A few years ago, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly across the country for a quick weekend away. But now that I’ve got a toddler on my hands, I’m trying to explore all that California has to offer. LA to SF is only about six hours by car, but flights were cheap ($69) so we opted to fly and maximize our time.
I also lived in the Bay Area for about five years when I was in college, so I didn’t need to prepare much of an itinerary, beyond making things suitable for a little guy. So, here’s what we did and how we did it:
Visit the public parks
Jimmy loves playing at the parks at home and he loves playing at new parks even more. Whenever we travel to a new city, I try to get Jimmy some solid park time so he can exercise his legs. San Fransisco and the East Bay are both great for that. Golden Gate Park is great for the whole family if you feel like exploring a bit or check out one of the neighborhood parks if you’re looking for swings and sand boxes.
Find a loud brunch spot
The Bay has plenty of brunch options, so we met some friends (including some baby and toddler friends) for brunch at Pican – Oakland. We always bring an iPad (or use a phone) to give him a movie to hopefully prevent the yelling and screaming, but if that doesn’t work, it’s a large, open restaurant, so no big deal if he gets a little crazy at the table. After that, we met up with some other friends for a few beers (and more food) at Plank. Plank is great because they have an arcade, a bowling alley, an outdoor patio, bocce ball, a beer garden, and an outdoor jungle gym. You cannot run out of things to do here, so needless to say: fun was had.
Take a cab
I love the BART (the Bay Areas public rail service). It’s efficient, clean(ish), and will get you wherever you need to go. But it is way too loud for kids. I did get some sweet pictures when we tried it out, but that was the last time. We took cabs after that. For cabs, we bring an Immi Go with us, which is a very portable car seat for kids over two. This comes in handy for cities where you don’t want to spend a bunch of time or money on parking.
Stay somewhere central
San Fransisco is a very small city and you can do a ton on foot, so it’s important to stay somewhere you can access a lot from. We stayed at The Ritz-Carlton San Fransisco and loved it, despite it being on top of a pretty steep hill. We spent an afternoon walking around and hit Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square, and North Beach all without breaking a sweat. They were extremely kid-friendly too (the room service waiter even brought him extra fruit and juice) and I especially loved the lounge for afternoon snacks.
Don’t worry too much about the tourist stops
The Bay Area has a ton to do. Plus, it’s an hour away from Napa and Sonoma. You could spend two days or two weeks there and you still won’t see everything. So figure out what things are your must-dos (e.g., Golden Gate Bridge) and plan around those, but don’t go overboard. The culture is truly wonderful and unique so it’s worth spending time doing some unplanned exploring. Even just lingering at brunch to take it all in with your little ones makes for a great experience.