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Trip Report June 24-29

milwaukee, WI
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Trip Report June 24-29

First, let offer a sincere thank you to the managers of this forum. My research really paid off and we had a lovely trip. My eight year old son and I arrived in San Francisco on a Monday afternoon. We took the shared van to Fisherman’s Wharf. It took quite a while to get the van and drop off guests. I think that we should have probably spent the extra money and taken a taxi.

We checked in at the Tuscan Inn at Fisherman’s Wharf. I like that The Tuscan has the feeling of a boutique hotel but was conveniently located in the middle of the FW action. FW action was exactly was what we were looking for…if I want to shop I do not bring the boy along. Monday afternoon was rainy…something that I am told is a rarity in June. We didn’t mind too much. In fact it was nice to check out the wharf without so many people on the streets. We had a good (not great) dinner at Cioppino’s. I had the cioppino and my son had a kid’s shrimp dish. We checked out Museum Mechaniqe, picked up our Muni passes at Walgreen’s and wine and water at Trader Joe’s and went to bed early.

Tuesday the action began. When we booked, the hotel had been running a special that offered free breakfast if we were willing to take a queen/queen room rather than king. We assumed each morning we would grab a muffin or something similar. What a nice surprise it was when we were seated in Pescatore, the hotel’s restaurant and told to order anything we’d like. After breakfast (Greek yogurt for me…two eggs, potatoes, bacon, toast and fruit for the boy!) we were ready to start our tour with Dylan’s Tours. We did the city/Muir Woods tour with Brendon. I would highly recommend this tour. There were only 11 guests so it never felt rushed or boring. Things moved quickly, we learned a lot and Muir Woods was beautiful in the misty drizzle that stuck around one more day. We got back in time for the hotel’s complimentary wine hour and then ate dinner at the dreaded Rainforest Café. We were seated next to the elephant who trumpeted every 15 minutes. I told my son he owed me…BIG.

Wednesday we took the cable car to Chinatown (after breakfast of course). We met up with a Discover Walks guide at 10 am in Portsmouth Square. There were only two other tourists joining us on this tour! It felt as if we had booked a private tour. We were taken to the back of the “grocery store” to see the (still alive) items for sale. We were also treated to some history and taken to a funeral store and the cookie factory. It was a great 90 minute tour and the cost….whatever you’d like. She stated that the average tip was $10-12 per person…which I thought was a steal. Evidently not everyone thinks that way though. One other person on the tour thanked our guide warmly and then stiffed her…I gave her $30 and felt we got a great deal. I would greatly recommend this company. They also do tours of North Beach and Fisherman's Wharf. We then wandered Chinatown on our own and finally sat down at the Yummy Yummy restaurant. We were the only non-Chinese Americans in the place and I was ready to sample their dim sum. Seating was cramped and two older ladies were smiling, pointing at my son and speaking softly in Cantonese. I assumed they were commenting on how cute he is. I then looked down and realized my fairly well traveled son looked miserable. I finally whispered, “We can leave if you want”. He responded, “Isn’t the Italian section right next door? I think I’d prefer that”. Ugh! He won again. We excused ourselves and slipped out. Outside we giggled because he was upset that we might get yelled at or worse, chased down the street. Next we accidently wandered into the red light district but eventually settled into a little Italian place for pizza and pasta salad. We walked to the embarcadero and caught the F streetcar back in time for wine hour. Score one for Mom. That evening we had a light meal at The Buena Vista. The calamari was good but the Irish coffee was divine! I slept well that night. My son ate half a bag of fortune cookies. I guess some “Chinese food” is acceptable.

Thursday we took the 39 bus up to Coit Tower. The sun was shining and the views were fantastic. We then walked down the Filbert steps to the Ferry Building for the market. We also enjoyed the public art and fountains near the building. We had a great meal at Pier 23. Fun atmosphere, good food and friendly staff. We then got on the evening tour of Alcatraz. I was surprised at how much I liked the Alcatraz tour. It is really well done. We got some extras like hearing the doors slam shut and going in the infirmary.

Friday we went to Yosemite with Extranomical Tours. I know this is not suggested but I really wanted to go. If I could do it all again we would have spent the night. It was a long ride each way and the park stop was rushed but the day flew by and the guide was excellent. We did a hike at one stop and waded in the river at another. The park was stunning…even if it meant being on a 6am-9pm tour.

