A Day in San Francisco with a Teen and a Tween

by Wendy Copley on April 5, 2019

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My kids were born in the San Francisco Bay Area and have lived here all their lives, but there are a number of classic SF sites they’ve never seen. As they get older, they’ve started to notice that there are places and activities that people who live out of the area have visited that they’ve never been to. (Alcatraz — I’m looking at you.) They are on spring break this week, so yesterday we headed across the Bay to San Francisco for a day of sightseeing.

Beard Papa

Our first stop? Breakfast at Beard Papa! OK, I’ll admit that custard-filled cream puffs for breakfast are insanely decadent, but neither of them had ever had these yummies and I wasn’t sure we’d have a chance to stop for one later in the day. Between the three of us, we opted for cookies and cream, chocolate and creme brulee flavors. Yum!

VR Test

Since we were already in the Westfield Center for our meal, the kids decided they wanted to have a look around. My boys (aged 10 and 14) are not incredibly interested in fashion which is the focus of this mall, but they did figure out there was a Microsoft store inside, so we stopped there. They played around making drawings on the tablets and testing out the VR headset.

Lombard Street

We didn’t have a particular plan for the day but as soon as we stepped out of the mall, the kids saw the Powell Street cable car stop and asked if we could ride it. Yes! Great idea. I told them we’d have to wait in line for a looooooong time before we got on but they were undeterred. Honestly, the constant 60-minute wait to board the cars is why we’ve never ridden them before. Their dad and I have both gone on the cable cars many times so it’s no big deal to us, but the boys were excited for the adventure and didn’t mind the wait.

While we were waiting (and waiting and waiting) in line for our ride, I decided to take them to Lombard Street — aka The Crookedest Street in the World. Lombard is directly on the Powell and Hyde cable car line so it was easy for us to hop off. My kids had never heard of it and certainly had never seen a street like it and they were impressed. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s a twisty, turny, snake of a street with 8 hairpin turns in a single block. We walked down to the bottom on one side of the street and back up to the top on the other, using the stairs that are used in place of a sidewalk.

Transamerica Pyramid

The top of the hill treats you to gorgeous views of San Francisco and the Bay beyond. Here you can see the Transamerica Pyramid (my favorite building in the SF skyline).

Coit Tower

And this photo highlights Coit Tower — a building to visit on another day.

Walking to Fisherman's Wharf

Once we were finished on Lombard, we needed a plan for what to do next. We could see Maritime Park at the bottom of the hill to the north, so we decided to head down to Fisherman’s Wharf for some lunch.

Perfect Fit

This window well along the way was a perfect fit for the boys.

Crab Sandwich at Boudin

We considered trying a new restaurant for lunch, but we ended up at the Boudin Bakery because it’s just so dang good. The Wharf tends to offer two kinds of restaurants — expensive seafood places and mediocre chains. Boudin Bakery — the actual birthplace of sourdough bread — is a SF classic with reasonable prices (for Fisherman’s Wharf, that is). I opted for a crab salad sandwich and the kids had a crab melt and a pepperoni pizza with a sourdough crust. SO GOOD!

Sourdough Bear

We couldn’t resist picking up one of the overpriced shaped loaves of sourdough on our way out. This time we opted for a teddy bear over a crab or a turtle.

And I may or may not have heard my kids talking about how they couldn’t wait to “rip off one of his ears and eat it” when we got home. Ha!

Musee Mechanique

Our next stop was the Musee Mechanique, just a few steps from the bakery. This place was packed to the gills with antique arcade games (plus a few newer ones). I traded three $5 bills in for quarters and the kids and I set off to explore. They favored pinball and air hockey, but I loved trying the *really *old machines — Laughing Sal from Playland-at-the-Beach, mechanical dioramas and some other random cool stuff.


As we were about to leave the museum, we spotted Alcatraz out the back door, so I asked my older son to pose for a photo holding it.

Catching the Cable Car Home

Our final activity was taking the cable car home. I asked the kids if they’d rather catch one of the antique street cars that run up and down the Embarcadero, but they wanted another go at the cable cars and didn’t mind the one hour wait to catch one. (I think it helped that I waited in the long line while they sat on a bench playing on their phones…)

This time they decided they wanted to ride on the running board of the trolley — a wise decision. I say you haven’t really ridden a cable car unless you’ve hung onto the side for dear life!

Check out the last few blocks of our journey!

Have you visited San Francisco? What would you recommend as a can’t-miss destination?

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