A great way to learn about San Franciso history is by taking one of the short day cruises offered on the bay. The Bridge 2 Bridge tour operated by Red And White Fleet was not only educational, but also romantic. It takes you from the Golden Gate Bridge at the edge of the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Bay Bridge in the heart of San Francisco’s financial district and last 90 minutes.
After receiving your tickets you’ll be directed to the pier for boarding. Once your ticket is checked, a souvenir photo will be taken of you and your party that will be available for purchase at the end of the tour.
We boarded the boat and were told to take a headset to listen to the pre-recorded narration. It’s one of the only tours available in 16 languages, allowing all guests to enjoy the full scope of the tour. This is a great use of technology in a city visited by people from all over the world. There’s no live component to the storytelling but there are guides around if you do want to ask them a specific question or to take your photo. There’s no guarantee they speak more than one language though.
You can choose indoor or outdoor seating once onboard. The concession stand offers snacks and drinks at very reasonable prices for the Bay Area. You can also bring your own food. Adult libations are also available for consumption. Settle in, choose your language channel, get the camera out and enjoy panoramic views of the entire city skyline including landmarks like Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, Coit Tower, Transamerica Pyramid, Palace of Fine Arts, the Ferry Building, and the Financial District.
You’ll learn about the architecture, culture, building of both bridges and the geology of the Bay Area. It requires special considerations when designing new structures because of its vulnerability to earthquakes due to its location. It’s close to the Pacific plate and the North American plate in which the Hayward Fault and San Andreas Fault are two of the main boundaries. The worst earthquake to date occurred in 1906 and measured a 7.8 magnitude. Thousands of people died and major damage temporarily debilitated the city. There are shifts in these fault lines everyday but many are barely felt.
You may also see a few people swimming off the pier. Waters range from 50 F in January to about 61 F in September allowing for year round swimming. The Dolphin swim club provides classes, tips and competitions throughout the year for swimmers.
My favorite part of the audio element of the trip was listening to the story of Alcatraz, a.k.a “The Rock”. You’ll hear first accounts of life on the island from a prisoner, and from a guard who worked there since its inception in the watch tower. It’s mainly known for housing some of the most notorious gangters like, Al “Scarface” Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and James “Whitey” Bulger. Prisoner rights included food, clothing, shelter and medical care. There were tough restrictions on outside communication including family visits. It’s location in the middle of the bay lead to it’s eventual shutdown in 1963 due to the cost of having to ship everything to it. It operated for nearly 3 decades and housed a total of 1,576 men. It’s also the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast.
If you have the time this is a highly recommended tour. If you don’t have the time it’s recommended you make the time. What’s more San Francisco than getting up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge? You can get photos from all angles including underneath. If you take the evening tour you may experience the sunset on the Bay Bridge depending on the month you go. Once purchased, tickets are good for a year if something were to happen prior to your desired time. It’ll give you a reason to come back to explore more of this amazing city. You may also want to hop on the Bay Bridge and explore all that Oakland has to offer. If you’re local, why are you letting tourists have all the fun?
Tickets can be purchased ONLINE or in person. Adults: $38 Youth: $26