Ride the Duck(s) around San Francisco

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San Francisco Ducks vehicle, the amphibious land-water tour
If you think it looks funny, wait until you hear it coming down the street.

We’ve often spotted this amphibious adventure vehicle around San Francisco, usually leading to an explanation for the kids of how it can travel over roads and also into water, leading – in our case – always to the inevitable question from the kids, “Can we go on it??!!” Leading, in our case, always to the inevitble answer from their parents: “No, that’s for tourists.”

Until recently that is, when our “San Fran Staycation” led us straight to the heart of all things touristic in San Francisco: Fisherman’s Wharf. With a friendly invitation to Ride the Ducks for review, the kids couldn’t believe their luck as THEY were handed the “golden quackers” and led up the ramp into the too-tall vessel boarding directly across the street from the Fisherman’s Wharf sign.

Boarding the San Francisco Ride the Ducks vessel at Fisherman's Wharf - travelswithbaby.com
Happily boarding the San Francisco Ride the Ducks vessel at Fisherman’s Wharf

With a lot of humor and a necessary tip of the hat to safety considerations – including the life jackets stored above us (with some sized for children and infants), our Ride the Ducks tour was off and rolling along the Wharf, everyone quacking merrily to an Overture in Quack Major.

View of the bow and arrow (Cupid) sculpture beside the San Francisco Bay Bridge
Enjoying the views as a passenger for once on a drive around San Francisco.

The kids were overjoyed, and as we made way through the most touristed parts of the city: China Town, North Beach, Union Square, I had to admit is was nice for once to be the lazy observer rather than the defensive driver sharing these sights with visitors. The elevation of the Duckmobile also allowed for some nice perspective for photos I’d have gladly taken en route, but for the need of hanging onto my enthusiastic toddler who took a firm position that, “He who quacks leaning out of the open side of the Duck quacks loudest.”

My little duckling, cruising the Bay on San Francisco's Ride the Ducks.
My little duckling, cruising the Bay on San Francisco’s Ride the Ducks.

Fortunately, by the time we were ready to make the transition from land vessel to Bay Cruiser, the seriousness of what we were about to do set in with a loud clanging and a lurch as the motor raged into aqua gear and we drove, yes, straight into San Francisco Bay. For the first couple of minutes, it felt as if we continued to sink down into the water, and I realized the surface of the bay was the same level as my feet resting on the floor. For a moment, I thought that perhaps it wouldn’t be too much to ask the riders to actually wear the life jackets that were strapped farther from our heads than the water was beside us.

Two "sitting ducks" from WWII, as viewed from the San Francisco Ride the Ducks vessel.
Two “sitting ducks” from WWII, as viewed from the San Francisco Ride the Ducks vessel.

Too late. The duck lurched and motored on and I was glad for a day without whitecaps. In fact, we couldn’t have picked a better day to Ride the Ducks than this uncharacteristically sunny, windless summer day in San Francisco (Hint: you will most likely want a warm jacket before heading out on the Bay – or to San Francisco in summer, when we’re usually socked in with fog). We cruised right up close to and around these two WWII ships and, to the delight of the Giants fans onboard, right along the back side of AT&T park where you can actually see into the park.

Older children were allowed and encouraged to take turns driving the Duck in its water mode, though mine were too shy. Back on land, we made way back to our point of departure as our driver-guide pointed out yet more interesting facts and stories, including some I’d never heard before, about San Francisco and its famous residents. This is when we started to feel the 90 minutes of the 90-minute tour. The toddler was done. His quacker was not.

While the tour is a bit long for the average active toddler (for which there are no restraints), everyone else onboard seemed to enjoy every moment of the adventure. It’s definitely a novel way to see the city, and one you’ll never forget – especially when your kids break out their souvenir quackers on a rainy day. I remain very glad we went, and it was a definite highlight of our San Fran Staycation.

Fisherman's Wharf sign in San Francisco - travelswithbaby.com
Ducks in the front, restrooms in the rear.

TIPS: If you do Ride the Duck(s) in San Francisco, plan to board your tour before noon and you’ll save $5 per adult ticket and $3 per child (4 to 12). Children 3 years and younger ride free. Also, make sure you know ahead of time where you can get additional discounts during the day when you present your Ride the Ducks ticket (includes the nearby Rainforest Cafe and its gift shop) – click here for the list. With young kids, you’ll want to be sure to use the restroom prior to boarding for the 90-minute journey, and you’ll find well-maintained public restrooms across the street in the parking area behind the famous Fisherman’s Wharf sign.

For more information about Ride the Ducks San Francisco, and to purchase your tickets online, click here to visit their site.  For more ideas of fun things to do with your family in San Francisco, check out some of these related posts:

Safe journeys,

Shelly Rivoli
Author of the award-winning Travels with Baby and Take-Along Travels with Baby


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