Before this trip I had been to the city by the bay one other time (March 2016) and hadn’t stopped thinking about it since. The Golden Gate Bridge, the colorful houses, the clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl- that was so good that we had to go back the next day- San Francisco blew me away. So when one of my best friends from college invited me to come visit her over Christmas break, I responded with an emphatic YES!
Cool Places to Go:
If you only remember one thing from this whole blog post, remember to GET THE AUDIO TOUR AT ALCATRAZ! This audio tour is by far the best one I’ve ever heard and it really added to the experience. They have actual prisoners and guards from Alcatraz narrating it! Without the audio tour, I would have missed so much information about the prison.
Part of the tour takes you outside, where there are spectacular views of the city! It’s crazy how close the prison was to San Francisco, yet at the same time, so far away.
The Alcatraz tour was one of my favorite things I did on this trip! I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting San Francisco, especially wheelchair users!
When we got to the pickup for the ferry, the staff took us to a separate waiting area and then let us board first. There was a ramp onto the boat so it was really easy to board. Once we got to the island, there is an accessible cart that takes you up to the top of the island where the tour of the prison starts. The cart driver strapped my chair down and a friend rode with me in the back, while my other friend rode in the middle. The cart was much better that trying to push myself up the island- it’s a 130 ft elevation change- that’s the equivalent of a 13 story building! It was so convenient!
Here is a link to more information about the cart: https://www.alcatrazcruises.com/accessibility/seat-transportation/
I was surprised to see that 100% of the tour was accessible! When you walk in the prison, you go through the shower area and get your audio guides, and there is an elevator that takes you up to the main level of the prison. Once you get off the elevator, you are set! Everything is accessible!
After Alcatraz, we went over to Pier 39. It has lots of restaurants, shops, and seals! The seals are always fun to look at! I discovered a really cute shop called Mulberry & Grand that I hadn’t seen before.
My favorite part about Pier 39 is that there is a Boudin’s there. I. LOVE. Boudin’s. See the food section of this post for more about what I love at Boudin’s!
I didn’t run into any issues here. There were ramps that got me where I needed to go and all the shops I went into were accessible.
The Painted Ladies
The Painted Ladies are such an iconic part of San Francisco and has always been one of my favorite parts of the city! It is definitely a place on my must-see list every time I visit SF. It’s also one of my favorite place to take photos for Instagram!
To get to the Painted Ladies, we parked nearby on a hill. With the help of my Batec, I was able to go up the hill and through the grass to where everyone sits and takes pictures!
Japanese Tea Garden/Golden Gate Park
The Japanese Tea Garden is located in Golden Gate Park. I had heard about it the first time I visited SF but this was my first time experiencing it for myself! I had a great experience at the Tea Garden. It’s kind of hidden in the park, and makes you feel like you’re in a totally different part of the world. This was also a fun place to take photos for Instagram!
One of my favorite parts of my experience at the Japanese Tea Garden is that it is FREE for wheelchair users to explore! Depending on the day, time you visit, your age, and whether or not you’re a local, admission prices vary for able-bodied people. That information can be found here: https://www.japaneseteagardensf.com/vist
I also enjoyed the area next to the Tea Garden in between the de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences. There’s a big fountain in an outdoor area that was nice to explore and spend a few minutes before leaving the park.
The Japanese Tea Garden was a little challenging, but don’t let that scare you away! There were some parts where my Batec wasn’t quite enough to help me navigate inclines, but I had a friend who was able to give me a boost for the few places I needed it!
After driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, my friend pulled into the parking lot at Vista Point and I was amazed! I would definitely recommend going to Vista Point for awesome views of the bridge. We went as day turned into night so the headlights of the cars lit up the bridge- it was pretty awesome.
No problems- Vista Point is a lookout and there is a parking lot right next to it!
Road Trip along the Pacific Coast Highway
One of the days of my trip was dedicated to taking a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway (aka the 1). I have gone on this magical road once before from LA to San Francisco, so it was fun to go the opposite way this time! It took us about two hours to get from San Francisco to Santa Cruz. The drive was so calm and peaceful-we listened to a lot of music which helped set the tone, such as Fleet Foxes’ album “Crack-Up”, which my friend from LA and California/music expert describes as “literally made for this specific drive” and I can’t say I disagree.
It was such a nice relaxing way to see a beautiful part of the area. We didn’t stay in Santa Cruz long, as we had to get back up to San Francisco for dinner. On our way up, we drove an inner route rather than going back up the coast to save time. The drive up through the forest was misty and very pretty as well!
If you have access to a car, you’re all set!
My order at Boudin’s is clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. This bakery and restaurant is a must every time I go to the Bay Area. I could eat an endless supply of it. My mouth is watering right now even thinking about it. It is the best!! To be honest, I’ve never had anything besides this at Boudin’s, but I’m sure the other things on their menu are delicious!
Pinkberry is not unique to San Francisco, but ever since all of the Pinkberrys in Tennessee were closed (it’s been over 5 years and I’m still upset about it), I run to a Pinkberry every chance I get. (I recently discovered that DFW has not one but TWO Pinkberry’s in the same terminal, and it has become my new favorite layover spot). My go to order is the largest size I can get of the original flavor with mango on top.
True Food Kitchen
True Food Kitchen is another restaurant not unique to San Francisco, but I visited it for the first time while on this trip so I gotta talk about it! It has quickly become one of my favorite places to go for a special occasion. I really like their pizzas (both their margherita & chicken sausage), charred cauliflower, hummus, drinks (big fan of the Hangover Rx and the antioxidant tea). The last time I went I had their salmon with the pesto sauce and it was DIVINE (and Whole30 compliant!). Their sweet potato hash is also really good! It is expensive, but I leave so satisfied and happy every time. They have locations across the country!
I’m not a huge coffee drinker, but my two best friends/travel companions are, so we made a habit of getting coffee (mostly at Philz) every morning. Philz was my favorite place, my go to order was the (decaf) mint mojito iced coffee. So creamy and minty!!
A classic spot for anyone visiting San Francisco- I’m a huge fan of their brownies, raspberry sorbet, and of course, their chocolate bars! I love the dark chocolate raspberry and the milk chocolate caramel ones.
Also, did you know there are 2 r’s in Ghirardelli? My friends and I certainly didn’t. Have we been saying Ghirardelli (gear-a-deli) wrong all my life?
Favorite Instagram spots! (follow me @rosieroaming):
- Japanese Tea Garden
- Painted Ladies
- Golden Gate Bridge
- Vista Point
- Marin Headlands
- Driving along the bridge
All accessible and all cute!
Wheelchair Tips & Tricks/Reminders:
- The Japanese Tea Garden is FREE for people with disabilities
- Get the Audio Tour at Alcatraz!
- San Francisco is HILLY! Here’s a couple ways I adapted to that:
- Drive instead of rolling in the hilly areas if you can (ex: Lombard street)
- My Batec! It works phenomenally when going down steep hills because it has excellent brakes. It’s much easier to control the brakes on the Batec than holding my wheels and trying to go slow
- Have a friend help!