San Francisco with kids…Part 2…

Our must see/do was the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Hop on Hop off bus. After that, we just let the exploring take us around this fun city.

I was really hoping there was a chocolate factory tour here, but instead it’s some cute shops, a couple restaurants and of course some great ice cream – and the atmosphere is fun. We actually visited this area more than once – but only overpaid for shakes once!

Someone told us that seal watching at Pier 39 was a highlight of their trip. So we walked down to the pier expecting an industrial area with seals. We were surprised to find Pier 39 as a shopping and eating area and it wasn’t until we walked through the whole pier that we found the seals on the backside of one of the buildings. Oddly enough, the seals were just as fun to watch as people had said! The kids named them. They told stories about them. They were invested in the seals – so much so that we returned the next day to continue the seal saga!

The crazy crooked street was more steep than I imagined – which is true for most of the streets in San Francisco. I think it said it was a 27% grade and I’m pretty sure freeways warn you when it’s 6%! I can’t imagine actually living on that street with the amount of tourists that want to drive down it everyday.

We found this area riding our bikes back from the Golden Gate Bridge so we stopped to play for a while. There were so many kite surfers and we marveled at their skills and even more importantly their willingness to get in waters that I’m pretty sure cause hypothermia. We were all a little chilled by this point but that didn’t stop the boys from creating an adventure. Before long, socks and shoes were off and they were running across the sand. What you don’t see is the rest of us huddled in the corner trying to find refuge from the wind and stay warm.

These pictures were only an hour and a half a part at Chrissy Field and yet the weather turns so quickly.

This is right on the water at the Wharf and let me tell you, you’ll want to grab bread every. Single. Day. They have an area where you can watch the bread being made and I could have sat in that warm area, enjoying the sweet aroma of bread all day. I’m pretty sure we stayed for 45 minutes, but it could have easily been longer. We also found it a great place to grab dinner.

Every night we retired to our hotel at dark. And every night we found ourselves in the courtyard enjoying the most peaceful atmosphere. We’d turn on the fire and chat. The kids would play ping pong and lawn jenga. And then when they tired, they would head to the rooms to watch movies while we continued to sit right here. It was my favorite and I looked forward to it every night. One night we even grabbed some dinner and brought it back to the hotel so we could start our fireside early!

The last morning we were there, we had plans to board a cable car. But we had seen most everything we wanted to see, so instead we found ourselves at Musee Mecanique by Pier 39 – an antique coin operated arcade. (They had games new, old and really old!) We gave a few dollars in quarters to each kid and we passed the time away until it was time to return to the airport. We Skee ball contests, and driving competitions and saw some old arcades that warned of being offensive in nature! I was skeptical that it would keep the kids interest and I was happy to be wrong. Arcade for the win!

This little scooter saw so many miles. We brought it in our suitcase for Briggs to ease some walking on his little legs. We underestimated the hills and sidewalks in need of repair. Which means most of the time one of the other kids was using the scooter for fun while Briggs was a champ and walked without a single complaint.

There was really only one area that didn’t live up to our expectations – and I’m sure it was us and not the area – but Chinatown was a disappointment. Years ago, I went to Chinatown in Philadelphia and it was awesome. So many cool shops and it was really clean. This was not the same experience. We heard that San Francisco’s Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia – but it just didn’t peak our interest. But they did have some cool murals! And some decent Chinese food.

We really did have such a great time. Some tried warning us of how much the city had changed in the last couple years and how dirty every thing was with homeless people abounding – that just wasn’t our experience. We came and we conquered and we left with nothing but good things to say about the area and dreaming about the Boudin Bread.

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San Francisco with kids…part 1…

When we were planning our fall break to San Francisco with some family friends, it was overwhelming to choose what we were going to do with the limited time we had. We narrowed it down to the must-dos – and then we had a couple optional items we didn’t want to commit to, but were on our short list if we had time.

