Our Kid-Friendly, Playground-Filled Trip to San Francisco! [Part 1]

IMG_1563 Last week my family and I did something I have been wanting to do since we moved to California — we went to San Francisco! For a week! It was a dream come true for me to spend so much time in that city and really soak it up, so thank you, dear Elliott, for taking the time off and making it happen.

We haven’t been to San Francisco since our honeymoon (almost six years ago) — and we were only there for half a day on our way between Tahoe and the Pacific Coast Highway. I was thrilled to spend more time eating, walking, and playing our way through the beautiful city.

When we lived in Sicily, we traveled a lot, but it could be stressful, tearful, and limited thanks to having two babies. By contrast, this trip was… amazing. The kids were talkative, curious, full of questions, still happy to ride in the stroller, just old enough to cheerfully skip their naps, and went to bed without complaint around 7:30/8 every night. We had so much fun with them, even on the eight-hour car ride up there and back. Little troopers.

IMG_1570 We arrived in San Francisco on Thursday afternoon (October 1), and we were able to find our way easily to our AirBnB rental apartment in the Mission district. We weren’t sure what we would find, but we loved it! It was huge, and the Japanese artist who owned it charged us less than we would have paid for a hotel room. The kids loved this “tiger pillow” and “polar bear blanket.”

Elliott is very sad that in both these pictures he is on his computer — but in his defense he was researching where we should explore first in our neighborhood… and he came up with this:

IMG_1578 He lead us around the corner and up a street into the beautiful Bernal Heights neighborhood, which felt like D.C.’s Capitol Hill in some ways (beautiful, eclectic rowhouses and lots and lots of young parents and kids) except it was built on a steeeeeep slant, just like the rest of San Francisco. We played at a beautiful neighborhood park for a while and then started walking up and up and up and up…

IMG_1590 … high above the city streets and into Bernal Heights Park, which has a breathtaking view of the city at sunset.

IMG_1586 We had to adjust to the constant breeze and chilly air in San Francisco. I can’t believe that locals call September and October “San Francisco summer” and that it’s usually colder and foggier than this. Brrr!

IMG_1594 On the top of the world! Right at the highest point of the park, overlooking the whole city, we found the most amazing swing we’d ever seen:

IMG_1612 Later, famished, we walked back into Bernal Heights and found a little noodle shop on the main road. Doesn’t this bowl of ramen look like the perfect dinner on a blustery, chilly night? It was!

IMG_1616 We walked the final mile back home, tired and satiated, and then walked into our apartment building to find that Gil had fallen asleep in the stroller! He was sick at the time (and unfortunately had croup for the first three nights of our trip, which was miserable for all of us), which is the only reason he fell asleep in the stroller — he never does that! We all crept around him and whispered, treating him like the baby of the family once again.

FullSizeRender-1 The next morning, I had one goal in my mind: Tartine. I’ve been hearing about this bakery for years, and I was thrilled to find that it was only a mile from our apartment. We packed up and left the loft for an entire day of exploring.

becca-garber-san-francisco-6 Tartine did not disappoint! I waited in line while Elliott and the kids waited outside, and then — miraculously — I snagged a table that was big enough for all of us inside. Lena was so excited to dig into this famous morning bun and delicious Gruyère roll!

IMG_1629 Not pictured: a delicious turkey and cheese melt on top a long, thin slice of real Tartine bread. We savored every bite of that amazing breakfast, and I think I’ll dream about it until I can go back again. I am such a sucker for good bread and deep lattes, so San Francisco and I got along swimmingly.

Also, Gil’s face here is priceless:

IMG_1633 We walked a few more blocks to beautiful Mission Dolores Park, which was calm and peaceful on a weekday. Apparently it is the gathering place for smokers, musicians, and alternative lifestyle-livers on the weekend… which is hard to imagine from these photos!

IMG_1637 We found the second awesome playground of the day there in the park:

IMG_0453 Below: “One for the money… two for the show… three to get ready, and four to goooooo!”

IMG_1638 (1) Also, this is the second of the only two photos that were taken of me the entire week in San Francisco. I guess I was too busy eating my way through the city to pose! (And I am not kidding… “where shall we eat next?” was a constant, happy refrain in my mind.)

IMG_0456 I think this was our fourth playground of the day? We were walking from the Mission district west across San Francisco, and along the way we literally came upon a new playground every half-mile! San Francisco has some of the best playgrounds in an urban space that I have ever seen (except maybe here).

That said, at home in San Diego I walk by playgrounds all the time and say, “No, kids, not right now, we’ll be here tomorrow to meet our friends anyway…” or some other excuse, but in San Francisco Elliott stopped at EVERY. SINGLE. PLAYGROUND. that we passed. Which was 10 playgrounds that first day alone! Dad of the year? Probably.

But he wanted to play on them too! And it made the kids so happy!

