California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

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psteinx
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California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by psteinx »

Thinking about a summer vacation, circa late July, early August of this year.

Five of us - 2 adults, 3 kids ages 12-17. Kids are bright and like various experiences, but not TOO interested in museums and the like. OTOH, we're not really looking to do the theme park thing, either. Disneyland is not on the must see list.

My wife and I, together or on our own, have seen most of the stuff we're contemplating, and done the coastal drive. The older kids did San Diego once or twice long ago and can probably barely remember it.

Our original thought had been to start in LA, drive to San Francisco along State Route 1 (PCH), stopping at Hearst Castle and perhaps Monterey. Roughly 2 days in LA, 1-2 for the drive, 2-3 in/around S.F.

But it seems that SR 1 has major issues (blockages) just a bit north of where Hearst Castle is (San Simeon). I *think*, looking at various stuff on the web, that it will not be reopened in time for our trip, and so if we followed our original plan, we'd have to do Hearst, double back a little, then cut inland and pick up whatever the main inland route north is. Could cut back over to Monterrey further north, but now it would be a bit more of a detour than it otherwise would be.

So, I'm rethinking a little. Looking for thoughts and advice:

1) Am I correct that it's not likely to be able to take SR 1 north much past San Simeon in the early part of August (2017)?

2) I remember SR 1 being very scenic, and we'd still get SOME of SR 1 on the way to San Simeon, but would we get the pretty/best part(s)?

3) Are there little stopoffs along the way where you can have lunch or dinner then get down to a beach?

4) If we do LA, and we're not interested in theme parks, what would be the key sites for a short visit? I'd like to do the La Brea tar pits - I haven't done those. We enjoyed seeing a movie in the elaborate movie theater (Mann's? Grauman's? can't quite remember), and that would be on our possible to do list. I thought Malibu was interesting, but my wife is less excited about that. I don't think our kids really want to see art museums there.

5) Does one typically need reservations for the Hearst Castle tours? Their website offered reservations, but I don't know if it's really necessary.

6) Monterey Bay Aquarium might be neat. Is the town/area around there worth spending much time in? Or Carmel, or any of the other little towns around there?

7) San Francisco - I feel pretty confident that there's enough here to keep us amused for multiple days - probably too much if we only spend 2-3 days there, but if we turn this into just a Northern California trip, well, who knows...

If we DID just do Northern California, one option would be to not rent a vehicle, and just rely on BART, cable cars, Uber, and the like. A potential problem, though, is that there is widespread enthusiasm to see the Redwood forests north of San Francisco. I haven't looked closely recently, but when I did look, it seemed it would be very difficult to do without a vehicle. We could rent a vehicle for a day, or perhaps try to use Uber or the like. Taxis and/or Uber may be an issue though, as we're a family of 5, and generally it's hard to get more than 4 passengers, plus the driver, into something like that. I'd also consider an arranged black car or the like as well. I think our kids might enjoy the ferry to Marin, but then we'd have to get from the ferry terminal to the forests - not sure how hard that would be to arrange...

Or we could rent a car/minivan for perhaps 2 days - one for the Redwoods to the north, one to go down to Monterey or thereabouts.
Last edited by psteinx on Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:29 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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sunny_socal
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by sunny_socal »

There's enough to do up in the SF area, I'd stay up there.

And don't hold your breath for the coast highway to get fixed. This is California, money raised for fixing roads tends to be spent inefficiently :wink:

It's a pretty big landslide:
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WildBill
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by WildBill »

Howdy

You can spend almost any amount of time in the Bay Area

Here are some things I have particularly enjoyed:

Visit Stanford campus and hike Stanford Dish hill

Lots of other hill walking and redwood areas in Bay Area - there are apps you can use to find them and pick the ones you like

Eat in SF Chinatown, and good Chinese food everywhere in Santa Clara and Cupertino

Big Basin State Park near Santa Cruz -superb Redwood forest - you could spend days here

Amusement park in Santa Cruz

Hire bikes in San Francisco at any of a number of places and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County, ride around Marin County and have lunch, ferry back

Further north Is Redwoods National Park - about 4 hours north of SF. Nice drive to get there and lots of nice places to visit driving up the coast. Eureka is a good place to spend the night.

