City Sightseeing with San Francisco’s Hop On Hop Off Bus

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus PIN

Many movies set in San Francisco will show a Hop On Hop Off bus at some point – a brightly colored, usually red bus where riders can sit on top and take pictures of famous attractions while listening to a tour guide.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus heartThese buses run through Downtown  San Francisco, showing passengers areas like Union Square and the SOMA district. Travelers can hop off these buses to explore the city and hop back on when they’re ready to go, listening to the City by the Bay trivia from a local guide. Particularly for families with autism, the Hop On Hop Off bus is an excellent option to see the local sites.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus bay

What you will See

The two level buses have a closed area on the bottom and an open area on the top. The top allows for a beautiful view of the city, while passengers can return to the lower part during rainy or windy weather conditions. The seats are comfortable, and riders are allowed to bring food and drinks on board. We’ve listed a few distinct stopping places here.
City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus bus

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a touristy area with restaurants and souvenir stores. Kids will love seeing the sea lions basking in the sun on a specially built platform. History buffs can take a cruise to visit Alcatraz Island. Kids who like arcade games can head to Musee Mechanique for old fashioned games that cost a quarter each. Travelers craving dessert should head to Ghiradelli for an ice cream sundae and watch the staff make cones while waiting in line.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus wharf

Golden Gate Bridge

Some people like to get off the bus and cross the Golden Gate Bridge by foot. It can be an exciting experience for anyone visiting the city for the first time. However, it is typically cold and windy, and fog frequently covers the area.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus bridge

Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park, slightly larger than New York’s Central Park, was built in the 1860s on the barren sand and rocks then known as “The Outside.” While enjoying the sights, visitors can also explore the California Academy of Science, a renowned museum. Travelers looking for dramatic views can visit the Palace of Fine Arts. Finally, kids will love the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum for exploring art and science.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus park

Haight-Asbury District

The Haight-Asbury District is an excellent place for walking around and experiencing the spirit of 1960s San Francisco. It is also the best place to get second-hand clothing and unique souvenirs.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus hippy


San Francisco is home to the largest and oldest Chinatown outside of Asia. This Chinatown is the perfect place to experience authentic Chinese eateries and buy bargain priced memorabilia. Visitors should stop and check out the entrance gate with the impressive lamp posts.
City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus view

Unless anyone in the traveling group is interested in getting off to explore specific places, travelers can certainly stay on the bus for many of the sites. We recommend staying on the bus for the Painted Ladies, Victorian Homes, City Hall, Market St, Cable Car Turnaround, Union Square, and Transamerica Pyramid. The guide will explain the history of these places in intricate detail, making staying on the bus worthwhile.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus china town

Time and Cost

Hop On Hop Off buses run daily from nine AM to five PM every half hour. The entire loop can take around two hours, longer if there are any stops.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus cable

Tickets are valid for twenty-four hours from first use. Meeting PointTickets must be exchanged before boarding at 1331 Columbus St. Visitors may board or leave the bus from any of the stops. Potential travelers can buy tickets on the spot, and there’s no need to pre-book.
City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus guide

Our Takeaway

Our son wasn’t feeling well the day we went, so he didn’t want to get off at any stops except for Pier 39 and the Ghiradelli chocolate factory. He happily sat in the comfort of the bus listening to the stories and jokes of our entertaining guide.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus ghiardelli

The Hop On Hop Off bus is an excellent way to get a sense of an otherwise difficult to navigate hill filled city. The service is convenient and relatively inexpensive, especially in a bundle offer.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus museum

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Those with kids who are temperature sensitive should sit in the closed area while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, as it is usually cold and windy.Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando:Tmom Travel Disclosure
  • Most buses don’t have a bathroom on board. Therefore, parents may need to get off to use the public facilities.
  • Parents shouldn’t wait to return on the last bus if they are pressed for time or across town since they may miss it.
  • Parents can bring noise canceling headphones for kids who are noise sensitive.
  • There are microclimates in San Francisco, so parents should bring jackets with hoods as it may get cold even on a sunny day.

