California trip-Day 8-the last day

Our last day in California would end up being the prettiest, as you will soon see. The sun was out and shining, there were not many clouds in the sky, the wind was negligible, and the temperature was quite nicely warm and bearable.

After packing everything up we made our way back across the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco. We found a parking garage next to our first stop for the day, the famous Pier 39!

We wandered around the pier for a bit.

And then came across these guys.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed all the sites and sounds from the harbor seals. And so did the adults.

I’m pretty sure we found some food to eat at the pier, but I cannot seem to remember what it was. Maybe donuts? Anyway, we made our way to our next stop which was a short walk from the pier. Along the way we found a few examples of the ‘hippy culture’ of northern California.

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is right on the bay and had a couple of small museums along with lots of ships that could be looked at too. We did not have time to go on the ships though, unfortunately.

From here it was another short walk to get to Ghirardelli Square. I, for one, had to go there. Ghirardelli is one of my favorite chocolates and they had a couple of shops set up that happened to sell their tasty wares. I didn’t get any for myself but did buy my mom an Easter themed gift bag. And all of us ended up having a milkshake of some sort made from their chocolates too.

After this refreshing and tasty stop it was time to make our way back to the pier. We were going to board a boat headed for Alcatraz! On my previous trip to San Francisco (in 1998, I believe) I went to Alcatraz. But that didn’t prevent me from wanting to go again and for Andrea and the kids to see it. Alcatraz had come up in many conversations started by the kids too, so we knew they would enjoy it as well.

After making landfall on the island, a park ranger gives a small talk about Alcatraz and then you are free to roam for as long as you want to. Here are some of the highlights from outside of the prison.

Each one of the little dots is a bird!

When you are ready to enter the prison you are given a headset that will be your tour guide through the prison. There are many interesting stories told during the tour. Here are some of the highlights from inside the prison.

We were on the island for at least two to three hours before boarding a boat back to the mainland. And, with some more time to kill before our red-eye flight later that night, we decided to take the long trek to Chinatown!

On our way there we experienced the ever present giant hills of San Francisco firsthand…or foot (feet?). We scaled a few that looked as crazily steep as this one (and one that was even steeper!)

Chinatown itself had many cool decorations on the streets and some great wall art too.

A friend of ours recommended that we go and check a shop that makes fortune cookies, too. It was neat to watch the process for a little bit.

Finally, we saw one of the gates that are the entrance’s into Chinatown.

After this, it was time to make our way back to the pier to find some dinner. We ended up eating at the Hard Rock Café before getting back to the rental car and working our way back to the airport.

As I mentioned before, our flight was a red-eye and scheduled to get back to Cincinnati at about 6:30am Eastern time. The kids slept most of the way back. Myself and Andrea could not get sleepy at all on the plane. I ended up playing Breath of the Wild on our Nintendo Switch most of the way back and maybe had an hour or so of sleep. Then we had another 2+ hours from the time of landing until we got back safe and sound home. It was a long day, for sure, but still totally worth it.

Lessons Learned

The trip went mostly smoothly and as planned. But that is not to say that everything worked out. In the weeks leading up to the trip I kept track of the road situation for both Yosemite and King’s Canyon National Parks. The roads had been closed due to the massive snowfall in the mountains. But, about a week or so before the trip, it looked like the roads had been reopened in King’s Canyon so we decided to go there to check out some of the sequoia trees. As previously outlined though, the higher we went into the mountains, the more snow there was on the ground. We had hoped that the snow would have been mostly melted by then, but we were wrong and the areas that we wanted to go to were shut out to normal vehicular traffic without the use of chains on their tires. This was a mistake to assume we were going to have free reign of the park so we should have called ahead to see what the weather and road conditions were. Despite that, it was still really awesome to see the few sequoia trees that we did get to and the tiny bit of the park. We will definitely try to go again in the summer one year.

The only other real problem that I think that we had was not having enough time to peruse the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We did not get there until really late in the day and was only able to see a fraction of it at the pace it deserved. We will have to try to go there again sometime too.

Takeaways

California is an awesome state! There is so much to see and do there that it could not possibly be done in a weeks time. Not only is there Yosemite and Death Valley in the eastern part of the state, but there are also enough state and national parks north of San Francisco that are worth seeing that those alone could take a week or more to see thoroughly. We barely spent any time in Los Angeles, we didn’t get to enjoy the Santa Monica Pier amusement park, and there are a few more things on the coast that we drove past that we did not have the time to see either. And then there is the Joshua Tree National Park, San Diego, and the Salton Sea area in the south of the state. Not to mention that we could have used a few more days in San Francisco to see everything there too. If you get a chance to go to California we highly recommend that you go!

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