Touring San Francisco
LEA ANN FESSENDEN
I'm typically not the "tour" kind of girl when visiting a new city, I like to strike out on my own, talk to locals, find the beat and drink in the local culture. But San Francisco offers so many fascinating sights that it can really be hard to take it all in on your own. So I suggest taking a few tours of this grand city to get the lay of the land and a historical perspective before launching out solo.
There are tours available for just about every possible taste in and around San Francisco. My all-time favorite tour is of Alcatraz Island, or Alcatraces, as it was originally called by early Spanish explorers for the Brown Pelicans seen there. Not only was "the Rock" famous for holding some infamous characters like Al Capone and the birdman of Alcatraz, Robert Stroud; but it was the first lighthouse in the West, a Civil War fortress, a prison camp for 19 Hopi Indians in 1895 for resisting to "Americanize" their children, and ultimately it was occupied by American Indians in 1969. Visiting the island requires a ferry ride and I recommend going early in the morning and layer your clothing for variable winds and temperatures. Book your reservations well in advance for the ferry service.
A fantastic way to get an overview of the city is with one of the City Segway tours. I can't wait to try this tour that my friends have done several times. They tell me that these innovative vehicles are a blast to ride up and down the hills of San Francisco with excellent guides pointing out all the sights such as Fisherman's Wharf, The Hyde Street Pier, the Transamerica building and views of the Golden Gate Bridge. So save your feet and back and see San Francisco at eye level on a cute Segway. These tours are recommended for age 16 and older, require a 30 minute briefing on the operation of the Segway and last about 3 hours.
If piling into a giant air-conditioned bus tour isn't your scene, try something more personal and unique like Mr. Toad's Tours where you are driven by very knowledgeable drivers in vintage touring cars such as a Rambler or Model A. The 3 hour postcard tour is the perfect way to start your San Francisco adventure as you will explore Alamo Square, Haight-Ashbury, Golden Gate Park, Little Italy, Jackson Square antique district, the Financial District, Chinatown, Nob Hill, Fisherman's Wharf and many other iconic locations.
Cross the Golden Gate Bridge in true style with the San Francisco Fire Engine Tour. That's right, you'll get decked out in real fireman gear to keep you warm and dry, and climb aboard a vintage red Mack Fire Engine, which holds about 13 people for a very memorable experience. The fascinating and history rich tour takes about 75 minutes and you will be singing your heart out rather than leaving it in San Francisco.
Of course, for those who enjoy walking there are many wonderful walking tours that are available. But for this sightseer, give me a vintage car, ferry boat, Segway or a fire engine any day!