Love The Place You Live: Ferry to San Francisco

This post is brought to you by Uber.


Do any of you remember the Love the Place You Live column? It was focused on encouraging all of us to appreciate where we live and notice the great things about our area, whether it’s a big city or a small town. I’ve had some really fun explorations of Oakland in the past few weeks, and thought it might be fun to highlight some of them using the same column name. I admit it’s somewhat selfish — I like using the need for blog content to get me out of the house. : )

One of the most fun things we’ve done lately is rediscover the ferry from Oakland to San Francisco. We’ve been on it before — usually when friends are in town, as part of a tourist day — but we didn’t realize until earlier this month that it could make a great date night too. As we studied the ferry schedules, we discovered we could head in to the city around 6:00 PM, enjoy dinner and window shopping at the famed Ferry Building in San Francisco, then grab a ferry back by 7:30. That’s amazing! 

For those of you who don’t know the Bay Area, trying to do the same visit by car would add another hour at least of just sitting in traffic, and then another huge chunk of time and money trying to figure out parking. Instead, we get to bypass all of that and take a stunning ferry ride that takes you right under the Bay Bridge!

It’s been quite rainy here, so for our last ferry date night, we grabbed an uberX so that we could get dropped off right at the ferry stop in Jack London Square — it’s one of our Saved Places in the app. (Have you tried the Saved Places feature yet? When you’re on a ride, you can choose to save the destination as a Saved Place, so you never have to look it up again.)

In the mornings, there are many commuters that use the ferry to head into the city for work, and a long line forms. But not in the evenings. In fact, we’ve gone a few times lately and it’s not usual to have just a handful of people on the boat. It feels like you have the whole thing to yourself.

As the ferry leaves Oakland, you pass close by the massive cranes, and huge container ships — both are pretty darn fascinating.

And then, you head right under the Bay Bridge! Check out that view:

The whole ride takes about 20 minutes and you can sit inside if it’s too cold. You can buy your tickets right on the ferry (with card or cash) — so no need to buy them ahead of time. 

The ferry stops right at (you guessed it) the iconic Ferry Building in San Francisco.

The Ferry Building is full of small, pretty shops, and fun places to eat. It has a very European feel, and on the weekend there’s a huge Farmer’s Market there including a robust flower section. 

Before we eat, we love to do a little window shopping, or pick up a treat for the kids at Miette.

There are loads of options for dinner, and one of our favorites — especially if we’re watching the time — is El Porteño. It makes Agentanian Empanadas and they are so good. Plan on two each if you’re hungry.

Watch the clock and head back to the ferry a couple minutes before it leaves — it’s literally just steps away, so no need to get there super early.

There’s an art installation of lights on the Bay Bridge that you can see as you head back. It’s super cool, so don’t miss it if you get the chance to take the ferry.

I think that’s about it for our report. We requested an uberX, as the ferry arrived back at Jack London Square, and it was waiting for us when we disembarked. It doesn’t get more convenient than that. I’ve said this before, but I love taking Uber on dates because it feels like we can start relaxing and enjoying each other’s company the minute we get into the car — no worrying about navigating or getting frustrated by other drivers.

What’s your take on the idea of Love the Place You Live? Are you any good at exploring and appreciating your town or city or neighborhood? I definitely go in waves. Have you discovered anything fun where you live lately? A new shop? A new restaurant? A new library? Or maybe you’ve found a new hike or a park you didn’t know about? And what’s on your wishlist of local things you’d like to do (or do again). I’d love to hear!

P.S. — This is the third post in a 3-post series with Uber. I was hoping to do an interview at Uber HQ for this post, but couldn’t make it happen. Perhaps some time in the future.


Credits: Photos by Kristen Loken for Design Mom.

25 thoughts on “Love The Place You Live: Ferry to San Francisco”

  1. Claudia Simmons

    I lived in Oakland for 15 years and never took the ferry to the City. Next time I’m out on a visit, I’ll try it! Have eaten at the Ferry Bldg. lots of times but have driven. Thanks for sharing, it looked so fun. Who took the pictures?

    1. Yes, Rachael is correct. The photographer is Kristen Loken. I love working with Kristen — she actually did a lot of the photography in my book!

      And I love how these photos turned out. It makes me wish I had more photos from our dates. I forget how smiley I feel when I’m hanging out with Ben Blair.

  2. What a fun, out-of-the-box date night!

    I work at one of those marine terminals you saw with the giant cranes and container ships, and see the ferry go by throughout the day. Thanks for the reminder that it’s not just for other people to take!

    1. You work with the giant cranes and container ships? I find them SO fascinating. The container ships are massive. Every time I go by one I picture these little charms for my daughter’s charm bracelets that I ordered on Amazon and that were shipped across the world.

      It was small little packet, and it came across the ocean in one of thousands of enormous containers on a massive ship and made it to my mailbox. I can hardly fathom it.

      I basically feels miraculous when I think about it hard.

    1. It’s my daughter Olive’s coat. I wore it to Alt Summit and got so many compliments. Now I’m tempted to steal it from her (joking! ). She found it at Zara in the kids department.

