Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rick's Tips - Summer in the City

Here's the latest edition of "Rick's Tips,"  Blue Heron's free newsletter:

Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website, www.BlueHeronTours.com, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

Summer in the City
 
Summer in San Francisco is often cold, foggy, crowded, and a lot of fun. Here are some tips for enjoying your summer in the city.

Be Prepared for the Weather
 
There's an old quote attributed to Mark Twain but probably never spoken by the great author, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer's day in San Francisco." While Twain never may have spoken these words, the sentiment is oh-so-true. A typical summer day in San Francisco starts with a low of about 54F/12C with fog covering the city. The fog gradually burns off with the neighborhoods closest to the bay clearing first and those along the ocean often staying shrouded in fog throughout the day. Come mid-afternoon, a peak temperature of 67F/19C is reached, the winds pick up, and the fog comes pouring back through the Golden Gate. You can tell the locals; we are in down jackets and ski caps. The tourists are wearing tee-shirts and shorts. San Franciscans dress in layers as our weather is so unpredictable. Bring your shorts as it's hot outside of the City, but also bring long pants, a sweater or hoody, and/or a fall jacket.

Avoid the Crowds
 
San Francisco welcomes many visitors during the summer. Families prefer to travel when their children are on school breaks. If you can visit in late May or early June before all schools break for the summer or in late August or early September when many schools have reopened, the city will be slightly less crowded.

Last year, issue number 56 of "Rick's Tips" provided much information for avoiding crowds at many of our popular attractions. You can see that issue by clicking here. All of the information is still current with the exception of the information on visiting Muir Woods. Advance reservations now are required for all visitors arriving by personal vehicle or on the shuttle. You can get a reservation by visiting www.gomuirwoods.com. Reservations become available 90 days prior to the date of your visit. Tour operators, like Blue Heron, also need reservations to bring their guests to the park but get them through a different system.

Take in a Game
 
The Bay Area is home to two major league baseball teams - San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, better known as the A's. The Giants play at AT&T Park, which is an easy, mile-long walk from Union Square. If you are staying downtown, you also can get to the stadium on the N and K/T streetcars. If your hotel is close to Fisherman's Wharf, the E Line street car runs between the Wharf and the stadium. The A's play at the Oakland Coliseum, which is next to a BART (subway) station. To get to the stadium from Union Square, SOMA, or the Financial District, board BART at the Powell, Montgomery, or Embarcadero stations. If you are staying close to the Wharf, take the E or F line streetcar and board BART at the Embarcadero station. Trains heading to Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont/Warm Springs stop at the Coliseum station. Night games at AT&T park can be chilly, so bring warm clothes. The Giants often sell out their games, while the A's seldom do.

A unique sporting event this summer is the Rugby World Cup Sevens, which will be held at AT&T Park from July 20 to 22. This is the first time this world championship will be held in the U.S.

Be Festive
 
Nearly every week a neighborhood in San Francisco has a street festival. Each has a unique theme, but you can count on listening to good music, tasting yummy food, and exploring crafts for sale. You can see a good list of festivals by clicking here or here.

One of the biggest events of the summer is the Pride Parade and Celebration on June 23 and 24. The celebration is held in Civic Center Plaza on both afternoons. The parade is on the morning of the 24th. Participants march from Market and Beale Streets to Civic Center. Please note that nudity is allowed in the parade and at the celebration. Also, If you are not going to the parade and need to drive across Market Street on Sunday morning, you will need to drive around the parade route.

Two big music festivals will take place in the next few months. Outside Lands runs from August 20 through 22 in Golden Gate Park. This year's headliners include The Weekend, Florence & the Machine, and Janet Jackson. Dozens of other acts also will appear. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a free festival featuring bluegrass and related musical genres. This year's festival runs from October 5 to 8 in Golden Park. The lineup of performers has yet to be announced.

Dine al Fresco
 
On warm, sunny days eating outside is great fun. Fortunately, San Francisco has a good number of outdoor dining opportunities. If you like grabbing meals from food trucks, Off the Grid organizes markets of food trucks where you can enjoy tasty food at reasonable prices in the great outdoors. Their biggest event is the Presidio Picnic held every Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. through October 21 on the Main Post of the Presidio. Hundreds of people gather to picnic on the lawn, enjoy good food and drinks, and listen to music. Off the Grid sponsors daily food truck markets around San Francisco from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Evening markets are held from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursdays at the end of Waller Street in the Upper Haight (aka Haight-Ashbury) and on Fridays at Fort Mason Center (lower Fort Mason).