And he is — more than occasionally and in all the right places — a total softy.

IMG_0462 IMG_0463 We walked through the famous district of Haight-Ashbury because I wanted to see where the hippie movement started in the ’60s, although everyone said it was pretty grungy. We liked it, though, and some of the architecture and shops were beautiful. We also came across an amazing bookstore where we all wanted to spend about twice as much time as we did!

IMG_0470 But our goal was the California Academy of Sciences, and hopefully before closing time. We kept walking, came to Golden Gate Park, ate a picnic in the grass of one of the meadows, found another playground…

IMG_1651 … with another awesome slide…

IMG_1654 … and then finally dragged ourselves away to the museum. Which was, just as everyone had promised us, completely beautiful!

becca-garber-san-francisco-4 Our favorite part might have been the indoor, climate-controlled rainforest (top left) which also had a deep pool filled with Amazonian fish and animals, and a glass tunnel underneath so you could walk through and let the fish swim over you. We lingered as long as we could, enjoying the beautiful displays of hundreds of animals, plants, and birds.

IMG_1666 We had to get to the Ferry Building, though, because we were meeting my college friend Dan. We hadn’t seen him since our wedding! I failed to get a picture, but we had a great time catching up, enjoying a drink together at Gotts, and exploring the foodie shops of the Ferry Building. Next time we’ll all go flying, Dan!

FullSizeRender-2 That night, my friend Emily’s babysitter came to watch our kids while we went out for a date. We had made a reservation at The Slanted Door, a famous Vietnamese-fusion restaurant in the Ferry Building, but because Gil was still sick, we decided to stay close to our apartment. I found this list of the 30 Hottest Restaurants in San Francisco and discovered the top three were within a few blocks of our apartment. The Mission district is the place to be!

Ultimately we decided on the Old Bus Tavern restaurant, which looked promising and brews its own beer, but in the end we were pretty disappointed with the avant-garde menu. Pictured above: quail eggs. That was the only description, but when they arrived we discovered that they were poached, pickled quail eggs on a bed of salty, spicy fried leeks. Exciting! But ultimately the dishes went too far even for our adventurous palates. Oh well, maybe we’ll get another chance to eat out on a date in San Francisco in another five years!

To be continued in San Francisco – Part 2…

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8 Responses to Our Kid-Friendly, Playground-Filled Trip to San Francisco! [Part 1]

  1. Heidi October 13, 2015 at 4:48 pm #

    That rainbow bookcase in your AirBnB rental is amazing!
    Becca, when you travel with your children how much do you plan the trip ahead of time, and how much is spontaneous? Traveling with kids is such a daunting production for me because I always want to have every minute planned in the hopes that it will keep disasters from happening. But having it too planned out feels constricting. Have you found a good balance?

    • Becca October 13, 2015 at 9:36 pm #

      This is such a good question, Heidi, and I am totally figuring it out as we go along. We lived in Sicily when our kids were your kids’ ages, and traveling was SO hard. Be encouraged that it gets better, and sooner than you might think!

      For this trip — and for most trips — we just plan to walk almost everywhere, and so we bring a stroller and carriers and the supplies to go in them. We also usually have a few highlights that we want to hit, usually based on background knowledge and reading a guidebook over the week or so before our trip. (We usually don’t book hotels and even plane flights until a couple weeks in advance… we are last-minute planners!) After that, we don’t count on much. We roll with the needs of our kids (which until recently meant naptime with *religious* faithfulness or we would all implode), plan as we go, and just try to hit those highlights so neither of us (mostly me) are disappointed.

      All this… and a lot of grace with each other. That part is growing as Elliott and I grow up ourselves, praise God!

  2. Poppy October 13, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    What an amazing trip. Great pics! Such wonderful descriptions of the first leg. I want to go back!

  3. Abi October 14, 2015 at 6:54 am #

    Those slides look AMAZING!! What a fun family trip! :)

  4. Laurel October 17, 2015 at 4:51 pm #

    You sound just like me when I’m traveling…where are we eating next?? ;) We are planning a trip with our two littles (1 & 3) to Seattle in February and I’m already making a list of all the fabulous places we can eat. Definitely hitting up Pike’s Place Market!

    We live only a few hours from SF but I want to do the same as you guys and get a rental so we can explore the city for a few days straight. (The hotel prices are so outrageous!) Aimlessly wandering the city is perfection. And I’m excited to spot more of these parks you’ve mentioned…they just weren’t on my radar when I went to the city as a single gal without kids.

  5. Esther October 29, 2015 at 3:19 pm #

    Love the sweet, adventurous spirit of your family, Becca.


  1. Our Kid-Friendly, Playground-Filled Trip to San Francisco! [Part 2] - Becca Garber - November 18, 2015

    […] pick up where we left off, we were on Day 3 of our five-day trip to San Francisco, and our agenda for Saturday morning was to […]

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