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All I had were 18 hours in San Francisco. That included time for eating, sleeping, getting to and from the airport, and sight-seeing. Clearly, not enough time. However, that was all I had, so I really wanted to make the most of it. Here is what I did, in case you find yourself in a similar situation. If you want to see my review of the Grand Hyatt San Francisco, check out this post.
Getting to and from the airport to downtown:
After landing I used the infamous Super Shuttle to get to my hotel. It was only $14 one-way (including using a code for $3 off), but it was a packed van. Dropping off the first girl took a good 20 minutes out of the way for everyone else. I was seriously kicking myself for being a cheap-o and saving a few bucks by taking Super Shuttle when I had such limited time. Luckily, I was the second drop-off, so while the ride took a little over 45 minutes, it could have been much worse.
On the way back to the airport the next morning I took a cab, and since it was so early in the morning, it was only about a 15-20 minute ride. It came to about $42 plus tip. I think some pretty good car service companies are only about $15 more, so that could be an option as well. If I was with my family I would have done either cab or car service both ways as the economics of Super Shuttle really only make sense for me if I am the only traveler. There is also a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train that is $8.10 to get from the airport to downtown. Children under 4 are free. Trains depart every 15 minutes and it is only a 30 minute ride downtown. That would have probably been smarter than the Super Shuttle, though I would still do a cab or car service if I were returning with my kiddo.
I’m sure you have seen the Duck Tours in various cities – they are those funny look vehicles that look like boats, but drive on land. Yes, they really do go in the water. The Ducks this company uses are based on the classic WWII DUKW, but are actually newly built Ducks. In case you were curious, according to Wikipedia, the “D” indicated a vehicle designed in 1942, “U” meant “utility”, “K” indicated front-wheel drive, “W” indicated two powered rear axles. That was my piece of knowledge learned for the day.
Anyway, the it seemed like a good way to see a few sights and have some fun, even if it did look a bit cheesy. I used a company called “Ride the Ducks”. It offers two tours – one out of Fisherman’s Wharf that operates year-round, and one out of Union Square. The Union Square departure just started back up for the year the day before I went in early April. You can buy tickets online or at a walk-up stand. The stand I went to in Union Square only accepted cash, so if you want to earn points on your credit cards, buy online ahead of time. Adults cost $34, seniors $32, children 4-17 $25, and children 3 and under are free. There are some additional discounts for going on a tour before noon.
Taken from their website:
On land, your duck tour passes by many San Francisco sightseeing landmarks, including:
- Union Square
- Ghirardelli Square
- North Beach
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- South Beach
- The Ferry Building
- The Transamerica Pyramid
- And more…
After your thrilling splash down into the bay, sightseeing from the water includes:
- City Skyline
- Bay Bridge
- AT&T Ballpark
- McCovey Cove
And here’s the part of their website I really got excited about…. “Don’t forget, when you are on the water you can drive the duck if you want!” Um, yes please!
On my tour that left at 3PM from Union Square, there were a grand total of three people on the boat. Two women from Dublin, and me. The Captain was doing his best to keep us engaged with the kinda corny duck jokes and stuff, but it did feel a little funny with just three people. We saw another duck that had left from Fisherman’s Wharf, and it was at least 2/3 full. Anyway, given the low occupancy on the boat, I didn’t have any competition when it came to driving the duck in the bay. It was really fun and I got to drive for about 6-8 minutes near AT&T Ballpark.
I don’t think I was very good at keeping us steady with the wind and waves, but I did my best. No one puked. We did briefly see all of the places listed on the website on our 90 minute tour. There is no way I could have seen that much in 90 minutes without the tour, so I am glad I did it.
Dinner in Union Square:
After the Duck Tour, I got back to the hotel around 5PM. I did a little bit of work online and then visited the Club Lounge at the Grand Hyatt for some complimentary appetizers. I had heard good things about sushi in San Francisco, so I had reservations at 7PM at Akiko’s Restaurant. While it certainly wasn’t rated as the best sushi in the city, it seemed to get some of the highest ratings for a sushi restaurant in the Union Square part of town. I wanted to be able to walk to and from dinner, so this seemed like a good fit. I remembered the name of the restaurant, so I looked up the address on my iPhone and headed out.
I got to the restaurant, and it looked a little quainter than I imagined, but some of my favorite sushi joints in New York were very quaint, so I went in anyway. I think I immediately knew I was at the wrong place as I didn’t even bother to tell them I had a reservation as I sat down. I liked the atmosphere and was kind of exhausted, so I stayed. After I ordered, I did a little investigation on my phone and realized that indeed there were two sushi restaurants with virtually the same name in Union Square (Akiko’s Restaurant and Akiko’s Sushi Bar), and I had gone to the wrong one. I cancelled my reservation at the other one online, and drank my saki while I watched a ballet class practice across the street. The food at Akiko’s Sushi Bar was okay, but it really wasn’t any better or worse than sushi that I get in my hometown. I’ll have to do better with my dining choices next time I am in San Francisco. Hopefully I will have more time to venture to restaurants out of the downtown area as well, though I did love the “big city feel” of downtown.
My flight the next morning required a 6AM departure from the hotel, so I just had time to grab some breakfast in the lounge at the hotel and hop in a cab to the airport. I am looking forward to returning to the Bay Area with my family, and enjoying many more of the attractions, restaurants, etc. that San Francisco has to offer! This “teaser” trip has just left me wanting more.