City Sightseeing with San Francisco's Hop On Hop Off Bus church




Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel


Family StayFairmont San Francisco (1)

Atop Nob Hill, San Francisco, with its picturesque sights and a rich history dating back to the mid-1800s, you will find the flagship of the luxury, world-renowned Fairmont hotels, and resorts. The Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, where elegance meets excellence, proudly boasts panoramic views of the Bay. The hotel’s location is also the only place in the city where two of the iconic cable car lines intersect.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel outside

The Lobby

Boasting 600 rooms, the property is vast yet tastefully designed. The building decor, reminiscent of opulent days gone by, was impressive outside and inside. The hotel lobby featured grandiose hand carved ceilings, floor to ceiling marble pillars with scattered Asian inspired artifacts. Golden gilded velvet furniture, marble floors, and grand staircases continued the Asian theme, along with live orchids and potted bamboo trees.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel sofa


Fellow Travelers

The week we stayed, our fellow travelers were businessmen, solo travelers, and families wishing to experience luxury in the city by the Bay.

Family StayFairmont San Francisco (1) lamps

Our Welcome

After driving six hours from LA, we finally arrived at the hotel in the late afternoon. The bellman greeted us warmly and helped us with our luggage through the check in process. Check in was a breeze since we had contacted the front desk personnel earlier that day to ensure that they had reserved a feather free and quiet room for us.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel honey

Our Room

Much to our surprise, we were upgraded to the Nepal Suite.

I have to say that we were completely wowed! The Nepal was a corner suite with strategically placed windows showcasing the beautiful views of San Francisco. The large suite was divided into a living room, bedroom, and connecting mini hallway. The entrance hallway had a table with a mirror, stylish ceiling lights, and provided a functional welcome to guests entering the suite.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel couch

The Living Room

The designated living room was divided into two different areas. One was an elegant dining area, complete with a table that could accommodate half a dozen guests as well as a sitting area that had an opening sofa and two armchairs comfortable for reading the complimentary newspapers provided. The opening sofa turned out to be perfect for our son with autism, as it was spacious and facing the TV set that he enjoyed watching.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel food

The room also had a rather large, elegant dresser/display case that stocked a surcharge minibar along with a coffee/tea station. The plush paisley designed carpet complimented the look of black, white, and brown furniture pieces in the room. We especially liked the San Francisco art photography displayed on the walls.

The Bedroom

Our separate master bedroom was bright and airy, with plenty of natural light as well as bedside and standing lamps conveniently placed. Just like the living room area, the bedroom had its own TV set, which came in handy when we, the adults, wanted to watch a different program than our son. Needless to say, this suite had ample storage with a plethora of shelves, hanging space, and drawers. The walk in closet was so spacious that one could take a nap inside. The closet was probably the largest of its kind we had seen during our travels. In addition to the bed, there was a desk with an accompanying padded leather chair, which was useful for me as a writer.
Family Stay Fairmont San Francisco (1) curtain


We all appreciated that there were plenty of outlets to plug in devices in both rooms.

The Bathroom

In sharp contrast to the generous size of the rest of the suite, the bathroom was relatively modest but beautifully designed. The floor was a golden-brown marble, and the sink was black granite. The bathroom had a combination bathtub/shower with a curtain and no handheld shower attachment, which would have been helpful for parents of younger kids. The amenity kit’s gently-fragranced Rose 31 cosmetics was an added welcome, as were the bathrobes and slippers supplied.

The attention to detail was impressive; even the toilet paper had a custom made fabric cover with the Fairmont logo stitched on it.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel wall

Fine Dining

This hotel offered a choice of various dining venues. The first night we arrived, we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner at the Laurel Court restaurant along with a pianist for entertainment. The dining hall had a ceiling rotunda with gorgeous glass chandeliers and Italian frescos depicting countryside landscapes as decor.

Family StayFairmont San Francisco (1) hallay

The following morning, we enjoyed their breakfast buffet in the same hall with its lofty vaulted ceilings and grand marble pillars. The food was high quality and plentiful. The buffet featured different choices of juices as well as coffees and teas for refreshments.
The baked goods section had danishes, muffins, french toast, sticky buns, and bagels along with other pastries. The cut up fruit section looked especially inviting with its colorful fresh berries displayed. In addition, guests could feast on freshly made yogurts, a selection of cold cuts, cheeses, cereals, sausages, potatoes, and eggs benedict.
Our favorite was the chef’s station where you could customize your own omelet.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel buffet

For those who need their java fix, the hotel had a coffee shop where they sell baked goods and hot beverages. The hotel’s stores also sold honey related products like beer and stuffed dolls.

Not to be missed was the hotel’s Tonga room, a fun place to go dancing and listen to music. The room served killer cocktails and scrumptious appetizers in a pirate ship environment.