Between the two families, we had 9 kids and we walked and biked and bussed all over that city. We find that our kids rarely complain when they’re having fun with friends, even if that means walking 9 miles around the city!

The thing our kids were most excited to see was not the bridge – although that came in a close second. They were most excited about Alcatraz. Bennett has just learned about Al Capone at school so when we mentioned this as an option, his eyes lit up because he knew exactly what prison we were talking about. Oddly enough, all the rest of the kids were equally excited without knowing much about it.

We booked our tours through the official Alcatraz website, (Alctraz is run by the National Park Services, but the ferry is run by an authorized concessioner.) There are several services that will ferry you around the island, but only one allows you to go inside Alcatraz and take the audio tour. The audio tour was totally worth it. Each person got their own listening device and it’s a self guided tour. It was fascinating. I’m not sure Briggs caught much of the audio tour, but he loved being there. The audio tour is only in one building, but you’re allowed to explore the island and some other buildings which was interesting. We spent 2.5 hours there and we could have spent a little longer, but the kids were getting hungry and it was chilly as the fog started to roll in.

The older kids ended the night by watching the old movie “Escape From Alcatraz”. They kept repeating over and over again, “I can’t believe we were in that exact room. We were in that building!”

It kind of had some haunted house vibes!

I’m not sure how you go to San Francisco and not cross the bridge. We actually crossed it both by bus and bike and I think everyone would agree biking was better. We purchased a GoCity pass for everyone which gave us two experiences to choose from and one of those was renting bikes for the day to cross the bridge. (In hindsight, I would have probably added more experience options to our pass – we just didn’t want to wear everyone out or be tied down, but we could have easily done another activity or two!)

We rented bikes at the Wharf and rode all the way across the bridge. Most kids were on their own bikes and then Briggs and Cannon were on tagalong bikes with Steve and I. I will be honest – we didn’t know exactly what we were getting into. We knew how long the bridge was, and roughly how far away from the bridge we were, but we underestimated the hills! (Shocking, I know, because the city is full of hills!) Within the first mile, both Steve and I were second guessing our decision. Our legs were burning early on, but we just kept pedaling.

The original plan was to keep riding into Sausalito and then take a ferry back. But when we got half way across the bridge, we put it up to a vote with all the kids and the majority wanted to ride back across the bridge back to the wharf. (We climbed a lot of hills to get to the bridge so I think the kids knew the way home would have some fun downhill rides and they were right!) So we made it all the way across the bridge and then turned around and came back. We were surprised to learn that they only let bikes across the bridge at certain times and we were lucky we were in the time frame. Had we arrived an hour later, we would have been disappointed to learn it was closed to bikes. Check ahead!

We ended up biking 13 miles – and I’m confident if we had known that number at the beginning, we probably would not have committed! But it was so worth it. It was a little foggy which was initially disappointing, but it ended up giving the experience another dimension that we weren’t expecting. (Arizona kids are not familiar with fog, so riding through the “Clouds” was entertaining)

This was the second experience we had using our GoCity pass. We boarded the bus in the morning at the Wharf and we jumped on and off multiple times throughout the day to see different areas of the city. This was a great way to see the city and we strategically decided where we wanted to spend time. The kids loved the Ferry building which happened to have a farmer’s market open and some random water structure across the street that our kids could have spent the whole day running around.

We drove through the downtown area and our kids were in awe of all the tall buildings. We have similar buildings in downtown Phoenix, but it always looks more cool in another city.

We stopped at the painted ladies (the victorian homes featured at the beginning of the Full House credits.) It was at this point that we realized our kids didn’t know what Full House was and they weren’t nearly as enamored with them. I thought they were pretty – similar to many victorian homes in SF – but because they were in the credits of my favorite childhood show they meant something a little more. There was a park across the street and once again, the kids found more than enough things to keep their interest and we got to sit in the grass and marvel at the beautiful day and beautiful area. It felt as though every stop we got off the bus, we were pulling them to get them back on the bus. They were easily entertained and very easy going.