Spark Social has a food truck park at the corner of 4th Street and Mission Bay North in the new Mission Bay neighborhood, just south of AT&T Park. Some trucks are regularly at the park while others come and go. Trucks are open for lunch from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and dinner from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on weekdays. On Saturdays, the trucks open at 11:00 a.m. and close at 9:00 p.m. Trucks serve from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Sundays.

Many restaurants have nice spaces for dining outdoors. Some of my favorites include Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Ferry Building, The Ramp and Mission Rock Resort in Mission Bay, Park Chalet in Golden Gate Park across from Ocean Beach, and La Mar Cebicheria at Pier 1 1/2 on The Embarcadero.

Enjoy the Fireworks
 
San Francisco celebrates Independence Day with fireworks at around 9:00 p.m. on July 4. The challenge in viewing the display is that the fog often obscures the fireworks, so viewers see only illuminated clouds. If the fog is high or the sky is clear, find yourselves a good vantage point and enjoy the pyrotechnics. Hilltops and upper floors of hotels with clear lines of sight to the bay are some of the best places to watch the fireworks. You also get good views from along the waterfront at Fisherman's Wharf. Expect large crowds in the area and don't even think of driving as street parking is prohibited around much of the Wharf during the late afternoon and evening of July 4. Many people enjoy the view from the Marin Headlands on the north side of the Golden Gate. You will need a car to get there. Go early as parking is very limited.

Of course, there is much more to see and do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California during the summer; like take a tour with Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel. Check out back issues of "Rick's Tips" for more ideas.

Blue Heron is on TripAdvisor
 
Blue Heron is on TripAdvisor. Check out Blue Heron's listing or, if you've used Blue Heron's services within the past year, post a review by clicking here

Follow Blue Heron Custom Tours on Facebook
 
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel has a Facebook page. Click the "Like" button and you will receive regular updates from Blue Heron's two blogs, "Rick's Wine Country Journal" and "Rick's San Francisco Journal," as well as other information on fun things to do in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Rick's Blogs
 
If you are not a Facebook member, you can still get more information on sights in San Francisco and wine country, by reading my blogs: Rick's San Francisco Journal and Rick's Wine Country Journal


Blue Heron does not believe in sending unwanted e-mail. If you do not want to continue receiving this free newsletter, just reply to this message and let me know or click here: Unsubscribe. Your name will be removed from our mailing list immediately. If you know someone who you think would like to receive his or her own free copy of "Rick's Tips," either send me his or her name and e-mail address or forward this message and ask him or her to reply directly to me. 

See you on the road, 
Rick Spear  
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel 
275 Staples Avenue San Francisco, CA 94112 
(866) 326-4237 (toll free) 
(415) 337-1874 (local) 
(415) 587-7433 (fax)  
www.BlueHeronTours.com  
Rick@BlueHeronTours.com  
TCP 16309-S  

"Go Where You Want To Go!"

Friday, April 13, 2018

"Rick's Tips" - April 2018 - Spring Has Sprung

The April edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's free newsletter of fun things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California is now available.  You can read about fun things to do this spring:

Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website, www.BlueHeronTours.com, to learn more about our private, custom tours.
Spring Has Sprung
 
Northern California doesn't really have four seasons like much of the country. Rather, we have wet and dry seasons. The arrival of spring means that the winter rains will soon come to an end. In San Francisco, summer means cold, foggy weather. Spring and fall are the nicest times of year to visit as the days are warmer and the skies clearer. Spring means different things to different people. For some, spring means their gardens start to bloom. For others, spring means the arrival of the baseball season. Below are some spring activities for you to enjoy over the next few months.

See Beautiful Flowers
 
Wild Flowers

When we have a wet winter, beautiful wildflowers blossom in the spring. This past winter saw below average rainfall. However, heavy rains in March could result in colorful fields of wildflowers this spring. There are many spots to see gorgeous flowers. My favorite is Chimney Rock in Point Reyes National Seashore. A 2.5-mile/4-km. trail will guide you from the parking lot along the bluff overlooking Drake's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. In April and May, thousands of wild flowers are in bloom. Point Reyes juts into the Pacific making it a cold, windy, and foggy spot. If you can visit on a sunny day, you won't be disappointed.  

