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Touring National Park sites in San Francisco on the cheap
posted by John : November 18-20, 2017

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What better symbol of San Francisco

At the risk of validating Alaska Airlines' advertising campaign, we jumped on a pair of $59 (each way) tickets between Seattle and San Francisco. It'd been a long time since we'd visited the City by the Bay and we'd never been there together. Add in a free hotel stay thanks to all the nights we booked through for our East Coast adventure this summer and it was pretty inexpensive vacation.

Wait a minute. Did I write, "vacation?" Silly me. We don't do vacations. We have adventures. The main focus of this adventure weekend was to visit the National Park units around San Francisco.

Unfortunately, that meant renting a car, but that wasn't the big expense. Parking the car was pricey. More pricey than renting it. However, when we penciled it out it was still cheaper than any other transportation.

Day one:

John Muir National Historical Monument. Cool house, cool grounds, great insight into what he did when he wasn't helping create the National Park system.

Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park. The site is good and tells a very factual story, but if you want your mind blown make sure you hear Ranger Betty Reid-Soskin speak. Boom.

Point Reyes National Seashore. We only made it for the afterglow of sunset, but even that convinced us we need to come back.

Day two:

Fort Point National Historic Site. Did you know there's a Civil War-era military fort under the Golden Gate Bridge? We didn't either, but it's totally worth a visit to see Third System design and great views of the Bridge above.

Alcatraz Island, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. All the other sites are cool, but this is the one you need to visit. Just be sure to get your reservations well in advance.

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Even if boats... excuse me... ships aren't your thing I bet you'll still find it interesting.

Day three:

Muir Woods National Monument. Redwood trees in a deep ravine only a short drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. Plan for more than a day and bring your hiking boots. There are plenty of trails that start here and get away from the crowds. Reservations and shuttle buses are required so plan ahead.

Baker Beach, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This beach isn't terribly special by itself, but the GGNRA includes gun emplacements, bluffs, and other areas besides beaches.

All told we visited seven of the nine National Park units. We missed the Eugene O'Neill NHS and the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial. The former was a little too much for day one and the second is open only by advance reservation.

We rolled back into Seattle tired, but refreshed. As a bonus, we only had three days to work leading up to Thanksgiving. One more day would have made it a little more relaxed, but remember this was never meant to be a vacation. It was an adventure.

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