Warren Visited San Francisco14 August 2018
The golden gateway of California has been a mecca for tourists from all over the world for many years. Well known for being an “inclusive” city regardless of race, colour or creed, the city welcomes everyone equally and that includes anyone travelling with disabilities.
There are drop kerbs on every corner, both within the city and all the suburbs, many of which also cater for those with sight and hearing impediments as well as those using wheelchairs or mobility scooters and although the city has many steep hills, the public transport system of the Muni, Bart or Metro systems crisscross the city allowing anyone with disabilities to easily access any part of the city they wish to travel to, without pre-booking assistance or having to negotiate those inclines. In fact, half the seating area of every Muni bus has spaces reserved for wheelchair access or walking difficulties, with low gradient ramps to access the buses and raised ramps at many stops to allow level entry access onto the F Line trollies buses.
Most shops & restaurants have level entry or ramp access, as well as disabled toilets throughout the city, eating establishments and tourist attractions. Many hotels have a high level of accessibility (called ADA rooms) to comply with stringent American laws and although the hotels are not cheap compared to other American cities, San Francisco is a reality not just a dream for that trip of a life time.
Warren recently visited San Francisco and has written about his holiday, as you can see below.
Time to get my holiday underway with a direct flight from Manchester Airport with Thomas Cook Airlines (who now fly direct to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Las Vegas and their new destination of Seattle), all from Manchester. Along with Thomas Cook, Virgin also flies direct from Manchester to San Francisco as well as direct flights from Heathrow with Virgin and British Airways. Alternatively, there are many local airports that have access to the city with indirect flights, and flights via Dublin are one of the most popular options, as in many cases you can clear American customs in Dublin. It’s a long flight of nearly 11 hours, so breaking the journey with a stopover in another American city can really help if you don’t fancy doing the trip in one go.
With the 8 hours behind the UK time difference, I arrive 3 hours after take-off time but will spend the rest of the day relaxing as it has been a long day already. I am staying at the King George Hotel, off Union Square, which is a 25-minute taxi ride from the airport. This is an excellent 3-star central hotel in a fantastic location. They have 3 ADA rooms with flat floor showers, shower bench and grab rails, as well as a further 5 ADA rooms with baths. The flat floor shower rooms are accessible via the single hotel elevator which is wide enough for a standard wheelchair plus one other person within it, however you would have to wheel in/reverse out. The bedroom doors are also wider than standard at 90cm.
It is time to explore the city. I decided to head to the world famous, Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and the wild sea lions that have made the pier their home. Fisherman’s Wharf is located on the Embarcadero, a flat sea front promenade located along the bay, which is easily accessed via the F Line trolley cars that run from Market Street, at the end of the street I am staying on. There are amazing views across the bay to Alcatraz, Angel Island and the upmarket residential areas of Sausalito and Tiburon. From here, a long walk along the front brings me to the ferry port and the newly refurbished indoor market. The whole day is spent shopping and sight-seeing in arguably the most famous area of the city, visited by hundreds of tourists every day of the week.
We decide to get a travel pass for our stay in the city to allow us unlimited travel on the buses, trolley cars and Metro as well as the cable cars that the city is renowned for, however the cable cars have very long queues and are not accessible without some level of mobility. These passes can be purchased for 1day, 3day or 7day options. We catch the bus to visit the Palace of Fine Arts, set in a small park grounds and surrounded by a wonderful lake, filled with turtles and wild fowl. From here we catch the bus to the Marina, set against another park area and filled with amazing yachts and stunning views across the bay. The area is unbelievably flat and makes for a wonderfully relaxing walk.
Today is the day, everyone who visits San Francisco looks forward to, a trip and walk across the Golden Gate Bridge which spans the mouth of the bay. Totally accessible and many ultimate photo opportunities beckon as we cross the bridge, though bring layers of clothes as the breeze across can be cold and up to 15 degrees lower than the temperature in the city and colder still if the seasonal sea fog is rolling in. Remember this is a two way crossing; so many people just walk half the bridge, and then walk back. It is a day to remember and no matter how many times you have done it before, it never gets old.
Ocean Beach is the focus of our day today and San Francisco Zoo. Again, every attention to detail has been thought of to make the area accessible to all and the zoo is much bigger than you imagine, taking 4 hours to go around all the sections. The zoo has a large breeding programme and has a reputation of taking animals from around the world that no-one else seems to want so there is a wide variety from all over the globe, which is reflected in the corners of the world that the zoo is divided into. After our visit, we pop across the road to the southern point of Ocean Beach, watching the wave’s crash onto the shore line. Again, layers are the order of the day as the breeze along North Beach, means temperatures, like the Golden Gate Bridge, can be a lot lower than other areas.
If strolls through the park are your thing, then Golden Gate Park is definitely the place to go. Even a whole days visit did not seem enough here as there is so much to do and see from the breeding Bison, the many lakes and ponds, Japanese Tea Gardens and Botanical Gardens. The park also hosts the Academy of Science, which is a full day’s visit by itself as well as the live band stand that hosts many organised free shows. Accessible toilets are located throughout the park, though take your own picnic food as there are very little places to eat or drink.
Today we catch the ferry to Angel Island. Although the island, like Alcatraz, is not accessible for wheelchair users, it does offer a guided audio cart tour of the outer rim for those with some mobility, or for anyone that wants to see this former immigration station island without walking the 4 miles circumference for them self. The lower decks on the ferries are accessible so that taking an hour bay cruise with one of the 3 major companies is a great way to explore the waters or to travel to Sausalito or Tiburon and explore all that they have to offer.
San Francisco has many aspects to the city and many individual areas based on countries and influences from around the world in the form of suburbs, so today we will hop on/off the buses to visit each one. Chinatown is the main suburb and you are greeted with two large dragon headed statues at the doorway to Chinatown. A long street of traditional Chinese shops selling both gifts and fresh food tantalise the senses. From here we pass through a small park, where Chinese woman perform their Thai chi each morning to traditional music as we pass on to “little Italy” and its host of small cafes to take in a pastry whilst we watch the world go by. A quick visit to the large white church where Marilyn Monroe married the baseball player, Joe DiMaggio and it’s off to Japan Town and its tranquil pagodas and more traditional shops. Our final stop is Nob Hill, and a look at how the other half live in their luxury housing and stunning views down over the city.
It’s a sad day as our visit to this wonderful city comes to an end and we head back to the airport for our flight home. We have wonderful memories, great pictures and a true reluctance to leave this amazing city and all that it has to offer. San Francisco is the perfect city, with something to suit every taste and although many people only visit the city for 3-4 days as part of a multi stop tour of the West coast, it can more than hold its own for a longer, single centre stay, with so much to see and do to keep everyone wanting to visit time and time again. I certainly will be back!
If you would like to find out more and enquire about an accessible holiday to San Francisco, please click here or call us on 0121 374 0196
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