Zoo day! We were so excited when we heard the San Francisco Zoo was allowed to re-open. It’s a great place to go with the family; and since it is outdoors, it is very safe.
The SF Zoo has tons of safety protocols in place, which made it a fun, relaxing way to get out of the house while staying safe.
The Zoo now offers online reservations so they can limit how many people enter the zoo at one time. This is great because it leaves a lot of space between visitors. I felt like I was taking a VIP tour of the zoo! You know I love me some VIP treatment!
In addition to spaced out visitors and easy reservations, everyone wears a mask. The zoo also roped off high touch areas in order to remind visitors to visit touchless. We felt really safe, and enjoyed the private walk-through of the zoo. Did I mention we felt like we had VIP treatment? Oh yeah, it was like that.
We took about three hours to wander through the SF Zoo and visit all the animals. The hippo even came out of the water for us! He started by playing with a giant ball. Then, he splashed and swam around. After he was done swimming, he climbed out of the pool and ate some grass. It was amazing! I have been visiting the San Francisco Zoo since I was a small child, and this was the first time I saw the hippo so active. I guess he was happy to see guests returning to the Zoo to visit him!
Then we saw this guy taking a morning nap on an old keg. I guess he partied a little too hard the night before. LOL
I dressed comfortably for the occasion; knowing I would be doing a lot of walking. I cannot even tell you how amazing it felt to put on an outfit and go somewhere. Let alone wear jeans! Who knew jeans could feel so good?
The zebra and I had the same color palette in mind that day.
It was a really fun day at the zoo! If you are local, and are looking for something safe to do, this is your activity! Visit SFZoo.org and book your reservations! If you aren’t local, be sure to visit our zoo when you visit us. It’s a relaxing day outside, and the animals will be excited to have visitors again!
There are very few things in San Francisco us locals can never do on a summer Saturday: casually walk around the Golden Gate Bridge, explore underneath the bridge, park in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, walk around without crowds, and park in front of the Painted Ladies and snap photos.
These are popular tourist activities, and locals normally visit them during the off season-or really early in the morning before the tourists wake up. While I am not celebrating the current lock-down, it does cut down on traffic, and allow for some stress-free activities we normally would not think of doing on a summer Saturday when there isn’t any fog.
We arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot-the one right in front with only twenty-five spaces-at 9:30am on Saturday morning. The fog had already burned off, and it was a perfect day for sight-seeing. I had to pinch myself when I got a parking spot inside the main lot-which is always full on summer days.
Excited about our parking spot score, we paid the fee and started our walk across the bridge. But don’t get too excited: just because we scored a fabulous parking spot, didn’t mean everything was going to be smooth sailing. One minute of walking on the bridge, and the police stopped us. There was “police activity” on the bridge, and the walkway was blocked off. They wouldn’t tell us what happened, but when we saw five squad cars, and a fire truck, we knew something bad was up; so we changed course, and took a walk underneath the bridge instead. This was a really good hike since it is very steep going under there!
We walked to Fort Point underneath the bridge, and snapped photos; just like tourists would do, next to the water. It was really fun! The last time I was there, was for a field trip when I was in grade school, so it was nice to bring the kids to a place which is normally crowded and eagerly avoided by locals.
The Palace of Fine Arts is leftover from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. When I was growing up, it was the Exploratorium. They moved the Exploratorium to the piers, and now I think of the Palace of Fine Arts as a tourist attraction. I haven’t been there since the it was the Exploratorium! It was weird walking around and looking at it, instead of walking past it to grab a good place in line to get into the Exploratorium. I don’t think I really ever took the time to enjoy how beautiful the structure is!
Another summer miracle, was grabbing a parking spot right in front, on a late Saturday morning, during the summer, on a non-foggy day. I really needed to pinch myself! It was fun showing the kids around the Palace of Fine Arts, and my oldest daughter really loved all the ducks!
After wandering around the Palace of Fine Arts, my husband suggested we go take pictures in front of the Painted Ladies. I protested. “No way!” I said to him. “It will be full of tourists, we won’t be able to park, and we will get stuck in summer tourist traffic.” He laughed when I said that, and assured me the city was free of tourists right now. Resigned, I got in the car and drove our family to the Painted Ladies.
I ate my words when we found a parking spot right in front. No joke, I parked in front of the apartment building next to the Painted Ladies, without waiting or circling for a spot, on a sunny Saturday in July. Now I realized I must be in the Twilight Zone.
My husband was really excited, and directed us across the street to the park so we could take the perfect, touristy family photos. An iPhone photo-shoot happened. It was very surreal. I have never been able to park and actually look at the Painted Ladies. I would normally avoid the entire area, and if I got stuck near them, and I do say stuck, very colorful words would flow out of my mouth as it would normally take me ten minutes to navigate out of the tourist-traffic-heavy area. Since my husband also grew up in the Bay Area, he understood the novelty of the situation; hence his excitement.