The Roof

The hotel rooftop is a popular venue for weddings and other special occasions, boasting manicured gardens overlooking the city. A less known area, albeit still interesting to explore with kids, is the hotel’s herb garden that supplies the venue’s kitchens with fresh ingredients. Complete with bee hives, raspberry vines, fragrant lavender and other herbs, visiting this little ecosystem below the clouds was one of the highlights of our stay.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel flower

We were very fortunate to get a private tour of the herb gardens and outside spaces with the hotel chef. During our chat, he elaborated on the hotel’s food menu for dogs. Apparently, the Fairmont in San Francisco is one of the few in the world that not only welcomes four-legged friends but provides freshly prepared food items that owners can order through room service or in the restaurant.

The Cost

Room at this venue starts at $242 a night. The Fairmont has a parking garage, and the cost is $67 for valet parking and unlimited access per night.


Family StayFairmont San Francisco (1) fu dogs

Overall, the Fairmont San Francisco well exceeded our expectations, and we had an incredible stay in their hotel. The staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome as a family and to cater and accommodate our son with autism throughout our trip.
We look forward to staying at the beautiful property again sometime in the future.

Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel water

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Bring your own anti-slip mat for the bathroom if this is a concern.
  • The hotel is very safety conscious, so the windows open partially just for air.
  • The Tonga Room is a fun place. However, it can get crowded and noisy, and therefore might not be suitable for noise sensitive kids.Family Stay at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel bee
  • For this size room, make sure you bring at least two night-lights. There’s quite a bit of walking in the dark, especially from the living room into the bathroom.
  • If you do decide to go and visit the bees or get a tour, talk to your kid about not touching anything.
  •  There’s a lot of breakables in this suite. Ask staff to remove the breakables ahead of time if this would be a concern.


Fun at San Francisco’s Musee Mechanique


Fun at San Francisco's Musee Mechanique pin

If you’re ever on the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, don’t miss the Musee Mechanique. This unique, admission free, family museum in San Francisco showcases over 300 mechanical machines. The Musee , located on the waterfront is one of the largest privately owned collections in the world. The collection includes coin-operated fortune tellers, mutoscopes, antique arcade machines, player pianos, photos booths, and pinball machines, among others. There’s something to do for the whole family, from adults looking for nostalgia to kids wanting to play.

Fun at San Francisco's Musee Mechanique man

These interactive pieces of history exist in their original working condition. Due to their level of preservation, visitors can use them and play with most of them. Because of this, it’s highly suggested to bring quarters so that you can experience all the machines. Also, many of the machines date back to the turn of the century so that you can expect lots of games for incredibly affordable prices.

Fun at San Francisco's Musee Mechanique sign


The original owner, Ed Zelinsky, collected games from the age of eleven. He started displaying his collection of games in the 1920s Playland. After Playland closed in 1972, the Musee Mecanique merged into the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, where Zelinsky’s son temporarily maintained it. Due to reconstruction in the area, the museum relocated to Fisherman’s Warf in 2002. This sparked some controversy with residents, and there were petitions to stop the relocation.

Fun at San Francisco's Musee Mechanique lineup

What You Will See

Guests will enjoy taking a journey through history. In the Musse, Your family will find everything from turn of the century hand-cranked music boxes to modern video arcade games. Parents will be able to enjoy showing their children an authentic glimpse into their childhood. Long before action-packed video games at home or in arcades, these novelties were integral to the childhood of millions worldwide. Now kids and their parents and grandparents can enjoy these memories together. It’s the perfect place to appreciate and relive a time when life moved a little slower.

Fun at San Francisco's Musee Mechanique games

Visitors who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area will take a step back to yesteryear. Here, visitors can relive the days and special local memories of Playland at the Beach, Sutro Baths, and the Cliff House.

The museum is well known for its own “Laffing Sal,” “Susie the Can-Can Dancer” and the fascinating “Carnival.” Other machines come from around the world for the fun and amusement of patrons from all cultures and walks of life. Though whimsical, and typically focused on San Francisco, the Musee also contains more eerie and distant additions. One of these is a collection of machines made by former Alcatraz prisoners, all from toothpicks.

