Article: 20 Affordable Enjoyable San Francisco Activities – Part 1

on Aug-11-2013 in California

Article: 20 Affordable Enjoyable San Francisco Activities – Part 1

When you see how the California sun adds a sparkling gold to the red Golden Gate Bridge then you know that you will want to come to San Francisco again. After seeing those colours, the hills and the diversity, not even the natural air-condition over the city (the cool air and fog that roll off the Pacific Ocean) can prevent you from returning.

Our recent trip to San Francisco was our third visit to the city and the surrounding Bay Area. We have been lucky in that we have a number of friends in the area who have helped point us to some of San Francisco’s less well known areas as well as the most famous.

We have used our cumulative experience from our San Francisco trips to create a

20 SAN FRANCISCO VACATION activities list. Each letter stands for another part. This article is part one and covers the first six activities. The common factor here is that all six are accessible from one of San Francisco’s most famous tourist areas – the Fisherman’s Wharf:

S= Sea Lions At PIER 39, Fisherman’s Wharf

Sea Lion PIER 39_1

Sea Lion at PIER 39

Have you ever seen the eyes of a puppy when it wants a little treat? When you stand at the area overlooking PIER 39, you can see the same innocent expression in the eyes of the sea lions. The air smells of fish and sea and you can hear the distinct barking noise that just makes you smile. The sea lions are happily playing and sleeping on the docks. The docks seem more like rafts carrying them from one adventure to another. The sea lions are natural entertainers. Following the 1989 earthquake, the sea lions started to appear at the docks in early 1990. During the winter months they stay at the docks. A few of them even remain the entire year at PIER 39.

Address: PIER 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Click here to visit the website of Pier 39 which provides a map and other information

Sea Lions At Pier 39

Sea Lions At Pier 39


A= Alcatraz Island

Sign at Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

When you are visiting San Francisco and you are experiencing the cool ocean air, imagine swimming from Alcatraz Island to the mainland.  At first sight, Alcatraz Island does not seem far away, but what if it would be dark, cold, a strong wind blowing through the water and the currents within set to tug you under and you had to swim all this way? This is what the prisoners Clarence Anglin, John Anglin and Frank Morris must have experienced during the Alcatraz Escape which happened in June 1962. Even today, it is still a secret whether they made it alive to the mainland. The former Prisoners Island has a mystic dark attraction to it.  You can feel it right away as the ferry takes you from PIER 33 to the island. In less than 15 minutes you are on the island.


Prison Cell At Alcatraz Island

At the island we picked up an audio tour and started to explore. The audio tour transforms the mysterious island into a real prison experience. Standing inside a cell behind real prison bars and hearing the shoes of a prison guard tapping on the floor. You hear key chains shaking and how the guard opens a door to an inmate. You look up the high room barely able to see anything through the bars on the window. The food hall reminds you of school halls only that the prisoners were not allowed to leave. You can see San Francisco greeting you from far and if you are lucky then you even get clear views over the skyline.

The visit to Alcatraz took us about 2 to 3 hours. The standard ferries run daily from around 9:00am every 30 minutes. There are different times according to the season so, as with all activities, you should check their website before your visit. Alcatraz Island is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Currently standard day tours cost (Spring/Summer until 20th of October 2013):

Adults/teenagers (ages 12+): USD 30.00 / Children (ages 5 to 11): USD 18.25

Seniors (62+): USD 28.25 / Toddlers (ages 0-4) are free of charge.

There are also other tickets for families or night tours available. Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult at all times during the visit.

Note! Apparently there are fake sellers of tickets to the Island. Only buy tickets from the authorized concessioner of the National Park Service which is Alcatraz Cruises LLC.

According to the website of Alcatraz Cruises LLC, they offer so far the audio tour in in English, German, French, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese and Korean.

Location where the ferry starts from: PIER 33, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Click here to visit the site of the National Park Service of Alcatraz Island

Click here to visit the site of Alcatraz Cruises LLC

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

N= Navy Boat USS Pampanito (SS-383) At PIER 45, Fisherman’s Wharf.

