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Making bread turtles is just one of the treats that await on the Boudin Museum & Bakery Tour.
by Jim Graves
San Francisco’s Pier 39, or Fisherman’s Wharf, is a hub for many activities for visitors to the City.
I’d seen Alcatraz Island many times, and I wanted to take my wife, Carol, and two daughters, Claire and Shelby, ages 5 and 6, to visit. Alcatraz Cruises (www.alcatrazcruises.com) is the only cruise line that takes you there. You embark at Pier 33, a short walk from the wharf. Buy the combo tour and visit Angel Island as well. It’s a larger island with beautiful views and many points of historic interest.
Alcatraz has cool jail cells that once held famous outlaws (Al Capone, “Machine Gun” Kelly). You can walk into an isolation cell in “the hole” where recalcitrant prisoners lived in total darkness. My girls were most taken with the many noisy sea birds that occupied Alcatraz.
Angel Island is less well known, but has much to offer. You can take a tram (or hike, or bike) around the island, and see (fog permitting) fantastic views of the surrounding bay. There are also remnants of earlier military installations (Did you know the military once kept surface-to-air missiles on the island in case of an attack by the Soviets?) and a detention center which, in the first half of the 20th century, housed Chinese immigrants. Keep an eye out for deer that roam the property. Another plus: Because the island is much bigger than Alcatraz, and the crowds are smaller and less concentrated.
San Francisco has no shortage of outstanding restaurants, and among these I’d include Bistro Boudin (www.bistroboudin.com), a few minutes’ walk from the wharf. It has first-class wine, a variety of chicken, fish and seafood, sandwiches, pizza and pasta and a kids’ menu, all with superb ingredients (and, don’t forget their trademark sourdough bread!). It’s the company’s flagship location, with magnificent views of the Bay and Alcatraz. Enjoy the standard Boudin fare of soups and sandwiches on the first floor, or the upscale bistro on the second.
Also, take the Boudin Museum & Bakery Tour (www.boudinbakery.com/Museum/Bakery_Tour) and learn about the history of the company and San Francisco. See old photographs, enjoy interactive games and exhibits and, best of all, watch live bread-making from a catwalk above the kitchen. My girls had the chance to don Boudin baker hats and make bread turtles, as scores of tourists watched through a window street-side.
We love aquariums, so we visited the Aquarium of the Bay (www.aquariumofthebay.org), which is on the wharf itself. Two of its best features are its tunnel walk-through aquarium and two touch tanks. The touch tanks included starfish, which the staff temporarily removed so the kids could feel them, as well as sea anemones and rays. There were also a variety of land animals, such as snakes, hedgehogs and chinchillas. My daughter loved the bee hive exhibit.
We also got a kick out of the many street performers around Pier 39. Although the area can be packed with tourists, brave the crowds and enjoy what it has to offer.
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Since my children, Claire and Shelby, are 5 and 6 now and past the baby stage, my wife and I decided to celebrate our newfound travel freedom with a family trip to Loreto, Mexico, in southern Baja California.
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Take the family to San Francisco and explore the city, visit Golden Gate Park and the California Academy of Sciences Museum.
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