We will always remember our road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Arizona as one of our ultimate family holidays. Road trips are such fun – the joy of driving your own car, the freedom of stopping wherever you wish, makes it such an adventure. Along the way we decided to detour to join the iconic route 66, a gorgeous scenic drive through the birth of the Mother Road leading all the way to the Grand Canyon.
The total road trip was 14 days long and we flew from Singapore to San Francisco, then back from Phoenix Arizona to Los Angeles and then Singapore.
We rented a car for 14 days, picking up from SFO Airport and dropping it off at Phoenix Arizona Airport. We drove at a leisurely pace and had plenty of pit stops for photos.
Singapore – San Francisco
Phoenix Arizona – Los Angeles
Los Angeles – Singapore
I’ll be splitting this road trip review up into 3 parts: 1) San Francisco, 2) Los Angeles and 3) Arizona. Hope this helps you with planning your ultimate USA road trip holiday!
San Francisco – Road Trip Stops
We arrived at 10:30am at San Francisco International Airport where our road trip van was waiting for us. We rented a large Ford Transit Van from AVIS which turned out to be a massive 12-seater van. A bit of an overkill but it ended up being really fun for the kids who had a whole row of seats to themselves. We had plenty of space, which was a welcomed surprised since we were going to be spending a lot of time together in the car for 14 days.
1st stop – Grand Hyatt San Francisco
The first stop was to our hotel in San Francisco. After the long flight, we were dying for some rest and relax at our hotel. We got there in a short 25mins time, driving north from SF International Airport. The Grand Hyatt is conveniently located at Union Square, at the heart of SF. Right beside the Grand Hyatt is the SF Apple store and a Starbucks (where the kids got their daily dose of hot chocolate). From the top floor of the Grand Hyatt, you get a lovely view of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz. We stayed 3 nights in an executive suite, it was very comfortable.
When in San Francisco, travel by Cable Car
Travelling by Cable Car is a must-do when in San Francisco. The SF cable car system is the world’s last manually operated tram and is a tourist attraction by itself. There are many places along Union Square where you can hop on or off, and it doesn’t matter where you start or stop. We accidentally took a tram in the wrong direction at first, but it was a good excuse to see more of San Francisco. You can get tickets from the cable car operators although we got ours from the ticket booth at Union Square. The kids had fun hanging on to the rails instead of sitting down. Don’t worry it’s perfectly safe to do so.
The Coit Tower is located in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood. There’s quite a nice view from the top of the tower. Not much to do except to soak in the gorgeous views. It was a nice teaser before the other exciting places we were visiting. I got a few nice panoramic shots from the top.
Also known as the crookedest road in the world, Lombard Street is a famous and interesting street in SF full of sharp curves down a hilly street. Since we had the car with us, we drove down here. It is pretty exciting, and the kids liked the novelty of it. Walking down is just as fun if you’re not driving. Very Instagram worthy.
There are many piers along the San Francisco Bay waterfront, and the most famous of all is Pier 39. Make sure you visit Pier 39, it is absolutely iconic.
There are many interesting stores and restaurants at Pier 39. There are a few places to grab Clam Chowder but our favourite is the Clam Chowder at Chowders Restaurant. The Clam Chowder there is served piping hot in a sourdough bread bowl, it’s the yummiest we’ve ever had. We make it a point to have a bowl each time we visit San Fran. Try to get a table outside, because its lovely having hot clam chowder in chilly SF weather.
It’s easy be entertained at Pier 39 with numerous quaint shops to browse. We popped into the Sock Factory, Chocolate Heaven, Lefties Shop, Magic Shop…. It’s a real feast for the eyes and the kids were fascinated.
At the end of the Pier, there is plenty of entertainment and a beautiful carousel. We did 5 rounds on the merry-go-round before the kids were willing to move on.
Don’t turn back till you reach the end of the Pier, because that’s where the famous sea lions are. You can’t miss it, just follow your nose and you’ll find them.
The end is also where you can get a clear view of San Francisco Bay with Alcatraz. One of the most famous prisons in the world, Alcatraz has been featured in numerous movies such as X-men, Catch me if you can and the classic Escape from Alcatraz. You can get tickets for a boat tour to visit Alcatraz if you feel up to it, but we were happy enough to view it from a distance. Must be something about the shark infested waters of San Francisco Bay…
The Golden Gate Bridge
Connecting San Francisco Bay to Marin County is the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. One of the most recognised symbols of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge is a mile long suspension bridge. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge while listening to “San Francisco”, corny I know but it was so apt.
Soon after the Golden Gate Bridge, you will arrive at a little city called Sausalito. It’s a cute community dotted with restaurants and art shops. We decided to stop here for some pizza along the waterfront before heading back. It was soooo good!
Insider Tips to San Francisco
The weather is COLD
No matter what time of the year we visit San Francisco, it’s ALWAYS chilly. So make sure you bring extra layers with you, like a jacket, sweater or a cardigan. Summer in San Francisco is still going to be cold, so be prepared.
Stay at Union Square
It’s just so much more convenient to be able to walk around to the tram stops and take in the beautiful sights of Union Square. Staying near Pier 39 could be another nice option.
Visit Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf
No trip to SF is complete without a visit to these beautiful spots. Spend at least ½ a day here, you won’t regret it.
See the Golden Gate Bridge
There are a few ways to enjoy the Golden Gate Bridge. In previous trips, we’ve also cycled to the bridge, which was really fun too. This time we drove across it because it was a road trip and we had the car with us. Make sure you visit it in any case!