You've done lots of sightseeing, time for a change of pace. Today we're going to do one of our all-time favorite things to do on a day off—ride a bike from Fisherman's Wharf to Sam's Anchor Cafe in Tiburon (that small peninsula just north of Alcatraz Island). The beautiful and exhilarating ride takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge, through the heart of Sausalito, and along the scenic North Bay bike path, ending with a frosty beer and lunch at one of the most festive outdoor cafes in the Bay Area. And here's the best part: You don't have to bike back. After lunch, you can take the passenger ferry across the bay to Fisherman's Wharf—right to your starting point. Brilliant. Start: Powell—Hyde cable car line. Bus nos. 19, 30, or 47.
1. Rent a Bicycle
Walk, take a bus, or ride the Powell–Hyde cable car (which goes right by it) to one of the bike shops near Ghirardelli Square. Rent a single or tandem bike for a full day, and be sure to ask for: 1) a free map pointing out the route to Sam’s in Tiburon, 2) ferry tickets, 3) a bicycle lock, and 4) a bottle of water. Bring your own sunscreen, a hat (for the deck at Sam’s), and a light jacket—no matter how warm it is now, the weather can change in minutes. Each bike has a small pouch hooked to the handlebars where you can stuff your stuff.
Start pedaling along the map route to Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll encounter one short, steep hill right from the start at Aquatic Park, but it’s okay to walk your bike (hey, you haven’t had your coffee fix yet). Keep riding westward through Fort Point and the Marina Green to Crissy Field.
2. The Warming Hut
At the west end of Crissy Field, alongside the bike path, is the Warming Hut, a barnlike building where you can fuel up with a light (organic, sustainable) snack and coffee drinks. Several picnic tables nearby offer beautiful views of the bay.
3. Biking the Golden Gate
After your break, there’s one more steep hill up to the bridge. Follow the bike path to the west side of the bridge (pedestrians must stay on the east side), cross the bridge, and take the road to your left heading downhill and crossing underneath Hwy. 101. Coast all the way to Sausalito.
4. Exploring Sausalito
You’ll love Sausalito. Cruising down Bridgeway is like being transported to one of those seaside towns on the French Riviera. Lock the bikes and explore on foot for a while.
5. Poggio Trattoria
If it’s sunny, ask for a table outside at Poggio Trattorio (777 Bridgeway; tel. 415/332-7771; www.poggiotrattoria.com) and order a cocktail, but save your meal for later.
6. North Bay Tour
Back on the bike, head north again on the bike path as it winds along the bay. When you reach the Mill Valley Car Wash at the end of the bike path, turn right onto East Blithedale Avenue, which will cross Hwy. 101 and turn into Tiburon Boulevard. (This is the only rough part of the ride, where you’ll encounter traffic.) About a mile past Hwy. 101, you’ll enter a small park called Blackie’s Pasture. (Look for the life-size bronze statue erected in 1995 to honor Tiburon's beloved “mascot,” Blackie the horse.) Now it’s an easy cruise on the bike path all the way to Sam’s.
7. Sam’s Anchor Café
Ride your bike all the way to the south end of Tiburon Boulevard and lock your bike at the bike rack near the ferry dock. Walk over to the ferry loading dock and check the ferry departure schedule for “Tiburon to Pier 39/Fisherman’s Wharf.” Then walk over to Sam’s Anchor Café (27 Main St.; tel. 415/435-4527; www.samscafe.com), request a table on the back patio overlooking the harbor. You may have to wait, but hang in there. Once you’re relaxing with a burger, oysters, and cool drink, you’ll see why this is a famous local trek.
8. Ferry Ride Back to San Francisco
When it’s time to leave, board the ferry with your bike (bike riders board first, so don’t stand in line) and enjoy the ride from Tiburon to San Francisco, with a short stop at Angel Island State Park. From Pier 39, it’s a short ride back to the rental shop (the rental shops close around 7:30pm, but there’s 24-hr. drop-off).
After all this adventuring, it’s time to reenergize your body and soul with another Irish whiskey at the Buena Vista Cafe, across from the cable car turnaround, a short walk from the bike rental shop. After libations, take the cable car back to your hotel for some rest and a shower; then spend the rest of the evening enjoying dinner.
Best of San Francisco with Kids in 3 Days
If you are lucky enough to have 3 full days in San Francisco with your kids, head to the other side of town on Day 3 and hit Golden Gate Park. There you'll visit a science museum, go for a boat ride, wander through the park some more, then go relax at the beach, and have yummy shabu shabu for dinner. Start: Bus nos. 5, 28, or 44.
1. California Academy of Sciences
Anchored in Golden Gate Park is this family favorite spot where you can visit a planetarium, find an albino alligator, climb through a tropical rainforest, learn about earthquakes, see penguins splash about, and check out jellyfish and other sea creatures. Grab a gourmet snack at the surprisingly good cafe if hunger hits.
Walk west for a few minutes until you reach Stow Lake.
2. Rent a Boat on Stow Lake
Frogs, ducks, seagulls, strolling residents, pretty much everyone loves this picturesque little lake with a walk-able center island called Strawberry Hill. Rent a pedal boat, a rowboat, or a low-speed electric boat at the Boathouse and take in a classic San Francisco experience.
Head over to Strawberry Hill in the middle of the lake.
3. More Golden Gate Park
By now the kids are probably tired of having an agenda—enjoy this beautiful park. Maybe the Japanese Tea Garden? Perhaps the Conservatory of Flowers? There’s even a fantastic and elaborate Children’s Playground complete with a carousel.
Either walk or hop on a bus and head to the beach. Use www.511.org to figure out which bus to take, depending on where you are in the park.
4. Cliff House
Stop in for a drink and a bathroom break. Look at the pictures all over the walls showing what it looked like in this area 100 years ago. Once refreshed, head outside and look for wildlife on Seal Rocks. Walk to the right and climb around the ruins of the Sutro Baths. Go relax on the beach and take a nap, or dig a hole. Do not go swimming here; the currents are dangerous.
Take the bus no. 38 to the corner of Geary and Fillmore sts.
5. Japantownfor Dinner
Chinese last night—how about Japanese tonight? Fun options inside Japan Center include perennial kid favorite Benihana (1737 Post St., tel. 415/563-4844; reserve in advance!) and Isobune Sushi (in Japan Center, 1737 Post St., tel. 415/563-1030; drop-in OK), where you’ll pluck plates of surprisingly affordable sushi off of little boats floating around a circular centerpiece stream.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.