My “playing tourist,” and very comfortable, outfit details:
So there you have it! We were actually able to play tourist in San Francisco without hitting any traffic, crowds, or parking issues. I am still pinching myself to make sure it was all real.
If you are local, definitely plan a staycation day in the city! It’s the perfect time! If you are not local, these are three beautiful spots to check out when you visit our beautiful city. If you visit during peak tourist season, just take an Uber everywhere. It will eliminate any stress from trying to park. Take lots of photos, and enjoy!
It’s ski week! My husband has a big conference this week at work, so he wasn’t able to take time off for a family vacation. Instead, we are having a staycation! When I was a kid, my mom always took me into the city to explore, shop, and get out of Marin. She grew up in San Francisco, so she has always preferred it to the suburbs. My husband grew up in the Bay Area too, so he also has many memories of heading into the city with his family. Ours kids always have such busy schedules, so it is a rare occasion that we can throw everyone in the car and drive an hour north into San Francisco; but we did it!
My mom always took me to Chinatown as a kid. We loved getting dim sum, shopping in the stores, and walking up and down the streets. She always knew which jewelry stores had good deals, and which ones to stay away from. I have such fond memories of spending time here with my mom growing up. I am so happy we can pass those memories along to our children!
There are so many fun things to do in Chinatown San Francisco with kids. Of course, to fully enjoy everything Chinatown has to offer, it is best to time your trip correctly; or you could end up in a giant mob of tourists. I’m going to give you some tips so you can enjoy San Francisco’s Chinatown just like a native San Franciscan.
How to enjoy Chinatown like a local
When you visit San Francisco, the best time to go is when other people are not going. Ski week in February is a great time because all the locals are in Tahoe, and the tourists don’t think to visit. The hotels are less expensive, and everything is a lot less crowded. As long as you don’t mind 50 degree weather, February is a fabulous time to visit San Francisco. October, November, January, and March are great times too.
If you cannot visit during the off-season, always hit the tourist spots on a weekday. All the locals from the suburbs come in on the weekends, in addition to the tourists, making Saturday and Sunday almost unbearable during the busy season. I want you to enjoy our beautiful city!
Arrive early: The early bird catches the worn for a reason! My mom taught me from an early age to always get into the city before the stores open. Once 10am hits, the whole world appears on city streets. If you can get into the city before 10am, you will park easily, and maneuver around a lot easier; especially if you would like to check out the city’s street art.
Chinatown street art
The street art in Chinatown is always evolving. This dragon wall mural is absolutely stunning, but it sits one block above where a staircase used to be painted with really cool quotes. You can see it in this 2017 post. My kids always love those stairs, so it was one of our first stops when we arrived in Chinatown. Alas, they were painted over with grey paint. Thankfully we looked up and saw this beautiful dragon mural! Fingers crossed it doesn’t get hit with graffiti!
In addition to the dragon mural on Grant Ave., there are many other murals on side streets off Grant. If you like to snap photos for the ‘Gram, this will be your heaven. In the photo at the bottom of this page, you can see part of another mural on the corner of Grant and Sacramento.
You will also find carvings, statues, and other forms of art throughout Chinatown. Many of it will be reflective of the Chinese culture, while other works are local American/San Franciscan art. In addition to art, there are always red lanterns strung across the street. They are so pretty!
Of course, you can’t spend your entire day looking at street art. One of the must-do’s in Chinatown is to eat dim sum! My absolute, hands-down favorite dim sum restaurant is Peninsula Seafood. They are located one block off Grant on Jackson. Go early like a local! If you arrive before 11am you have more of a chance of grabbing a table without waiting too long. On a busy summer day, expect to wait an hour for a table. If you arrive when there is a wait, it is worth it! The food is delicious. They have the best Har Gow, and Shu Mai-be sure to eat them!
You cannot visit Chinatown, or San Francisco in general, without checking out the Cable Car Museum. It is located at 1201 Mason street. Again, go early when they open around 10am. It is a tourist attraction and can get super busy. It’s a short visit, but the kids will love it; and you will too!
Do you like fortune cookies? The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is a must-see when you visit Chinatown San Francisco. You can see how fortune cookies are made, and you can eat them too! Yum! It’s very touristy, and as locals, we only go once in our lifetime on our own-we also go when someone is visiting from out of town. That being said, you have to go at least once in your lifetime; and the kids will love it! After all, kids love fortune cookies-and us adults do too. haha. It’s located at 56 Ross Alley.
Lastly, you cannot go into Chinatown without shopping! Look for cheap jade (which is usually dyed but who cares), inexpensive jewelry, cheap fans, and decor. It’s a fun place to find Chinese decor, jewelry, and clothing, which is inexpensive. If a store seems expensive, skip it. You can buy expensive jewelry and clothing elsewhere; the stores in Chinatown are for tourists. Look for bargains and things priced under $20. The kids will love getting a souvenir-and you might too!
Have a blast when you visit Chinatown in San Francisco! Let me know if you have any other questions.