Sunday, November 01, 2015

Paris in San Francisco and Sweet Tooth's Delight

The latest edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours' free newsletter, is available by clicking here.  This issue updates articles in two old newsletters entitled "Paris in San Francisco"  and "Sweet Tooth's Delight.  If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, send a request to

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Rick's Tips No. 49, August 2015 - The Most Beautiful Urban Walk

The current issue of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron's free newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in the Bay Area has an article on Lands End entitled "The Most Beautiful Urban Walk."  Check it out by clicking here.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Touring Alcatraz

I think the prisoners at Alcatraz would be amazed that over one million people pay good money to go to jail each year.  But they do!  If you want to visit Alcatraz this summer, plan ahead.  Last year, tickets sold out six weeks in advance for the busiest days.  Tickets to the popular Night Tours seem to sell out almost as soon as they go on sale.

Alcatraz Cruises is the National Park Service's official concessionaire for "The Rock."  Anyone else selling tickets to Alcatraz gets them from Alcatraz Cruises and packages them with another tour, often with a steep mark-up.  Alcatraz Cruises starts selling tickets 90 days in advance of the date of the tour.  Tickets to the day tours cost $18.25 for children age 5 to 11, $28.25 for seniors age 62 and over, and $30 for all others.  Family tickets for two adults and two children are available for $90.25.  Night Tour tickets cost a few dollars more.  Family tickets are not available for the Night Tours.

Tickets include an audio tour of the cell block, which is available in Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Plan on spending around 2.5 hours visiting Alcatraz.  While you must depart on your scheduled boat, you can return on any ferry.  Boats leave Alcatraz approximately every 30 minutes.  

Consuming food is not allowed on the island except in the dock area.  Visitors may take bottled water with them.  

The walk from the dock to the cell block climbs 130 feet.  A shuttle is available for those with mobility challenges.

If you find that you are too late to get tickets from Alcatraz Cruises, you can try to purchase tickets from one of the resellers.  Dylan's Tours offers one of the better tour packages that includes a visit to Alcatraz.

For a nice day in San Francisco, you can spend the morning touring San Francisco with Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel and the afternoon touring Alcatraz.  I can pick you up at your hotel, take you on the tour, and drop you at Pier 39 when we finish.  Pier 39 has many restaurants and is a five-minute walk from the Alcatraz ferry terminal at Pier 33.  You can also flip the tours and tour Alcatraz in the morning and the city in the afternoon.  I would then pick you up at Pier 39 and drop you at your hotel.  For more information, e-mail me at or phone me on (866) 326-4237 (toll free).

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Guide to Golden Gate Park

The latest edition of "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's free newsletter" covers San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Park.  To see the guide, click here.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Best San Francisco Restaurants - 2015

Zagat has released its list of San Francisco's Top 50 restaurants and The Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area, and Wine Country Restaurants 2015 was recently published. To date Zagat has not released a guide book as it has in years past.  An on-line summary of Michelin's ratings can be found here.  While we're a little late this year, here's Blue Heron's annual summary of the critics' choices for the best restaurants in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

Zagat's top restaurants for food are Kokkari and Gary Danko with 29 points.  Last year Gary Danko was the top rated restaurant with 29 points and the most popular restaurant.  Kokkari had 28 points and was the second most popular restaurant.  (This year Zagat did not publish a list of popular restaurants.)  This year Quince, Acquerello, Boulevard, La Folie, and Frances follow with 28 points. Unlike past years, Zagat did not include Bay Area restaurants located outside of San Francisco.  

Once again, Michelin awarded three stars to the French Laundry (Yountville, Napa Valley) and Restaurant at Meadowood (near St. Helena, Napa Valley).  This year Benu and Saison (San Francisco) were awarded a third star after receiving two stars last year.  As in 2013, two stars were awarded to Atelier Crenn, Baumé (Palo Alto), Coi (San Francisco), Manresa (Los Gatos), and Quince (San Francisco).  Acquerello (San Francisco), which received one star last year, received two stars for the first time.

The "San Francisco Chronicle" awards four stars to the top restaurants. Current recipients are: Benu (San Francisco), Chez Panisse (Berkeley), Coi (San Francisco), French Laundry (Yountville, Napa Valley), La Folie (San Francisco), Manresa (Los Gatos), Quince (San Francisco), Restaurant at Meadowood (near St. Helena, Napa Valley) and Saison (San Francisco).  All repeat from last year except for Saison, which is new to this elite list.

Come to San Francisco and you'll have a chance to pick your favorite. Be sure to make your reservations well in advance as these top restaurants frequently fill up two months in advance. If you wait until the last minute, you may not be able to get a table or may have to dine at 5:30 or 10:00 p.m.

If you want to see last year's summary, click here