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Mom & Daughter Explore San Francisco

Leaving your heart here – and finding it again is always fun!

By Holly Rosen Fink, GoGirlfriend contributor

San Francisco is a city I’ve ventured to many times in my life, probably around a dozen, having had close friends and family out there to visit throughout my adulthood. Each time I go, I experience a new feeling.

A city of nostalgia

classic San FranciscoI have experienced San Francisco’s culture when I witnessed Lily Tomlin live on stage, Sinead O’Conner in concert and Kiss of the Spiderwoman before it hit Broadway. I’ve explored its culinary diversity and heritage in Napa. I’ve climbed the hilly streets, rode cable cars and wandered into its many nooks and crannies – from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Presidio to Union Square to Haight Asbbury to Golden Gate Park. I’ve explored the murals and art galleries in the Mission and strolled the impossible curviness of Lombard Street. I always felt enraptured by the lure of the Golden Gate Bridge and the amazing views captured from various points in the city. 

Just my daughter and me

During a recent visit, I took my 10 year-old daughter away for four days on our own, two of which were spent primarily with friends in the Bay area, so the time we had in the city was narrow and precious. I was thrilled to be taking her to a place she had not been since she was very young and had little memory of. As I planned our journey, I thought about what she would enjoy and took care not to over plan. I was eager for her to meet my friends and experience the beauty of San Francisco.

A kid’s suite – no kidding!

Kids Suite at Hotel Union SquareAs we arrived quite late at night and made our way to our Hotel Union Square, I felt jittery with excitement because I knew what was awaiting her inside. Upon first sight, the hotel doesn’t appear to be anything special as it’s sandwiched between commercial shops in a busy part of town, but it ended up being the perfect place to spend our first night. It’s a historic hotel, built in 1913 for the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition. You can’t beat the location and the art deco interior came as a nice surprise.

Then we entered our suite, the Kid’s Suite. Imagine being 10 and being greeted by a computer, Wii, toys, books and more – a kid-friendly-sanctuary from the hustle bustle of jet-lagged touring. While spending much of our first morning surrounded by toys wasn’t fully in my plans, watching her enjoy herself was a great way to start the trip. When she tired of the toys, we headed out into the city for her first cable car ride down to Fisherman’s Wharf. 

Learn more about the hotel. Visit them online at Hotel Union Square or connect with them on Facebook or Twitter. Read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.

Sight-Seeing with the CityPASS

Knowing that we only had a few days, we decided to go with the San Francisco CityPASS ticket booklet. It’s valid for 9 days, starting with the first day of use (retail price is $84 for adults and value is $148.90).

The CityPASS includes:

It was a great choice for us, given our limited time, as we hopped on and off Cable Cars and Muni buses during our visit. I let my daughter choose our destinations during this trip, given all the times I had been to San Francisco and the fact that it was her first time (the other times she was too young to remember anything).

Catch up with CityPass on Facebook and Twitter.

The Aquarium of the Bay

San Francisco's Aquarium of the BayAt Aquarium of the Bay we got up close and personal with more than 20,000 local marine animals. Though I’m not a fan of aquariums, I enjoyed this one. It may be small but it was good to hold my daughter’s attention span for the whole time (including my own) and its series of connecting undersea tunnels, explored on foot or via moving sidewalk, made for a unique experience. It also offers petting pools and offered an interesting sea otter exhibit. Located in Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s easy to get to, easy to park and its reasonable priced. Children ages 3 and under get in free. It’s $10 for children ages 3-11 and for seniors 65+, and $16.95 for kids 12+ and adults. A special family rate of $46 covers 2 children and 2 Adults. Purchasing tickets online in advance is encouraged.

Learn more about the aquarium at AquariumoftheBay.org or catch up with them Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The Exploratorium

experiments at the ExploratoriumFurther down the pier is the Exploratorium, which is literally a science playground for kids. This hands-on science museum was founded by physicist, educator and blacklist victim Frank Oppenheimer (1912-1985), the brother of the Manhattan Project’s J. Robert Oppenheimer. I visited 5 years ago when it was located in the Presidio and it was amazing then. But after a $300 million investment, it’s utterly wonderful. Located at the Embarcadero at Pier 15, it’s full of experiments for the curious. The exhibits are interactive, magical and educational and instructional. My daughter was mesmerized for hours. Because it’s so big now, we only had time to visit a quarter of the museum. Admission is $25 for adults, with reduced rates for Bay Area residents, youth, seniors, students, teachers and the disabled. Advance ticket purchase is strongly recommended; in order to minimize lines and avoid overcrowding. Clearly, the CityPASS cuts down on costs.

Learn more about the Exploratorium online at Exploratorium.edu or catch up with them on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

A whimsical hotel near Chinatown

For our second night, we stayed at the Hotel Triton right outside the front gate to Chinatown and just blocks from North Beach. I immediately felt at home with the young, international staff (because I’m so young, of course). The rooms are whimsical, with writing on the walls by Jerry Garcia, Wyland and Santana. The rooms’ color palette is bright and fresh with funky furniture in the typical Kimpton style. The hotel offers free wifi, docking stations and a comprehensive gym. There are also nice touches like wine from 5-6pm, a French cafe right next door, a fireplace in the lobby and comfortable chairs to hang out on. While the rooms aren’t tremendous in size, they’re comfortable and the hotel offers great rates that make it quite affordable given the location.

Learn more about the hotel online at HotelTriton.com or catch up with them on Facebook or Twitter. Read what other travelers have to say about them on TripAdvisor.

Traveling just gets better as my children get older

San Fran's historic Ferry BuildingOther highlights of our trip included a trip to the Ferry Building (a culinary adventure in its own rite), a visit to Musee Mecanique, one of the world’s largest collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in working condition, a hop on-hop off bus tour of the downtown area, a walk around Chinatown and North Beach, Mexican food in the Mission District, a ride around town from the Golden Gate Bridge to Golden Gate Park, dinner in the Castro, a trip to Ghiradelli, to name a few.

Traveling with one child certainly made the adventure more doable in many ways but we also missed the other half of our family and look forward to taking them back to show them our San Francisco…and to see more. At age 10, my daughter took in the surroundings and enjoyed the beauty of the city in ways she never has before. When the tour guide talked, she listened, and was able to recount facts back to family and friends afterwards. The experiences she and I had on our own were priceless and will remain etched in our minds for days to come.

Disclosure: Holly was provided with complimentary lodging by the two hotels mentioned and the City Pass was provided to her to facilitate this review and others. As always, all her opinions are her own and no one asked her for a specific point-of-view.

What do you love best about San Francisco? Connect with us on Twitter and Facebook - and let's continue the conversation!

About Holly Rosen Fink

Holly Rosen Fink ~ @TheCultureMomHolly Rosen Fink is a Marketing, Communications, Public Relations, Branding and Social Media expert with over 15 years’ experience increasing brand awareness and sales at leading publishing houses and media companies. She is the founder of TheCultureMom.com and is a current contributor to This Girl Travels, Ciao Bambino, Family Vacation Critic, The Broad Side and Women & Hollywood.

Last year she edited Come Closer: How Tourism is Shaping the Future of Nations and associate produced the off-off-Broadway hit The Best of Everything and the NYC production of Listen to Your Mother.

Catch up with Holly online:

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I love traveling with my 10 year old daughter too, we have such great times together. I'm looking forward to the Exploratorium and showing her all the other things I love about San Francisco.

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