In a huge bid to wrap up the week as the most touristy visit to San Francisco in the history of the universe, we went to Alcatraz on weekend-day with Jesse and Brad before they were set fly back to Atlanta that night.
Recommendations for going to Alcatraz:
- Buy your tickets 4-6+ weeks in advance. They sell out quickly and if you want to go, get your tickets ahead of time.
- The most popular tour is the night tour and it’s supposed to be awesomely spooky. (We didn’t get to experience this because I only got my tickets 3 weeks in advance. Eh-hem, touristy planning fail.)
- Go on a weekday! It’s much less busy and you can get tickets easier (and on the fly).
- Be ready to spend at least 2 hours on the whole trip and maybe more if you do all the extra activities and tours on the island.
- Stop and listen to the Introductory video near the gatehouse on the island. It gives you a ton of history of the island itself and sets you up for a cool experience where you actually feel like you know what happened there.
- TAKE THE AUDIO TOUR. It’s included in your ticket, and it’s awesome. When entering the Main Prison building, you’re automatically in line for headphones. Follow the instructions. Get the darn things and get ready for the coolest audio tour that I’ve ever experienced.
So yeah, we went to prison that Saturday morning. On a boat stuffed with tourists and a thousand cameras click-click-clicking all the way across the bay from Alcatraz Landing to the the docks of “The Rock.” I may have been one of said camera people, but don’t worry, I blended in as a tourist and no one knew I’m really a local.
We piled out of the boat like a herd of cattle and stood in a big mess of people listening to the volunteer ranger’s information about where to go and what to do. After that, we went to the gatehouse building to watch the Introductory video and watched the history of the island from the beginning of time to present. It was 15 minutes and worth it. Anish fell asleep.
From there we walked up the sloping hills to the top of the Rock to the Main Prison and got in line to take the audio tour. Like I said above, it’s amazing and awesome and you better do it. You listen to former prison guards AND inmates as they walk you through the prison and describe life there–what it sounded like, how it felt, what they ate. They go through all the main prison fights and breakouts. It was spooky and it made walking through a huge concrete building a lot more interesting.
Just to push my Audio Tour agenda a bit more — you hear the sounds of the doors clanking, the people talking and laughing. The sounds of the fighting during the Battle of Alcatraz. You hear them talk about the Birdman, one of Alcatraz’s craziest inmates. You hear the voices of inmates describing how the 3 men who escaped Alcatraz did it, and you wonder along with them, did they survive?
We stood in solitary cells. We looked at the cells of the escapees who chipped holes away in the cement using tools made from spoons. We heard the former inmates describe how sometimes, when the conditions were right, they could hear people talking and laughing in the city across the bay. How haunting it felt to hear the sounds of “life” and be stuck out on the Rock with no company. .
All in all, it was blustery and beautiful and haunting and spooky — worth the visit!
And that evening, we said goodbye to little (big) brothers and sent them home after an awesome week together in the City by the Bay.
Tuesday through Thursday – I was at work during the day and the boys were exploring on their own. It was a nice three days without all the regular go-go-go see-everything mentality. Here’s what we did Tuesday through Friday morning, in photos. I’ll show the rest of Friday tomorrow — our visit to Google!!!
Stopped into the Ferry Building to peruse the shops. Jesse got his first Blue Bottle Coffee and loved it!
Enjoyed a bow and arrow photo-op walking down Embarcadero.
Forced these two into a photo-op by the Bay Bridge. (Helicopter sister strikes again. Must.make.memories!!!!)
Wandered past AT&T Park so the boys could see the Giants’ home!
Went out for a fancy sushi dinner with these handsome fellows! Brad’s first ‘real’ sushi!
Elephant Sushi in Russian Hill cannot be beat folks. Freshest (most delicious) salmon I’ve had in SF.
Got to sit on the same side as this handsome fellow during sushi dinner too. ;)
Showed the guys a real city breakfast at Sweet Maple. I got the Marnier French Toast and famous Millionaire’s Bacon to share. To die for!
Jesse digged his Carne omelet.
On Friday morning, we rented a car again to head south to Silicon Valley. Time to be inspired, eh? First stop: Stanford’s gorgeous campus!
Second stop: Facebook! Or rather, it’s parking lot. Menlo Park is nothing fancy to look at, but it was pretty to cool to see Facebook from the outside.
We “Liked” it. Har har har…
After we hiked Land’s End, Jesse, Brad, and I spent the rest of the day exploring San Francisco by car. Here’s what we did:
- Went to the Mission for lunch at Tacolicious (try the braised beef short rib taco and the queso!)
- Stopped by Bi-Rite afterwards for an ice cream cone. I got Honey Lavender and Cookies and Cream. Nom!
- Walked over to Dolores Park.
- Drove to the top of Twin Peaks to see the view.
- Drove through Golden Gate Park to take a peek at the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, and to see the bison!
- Ended up at Ocean Beach, where we spent some time taking more jumping photos.
- Walked on the beach and watched some wind surfers take off in the freezing ocean!
- Drove up to the top of Telegraph Hill to see Coit Tower and the view from there.
- Picked up Anish at his bus stop.
- Drove down Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the U.S.!)… TWICE!
- Ate a delicious Italian dinner in North Beach.
- Ate a second dinner at In N Out.
- Decided that we are probably tall Hobbits.
- Went home.
That, my friends, is a good way to see the city. Happy Friday! Now for the photos and awesome jumping GIFs. Woot!
Monday morning. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast at home after saying goodbye to Anish, who unfortunately had to go to work. We had one more full day with the car, so we took advantage of it. It was time to explore the city — a drive-by car viewing of every sight and humongous hill we could find.
We started with Land’s End. Anish and I had been there once before and on a delicious sunny day, it is an amazing spot to visit. So that’s where we went first. To do a little hiking. To find the hidden Labrinyth. To see the Golden Gate Bridge from a city-side angle. To breathe in the gorgeous fresh air of the California coast.
We came, we saw, we laughed, we conquered. And after an hour or so, we zipped away as fast as our Yaris could go — headed to the Mission and Tacolicious tacos.
Two goobers and a bridge!
Doesn’t matter how old you are… climbing a wall is a must.
Typical. Wild hair / Tarzan-esque.
Crossing paths while walking the Labyrinth.
This view never gets old! Golden gate to the golden state!
Little selfie action while the guys were still walking the maze… ;)
Me and Brad!
Me and Jesse!
Brothers in a cave. Pretty dang awesome.
We drove ALL OVER that Sunday with the guys. By the time we made it to the Headlands, we were pretty exhausted and mildly delirious from the road trip. So we proceeded to make it quick. Stop on the side of the road, snap a photo with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Laugh hysterically at some ridiculous antic of the boys. Repeat. Turn around and notice that we’d been driving the DINKIEST rental car all day. Laugh and laugh and laugh.
You know folks are getting crazy when you go to touch the Pacific for the first time, Jesse gets caught in an incoming wave and gets his shoes all wet, the boys sprint away from an incoming wave, and then a maniac sister forces all her boys to do a jumping photo.
After that, we went home, found parking (miracle), grabbed a milkshake from Roam, devoured our milkshakes from Roam in 2 minutes, ate Thai food (their first time!!), discovered that the boys like Thai food, and fell asleep by 10:30.
It might be crazy, but I’d call that a darn successful first day in the Bay Area.