Tuesday 30 July 2019

San Francisco with our autistic kids

Anthony looking at Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco, San Fran or even SF to the locals, is a vibrant, diverse city in northern California known for it's bay, famous Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and much more.  But having a family that often struggles with busy environments doesn't mean we didn't enjoy the area.  In fact we had a great time.
We chose to stay in Sausalito across the bridge in a beautiful resort called Cavallo Point. This allowed us the freedom to be in the peace and quiet (if you ignore the boat horns due to the fog) in the evenings and the use of a car when we needed it.

Our day to the city of San Fran therefore, started with 10 minutes drive to the Ferry port to sail across the bay.  We were lucky that it was a beautiful sunny day and we were able to sit out on the deck for the 30 minute crossing. There are less crossings at the weekend, and we got on the first one at about 11am.  There was a little queue to get on, but by doing the return journey from Sausalito instead of San Francisco we were definitely going against the flow.

We all got seats with some to spare and gathered a great view of both the Golden Gate Bridge and got up close to Alcatraz too. Alcatraz gets booked up about a month in advance so if you are interested in going you need to think ahead.  It wasn't really on the cards for us - guided tours don't really work with our kids.

After disembarking at the Ferry Terminal (Pier 1) we walked along the Embarcadero round to the famous Pier 39. It's a good half hour walk, but our trip had timed with the end of the San Francisco Half Marathon so road closures meant we had a lovely sunny, though slightly windy, stroll up the waterfront with virtually no traffic at all.

We often don't plan to do too much on days out.  We find too many activities can easily over load the kids. So all we had booked was a walk around the Aquarium of the Bay that was at the beginning of the pier with the hope of finding somewhere to have lunch there too - and maybe see the sea lions, who have recently made the pontoons at Pier 41 their home.

David looking out at the sea lions

Pier 39 was very busy near the road front, but we found the further we went down the pier, the quieter it got. Many of the chain restaurants had queues (not a great thing for our boys) but then we found a total gem right at the end of the pier.

The Chart House looked a little posh from the outside.  Fancy places don't always work for us as there can be a lot of tableware (waiting to be knocked over by those of us with poorer motor skills) and we can feel a bit like 'that family' making a racket.   But it turned out to be lucky for us, David had just about enough of hanging about in the sunny, busy pier and darted inside. We were warmly greeted and no one seemed even slightly phased by the giggling, slightly screaming child who made no attempt to return to his parents.

Instead menus were gathered and we were led through to the Sea Lion room.  There were plenty of tables lined along a glass wall that looked out over Pier 41 to the sea lions bathing in the baking sun below.  David immediately sat down and looked out of the window and everyone settled down.

We had a great lunch, everyone ate well and then enjoyed some peace and the ability to get a great view of the sea lions without the smell or busy crowds. David giggled and Jane meticulously filled in the sea orientated kids menu / puzzles. I'm not sure I've ever said a meal out with our family was the highlight of our day... but in this case it was.

After linch we headed back down the pier to the Aquarium of the Bay.  We enjoyed the jelly fish, the shark tunnel and Jane was very careful in stroking the rays in the touch pool.  Then we headed back along the Embarcadero towards the Ferry Terminal.

David and Jane swing in the playground

Just behind the Ferry Terminal building is a super playground in the Sue Bierman Park.  Although it doesn't offer much shade (unless you plan to sit inside the pirate ship), it's got swings various, slides and great climbing net and wall. David got his sensory feedback for the day with the beautiful buildings in the background. We walked back through the Ferry Terminal which is like a mini mall full of artisan shops and speciality foods... where we picked up some delicious ice-creams then headed back on the Golden Gate Ferry to Sausalito.

Trips to cities can sometimes be daunting with our kids but we had an absolutely fantastic day in San Francisco. Have you been?  What tips would you give?

This is an editorial post of our day out in San Francisco.  
There is no supported content just our own experiences. 


  1. Looks like you all had a great trip and the photos are great too! #KCACOLS

  2. Very informative article :-) keep sharing

  3. Sounds like a great trip. We took our anxious kid to London recently and he loved it. I think not overloading the day is a great plan. Thanks for linking up at #kcacols. Hope you can come back next time.

  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful day. It looks like the kids had a blast. #KCACOLS

  5. This looks like it was a lot of fun. I would love to visit SF one day! #KCACOLS

  6. What a fantastic trip. I went to SF as a young child for the day but would love to go back and explore. I need to start doing more cities with the kids. #SpectrumSunday


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