If you thought my sea days were eventful, just wait till you read about my day in port.
And which port is that?
Don’t you worry, I know this city is more than just the set of Full House, but that joke will never get old to me.
Since I don’t have an excursion planned for San Francisco, I actually planned out my day for this port out more than any of the others. While it’s become apparent that it’s impossible to see everything that San Francisco has to offer, I tried my best to hit the highlights and at least have a better idea of what it’s all about than I did before.
Taking the bus to Chinatown
Everything on my itinerary for the day hugged the shore, and therefore had a follow-able path except for one, Chinatown.
And I wasn’t gonna miss Chinatown.
So while enjoying my first views over the bay from the Concerto dining room, I went ahead and bought my day pass (called 1-day passport) in the Muni app. For just $13, this handy little pass lets you use every trolley, cable car, bus, and metro in the city. If you plan on taking even two trolley rides, get this pass because you’ll already be saving money.
Anyways, getting to Chinatown was easy-peasy, I just took the bus from my cruise ship’s pier to the Dragon Gate and set off from there. The Dragon Gate itself is beautiful, and is only an intro to what’s to come in Chinatown.
The gate itself was made possible by the donation of ochre tiles and guardian lion statues from Taiwan, and the gate was designed by 3 Chinese-American architecture students from San Francisco.
The Chinese community in San Francisco has been thriving since the 1800s, and that’s evident by the beautiful architecture and busy markets in this borough. I loved just looking around taking in each building and going down alleyways, all the while trying not to be in the way of anyone on their morning commute.
Here’s a cool placard in Ross alley that taught me about the some of Chinatown’s history:
On a random note: one guy on the bus thought I was a local San Franciscan, and to be honest that made me feel really good about myself.
I am so excited to finally hop on a trolley!
Those guys mean business, so make sure you don’t dilly dally while hopping on. If you don’t get a “primo” seat when you hop on, don’t worry! As people get off, you are able to shuffle forwards until you’re at one of the open air benches, where you’ve got a perfect view of the streets and also of the trolley conductors pulling the levers and ringing the century-old bells to get traffic out of the way.
It’s such a thrill to be basically dangling out in the street, but so much fun to go up and down the steep hills without having to walk it.
The trolley took me all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf- perfect!
Foodles of Fun at Fisherman’s Wharf
This is a fairly touristy part of SF, with lots of kitschy shops and expensive but long-standing seafood restaurants.
But another, lesser know attraction that you’ve really gotta see here is the Musée Méchanique. It’s a collection of old-timey arcade machines saved by a San Franciscan and run today by his son.
These are the craziest things. Most of them are either wooden puppets that move when you put in a quarter, or fortune telling puppets who spit out a card with your fortune.
The guy who runs the museum and repairs the machines asked me to help him with one of the fortune telling games by putting in quarters and telling him whether or not the puppet moved. After try #3, Ms. Fortuna was working again!
I also liked that I got three tries at the fortune, because the first one basically said I am a disappointment, the second one said I get discouraged easily, while the last one said I am “congenial” and born under a lucky star. Third try’s the charm for everyone I guess!
The owner also had a rubber ducky on his shoulder and a pair of roller skates on. Very cool dude.
Some other noteworthy incidents:
- A machine with puppets and a sign posted that read “warning: offensive”… I don’t know what to make of that, but I did see a guy walk up who said, “I’ll probably be offended by this, but oh well!” before putting a quarter in. I didn’t get a chance to see what was offensive about the machine because:
- There is a rare, fully functional self-playing circus organ/band type of thing. What I mean by that is that it plays that classic big-top welcome-to-the-circus tune that you always hear in movies. It was so cool and a perfect vibe for Fisherman’s Wharf.
Historic Ships on Fisherman’s Wharf
There are also some old WWII ships ducked in Fisherman’s Wharf, but like everything else, they cost a bit so I just looked at them from the outside and read the info placards.
It was at these placards that I learned how dangerously defective WW2 era torpedoes were. I can’t believe anyone was brave enough to operate submarines at that time!
National Maritime Park: also expensive
Continuing down the bay and towards the bridge, I next came upon the national maritime park. This is actually a national park and costs like $15 to get into some of the forts and museums. Thankfully, there’s still plenty to see that’s free.
