WARNING- There are no coasters in this update. Don't say I didn't warn you.
It almost seems wrong to end my 2018 reports with a non-coaster related update. For many, this will be like the last five minutes of an action movie. You've just had the epic battle where the villain is thwarted, but they have that heartwarming scene where all the heroes hug, kiss, and sing kumbaya.
But for those who care, here's a mini report of my favorite US city to walk around, San Francisco.
Last time I was in San Francisco, I was an intern entirely reliant on public transit. This time, we had a car. Anyone who has driven through a major city knows just how costly and frustrating it can be to have a car. You crawl through gridlock in search of street parking or a lot that doesn't cost $40-50. But amazingly, street parking was abundant.
The one lot we parked in was the Battery East Lot by the Golden Gate and it was a very affordable $1.20 per hour. That's an absolute steal to see one of the nation's most iconic landmarks. The bridge itself is incredible, but when you add in the mountain backdrop and surfers underneath, it's really an unfair standard for other landmarks like Plymouth Rock, which I grew up 20 minutes from and thought wasn't worth the drive
Not only did we walk (most of) the Golden Gate Bridge, but we also drove across it. I was stunned there was no toll heading north. As I found out later, San Francisco is one of those cities that only charges you to enter. It gives people from Oakland something to strive for I guess.
But the reason we went north was to reach Muir Woods.
I'm ashamed to say this, but I spent an entire summer in California but never once visited the redwoods. Meanwhile I concocted a 4.5 hour public transit route to reach Six Flags Discovery Kingdom using 3 buses and the subway. Priorities. But this time, we made sure to prioritize the redwoods. And they did not disappoint.
There are two types of redwoods: giant sequoias and coastals. The former are the super wide ones and a solid 4-5 hour drive from either San Francisco or LA. The latter are the Shawn Bradley of the tree world standing almost 300 feet tall. And while they aren't as thick as the sequoias, they're still far thicker than anything I'll find back east.
Muir Woods was the main course, but we also whet our appetite the day before in Palo Alto. The primary reason for our stop was because my girlfriend wanted to try the much publicized Sushirrito. I preferred to try something cooked like a normal burrito, but she said it was delicious and her favorite thing about the entire trip.
The auxiliary benefit of visiting Palo Alto was that we could visit El Palo Alto, the tree for which the town is named. El Palo Alto isn't particularly tall for a coastal redwood at 110 ft, but it absolutely towers over the other trees in the park. We also tried to make a quick drive through Stanford University. Getting in was easy. Getting out was a royal pain since it was the last day before winter break. Oops.
On our last day in San Francisco, the weather was awful. During my entire summer in San Francisco, I didn't see a single drop of rain. On this day, I think the city got over an inch of rain. While it wasn't the funnest walking around, it allowed us to visit Alcatraz. With limited time, we didn't want to book Alcatraz in advance. Because of this, we assumed we'd have to skip the infamous federal penitentiary. However, we were able to walk up and board the next boat to the island. For comparison, I had to reserve an Alcatraz trip a few weeks in advance back in 2014.
Alcatraz really has an ominous feel to it. I strongly recommend the audio tour since the voices of the prisoners and guards help transport you into the prison experience.
Back on the mainland, we indulged in some truly delicious food. I love Mama's, but that place has a prohibitively long line unless you get there like a half hour before opening. I was hopeful it wouldn't be bad on such a miserable day, but sure enough there was a sizable wait. So instead we got a festive Snowman sourdough from Boudin, some award winning pizza from Tony's, addictive mini donuts from Trish's, and ice cream sundaes from Ghirardelli.
We also walked Lombard Street. To put this street in coaster speak, it's like Higashiyama's Slope Shooter in the form of a street. I made darn sure I didn't drive anywhere near this street since half the drivers are busy chronicling their adventures on Facebook Live.
We ended our visit in the most touristy way possible at Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39. Neither location is the reason to visit San Francisco, but no visit is complete without going there. For die-hard ride enthusiasts, Pier 39 is your best bet. They have a carousel, one of those Triotech XD dark rides, and a flying theater. With more time, I would have ridden the latter two. Instead we spent our time bargain hunting and watching the sea lions.
San Francisco is an incredible city. Coaster enthusiasts have reason to visit the area due to two RMCs, two awesome wooden coasters, and two great B&Ms. But I can't encourage you enough to also see the Golden Gate, redwoods, and whatever the heck this art was along the streets of San Francisco.