Back in 2004 I planned a weekend getaway to the lovely bay area. This, by no means, will tell you everything there is to do there. This is just what WE decided to do, and what MY preferences were. This was a weekend trip that I planned when I was married, for our ten-year anniversary. It was about 5 years ago, so "prices and terms may vary" from what they are today.
First of all, I decided that we would stay at an airport hotel because it was cheapest, and we could just take the BART everywhere else we wanted to go. It wasn't worth it for us to rent a car, plus I knew parking would be a constant battle. I knew that we would spend some time down at the Wharf, some time in China Town and in Union Square, since there was an art show at Union Square that same weekend.
Well - Let me just say that I loved the Wharf sooooo much, we ended up spending about 90% of the time there. I remember practically running through Union Square, glancing at the art and thinking, "yeah. nice art. let's get back to the Wharf." So, if I ever went again, I would be willing to shell out the extra cash to stay at a hotel on the Wharf the entire time, verses buying the day passes on the BART and spending each morning and night worrying about schedules and connections. Enough said about that...
As mentioned, we did stop at Union Square. This is the shopping district. And when I say "shopping" I mean like Bloomingdales and Nieman Marcus type shopping. Well, I didn't see a need to spend that sort of money (which I didn't have anyway). Mostly, I wanted to relax and buy things for the kids. I figured if I wanted to spend money on overpriced clothing, I could do that just as easily at home.
Alcatraz - If it is your first time to San Francisco, I would definitely recommend this tour. It's a short ferry ride out to the island. We did the "tour" with the headset, and it was worth it in my opinion. You could sort of walk the grounds at your own pace, with your own "personal guide" (the headset). Plus I liked hearing all of the the facts and details. Without the headset, it probably would have just seemed like I was walking around an old jail. The views are gorgeous from here too.
I'd also say if it's your first time, you have to ride a cable car at least once. We almost gave up as the lines to ride one were always sooooo long. However, once we were in China Town, we happened upon a line that wasn't too long. So we hopped on the trolly and rode on over to the Wharf.
Oh - and by the way, when we were in China Town, it was an affirmation that we made the right move in not renting a car. Traffic was crazy and double-parking seemed to be the norm. Lunch there was extremely cheap, however. Though, I don't know for the life of me what I was eating (please tell me it wasn't squid. I'm going with chicken.)
Things we did down at Fisherman's Wharf in addition to taking the Alcatraz tour...
Of course we had to eat at the famous In & Out Burger. I had a #1 Combo with a Neapolitan Shake. It was good. Oh - and you had the option of ordering your fries without salt. I thought it was a little unusual, but thoughtful of them, nonetheless. (By the way, we are getting an In & Out Burger here soon! Whoo hoot!)
We also had to come here... to the Original Ghirardeli Factory at Ghirardeli Square. We did a little shopping for what else but chocolate. We sampled a little, and took the rest home for the kids.
I have to tell you this story. Outside there was a man, missing a leg, sporting an old Hawaiian shirt playing songs on his guitar for money. Just as we were walking out of the factory out I hear him say, "Are you ready kids?" So, as if it were a natural reflex (honestly, I don't know what made me do it), I turn around and say, "Aye Aye, Captain." Tourists around us stop and look, wondering if this had been arranged. The transient on the guitar then says, "I can't heeeeear you!" I again say, "Aye Aye, Captain!" He then begins to play and sing, "Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?" I sing back, "Sponge Bob, Square Pants." He sings, "Absorbent and yellow and porous is he?" by this time the crowd gets it and joins in, "Sponge Bob Square Pants!" And thus the fun began. Of course we drew a big crowd. At the end, I went to give him a few dollars. He refused, saying that I had drew him the biggest crowd of the day and that was payment enough. Sweet, huh?
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. - This place, if you haven't guessed is based on the movie Forrest Gump. The food is awesome and comes in huge portions. We each ordered an entree and shared. The place is all decked out Forrest Gump style too, and each time the waiter or waitress comes to the table be prepared to answer a trivia question from the movie.