Behind the Musée Mécanique you can visit a real World War II Balao Fleet submarine which is today used as a memorial and museum. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States started a massive upgrading programme, part of which was the construction of this submarine in 1943 in New Hampshire. You can tour the boat and really experience how the sailors must have felt inside. They had to make the most out of the limited amount of space and spent hours under water. Not just the bunk beds but even the toilet was crammed into a corner. Apparently the boat was very warm when it was on tour. It smells of oil and diesel inside the boat. During the war, the boat sank 6 boats of the Empire of Japan and damaged four other boats. The museum is usually open the entire year.

Entrance fees (checked August 2013)

Adults: USD 12.00 / Students: USD 8.00

Children (ages 6-12): USD 6.00 / Children (0-5): Free with an adult

Seniors (62+): USD 8.00 / Active Duty Military with current ID: USD 6.00

Audio tour in English*: USD 3.00

*Note! On their website you can download the audio tour prior to your visit which saves you a little bit of money plus you can use your own devise.

Address: PIER 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Click here to visit the site of the San Francisco National Maritime Park Association

USS Pampanito (SS-383)

USS Pampanito (SS-383)

F= Food Turned Upside Down At Boudin Bakery & Café At PIER 39, Fisherman’s Wharf.

Boudin Bakery_1

Bakery Demonstration at Boudin Bakery

Granny leaned away and said “Step back, you smell of garlic!”

Soup with garlic and old hard bread were the main ingredients to Resi’s soup. She used to make this soup for us every time, my sister and I (Kristin) stayed overnight at her place. Resi, who is like a third granny to us, always called it the poor people’s food.  It tasted so good and at the time even better because the next morning we always went to the house of our real grandmother to share the joys of garlic. Bread in a soup is pretty normal but when you come to San Francisco you can discover it exactly the other way around. They turned the dish upside down by putting soup  into bread. The top of a loaf of sourdough bread is cut open. Then they open up the bread, hollow out some of the inside and then they add the soup into the bowl made out of bread.

Sign Boudin Bistro

Sign Boudin Bistro

The Boudin Bakery is famous for its clam chowder bread bowl. It really is delicious and they also offer other variations of their soups in a bread bowl. The dish is perfect to fuel your body on a busy visit to San Francisco.

Inside the building at Fisherman’s Wharf you can see a live Bakery Demonstration and visit the museum. It also houses the Bistro Boudin which is more of a restaurant and offers the Baker’s Hall for a more casual relaxed atmosphere.

Opening hours: The opening hours vary for the shop and bistro. You can find the details on their website.

Address: PIER 39, PIER 39 Concourse, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Click here to visit the website of Boudin Bakery

Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

Clam Chowder Bread Bowl

R= Relive Old Times At The Musée Mécanique At PIER 45, Fisherman’s Wharf.

The museum looks like a big quirky fairground set inside the building. If you ever wanted to use those future predicting machines as seen in the movies, then you can finally do that here. You can see a variety of antique arcade machines, music boxes and other things. The best thing about it is that you can really use some of the machines. The entrance to the museum is free, however, you obviously have to pay a fee to use the individual machines.

Address: PIER 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133, USA

Click here to visit the website of the Musée Mécanique*

*Note! You might want to turn of the sound on your computer or other devise before you visit the site. The repetitive music on the site is kind of creepy.  You could also use it to annoy someone by playing over and over again.

Entrance to Musée Mécanique

Entrance to Musée Mécanique

A= A Chocolate Heaven At Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square

Chocolate addicts find their heaven in San Francisco at Ghiardelli Chocolate Company. A short walk from PIER 39 takes you to the Ghirardelli Square which houses several retailers amongst which is the Ghirardelli Soda Fountain and Chocolate Shop. A dream of prosperity turned into the longest continuously operated chocolate producer in America.

Ghirardelli Sign


The company was founded by the Italian immigrant Domingo Ghirardelli in 1852 and is today owned by Lindt & Sprüngli AG in Switzerland. At the shop you can buy a variety of chocolate products, taste the delicious hot chocolate or indulge your taste buds with ice cream.

Opening hours: Daily from 08:30am to 10:00pm

Address: Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109, USA

Click here to visit the website of Ghirardelli Chocolate Company

Kristin Inside the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop

Kristin Inside the Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop


Sign At Fisherman's Wharf

Sign At Fisherman’s Wharf

Click here to visit official site of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District

Click the following Link to read the 2nd part with NCISCO:

Second part with NCISCO

Click the following Link to read the 3rd part with VACATION:

Third Part with VACATION

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