  3. We moved to San Antonio nearly 4 years ago and still feel like visitors/ tourists, there is so much to do and see, either in town or one of the many small towns in the Hill Country. We just love it.

    1. It was a school night so we wanted to be home in time to tuck the kids in bed and ready the house for the next day. There are 2 ferries that leave later than that. I think the last one gets to Oakland around 9:30. On the weekends, they actually don’t run as late though.

  4. I’ll be returning to my hometown in a couple of months after a little over 2 years abroad as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I already have a list of things I want to do/places I want to visit in the area near my hometown- places that I’ve never been to or that I’ve only ever passed through. My town is located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, so it’s a gorgeous area! I’d like to check out some nearby hiking/biking trails, as well as a few small villages that have become popular weekend vacation locations for those living in New York City and are really quite charming.

    I also looked back on some of your previous posts- I’m only 24 but I’ve been reading DesignMom since right about when you moved to France and your kids have grown so much! I still really want to make a trip to Normandy France someday- so gorgeous!

    1. I really hope you get to go to Normandy some day! I think you would love it. And I can’t believe you’re almost done with your 2+ years in the Peace Corps. I’ve LOVED reading your comments and observations about life there.

  5. I used to take the ferry from Larkspur or Sausalito when I lived in Marin to go to my office in SF. I never got tired of the view of going by Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. I also met my husband thanks to the ferry: the same people commuted on the ferry and sat in the same places and everyone would chat. One day one of my fellow commuters said, “I need to fix you up with my cousin who goes to grad school at Berkeley.” And the rest is history-25 years and counting!

  6. hi, the ferry sounds great. i’ve been reading your blog for ages and love it. we live in brooklyn and are headed out to california in a couple of weeks. i was hoping you had done a post on great things to check out in san francisco but can’t seem to find anything. that would be super. we will really only have one full day and have a teen and a tween. i realize it can be quite weather dependent but if you had any tips for neighborhoods or food that would be amazing. we are currently planning to check out muir woods and have made a reservation but would love to squeeze in a few other unique things. thanks so much. laura

    1. Laura, I grew up in the Bay Area so thought I would chime in! If you’re sticking to SF I would recommend heading to the Mission for Mexican food and a visit to Tartine Bakery. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys grocery store tourism, Bi-Rite Market is an incredible place to visit, plus it’s a wonderful place to pick up snacks or a picnic (their ice cream shop, Bi-Rite Creamery is right nearby and is also wonderful). Craftsmen and Wolves is another amazing bakery/cafe/candy shop (the negroni pate de fruit are life changing) that also has a stand at the SF Ferry Building Farmer’s market. If you’re around for one of those it is a must visit! You can try so many amazing SF bites in one place. Other favorites are State Bird Provisions and The Progress, but those are a bit pricier and it’s hard to get reservations or you have to line up, but totally worth it! State Bird is innovative, ingredient focused cuisine served dim sum style from carts. It is so fun, and the food is incredible. There’s also a ton of amazing pizza/italian food in SF, wonderful Chinese food and traditional Dim Sum, more Thai restaurants than anywhere outside of Bangkok, and so much good ice cream! Can you tell I love visiting?

      Besides food, Alcatraz is a great half-day trip. They have an amazing audio tour that I loved when I went early on in HS. A walk through Chinatown or Japantown (there are probably great official or online walking tours), Golden Gate Park, the Exploratorium and SF MOMA might all be worth checking out as well. Have a great trip!

    2. China’s recommendations are terrific! If you’re in the mood for touristy, I did a super touristy day with my 21 year old niece and 2 of her college roommates on Saturday. I recorded the whole thing on Instagram stories. They’ve expired by now, but I’ll make it into highlight in case you’d like to see.

  7. I have lived on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for 15 years and have just recently started to appreciate the amazing local day trips, and unique date night options we have. I’m a mom of 6 and our youngest is 8 so I guess we are finally feeling more freedom to explore without kids. We live close to the beach which is our usual go to fun, but we are discovering so much more these days. We have so many unique small towns close by and even have our own ferry trip that goes from Lewis, Delaware to Cape May New, Jersey. We had an amazing time taking the ferry and then doing a lighthouse trolley tour on Cape May last summer. The history and unique culture of the Eastern Shore has become a passion of ours. At first glance the Eastern Shore feels slow, and a bit uncultured. But we have come to realize it is quite the opposite! The Eastern shore is home to Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglas and both have amazing museums dedicated to them. We also love to go to NASA @ Wallops Isand and watch the rocket launches. Each small town along the peninsula offers different food options. And we are especially appreciating all the local festivals. Oyster festivals, crab fests, watermelon feativals. It’s funny how it has taken us so long to realize how many opportunities we have. But we are loving every second of it!!

  8. Hi Gabby,

    I’m so glad that you’re bringing back Love the Place You Live, it’s one of my favourite Design Mom features, and I’m certain that the Bay Area is full of amazing treasures I’ve never heard of.

    I do wish you’d reconsider the partnership with Uber, though. Their employment practices are disgraceful, abusive, and even predatory in some cases.

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Kristina. So glad you like the column!

      I’m aware of the issues with Uber, and feel like we’ve discussed them pretty thoroughly in earlier posts. I understand not everyone sees the company from the same perspective that I do.

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