I like the museums in SF -that may not be your family's thing, but the Museum of Asian Art and Exploratorium are standouts.

Lots more

Have fun

W B
"Through chances various, through all vicissitudes, we make our way." Virgil, The Aeneid
Topic Author
psteinx
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by psteinx »

WildBill wrote:Hire bikes in San Francisco at any of a number of places and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County, ride around Marin County and have lunch, ferry back
Are there dedicated bike lanes (or pedestrian/bike shared lanes) across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin?

Can you do the bikes on one way rentals, so you can drop them somewhere in Marin?
WildBill
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by WildBill »

psteinx wrote:
WildBill wrote:Hire bikes in San Francisco at any of a number of places and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County, ride around Marin County and have lunch, ferry back
Are there dedicated bike lanes (or pedestrian/bike shared lanes) across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin?

Can you do the bikes on one way rentals, so you can drop them somewhere in Marin?
Howdy

There are dedicated lanes on the bridge and lots of people on bikes going that way. There are a number of companies leasing bikes around Fisherman's Wharf and nearby - one I remember is called Blazing Saddles - and you lease the bikes by the hour or day.

We went across the bridge, rode around the Marin County coast and had lunch and took the ferry back with the bikes and dropped them at the SF ferry terminal. I'm sure you can make pretty much any kind of arrangement you want, but it is easy to come back with the bikes. To get back you either take the ferry or come back across the bridge anyway, and the ferry ride is great fun.

Have fun.

Ubers and Bart work well in SF. Don't count on cable cars, as the lines are extremely long.

Several days spent in Big Basin and looking around Palo Alto and Mountain View south of SF and hill walking in the area will be fun. You will need a car to do this. Caltrain does run to both places, but if you are going out of town Uber's will be a bit inconvenient.

If you get to Mountain View please go to the Museum of Computer Science. It is great. Check open times as I remember they were slightly unusual.

Have fun

W B
"Through chances various, through all vicissitudes, we make our way." Virgil, The Aeneid
btenny
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by btenny »

As I said when you ask before I would not go to Northern California with this age kids now that Hwy 1 is blocked. The kids will get bored with just doing SF for a week. Adding some hiking or biking will only help a little.

So I suggest you take the kids and go to Mission Bay in San Diego. Go to the beach a few days, go surfing, go sailing, go to the Zoo, go to Balboa park, go to the Wild Animal Safari tour, go to a MLB Padres ball game . Go to Lego Land. Go to old town. There is just a long list of fun things to do for adults and kids alike. There is just tons of tourist things to do there. See this

viewtopic.php?t=190101

and this

viewtopic.php?t=191091
tup45678
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by tup45678 »

I agree with the others who say it's probably too much to do both Southern California and the Bay Area in one weeklong trip. Given the ages of your kids, I think LA and the surrounding areas make for a great vacation. Be sure to go to at least 1 TV taping while there as that's an experience that's not easy to get anywhere else. Make a day out of a theme park, make a day out of going to the beach, go on a homes of the stars tour, etc.
LFKB
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by LFKB »

My suggestion would be to start in San Diego and drive up the coast to Santa Barbara, stopping along the way in Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Santa Monica, Malibu and then up to Santa Barbara. There's more to do and better weather in that part of the state.
HornedToad
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by HornedToad »

If you do LA, I like the Universal Studio tour. It was interesting to see behind the scenes of making tv shows/movies.

For Bay Area, if you need a car for the day you can do a Getaway car (I think that's what it's called) or Zipcar to get a car for the day or overnight and use.

