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San Francisco: Alcatraz/Pier 39 Walking Tour

Author: HotelCharlotte
Date of Trip: June 2006

My very favorite thing to do in all the years of taking family and friends to the many different activities was visiting Alcatraz. Be sure to make reservations as this fills up early and you are unlikely to get same day tickets.

This trip starts at the Pier 39 area so arrive early, take a walk around, get some cheap t-shirts and funky knick-knacks and try the clam chowder in a sour dough bowl or any of the other tasty treats from the fish market one pier north. The Alcatraz trip can also double as your “get on a boat on the bay” trip filling two great regional activities.

When you get to Alcatraz, be certain to rent headsets in your native language and take the self paced tour. This island in the middle of the bay is absolutely rich with interesting history, politics and intrigue, not to mention the setting for several popular movies: Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape from Alcatraz and more recently, The Rock.

Alighting from the Alcatraz tour boat, head over to the non-commercial water side (north) of Pier 39 and you will see the harem of seals that have taken over the docks. Though a few bay touring boats still use this high rent “marina” to depart from, the majority of tenants are the very entertaining and charming seals.

Backtrack your walk past the Fish Market and little fishing boats bobbing about as they await their next departure. Pass the popular blues bar where you are likely to hear live music at 9 in the morning. The right side of the street has a great art gallery with something new and always original every time we enter.

The road you are on will, in a block, dead end at Hyde Street Pier. Take a right and tour this great living boat museum! Time it right and you may arrive on docent day where the volunteers are not only dressed in period costume, but are required to only answer questions in the historical setting from which their ship was built. Ask about the great fire of 1906, and they will not know what you are asking about or will refer to some long forgotten lesser blaze. This is very much a hands on activity. My mom was sewing sail canvas and dad got to help carve a huge canoe. The hosts are knowledgeable providing a fun stop for kids, families and those with oodles of curiosity.

San Francisco is always pictured with colorful old Victorian homes, a beautiful sky-scape and trolley cars. From Hyde Street Pier it is just a short, uphill walk to the trolley turnaround station. Watch a few turns, then hop on for your own ride up the hill. While you can stay on until Union Square, we like to get off at the top, Lombard Street (Crooked Street) and walk down enjoying the flowers and beautiful homes on this one-of-a-kind cobble stoned street. At the bottom of the hill, turn left and loop back to the Pier 39 area. This is a very full day!

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