Hyde Pier is a great way to look out into the bay, and I saw some sea lions playing around in the water. Apparently they’ve been biting people, though, so I would not go swimming at the nearby beach if I were you.
Chrissy Field is just a gorgeous place. Not only do you get perfect views of the Golden Gate bridge, you also get to see some of the Bay’s local ecosystem. It’s a huge success story in urban conservation. The beach is lined with scrub and flowers lovingly planted, and the bright yellow California poppies made the sea air smell so flowery.
Palace of Fine Arts
I almost didn’t bother going across the street to the palace of fine arts, but I am so so so so glad that I did!
My jaw actually dropped when taking in the size of this work of art. The pictures I looked online at didn’t do the sheer size justice. It’s massive, rivaling the pantheon in Rome for size and craftsmanship.
It was built to both demonstrate highly skilled craftsmanship and to incorporate California’s natural beauty by letting plants and animals flourish all around it. And indeed, next to a panel of the centaur war, you have turtles swimming, songbirds singing, and herons staring at you motionless like creepy weirdos.
This is yet another place I’d stay all day if I had the time.
Hiking to the Golden Gate Bridge (aka that one place where they filmed Full House)
Surprising myself, I managed to walk all the way to the base of the Golden Gate bridge. With waning energy, I had to choose between Fort Point and the Bridge Trail. Choosing the Bridge Trail, I was treated to what looks like a stairway to heaven. See for yourself:
With countless flowers growing on all sides and sea lions swimming in the bay below, I was awestruck once again by how such a dense city is able to successfully preserve its ecosystem. This was my favorite part of the day, just enjoying the trails and views of the golden gate bridge in the perfect weather.
Once you get to the head of the trail, there’s a little restaurant, park, and a few exhibits about the Golden Gate bridge. Really liked learning how the bridge manages to stay upright despite the wind and pressure it faces, and was inspired to hear about the anti-suicide measures being put into place soon.
By this point, it was 2pm and I was afraid if I got too hungry, it’d ruin my day. (Lame, I know but I am hugely food motivated). So I actually went back to the boat to get some lunch before heading back out to explore some more.
Trolley Times pt 2
Reentering the city feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, I decided to make the most of my Muni day pass and ride the trolley everywhere.
I didn’t really have a plan, I just hopped on a trolley when I saw one. This weird method helped me to see some of San Francisco’s famous hill-slanted Victorian homes. You know, like the ones in Full House. They are so pretty and I know they cost a billion dollars.
Quick little jaunt thru Golden Gate Park
With a little time left, I decided to take a stroll in Golden Gate Park.
Thought it’d be like another set of viewpoints for the bridge, but it was actually a bunch of different things, including a flower conservatory, ferris wheel, and tea garden, just to name a few. A bunch of the park’s attractions cost money, which makes sense but is also a little sad since I am not really spending any money.
Still, it was a gorgeous walk and I would have loved to have a whole day here as well. It sort of reminded me of Central Park in that it’s hopeless to try and see it all in one day. You just have to enjoy all that you can with the time you have if you’ve only got a day like I do.
While I still had some time before I needed to be back on board, I had an intuition that I should start heading back. I always listen to feelings like that, and so I hopped on what I thought would be a cable car to get back.
It was not.
It was the metro.
I didn’t even know SF had a metro, but apparently it’s new and in the works. We love public transport!!
Then I caught an actual cable car back to the dock, and my day in SF was done. Exhausted, I actually used the elevators to getup to the lido deck where I had some appetizers while watching the sun set over the Golden Gate bridge.
Talking with a fellow passenger to lived in San Fran for awhile, I learned that we got very lucky, it was a perfectly sunny day in the usually-foggy San Francisco followed by a gorgeous sunset. What a perfect, full day…. Full house joke incoming? Nope, I gotcha there 🙂
Dinner and sleeping
I had dinner in the Concerto dining room, and after, was so tired I couldn’t even see the solo singer performing in the theater.
I had also wanted to see the ship leave the bay, but my body said a big ol’ no.
And if I don’t want to burn out or break down, I need to listen to my body. So I put the bridge view channel on in my room and am typing, comfy in my princess robe and excited for what lies ahead. We have a sea day tomorrow which sounds amazing, after just one port day I’m ready for more relaxing.
However, my next activity tonight is the fun one- deciding what to do tomorrow! So we’ll see how relaxing it really is haha.
Thank you as always and love you!