We got off at the Golden Gate Park to play and grab some food and then took the bus across the bridge. Same bridge as the day before, but a different experience on a bus rather than riding bikes. The main advantage of the bus was it was easier to grab some pictures (and it required next to no physical effort), but it was way colder/windy riding on the top of the bus!

To be continued…

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Brotherly love…

We’ve just returned from an action packed fall break vacation to San Francisco with some family friends. And before I get into all the details of just how amazing our time there was, I wanted to share a simple tender moment.

We spent one our days on a big red, hop-on, hop-off bus. These three amigos sat in the back of the bus having the best time together. At some point the wind was strong enough to whip Briggs’ mask right off his face and Cannon made sure to come let me know that it had flown off the bus. It was a simple moment where I let Cannon know that we’d get him another mask and it would be okay. End of story.

After our bus tour, we found ourselves walking around the wharf and admiring the seals. As evening started to set in, we found our way to the Boudin Bakery to watch the bread being made. After spending almost 45 minutes watching the process, we packed up and started to leave. As we walked out the door, we ran into an older couple that recognized our large group from the tour bus earlier that day. The woman then scanned the group and pointed Cannon out. She shared with us that she had been watching him on the bus and he was so kind and helpful to the little one (Briggs). She continued, “When his mask flew off while we were on the bus, he was in such a panic and started to cry. Your older boy immediately went to him, put his arm around him and consoled him. He was so tender and good to him. It was sweet to watch.”

Anyone with young children knows that story could’ve gone a completely different way on any given day. They love each other, and at the same time they love to push each other’s buttons. But on this particular day, they were tender and helpful with each other.

And what I love most is that someone went out of their way to share that with a stranger – I loved hearing it and Cannon was beaming as she complimented him.

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Funny comment…

Hallie keeps a running notes list of funny comments the kids say and every once in a while we read through them and have a good laugh.

I’m trying to include more of their funny comments so they make it in the blog books.

Over the summer when Briggs had broken his arm, he somehow managed to get a cut on his other hand. Hallie was trying to get him to do his chores and he was not having it.

“Hallie, do you know what it’s like to have two broken hands?? That’s what I thought. Well, I do and it’s so hard for me to carry this stinkin’ laundry basket.”

Doesn’t he sound like Michael Scott from the Office? Or perhaps a youngest child?!

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Lake days…

There are not enough days in the week for all the lake days we want to enjoy. We were hoping to get out more this fall but time is a valuable commodity. And as the weather starts to change, our days our limited. So I wanted to do a quick phone photo dump (thanks to Hallie, I no longer have to take pics on the boat!)

My favorite time to be at the lake is just before sunset. It takes me back to our Milwaukee days when we used to boat multiple times a week and we’d always pull off Lake Pewaukee at sunset and it’s still etched in my mind as a magical time. To this day, sunset on the lake gives me warm fuzzies.

We had many visitors and friends accompany us and we even got Steve’s parents to join us for an afternoon.

Bennett started the summer being forced on the surfboard. Each time we went out we had him try it at least two times. By the end of the summer he was always the first one in the water and he caught the surfing bug. It’s fun when it clicks.

I’m still learning, but my kids are kind to applaud for me from the boat. I don’t do cold water…at all…but September water in Arizona is just about as ideal as it gets for me.

Hunter and Hallie are really the surfing champs of the family and I realized I have far more video of them surfing than pictures.

Both Cannon and Briggs enjoyed tandem surfing and Cannon finally decided he wanted to start learning to surf on his own. It can be tough to learn as a kid, but if they’re willing to try, we’re willing to teach.

I think the biggest highlight of our summer lake days was never having to fill up the tube! I know for some that may seem like a tragedy. Not only does it cause injuries, I just really dislike being on a boat that is tubing – it makes me nauseous. So we do whatever we can to not have to pull the tube out.

And this year our kids were completely cooperative about it. I’m not sure we’ll always be so lucky!

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