Daffodil Hill

About 2.5 hours east of San Francisco is the small Gold Rush town of Volcano in Amador County. Just outside of town you'll find Daffodil Hill. If you visit at the right time of year, usually mid-March until mid-April, you'll find tens of thousands of blooming daffodils. This garden is a must-see if you are visiting Gold Country in the spring. Before you go, call (209) 296-7048 to check on road conditions and to see if the flowers are blooming. Admission is free.  

Kruse Rhododendron Reserve

About 20 miles north of the small town of Jenner on the Sonoma County Coast is the Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve. Every May thousands of rhododendrons come into bloom. Visitors can walk a short loop trail through the rhododendrons or a 2-mile/3.2-km. trail through the second-growth redwood forest. The road to the park is narrow and not suitable for larger vehicles or cars pulling trailers.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors
 
Spring is a great time to explore our nearby parks. Rain is less frequent than in the winter. Since fog is not common, spring provides a perfect opportunity to explore the coast.  

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes park lands in San Francisco, San Mateo County to the south, and Marin County across the Golden Gate. The park is full of historic sites, beautiful beaches (remember the water is ALWAYS cold), and miles of hiking trails. A great hike in the city is the Coastal Trail between the Sea Cliff/Lincoln Park border and the Land's End Visitors Center. Hike about 1.5 miles one way on the Coastal Trail and, if you need to return to your starting spot, come back on El Camino Del Mar, which is paved for about half of the mile-long walk. In Marin County, I love the nine-mile, round trip hike along the Coastal Trail between Tennessee Valley and Muir Beach. If you start at Tennessee Valley, you can have lunch and a pint of Guinness on draft at the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach before returning. Just don't drink too many pints. You'll need a car to get to either Tennessee Valley or Muir Beach as they are not serviced by public transit. Spring is the perfect time to enjoy the views of the Golden Gate, San Francisco, and the Pacific Ocean from Point Bonita Lighthouse in the Marin Headlands. The walk to the lighthouse is about one mile long and goes through a tunnel built by Chinese laborers in the 19th century. The lighthouse is open on Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. The Marin Headlands Express (76X) bus services the lighthouse parking lot on Saturdays and Sundays. Point 

Reyes National Seashore

Point Reyes is along the Marin County coast, about one hour from the Golden Gate Bridge. The park offers rugged terrain, beautiful beaches, great hikes, and an historic lighthouse. As the point juts out far into the Pacific, Point Reyes tends to be very foggy. A spring visit minimizes your chance of seeing nothing but the fog. The website has a park cam so you can check out the weather before you go. My favorite hike is the 9.5-mile, round-trip hike through the Tule Elk Reserve at Tomales Point. On a clear day, the trail offers spectacular views of the Pacific, North and South Beaches, and Tomales Bay. You've got a pretty good chance of seeing Tule Elk during your walk. A walk to the Point Reyes Lighthouse offers stunning ocean views. March and April are good moths to see migrating gray whales on their way from Mexico to Alaska. A word of caution, the walk to the lighthouse takes you down 308 steps, which means you have to climb back up them when you finish your visit. The lighthouse is currently open only from Friday through Monday, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On weekends between December and April, visitors may need to board a shuttle bus at Drake's Beach to get to the lighthouse.

Go Whale Watching
 
While whales can be seen offshore throughout the year, early spring is a good time to see gray whales migrating north from Mexico to Alaska. You can see them off in the distance from Land's End, Point Bonita, the Muir Beach Overlook near Muir Woods, Point Reyes, and Bodega Head in Sonoma County. However, the best way to see whales is to go on a whale watching expedition. Boats depart from San Francisco; Half Moon Bay, about 45 minutes south of San Francisco; Moss Landing, about 30 minutes north of Monterey; and Monterey. In San Francisco, SF Bay Whale Watching and San Francisco Whale Tours offer tours from Pier 39. The Oceanic Society provides tours that depart from Half Moon Bay or San Francisco. A good number of companies offer whale watching tours in Monterey Bay that depart from either Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey or from Moss Landing.

