Emma Waverman writes about the chaos of modern family life in the kitchen and out of it. She has a weekly food column on CBC Radio One, Here & Now. She is the co-author of the family cookbook Whining and Dining: Mealtime Survival for Picky Eaters and Families Who Love Them and is hoping to one day finish her certification as a parenting coach. She lives with her three kids, ranging from tween to university student, and husband in Toronto. Emma has written for a variety of national lifestyle magazines and newspapers. When she's is not making typos, telling you what she thinks, and thinking about dinner, you can find her on Twitter at @emmawaverman and Instagram. You can contact Emma at embracingchaos@hotmail.ca.

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Entries in San Francisco (1)

Tuesday
May222018

San Francisco with Teens

We surprised our kids with a trip to San Francisco last March Break. This did not go over well. 

Our spoiled children are well-traveled and have conflicting ideas of what makes a perfect vacation -- one wants beach, one wants ski and one wants his friends around at all times. 

But my husband had work near San Francisco and having one flight paid for made it easier to contemplate taking three fretful teens away. This story has a happy ending though, as our kids loved the city -- its geography, its food, its tourist traps. It all worked. They even enjoyed a long car trip along the coast. 

Teenagers are quirky creatures to program for, they like to be busy and engaged - but not too much. They like to learn new things - but not too much. And they like to take pictures for their social media feed -- too much. San Francisco hit all the marks for us and if we can satisfy three wildly disparate kids than anyone can.

No teenagers were harmed in the taking of this family trip to San Francisco

I flew with the three kids on my own which was a pleasure. At 18, 15 and 12, my kids are competent travelers and the only problem is that they boss me around a bit too much. My husband met us at the rental car and we drove downtown to the Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf. 

Hotel

Sheraton Fisherman's Wharf: To be honest, I was not thrilled to be staying in the tourism epicentre of San Francisco but it turned out to be a good location. The hotel is a little quirky with a strange nautical beach theme but it is going through a major renovation. Finding rooms for our family of five can be tricky. We lucked out with a one King room, and one room with two doubles that connected. Our room came with a foldout couch which was terrible, so they brought up a rollaway bed. Westins and Sheratons usually have the best rollaway beds that are actual single beds and not folding cots. We are devoted Starwood loyalists and got free breakfasts with our rooms. The breakfast had your typical warmed-over pancakes and rubbery eggs except they would also make you eggs and omelettes on demand which made it so much better.

Restaurants

The night we arrived I had prebooked dinner at Surisan which is nearby. Surisan is a lovely modern Korean restaurant which is probably the least touristy restaurant in the neighbourhood. We had a fantastic meal of many dishes with contrasting flavours that satisfied our meat eaters and meat-neutral family. The fried rice was a particular standout. 

You hear a lot about the Chinese food in San Francisco, but if you are from Toronto or Vancouver it probably won't impress you very much. All the food experts I spoke to said that the best Chinese food is outside of the city and to skip it. Despite this advice we met a friend for Dim Sum at Great Eastern Restaurant. The food was not memorable, but was fine. We walked around Chinatown which is cute, and stopped in at the fortune cookie factory which was mesmerizing for about five minutes. 

Japantown is more interesting and we had ramen at Hinodeya. We were lucky that there wasn't a lineup at this popular spot. Instead of using a pork broth, the soup is dashi-based which makes it lighter and slightly more floral. 

The best meal we had was at State Bird Provisions. This well-known restaurant serves California-Asian food dim sum style. But it's not Dim Sum - instead it is a mish-mash of flavourful plates from all over the world.  Our table was groaning under the weight of all the dishes we picked up from the helpful staff. They had a little bit for everyone including the iconic State Bird (quail), garlic bread with burrata, pasta with uni, and colourful and flavourful beggeies. This is a great restaurant but is definitely a big night out and only worth it if you want to be challenged. 

Oysters kicked off our meal at State Bird Provisions on our family trip to San Francisco

We also ate at Fisherman's Wharf - bad idea. My son got food poisoning from the calamari, that did not look that it was being held at a safe temperature. We also had bread bowls at the famous Boudin Bakery, and all I can say is meh. 

There is an In n'Out Burger just off the main strip. I woudl suggest eating there - even though we did find the burgers disapointing compared to the hype. 

Ferry Building: We went here twice as there is a farmer's market on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. You can get oysters and other pop-up treats. Inside there are some iconic San Francisco restaurant stalls including the Slanted Door, Blue Bottle Coffee and Humphry Slocombe ice cream. This was also my daughter's first encounter with avocado toast, which has pretty much changed her life.

Teens loved the Donuts at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer's Market 

Activities

Fisherman's Wharf: You can't avoid it. The seals are hilarious, the tourist traps are everywhere. There is a museum of arcade machines that you can lose many hours and dollars in. It's fun. 

Alcatraz: It is a must-do! Buy tickets online before you leave your hometown. Everyone loved the tour which was very informative and held everyone's attention. Take water and snacks with you. 

Shopping: We went up to Union Square and wondered around. There were some great buskers. There was also a Brandy Melville (insert eye roll). Shop at your own risk.

Trolley Car: This is super cheesy but suprisingly fun. The lineup at Union Square was about an hour but the trolley stops at the requisit stops and lets people on, so you can try cheating the system. We scored the desireable outdoor spots. 

Crooked Street: Just at few minutes of driving, but the kids liked it for their social media. 

Ghiradelli: SKIP THIS. Just a giant ice cream parlour with a lineup and very mediocre ice cream. It says factory but it is a lie. 

Biking over Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco the teens were too embarrassed to be seen with me

Biking over the Golden Gate Bridge: Of course this got lots of grumbles when we booked the bikes at Bay City Bikes near Fisherman's Wharf. But it is a beautiful path down to the bridge where you see parts of San Fran you might have missed. Biking over the bridge is fun and then you end up in Sausolito which is adorable. We parked the bikes and had lunch and then grabbed ice cream at Lappert's. You then take the ferry back which brings you back to near the bike rental. There wasn't any big hills but it is a longish bike ride. 

Drive down to Santa Cruz: This is a very beautiful drive with lots of little beaches along the way. We had booked to see the sea lions at Ana Nuevo but the weather was terrible so we skipped it. We stayed at the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz which was adorable. We then drove through the forest to Palo Alto and then flew home from San Jose. 

 

Can you take your family to San Francisco and not take a picture of avocado toast?