It all started with a Full House marathon, and ended with leaving our hearts in Sam Clam’s disco.
San Francisco has always been one of my favorite places from which to escape the desert: perpetually cloudy, and about as East Coast as the West Coast gets. It’s even better with kids. It’s compact, wander-able (to some extent), and buzzing with trivia. The downside?
My kids are amazing road kids at this point, so we left about 8:00 in the morning for the 8+ hour drive (I told them 7. Close enough. They’re not old enough to really have the best conception of time). Besides, once you hit the strip malls of Vacaville, aren’t you pretty much there?
We got to the Marin headlands at 4ish, and checked into our FREE, super cool camping in the headlands (after having discovered the existence of free camping in Bend, Oregon, I feel like I’m onto some huge travel secret no one ever told me about).
Pro: These campgrounds are easy to reserve by phone, and we got into one without too bad of a hike-in from the car.
Con: You can’t stay there. Jesus, it’s like Everest. Bail. Bail for the Holiday Inn up the 101. Unless your kids are hearty little Alpine yodelers who can sleep through the biting winds of the angry Pacific and the sound of foghorns.
Alternative: China Camp (which is not free) is a little more sheltered, as well as full of easy, puttering day exploration for the historian in your family.
The headlands were easy and fun to explore, even if we were all pretty terrified of this Alaskan July weather. The visitor’s center has plenty of interactive stuff for kids, as well as info on the other places in the headlands that offer super-awesome family fun. Forts, missiles, and a sea lion hospital. Like I said, something for everyone:
And from here, we pretty much realized that winter coats in July weren’t going to cut it. Cell service atop the precipice is good, and it’s a lovely spot from which to get on Travelocity and grab yourself a cheapie room up the 101, with heat and showers, and get ready to head back down into the city in the morning. Since we hadn’t really meant to take this impromptu trip to San Fran at all, I was thinking it would be super-budget friendly and we’d learn a lot more and commune with the fog by camping, so when we scrapped that idea, we opted for nondescript hotels instead to save money for downtown escapades the next day. You can even use that hotel wifi to check out more Full house reruns and read Wiki pieces on what you’re going to see in the morning (if you’re a nerd like me).
The 101 hotels all the way up through Sonoma and Napa county are within 40 minutes of the bridge, and they seemed clean and as safe as any decent highway pull-off. However, one desk girl lamented the RVing Roma (in Sonoma? Who knew?) parked across the way, and you might want to check out your overnight parking, or motel it so that you can pull right up to your door.