer.
Have you been to San Francisco? Do you have any places to add to our must-see list? Please let other readers know in the comment section below.
As always, take care and safe travels!
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