Saturday we had our last free breakfast and then hiked up the hill to Lombard to take pictures. We went through the maritime museum and Hyde Pier and finally had a sundae at Ghiradelli. (heaven…almost as good as the Irish coffee). We shot a few more pictures and bought some locally made (really…we found a few artists set up near Hyde Pier) souvenirs.

We took a town car to the airport because we decided we’d seen enough of shuttle vans. I guess we got out of town just in time….between the heat, transit strike and extra bodies in town for the Pride Parade the city must be crazy today! We had a great trip.

San Francisco...
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1. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

Lucky 8 year old. Glad you had a great time and I will suggest fortune cookies as chinese food to people who don't like that in future.

No managers here btw. Just volunteers like you. we love to travel and love to help people travel and help them eat at Rainforest cafe

Thanks for taking the time to let us know about your trip. yes shared shuttles are a pain.

yes we are having a heat wave in the city. 76 degrees -- what to do.

Would you mind writing a line or two and posting this TR link in the Trip reports Post

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g60713-i30-k560504…

Edited: 01 July 2013, 23:19
San Francisco
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2. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

Thanks for a wonderful report!

I have to comment on Discover Walks. I'm a bit disconcerted that they're putting pressure on people to pony up $20-30 as a "tip." SF City Guides ask for a couple of bucks to defray their expenses (website hosting, etc.). Their guides do NOT get any tip money -- they are truly volunteers and often are long time residents of the city with a passion for sharing it with visitors. www.sfcityguides.org

Edited: 01 July 2013, 23:23
San Francisco...
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3. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

LOL that was a lovely read. you got rain AND gorgeous weather. very rare. for the chinese tour was there a particular name for that specific tour? or was it just the chinatown tour?

Down Under
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for San Francisco
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4. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

I'm with Sal on the Discover Tour people. They promote it as a free tour but ask for an over the top tip.

I'm not knocking the tour and you obviously really enjoyed it but better they just charge a rate rather than advertise it as free. Rant over.

I really enjoyed reading your report. That's a good breakfast deal at the Tuscan Inn. I would have thought it might be a limited menu offered . Good to know.

Did your son like Alcatraz ?

Yosemite is a long day trip but it sounds like you both really enjoyed it.

Thanks for the great trip report.

San Francisco...
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5. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

Guys -- if you look at the discover tour website and their FAQ -- they do have a question on how much is the suggested tip and they talk about a lot more Euros than the $10 - $12.

I agree compared to cityguides, this one is strange. FREE, Tip Based is an oxymoron.

milwaukee, WI
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6. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

The Discover Walks Chinatown Tour (I think that is the official name for it) is offered (at least currently) every day at 10 am so it was convenient to fit into our schedule. I believe the City Guides tour was only offered once a week and that day did not work for us. I had considered paying $30 a person for a different tour company or skipping the tour all together so this was a good compromise. I didn't feel pressured to tip but the website does state that the only compensation they receive is tips. Altruism is great but everyone has to eat.

milwaukee, WI
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7. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

My son loved Alcatraz! Before we travel to a new place I try to prep him to get him excited. Last month PBS aired a special on Alcatraz. He was enthralled right up until I turned it off as a former inmate gave a colorful description of "seeing someone in the stabbed in the eye with a fork in the middle of dinner". He was so pumped for Alcatraz!

Down Under
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8. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

Ha Ha,

Thanks kroberts for letting me know about Alcatraz.

San Francisco
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9. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

According to Discover Walks site the Chinatown Walk is given Saturday and Sunday. The City Guides Chinatown walk (which I've been on and it's very good) is once on Saturday and twice on Mondays.

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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10. Re: Trip Report June 24-29

Great report, thanks for sharing! We're glad both of you had a good time and especially that your son enjoyed Alcatraz. I guess he is past the age when some kids find Alcatraz scary or alarming--although I'm all for parents using it as a hammer to get their children to behave (as in, "This is where young people go when they don't behave or respect their parents and are always in trouble at school" LOL).

I'm sure Milwaukee has somewhere that you can introduce him to dim sum (or maybe other Asian food) in a more familiar setting. Adjusting to a new city AND a new cuisine at the same time isn't always easy.