I'm partial to Bay Area myself but i'd stick to one or the other
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JMacDonald
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by JMacDonald »

psteinx wrote: is that there is widespread enthusiasm to see the Redwood forests north of San Francisco.
If you do go north to see the big trees, be sure to drive through the Avenue of the Giants
http://avenueofthegiants.net/
Best Wishes, | Joe
squirm
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by squirm »

Southern Cali would be funner for the kids cause you can go in the ocean water unlike northern. Bay area is more about wine tasting. If you want redwoods go to the Yosemite.
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JMacDonald
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by JMacDonald »

squirm wrote:Southern Cali would be funner for the kids cause you can go in the ocean water unlike northern. Bay area is more about wine tasting. If you want redwoods go to the Yosemite.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite is closed now.
https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... agrove.htm
It would be better to go to Sequoia NP to see Giant Sequoias. The Redwoods are in the north.
Best Wishes, | Joe
Ekaterinv
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by Ekaterinv »

Fwiw, we're doing the coastal drive in July despite the landslide. Taking three days, though, with probably a night in Santa Barbara and a day-and-ahalf in Monterey. I would not want to do it in a day or two. But no kids to entertain, plus we had reasons to be in L.A. and S.F. and figured we'd make the best out of needing to get from one to the other, so it was a different decision tree for us. Still, I have a long long list of things to see/do on the drive, and it sounds lovely right about now.
squirm
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by squirm »

JMacDonald wrote:
squirm wrote:Southern Cali would be funner for the kids cause you can go in the ocean water unlike northern. Bay area is more about wine tasting. If you want redwoods go to the Yosemite.
The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite is closed now.
https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/ ... agrove.htm
It would be better to go to Sequoia NP to see Giant Sequoias. The Redwoods are in the north.
That stinks.... Thanks for the heads up.
dolphintraveler
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or both (with coastal drive)?

Post by dolphintraveler »

There are many sights to see in CA, but it's hard to tell what you would like to see.

You mention Aquariums
* Monterey Bay (a drive from Bay Area)
* Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific (Los Angeles)
* I think even one in San Diego, which also has Sea World, and just north is Legoland which I think has the Sea Life Aquarium

Zoos are similar, with San Diego being the most renowned, but there is inland Wild Animal Park which is a different experience altogether. There's also the wild animals (sea lions in various places)

If you like animals there are also all types of areas with different critters, rescued exotic pets (see Shambala reserve in Acton) and the like.

You mention La Brea Tar pits, those are kind of neat, but it's relatively small, not a full day activity combine with something else unless you're really into it. The are non-museum "museums". In SF the Exploratorium (everything is a touch, good for engineer/scientist/folks with curiosity) and in LA there is the California Academy of the Sciences (with the space shuttle).

In all So Cal you have the beaches, from just nice to sit on a beach to Venice boardwalk. Bay Area I'd recommend Santa Cruz though it's been a long time.

For Redwoods you got many suggestions.

The bike across the Golden Gate and ferry back is always a favorite. Alcatraz (another museum) can be interesting in SF as well. Depends what you like.

If you want the beach, mountains, cities, deserts (Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Vasquez Rocks), or forests they all exist in CA. Given one week, I'd spend less of it in the car and more of it out and about.

Have fun!
Beth*
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by Beth* »

There is plenty to do in both southern CA and the Bay Area. If you only have one week, I would pick one or the other.

One thing that I don't think anyone has mentioned yet, is that in late July/early August it is likely to be cold and foggy in San Francisco itself. Most of the Bay Area should be fine, but the fog really rolls into the city in the summer. If you do stay in San Francisco, don't forget to bring a sweatshirt or jacket and long pants. You may get lucky and hit a sunny week, but chances are that even if it is sunny in the middle of the day it will be cold and foggy at night. What happens in the summer is that the hot air blowing west from the Central Valley and desert hits the cold water of the Pacific ocean and creates fog.

You don't need a car if you stay in the city and having one would probably be more trouble than it is worth. Just get a map and familiarize yourself with the Muni system. You can buy passes that are good for a week in some of the downtown stations so you don't have to carry cash all the time. San Francisco is also a great walking city. One of my favorite things to do there is to pick a destination a couple of miles away and start leisurely walking toward it, stopping to explore whatever interesting things I see or to have a good cup of coffee in one of the many independent coffee houses and fortify myself for the next hill I have to climb.