Root for Your Favorite Team
 
Baseball

The arrival of spring means the opening of the baseball season is not far behind. The Bay Area is home to two major league teams - San Francisco Giants and Oakland Athletics, better known as the A's. The Giants open their season against the dreaded Dodgers on March 29 in Los Angeles. Their home opener is at 1:35 on April 3 against the Seattle Mariners. The A's open their season against the Los Angeles Angels at 1:05 on March 29. The Giants often sell out their games while the A's seldom do. Both stadiums are easy to get to from San Francisco. AT&T Park is home to the Giants. The stadium is a twenty minute walk from Union Square and the Financial District. It's also accessible via the E, N, and K/T streetcars. The Oakland Coliseum is about thirty minutes from San Francisco via BART, our subway. Ride a train bound for Fremont, Warm Springs/South Fremont, or Dublin/Pleasanton and get off at the Coliseum Station. The stadium is a five-minute walk from the BART station.  

Basketball

Spring means it's playoff time in the NBA. Of course, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors will be seeking another title. Tickets to Warriors games are the tough to come by. The Warriors are officially sold out for the season, but tickets are usually available through re-sellers on the team's website as well as on independent websites. Expect to pay a pretty penny, especially if you want to go to a playoff game. The Warriors currently play at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, which is next to the Coliseum where the A's play. To get to the Arena from San Francisco, follow the above directions to take BART to the Coliseum. In 2019, the Warriors are scheduled to move to their new home, Chase Center, in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco. This arena will be accessible via the K/T streetcar.  

Ice Hockey

Spring is also playoff time in the NHL. The San Jose Sharks are the Bay Area's hockey team. While they have never won the Stanley Cup, the Sharks frequently make the playoffs. You can see the Sharks play at the SAP Center in San Jose. The best way to get there from San Francisco is via CalTrain. You can board a train at the San Francisco station at Fourth and Townsend Streets and get off at the San Jose Diridon Station. It's then a short walk to the Arena.

Soccer

Major League Soccer (MLS) doesn't wait for the arrival of spring to start its season. The San Jose Earthquakes played their first game on March 3. You can catch Major League Soccer action at Avaya Stadium in San Jose. To get to the stadium from San Francisco, take CalTrain (see Ice Hockey above) to the Santa Clara station. Then you can walk one mile to the stadium.

Of course, there is much more to see and do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California during the spring; like take a tour with Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel. Check out back issues of "Rick's Tips" for more ideas.

Blue Heron is on TripAdvisor
 
Blue Heron is on TripAdvisor. Check out Blue Heron's listing or, if you've used Blue Heron's services within the past year, post a review by clicking here

Follow Blue Heron Custom Tours on Facebook
 
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel has a Facebook page. Click the "Like" button and you will receive regular updates from Blue Heron's two blogs, "Rick's Wine Country Journal" and "Rick's San Francisco Journal," as well as other information on fun things to do in San Francisco and the Bay Area.
Rick's Blogs
 
If you are not a Facebook member, you can still get more information on sights in San Francisco and wine country, by reading my blogs: Rick's San Francisco Journal and Rick's Wine Country Journal


Blue Heron does not believe in sending unwanted e-mail. If you do not want to continue receiving this free newsletter, just reply to this message and let me know or click here: Unsubscribe. Your name will be removed from our mailing list immediately. If you know someone who you think would like to receive his or her own free copy of "Rick's Tips," either send me his or her name and e-mail address or forward this message and ask him or her to reply directly to me. 

See you on the road, 
Rick Spear  
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel 
275 Staples Avenue San Francisco, CA 94112 
(866) 326-4237 (toll free) 
(415) 337-1874 (local) 
(415) 587-7433 (fax)  
www.BlueHeronTours.com  
Rick@BlueHeronTours.com 
TCP 16309-S 

 "Go Where You Want To Go!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Reopens June 15

If you are planning to visit Yosemite National Park this summer, you will once again be able to walk among the magnificent trees at Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias starting June 15.  This article provides all of the details on the recent renovation to the grove and environs.

Mariposa Grove is located about one hour south of Yosemite Valley, just inside the southern entrance to Yosemite National Park.  The closest lodging includes Big Trees Lodge (Wawona Hotel) inside the park, Tenaya Lodge just outside of the park, and The Redwoods on private land inside the park boundaries.

Blue Heron no longer offers tours to Yosemite National Park.  Most tour operators out of San Francisco do not include Mariposa Grove on their tours.  Your best bet is to drive or to take the YARTS bus from Fresno.