Trip on a Jet Tank: San Francisco’s a treat!

July 18, 2013
Pictured clockwise from top left: Golden Gate Bridge; Lombard Street, aka, the crooked street; Palace of Fine Arts; Castro Neighborhood, home to Harvey Milk Plaza; Palace of Fine Arts; The Painted Ladies of "Postcard Row"; Boudin Bakery and Museum, inventor of sourdough bread; Chinatown; San Francisco's trolleys.
Photos by Katelyn Gendron
Editor’s Note: The Reminder Newsroom is excited to bring you a new series this summer — Trip on a Jet Tank. Our reporters will feature a variety of locations they’ve visited, which will help you plan future getaways to locations such as San Francisco, Calif. — our third destination in the series — Seattle, Wash., Cape Town, South Africa, and Asia.

By Katelyn Gendron

Do you like martinis? How about popsicles, fortune cookies or sourdough bread? If your answer is yes, then a visit to San Francisco, Calif., the birthplace of these tasty treats should be on your bucket list. It’s not just the food and drink, however, which make San Francisco worthwhile; it’s the historical, cultural and architectural innovations that make this city so fascinating to visit.

There are plenty of tourist attractions in San Francisco, and given its steep, trolley-climbing terrain, comfortable walking shoes are a must! I’m not usually a fan of bus tours because I prefer to play tour guide and self-educate, however, I gave in while in San Francisco because a walking tour of this city causes many, many blisters even in the most ergonomically advanced sneaker.

Big Bus Tours ( offers a 24- or 48-hour ticket, which allows you to jump on and off the double-decker bus at 20 different stops throughout the city. The cost is $34 for adults and $18 for kids for 24 hours or $45 and $22.50, respectively, for a 48-hour pass.

For those who prefer a more structured tour, San Francisco Shuttle Tours ( provide five or nine-hour itineraries with guided tours of more than 12 stops. The cost is $69 for adults and $55 for kids for the five-hour tour or $119 and $99, respectively, for the nine-hour visit.

These tours allow you to see some of the best of what this city has to offer from Golden Gate Bridge to Chinatown to the Palace of Fine Arts to the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square Park to the remarkably crooked Lombard Street.

Walking around the Palace of Fine Arts should definitely be a part of your visit, given its extraordinary size and scale. No matter how tall you are, you’ll feel about as big as a Chihuahua inside this 17-acre structure, which was inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture when first constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exhibition.

Another stop should be the picturesque Painted Ladies, located across the street from Alamo Square. Taking residence in the foreground of the city’s skyline, the Ladies, located at 710–720 Steiner St., are San Francisco’s most famous Victorian- and Edwardian-style homes, known for their color and personality, which have garnered the nickname, “Postcard Row.” For those of you in the real estate market, the last Painted Lady to go up for sale in 2010 had an asking price of $3.9 million!

Nature lovers and museum goers should not miss the walking or Segway tours offered in Golden Gate Park (, which boasts 1,017 acres, which include, but is certainly not limited to, the de Young Fine Arts Museum of Fine Art (, Japanese Tea Garden (, an aquarium, a carousel, California Academy of Sciences (, Conservatory of Flowers ( and the Strybing Arboretum (

Given the size and volume of attractions contained within Golden Gate Park, you could spend your entire vacation here. If you’d rather hit the highlights, I recommend the collections at the de Young Fine Arts Museum — which also offers myriad traveling exhibits — for $11 per adult and $7 for kids, and the stunning tranquility of the Japanese Tea Garden, which costs $7 for adults and $2 for child.

Another must-see in San Francisco is the famed prison, Alcatraz ( This tour, in my opinion, is not for children (or adults) who fear confined spaces – yes, they put you in a cell — or those kids who’re easily frightened. I strongly recommend that you order your tickets — which range in price from $42.25 to $62 — early because they sell out fast, especially during the summer months.

Three lesser-known but equally fun stops on your tour of San Francisco should be Ghirardelli Square (, home of the famed chocolate, Boudin Bakery and Museum (, residence to the inventors of sourdough bread, and Harvey Milk Plaza in the city’s Castro neighborhood.

At Ghirardelli Square you can satisfy your sweet tooth while learning about the rich history of Domingo Ghirardelli, founder of the chocolate company in 1852. Those who’d rather chow down on something less sugary may visit Boudin’s, where you’ll be able to take a tour of the bakery, founded in 1849, watch the masters at work as they shape the sourdough into oddities such as teddy bears and alligators, while also learning just which kind of bread you are. According to the test, I’m a French baguette.

Once you’ve finished gorging on the city’s tasty treats, I highly recommend that you take a drive over to the Castro neighborhood to pay respect to Harvey Milk, the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, who was assassinated in 1978 after just 11 months in office. A mural of Milk, with his slogan, “You gotta give ‘em hope,” has been painted just down the street from the plaza above what was once his camera store and campaign headquarters.

Suffice as to say, there’s much to see in San Francisco and I couldn’t even get to it all. I encourage you to make some, if not all, of my highlights part of your trip, while also expanding on what I couldn’t mention due to space constraints. I hope you have as much fun in the sunny Golden State as I did!

Bon voyage!

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