Alcatraz - Pier 39 and Hyde Street Pier - A Full Touring Day in San Francisco
By Lynn Upthagrove
My very favorite thing to do in all the years of taking family and friends to the many different activities surrounding the bay area was visiting Alcatraz and the waterfront areas at Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf and finishing with a stop at Hyde Street Pier, a trolly ride up to Lombard street and walking down the crooked street back to Pier 39.
If this is part of your itinerary, be sure to make reservations ahead of time as visits to Alcatraz are very popular and fill up early. You are unlikely to get same day tickets. This trip starts at the Pier 39 area, arrive early, take a walk around, get some cheap t-shirts and funky knick-knacks and try the clam chowder in a sour dough bowl or any of the other tasty treats from the fish market one pier north of where the boats to Alcatraz are docked.
Before jumping on the boat to Alcatraz Island, head over to the non-commercial water side of Pier 39 and you will see the harem of seals that have taken over the docks. Though a few bay touring boats continue to use this high rent "marina" to take off from, the majority of tenants are the very entertaining and charming seals.
The Alcatraz trip can double as your "get on a boat on the bay" trip filling two not to be missed regional activities. When you get to Alcatraz, be certain to rent headsets in your native language and take the self paced tour. This island in the middle of the bay is absolutely rich with interesting history, politics and intrigue, not to mention the setting for several popular movies. Birdman of Alcatraz, Escape from Alcatraz and more recently The Rock.
Backtrack your walk past the Fish Market and little fishing boats bobbing as they await their next departure. Pass the popular blues bar where you are likely to hear live music at 9 in the morning. The right side of the street has a great art gallery with something new and always original every time we enter. Watch for the talented street performers, Buskers, some mime, some shock, all entertain!
The road you are on will, in a block, dead end at Hyde Street Pier. Take a right and tour this great living boat museum! Time it right and you may arrive on docent day where the volunteers are not only dressed in period costume, but are required to only answer questions in the historical setting from which their ship was built. Ask about the great fire of 1906, and they will not know what you are asking about or will refer to some long forgotten lesser blaze. This is very much a hands on activity. My mom was sewing sail canvas and dad got to help carve a huge canoe. The hosts are well knowledged providing a fun stop for kids, families and those with oodles of curiosity....
San Francisco is always pictured with colorful old Victorian homes, a beautiful sky-scape and trolley cars. From Hyde Street Pier it is just a short uphill walk to the trolley turnaround station. Watch a few turns, then hop on for your own ride up the hill. While you can stay on until Union Square, we like to jump off at the top, Lombard Street (Crooked Street) and walk down enjoying the flowers and beautiful homes on this one-of-a-kind crooked cobble stoned street. At the bottom of the hill, turn left and loop back to the Pier 39 area and you will have finished a very activity rich day.
Many travelers to San Francisco will also take a trip to Yosemite, we hope that if this is in your plans, you will take the time to visit Groveland
Lynn Upthagrove, along with her husband Victor, own the Hotel Charlotte, in Groveland, on the way to Yosemite. http://www.HotelCharlotte.com