How to Take a Virtual Trip to San Francisco

So, 2020 definitely wasn’t like past years, when we traveled to beautiful places and hopped a plane at the last minute for a getaway… sigh. Our daughter was especially disappointed we weren’t able to head to some of our favorite destinations (and new ones!) over the past year. While we wait longingly for those carefree days to come back, “virtual trips” are a fun way to bring a little excitement to the never-ending quarantine routine. We had been planning a trip back to San Francisco last summer that didn’t materialize, so I decided to bring a piece of the City By the Bay to us! I wanted to keep it a surprise, so brainstormed activities we could do and food we could eat all with a San Francisco theme. It was a hit! Of course, you can do this with any city or place — simply choose a locale that has meaning for your family or one where you were planning to go, and be creative. Here’s how I pulled off our virtual San Francisco trip.

Develop a Trip Itinerary.

I started by brainstorming and writing out an itinerary for our three-day trip. This gave me a framework to determine what I needed to order or research to make our experience feel more authentic. I thought about activities we enjoyed in person and fun things we could do at home to bring back those memories. Alcatraz, cable cars, Ghirardelli Square, clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Park and the Tonga Room at the Fairmont, to name a few.

A sample of our “virtual trip” itinerary.

Create a Photo Book.

If it’s a location you’ve been to, and haven’t done so already, creating a Shutterfly photo book to look at is a great way to set the tone for your “trip.” If it’s a place you haven’t been, consider buying a coffee table book to peruse when you present the trip itinerary to your family.

Brainstorm Themed Activities.

This is hardest part to recreate, since nothing compares to being in person at a destination and experiencing all it has to offer. Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing, as there are so many things you could do and customize depending on the age of your kids and their interests.

  • We love playing Monopoly at our house, so I purchased San Francisco-opoly. We had a blast playing and, as we worked our way around the board, we recognized some of the places we’d been or would like to go next time we’re there.
  • The Museum of Ice Cream was a huge hit on our trip, so I ordered tees, sprinkles and ice cream from their online store. We wore our cute pink tees all day and made sundaes. At the moment, the San Francisco store is closed, as is the online store, but they are still shipping their yummy ice cream nationwide through Goldbelly.
  • Watching classic movies filmed in the City by the Bay is another great way to immerse yourself in the feel of SF. Whether you have some on DVD, Netflix or rent on Apple TV, there are a number to choose from. We watched three terrific flicks, one per day, including Mrs. Doubtfire, The Wedding Planner and Escape from Alcatraz. Our daughter was obsessed with learning more about Alcatraz after seeing the famous spot in person, so this classic film starring Clint Eastwood didn’t disappoint.
  • Do your kids love Minecraft or Legos? Challenge them to build a San Francisco landmark from a picture or their imagination! Or, make it easier and buy a Lego Architecture set.
Hoping it re-opens in the future.

Hit the Local Foodie Scene.

These Boudin bread bowls and clam chowder were so delish!
They arrived in this box.
Just heat and eat. Yum!
  • It’s not a trip to San Francisco without a visit to the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf. And, the famous chowder in a bread bowl is a must-have. Good news… Boudin Bakery on the Wharf ships chowder and bread bowls in a box right to your front door! They also ship Dungeness crab, all types of fancy sourdough bread, and picnic kits.
  • Ghirardelli Square is another favorite place to visit for their famous, best-hot-fudge-you’ve-ever-had-in-your-life sundae. Of course, their decadent chocolate (from your favorite flavor square to hot chocolate and sauce) is available on their website or even on Amazon so you can whip up the perfect sundae at home.
  • For a Chinatown food extravaganza, order takeout from your favorite local Chinese restaurant or order a bunch of Chinese finger foods (think potstickers, crab rangoon, egg rolls and fried rice) from Whole Foods Market and have it delivered. Even Goldbelly has a special section right now for Chinese Lunar New Year, including TAO’s Peking duck and Dim Sum from New York.
Ghirardelli Square.

If you’re planning a virtual trip to a different US destination, note that Goldbelly is a terrific resource for all kinds of popular regional US food, from lobster and pasta to cheesecake and cannolis. Check it out!

P.S. Read all about our in-person trip to San Francisco and our favorite in-person things to do! Hopefully we’ll be back soon.

If you have creative ideas or resources for San Francisco or other destinations, please share in the comments below!

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