However, to get out of the city you will want a car and if you do stay in San Francisco you'll want to spend at least a few days exploring some of the surrounding area. Muir Woods, the closest redwoods north of the city tend to be very crowded, but there are great redwoods and fewer crowds at Big Basin near Santa Cruz. If you want to take an overnight trip, Sequoia National Park is about a four-hour drive from the city. The giant Sequoias are not redwoods although people often think they are, but they are extremely impressive trees. A night in the park could be worth it and its a lot less crowded than some of the other national parks. Redwood National park in the northern part of the state is a longer drive.

If you do go to Big Basin, you might consider a night in Santa Cruz. It's a good town for young folks with a boardwalk, beach, and university. You could see the redwoods at Big Basin and then drive into Santa Cruz to spend the night. However, if you really want beaches go to southern CA. Northern CA beaches do tend to be chilly. Monterey and the aquarium would be another option for an overnight stay or two-night stay that could be combined with Big Basin. If you go to Montery, make sure you drive down and see Point Lobos State Park. I think it is one of the most beautiful areas in CA. Highway 1 is open to Point Lobos but closed a little south of there.

Another option if you stay in San Francisco and want to take an overnight side trip would be Lake Tahoe.

If you like to hike, look into taking the ferry to Angel Island in the middle of the bay. At that time of year you probably would need to book ferry tickets in advance. The Presidio is also a great area for hiking.

I also second the suggestion someone else made for the Computer Museum on the peninsula. That would just be a day of part-day trip, not an overnight trip.

While you say your kids aren't big on museums, it is the 50th anniversary of the "Summer of Love" and there are some exhibits about that at the DeYoung and other museums in San Francisco that might interest them.
TTBG
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by TTBG »

If you would rather stick somewhat to the original plan, maybe this would work:
- Drive Hwy 1 up to Hearst castle
- Spend the night in San Luis Obispo -- it's a college town, lots of places to eat, might be fun for teenagers just to walk around in.
- Head over to 101, with a stop at Pinnacles National Park. If your kids like hiking, it has some long, moderately strenuous, but beautiful trails (although it can get pretty hot so that might make hiking there less desirable). But there are 2 caves that you can walk/climb thru; teenagers might enjoy that. The caves are periodically closed to protect the bats, but usually at least 1 is open.
- Spend the night in Carmel or Monterey and visit the aquarium and/or Point Lobos the next day.
- Or spend the night in Santa Cruz and visit the beach and/or Big Basin the next day. Santa Cruz also has a tiny natural museum history near the beach that might be fun for a quick visit.

I agree with you that with 5 people, Uber/Lyft/taxi rides are hard to find. The last time I was in SF with 4 other people, we ended up splitting into 2 groups to get rides.

Also, you're bound to encounter quite a few crowds and bad traffic in any of the places you're considering, so be sure to pack enough snacks, beverages, diversions, etc, to keep everybody reasonably ungrumpy.
denovo
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by denovo »

Answers in bold.
psteinx wrote:



3) Are there little stopoffs along the way where you can have lunch or dinner then get down to a beach?

Pretty much along all coastal CA between SD and SF>

4) If we do LA, and we're not interested in theme parks, what would be the key sites for a short visit? I'd like to do the La Brea tar pits - I haven't done those. We enjoyed seeing a movie in the elaborate movie theater (Mann's? Grauman's? can't quite remember), and that would be on our possible to do list. I thought Malibu was interesting, but my wife is less excited about that. I don't think our kids really want to see art museums there.

It was probably Grauman's Chinese Theatre

5) Does one typically need reservations for the Hearst Castle tours? Their website offered reservations, but I don't know if it's really necessary.

ITS Absolutely neccesary or you won't get a spot. They are capacity limited.


7) San Francisco - I feel pretty confident that there's enough here to keep us amused for multiple days - probably too much if we only spend 2-3 days there, but if we turn this into just a Northern California trip, well, who knows...


You could easily spend 4-5 days in LA or SF and feel like you left out a lot.
If we DID just do Northern California, one option would be to not rent a vehicle, and just rely on BART, cable cars, Uber, and the like.

