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Sunday 17 February 2019

A Tuk Tuk Tour of San Francisco with Dylan's Tours

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Dylan's Tours. 

One of my favorite things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is that there are so many amazing places right here in our own back yard to explore. We've got it all here. Natural beauty, historical sites, cultural and artistic highlights, delicious food and fresh local produce, amazing architecture, inquisitive wildlife, fun playgrounds and parks... And so much of this can be found right within the 49 square miles that make up San Francisco itself.  

With San Francisco just a short train ride across the Bay (or rather, under it) we like to spend a lot of our free time out and about exploring the city. Usually we'll pick just one particular place to explore and we'll do it on our own, discovering new (to us) things along the way. Every now and then it's nice to play tourist for real and let the experts show us around.

A few weeks back the kids had a day off school so we decided to go play tourist in San Francisco with a tour of the city. But it wasn't a tour bus that took us around this beautiful city, it was something much more fun: a tuk tuk! How cool is that? 

Thanks to Dylan's Tours we spent the afternoon exploring the city with the wind in our hair (literally!) as our very own tour guide drove us around the city pointing out highlights and regaling us with stories of the city's past and present. Even though we've lived in the Bay Area for seven years now and are pretty familiar with the city, we still learned so much that was new to us. With the open sides and low speed of this fun three wheeled vehicle we were able to see so much more than we would have in a car or bus. The kids decided that this needs to be our new mode of transport and tried to convince me to buy a tuk tuk for ourselves! 

Dylan's Tours are fully customizable, visiting pretty much any area of the city that you choose. We decided to go for the standard tour that took us to most of the popular tourist sites including Chinatown, North Beach, Lombard Street, Palace of Fine Arts, Crissy Field, the Presidio, Nob Hill, Union Square, and the Ferry Building where we started and ended our fun adventure. We chose the Ferry Building as our pick up point for our tour as it's nice and handy to Embarcadero Bart Station and is a great place to pick up snacks for the ride, but you can select pretty much anywhere in the city as your pick up point, including hotels. 

Once we were all comfy, buckled in and set up with our snacks in the back of the tuk tuk we were on our way. We headed to Chinatown first where the open back and sides (and clear roof cover) gave us a great view of the gorgeous red lanterns strung across Grant Avenue. This brought back memories of riding in tuk tuks in Asia - although this one definitely felt safer than the tuk tuks of Thailand and India that zoomed through traffic at seemingly high speeds!

From Chinatown we made our way through North Beach (San Francisco's Little Italy) where the lanterns, Chinese signs and vegetable markets made way for Italian restaurants, cafes, delicatessens and Italian flags on every light pole. As a big fan of Italian food, this is one of my favorite places in the city.

We then made our way up, up, uphill towards the top of famously crooked Lombard Street. Now, if you've ever driven down Lombard Street, you'll know just how much fun it is as you go backwards and forwards down the hill. Imagine that in a tuk tuk! And on a day with no other traffic! While we were at no risk of falling out and we weren't going particularly fast we definitely had to hold on! When we got to the bottom Mathilde wanted to head back to the top and go again! It was like our own personal roller coaster. 

From Lombard Street we headed downhill toward the Bay taking in views of Alcatraz, the ships at Hyde Street Pier and Ghirardelli Square along the way. Note to self: Monday afternoons are a good time to stop by Ghirardelli square for a sundae. Look at that - no queue!

We made our way to the Palace of Fine Arts for our first stop. The Palace of Fine Arts is absolutely stunning and was originally built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. It was the perfect spot for the kids to get out and run around for a bit, and an even better spot for photos. Look, I even made it into one!

Back in the tuk tuk, we switched sides with Mathilde and I moving to the back seat and Ava and Lola sitting behind our driver. As we were closer to the water now and had no tall buildings to block the wind, it was a little cooler. Luckily Dylan's Tours provide blankets for just this situation so the girls snuggled up and took in the views as we drove along the Bay.

Ooh, look! What's that I see? It's the Golden Gate Bridge! No matter how many times I see this famous landmark (and I can see it from our home in Berkeley) I'm filled with awe. It's such a beautiful site and I'm still pinching myself that we get to live so close to such an iconic landmark.

We made our way towards the Warming Hut and Torpedo Wharf where we stopped to take in the views of the Golden Gate Bridge in one direction, and Alcatraz and the city in the other. There were also friendly sea lions popping up alongside the wharf to say hello. As you can probably tell from the following picture, it was a little windy so there was a lot of hair blowing in faces!

Another sight that the girls and I were excited to see was the life-sized blue whale sculpture in Crissy Field. Last time I was in Crissy Field this sculpture was still being built, so it was pretty cool to see it finished. The whole thing is made from recycled plastic found in California and was designed to bring attention to the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans.

We hopped back in our tuk tuk (switching seats yet again) and made our way from Crissy Field to another large park in the city: the Presidio. The Presidio is such a lovely place to visit and it really does feel like you've left the city altogether as you drive through groves of towering trees and past expansive grass areas. Our destination within the Presidio on this visit was the Yoda fountain outside Lucasfilm. We've never visited before and the girls were excited to see the little green guy. We posed for photos and made wishes as we threw pennies into the fountain. I'm pretty sure that Mathilde wished for a tuk tuk of her own as she spent the remainder of our tour talking about all the features it would have!

Back on the city streets we made our way up and down hills including some of the steepest streets in the city. We made our way up to Nob Hill with it's stately buildings and grand cathedral passing a cable car on the way. We then turned down incredibly steep Mason street, which always reminds me of the first time I walked up it - pushing one year old Lola in her stroller as my friend Mylee pushed her newborn in a stroller next to me and Ava ran ahead yelling at us to catch up! Ah, back when I had no idea just how steep a street could be. That was a work out for sure!

We made our way past Union Square and through SOMA as we headed back toward the Ferry Building and the end of our fun tour - with Mathilde still describing all of the features of her dream tuk tuk!

When we arrived back at the Ferry Building the girls had a chance to pose for some fun photos pretending to drive the tuk tuk themselves. You know I can't pass up the opportunity for cheesy photos, right? Not sure I'd trust any of these kids driving though, especially not Mathilde!

Our tuk tuk tour with Dylan's Tours really was such a fun and personalized way to explore the city. If you're visiting San Francisco, or even if you're a local like us, I would definitely recommend the tuk tuk tour as a fun, informative and memorable way to see the city. It makes for a great day out. The guides are super knowledgeable when it comes to fun facts about San Francisco's past and present and you just might be surprised at what you learn.

Dylan's Tours also offer mini bus and biking tours around San Francisco and beyond including Sausalito and Muir Woods. The tours are all small groups and can be personalized to suit.

Little Hiccups readers can save 10% when booking with Dylan's Tours.
Visit https://www.dylanstours.com/ to book and enter my code "littlehiccups" to save!

Do you ever play tourist in your home city? Have you ever ridden in a tuk tuk? They're both such fun things to do and I love that we got to combine them together in this unique way thanks to Dylan's Tours!

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