Around nine hours after leaving New York City on July 18th, we arrived in California and I set foot on the west coast of the United States for the first time in my life.
8 long hours on the plane helped me realize I wasn’t in New York anymore. The 7 magic days there were over. But I didn’t feel sad. A very different and beautiful place was awaiting me: San Francisco.
After a long-awaited dinner in a renowned Japanese sushi restaurant the night we arrived, here is what we discovered on our first day in San Francisco.
Getting Our City Passes
This isn’t sponsored by City Pass® but I thought I would talk to you about them.
At first we were a bit worried those passes were just a rip-off for tourists, so we didn’t get any in New York. But we decided to get one each in San Francisco, as advised in my Lonely Planet® guide. What a wonderful choice we made: it allowed us to get around so easily and go on so many more adventures, not having to pay for it each time!
In short: we paid a rather small price each ($82) to get 4 tickets available in the listed attractions + 3 days of free MUNI public transportation as well as rides in the famous Cable cars! What more could we ask for? The price for the attractions were discounted at more than 40%, and they were:
- The California Academy of Sciences
- The Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure
- The Aquarium of the Bay
- The Exploratorium or The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
We did each and every one of these attractions and had the best time ever 🙂
To get our passes, we went to the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, located on 900 Market St, Lower Hallidie Plaza, near the Powell BART Station, but you can also buy them online, or before each of the attractions listed above!
Morning At Pier 39
After getting our passes, we took the MUNI streetcar to Pier 39, one of the main spots of San Francisco. And it was everything we wished it would be.
The sights were so typical, and to me it looked as if I had directly been taken to a movie set.
I mean there were just so many things to look at! So many cool-looking signs, shops, buildings, colours! This was definitely the hip spot, and I took great photos there.
Every single time I looked around I discovered something I hadn’t seen the first time.
Of course there were lots of people there, as this is definitely a must-see, and even though it was pretty early in the day, it was difficult to take pictures without anyone on them!
One of the main reasons I wanted to come to the Pier was to see the famous sea lions! The bay is notorious for being the habitat of many sea lions, that come and rest right next to the Pier!
We looked at them for quite some time as they were so funny to listen to and observe! Very playful creatures 🙂
Bay Cruise Adventure
We couldn’t come to San Francisco without going on a boat trip to see the Golden Gate Bridge up close. So that’s what we did, with the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure!
We hop on a big boat, which took us right below the famous bright orange bridge, and back around Alcatraz Island, all of this while telling us a bit about the history of San Francisco and those two sights specifically.
Although it was a bit cold, we had the best time, and you know I LOVE BOAT TRIPS!
Even seeing it now of the picture I took gives me chills. To think that people were actually imprisoned there, even Al Capone, feels very disturbing. Also, seeing it in person after having heard all those escape stories is really strange: how on earth could inmates have gone past those sharp rocks, and jumped into the ice-cold water without dying?
Also, it was funny to see how so many shops were DEDICATED to Alcatraz goodies and clothes! I loved it!
Lunch At The Crab House
You see those two huge crabs? Well they ended up in our stomachs, and I even wiped the melted butter off the pan (sorry, not sorry)! It was the most delicious meal EVER.
As neither of us had had to shell whole crabs before, we just had a few moments we’re not exactly proud of, as we couldn’t understand how we were supposed to do it! But then the waiter-in-charge came, cracked every part down, and we ate the whole thing(s)!
Afternoon At The Aquarium Of The Bay
I don’t have much to tell about this aquarium apart from this:
- There is a freaking underwater tunnel with actual SHARKS inside the water. YES. They swim directly above your head.
- You can TOUCH small sharks, ray mantas, starfishes and anemones. YES.
- If you ever come to San Francisco, you have to visit it. YES.
That’s all I need to say! We had a great time!
Quick Visit To Chinatown
After leaving the Aquarium, we took the streetcar again, and then the bus, heading out to Chinatown.
This district is only 3 streets large per 5 blocks long, but it was like we landed it China: I much preferred this Chinatown, compared to the NYC Chinatown: the colours were beautiful, it was well maintained, and there were actual Chinese people walking around!
As a matter of fact, when we arrived we were stopped in the middle of the street because a shooting was going on! That was a funny thing to watch for a while 🙂
Evening At The ExplOratorium
At first we weren’t sure what it was: a museum? A science institution? Well, we found out that it was actually both of those things.
Our love of science was fulfilled as we had the best time walking along those corridors, experimenting every science installation that seemed fun!!! Hundreds and hundreds of installations, designed to make you learn more about scientific facts and phenomena, gathered on 3 levels! This was HUGE, and full of people!
After almost 3 hours spent there and LOTS of scientific experiments and discoveries made, we decided it was time to leave, because we clearly didn’t have time to see everything… So, we went outside, and had a breathtaking view of the Bay Bridge…
That day we had dinner at the Fog Harbour Fish House, the first restaurant located on Pier 39. My mother and I had a clam chowder in bread bowl, specialty of San Francisco, which was absolutely delicious and looked like this:
And then it was time to head back to our hotel!
Yes, we did A LOT of things that first day, as our first day in New York City, just because we were so excited to be here, and frankly we had the BEST time ever.
Hope this post made you wish you’d come with us!
Lilly, aka The French Hat