Public transport is good in SF and Oakland, not so much the rest of the Bay Area.
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DomDangelina
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by DomDangelina »

California's infrastructure is falling apart on a catastrophic scale, thus the roads are quite dangerous. Combined with certain additional factors, the inescapable conclusion is this: avoid California entirely.
"Often the remedy causes the disease. It is by no means the least of life's rules: to let things alone." | Baltasar Gracián, S.J., The Art of Worldly Wisdom, Maxim 121
takeshi
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by takeshi »

psteinx wrote:I remember SR 1 being very scenic, and we'd still get SOME of SR 1 on the way to San Simeon, but would we get the pretty/best part(s)?
From what I recall the more scenic parts of the PCH are north of the collapse.
psteinx wrote:If we DID just do Northern California, one option would be to not rent a vehicle, and just rely on BART, cable cars, Uber, and the like. A potential problem, though, is that there is widespread enthusiasm to see the Redwood forests north of San Francisco.
A car in SF is a huge hassle IMO but I haven't traveled with a larger group -- only as a couple. You can certainly rent a vehicle for an excursion to the redwoods.
petes97
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by petes97 »

In addition to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is a good aquarium, the California Academy of Science, Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco was fully rebuilt about 10 years ago and should be considered if you like aquariums.
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by mrsbetsy »

I live in the east bay about 45 minutes from San Francisco and yesterday we did Yosemite in a day. It took us 3 hours to drive there without stopping. Left at 7am got there before 10 and spent all the way to 4:30 before driving home and being back well before dark. If you go, park in Yosemite Village and hop on the air conditioned busses that travel around the park. Get off and hike up to Vernal Falls. The waterfalls are running harder than I have ever seen and I've been going for 27 years. You will not regret seeing them this year. The phrase "sometimes the soul can only interpret what the eyes see" is so true of the sights there this year.

If you like hiking, just north of Francisco check out John Muir Woods and the Lands End hike. Beautiful money shots of the Golden Gate Bridge. Have a simple lunch at Cliff House and enjoy the history of the Sutro Baths. Get tickets to Alcatraz in advance because they sell out quickly. Do not expect to get them the day you want to go.

If you like baseball, a Giants game is a fun way to visit a stadium by the bay.

Of course, visit Pier 39 and Ghiradeli square for chocolate and see the big vats of chocolate being worked.

I would not bother taking the coast but instead bee-line it up Hwy 5 from LA to SF (or visa versa). You get to go over the Grapevine, which is famous for occasionally getting snow, but no worries about that this time of year. It should take you about 6 hours.

I've lived in the Bay Area for 27 years so if you want more tips, please ask.

Betsy
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by mrsbetsy »

Mariposa in Yosemite has the best redwood and sequoia trees, but you can always visit John Muir north of San Francisco as well.
vested1
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Re: California Vacation - Bay Area, So Cal, or Both (with coastal drive)?

Post by vested1 »

DomDangelina wrote:California's infrastructure is falling apart on a catastrophic scale, thus the roads are quite dangerous. Combined with certain additional factors, the inescapable conclusion is this: avoid California entirely.
Spoken like a true non-Californian.

Avoid the coast, as others have said between Hearst Castle and Carmel. The current slide, which is the largest in recorded California history, will have Hwy 1 closed for about a year, and there is a bridge out in Big Sur, isolating a stretch of the highway for about 32 miles. These blockages were caused by excessive rainfall during the winter.

With only a week I would concentrate on southern California. The beaches and downtown Santa Barbara are wonderful.

The Avenue of the Giants is in Northern California near the Eel River, which should be visited on a separate trip. If you go make sure to call the ranger station there and ask about the water level in the Eel river, which is low at times due to flow restrictions, especially after a dryer winter than we had this last year. When the Eel is running good the scenery along the river is amazing.

If you do decide to visit San Francisco I would include the tour of Alcatraz, and the California Academy of Sciences, which is much improved from earlier years. The exhibits are great, with a walk through an ascending butterfly habitat and a planetarium show. Kids of any age will love it. I would also check the exhibit schedule for SF museums, like the De Young and the Legion of Honor. Occasionally there will be special events like The Dutch Masters, with famous artwork you can walk right up to.

Have a great time. Those of us who live in California welcome our friends from other States.
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