Being a tourist at home, sometimes known as a staycation, can be fun and exhilarating.  Forget about work, housecleaning, and laundry, and just enjoy being in your home environment.  Take a walk by the river, go hiking or enjoy a delicious dinner or lunch at a restaurant with friends, or simply hole up with a good book in the shade at a local park.

Main Trail on Mt. Davidson

Living in San Francisco as a retiree, sometimes every day feels like being a tourist at home.  There is so much to do and see, even in my own backyard of Mt. Davidson, the tallest hill in San Francisco.  Further afield, the beautiful Presidio of San Francisco calls, as do Golden Gate Park, the western waterfront, a walk along San Francisco Bay, and the great museums, performances, parks, and libraries.

Being a tourist at home with young children is a different experience.  My Brooklyn daughter and two grandchildren recently visited, and the itinerary differed from my usual haunts.  My son-in-law’s parents, aka my co-grandparents, generously invited me to share their sunnier environment, more conducive to outdoor play.  On the days spent at my house, San Francisco tourist- based activities took on a whole new dimension. 

One morning was spent breaking down cardboard boxes into large squares and rectangles, to be decorated with felt tip pen drawings and art.  Then it was off to the children’s playground in Golden Gate Park, “seats” in hand, to enjoy the giant slide.  Thanks to a previous visit, the kids now are old hands with this, leaping up the box steps to the top of the hill and gleefully sliding down.  Two hitches occurred with this activity:  one, San Francisco school children clearly were on a different spring break schedule, so there were no elementary school-age kids to play with.  And second, the beautifully restored vintage carousel was not operating that day.

Still, there were other delights to pursue.  My daughter devised a child-friendly itinerary, one that would not have occurred to me.  One morning, we set out by car to Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 to see the sea lions.  It was remarkably easy to get to and to park in a large, reasonably priced parking lot just across the street.  A bridge over the roadway is conveniently placed at the entrance to Pier 39.

The sea lions returned this year to Pier 39 in record abundance, numbering over 1,000 in early May.  They frolicked and played in the water, but even in the expanded space they have claimed on the pier, there was not enough room to accommodate all of them.  They pushed and snapped at one another as they scrambled to find a place to stretch out on the docks.

Pier 39 also has a carousel, hand-crafted in Italy.  It was colorful and fun to ride one of the horses, up and down, slowly turning in circles, first toward the Bay, then toward the city.  Carousels and Ferris wheels are among the attractions that can appeal equally to children and adults.

I have a particular fondness for Ferris wheels, but my daughter does not.  My seven year old grandson was somewhat lukewarm when we rode on the 150-foot tall SkyStar Ferris Wheel two years ago, when it was located in Golden Gate Park, but he was insistent, along with his four year old sister, on going for a ride now that it has been relocated to Fisherman’s Wharf.  Abetted by Grammy, they wheedled their mom until my daughter finally relented and agreed.

The SkyStar is beautiful and elegant.  Relocating it to the family-friendly waterfront made a lot of sense.  The views must be spectacular.   But alas, that day it was not to be, as the giant wheel was shut down for a maintenance issue just as we approached it. The lucky, or perhaps unlucky, passengers rose into the air and down again many times before finally being safely offloaded.

Also on the agenda was a short walk to Ghirardelli Square, with its famed chocolate factory.  It has been many years since chocolate was actually manufactured there, but ice cream and chocolate can be found in abundance.  With a giant ice cream cone in hand, my grandson announced that this was “the best day of my life.”

There were, of course, other outings during the few short days they were here in San Francisco.  The Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito was a delight.  A burrito from the award-winning La Taqueria in the Mission District was a must.  The City’s many refurbished parks and playgrounds offered opportunities for play in a safe, modern environment.  

Quiet times at home resulted in many beautiful towers built with Legos by my granddaughter.  I got to spend alone time with my granddaughter while my daughter and grandson took in a SF Giants vs. the New York Mets at Oracle Park.  

Being a tourist at home with children was an eye-opener.  With or without children, I will undoubtedly make a return trip to the Skystar.  And while I am there on the waterfront, I may just treat myself to another delicious hot chocolate covered sundae.  Join me and share in the fun of being a tourist at home!

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