Fun at San Francisco's Musee Mechanique long

Autism Travel Tips:

  • Many of the machines are old, and some might not entirely work. Because of this, make sure your child won’t get too frustrated with a machine that might not be functional on that day.
  • The machines in here are old. While the public is allowed to play with them, they are still historical exhibits and therefore are delicate. Teach your child to play respectfully with the machine.
  • This museum is perfect for kids and adults interested in gaming history. Remember that these are ancient games, most from all the way back in the 1920s, so those interested in this era might also be interested in the Musee.
  • Kids that are interested in mechanics, old toys, and how things work will also love the Musee.
  • Parents beware, this is a bit of a money pit. Bring your quarters, because your children will want to play a lot of games. All of these games are short so that you can spend a lot of quarters there.
  • Some of the exhibits there are not politically correct, by today’s standards. There are language and visuals that might be offensive.
  • The location is beautiful, so it can be a good interlude between Ghirardelli’s and walking on Pier 39 to see the sea lions. It also is a perfect place to take shelter if it rains.

Taking the Kids to the Walt Disney Museum San Francisco

As an avid Disney fan, our son had been begging to visit the Disney Family Museum for the past year.
Last week while attending the “BlogHer 2014” conference in San Jose we finally got the chance to grant his wish and ventured into San Francisco for a tour.

The museum run by the Disney family is located at 104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA and is housed in two red-brick historic buildings, one of which was originally army barracks in the 1890’s and the other a military gymnasium from 1904.
Both were restored, and their interior spaces adapted skillfully to focus on Walt Disney’s life and career.

First  Gallery

The exhibit’s first gallery showcases the animator’s childhood mementos from Missouri, illustrations for the high school newspaper as well as some of the laugh-o-grams he created before the company he worked for in Kansas City went bankrupt.

Taking the Kids to the Walt Disney Museum San Francisco Paintings

Second Gallery


In the second gallery, the focus shifts to his early Hollywood years describing the launch of the world famous studio, the ‘birth’ of iconic Mickey Mouse and how Walt finally established himself as a leading animator by creating ‘Steam Boat Willie,’ an animated film with synchronized sound. Some of this section’s highlights are rare Mickey Mouse illustrations and business letters between the two Disney brothers.

The third area concentrates on the years before WWII when the studio experimented with mini-movies (one reels) called “Silly Symphonies“, and went on to create the first three-strip Technicolor cartoons, by using multi-plane cameras. Our son loved the display where he got to add sound effects to an animated film!

Taking the Kids to the Walt Disney Museum San Francisco posters
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was pivotal for the studio’s evolution and is well depicted in the museum’s collection of three-dimensional model figures that were used in the movie as well as magazine cuttings from that era. The Snow White movie not only won a regular sized Academy Award for innovation but also received seven miniature castings Oscars one for each dwarf. In the following years the studio expanded, moved its headquarters to Burbank and produced classics like Bambi and Fantasia. Some of the museum’s actual art gems can be found in this section as well as a perfect replica of an animator desk.

The Other Galleries

Probably the biggest surprise for us was visiting the next gallery, which described Disney’s participation in the Second World War efforts.
Apparently the studio produced multiple public announcements and morale-boosting movies alongside its features like Dumbo, as it was struggling to recover from a major strike that almost impacted its existence. The colorful army insignia displayed along with the wartime bulletin makes this gallery a must-see.

Taking the Kids to the Walt Disney Museum San Francisco booklets

The exhibit continues through the Disney brothers’ efforts post-war to expand into live action films like 20 000 Leagues under the Sea as well as maintain its lead in animation with cinematographic favorites Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland.
If you are a fan of Disney memorabilia, this gallery for you as it includes the animator’s collection of miniature figures.
The second to last gallery explores Walt Disney’s fascination with quality family entertainment through movies (Mary Poppins was created during this time), television programs like The Wonderful World of Disney (I was a huge fan) and recreational parks like Disneyland and later Disney World that several decades later we still enjoy and cherish.
You have to check out the Disneyland Diorama and how it compares to the real park.

Taking the Kids to the Walt Disney Museum San Francisco tickets


The most moving display of the exhibit is the part housing the newspaper clips and cards of condolences from around the world when Walt Disney died so be sure not to miss it.

Taking the Kids to the Walt Disney Museum San Francisco illustrations

Autism Travel Tips

Don’t miss out on the movie included in the entrance fee.
Allow between 1.5 to 2 hours for your visit.
If your child is antsy, you might want to walk around the Presidio area for a while before entering the museum.
It may look compact from the outside, but it is filled with artifacts and memorabilia that take the time to read through.
The museum is geared more towards teens and adults who are Disney aficionados since there aren’t many interactive exhibits.
Don’t miss the museum’s l Autism Friendly events coming up in October if your kid with autism is a Disney fan!

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