The team of FAA-certified pilots at San Carlos Flight Center opens up the world of aviation to aspiring pilots and sightseers. During comprehensive flight instruction, the team teaches pupils the skills needed to operate flight controls, land, take off, and keep seagulls from mistaking the plane as their king. Training sessions include everything from private pilot certification to specialty and advanced training. High-tech simulators such as the Xwind help burgeoning aerialists get their bearings before soaring the skies in a Cessna suited for training. To share bird's-eye vistas of the Golden Gate Bridge, coastal cliffs, and the city of San Francisco huddled up against the blue Bay, the crew also offers aerial tours.
Drivers are only as good as their cars, which is why SFC Limo's ace chauffeurs keep a fleet of superior sedans and stretch limos on hand. They rev up the stretch limos during weddings and specialty group trips to Muir Woods, Napa Valley, and throughout downtown San Francisco. Passengers can customize the daylong jaunts by telling their driver to head toward a certain nightspot, park alongside a specific scenic view, or veer into a certain winery to get the ghosts of the California Raisins off their trail. For more business-minded migrations, the drivers hop into their sedans and transport guests to San Jose, Oakland, or San Francisco airports.
"If you want to aggressively snack your way through a neighborhood as you walk it," says Fodor's, "consider hanging with cookbook author Tom Medin or one of his local guides." Medin is one of the founders of Local Tastes of the City Tour/SF Food Tours, and he personally leads many of the company's walking tours, which seek out the soul of the city in its bakeries, restaurants, and cafes. The hunt for hidden gems might lead to Chinatown's oldest bakery and a fortune cookie-making demonstration, or through an authentic Western saloon. The North Beach tour, which has been recommended by Lonely Planet, presents a behind-the-scenes look at coffee-roasting by way of the favored hangouts of the Beat Generation. Even when a tour skirts the city's iconic landmarks via painted bus, each stop is replete with tastings and demos, which is why the guides recommend that visitors avoid eating before a tour or swallowing their backpacks for safekeeping.
Even before you climb inside, the GoCar is clearly a car with a personality. The petite, three-wheeled two-seater has a hood that slightly resembles an eager-to-please smiley face, and an open top that seems custom-made for letting the breeze ruffle your hair. Then the real fun begins: built with the company's own software and a compassion for the voiceless robots of America, a talking GPS system guides two-seater GoCars through the city streets of San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon with cheerful, info-rich narration. Second only to having a knowledgeable local jog alongside your minivan, tours zip along at drivers' own pace and accommodate as many pit stops as time allows.
For Pioneer Limousines, the lap of luxury comes with a seat belt. The transportation outfit whisks away passengers within the comfortable confines of a fleet of vehicles, that includes a Cadillac Escalade, Mercedes Benz S-Class, BMW 7-Series, Lincoln Town Car L-Series, and a stretch limo that can seat up to nine passengers. Piloting the regal rides and participating in an Earth-sized game of connect the dots, chauffeurs get customers from point A to point B via transport services that cater to airport travelers, wedding parties, and group outings.
Bay Quackers gives its customers a multifaceted tour experience from the dually equipped confines of a DUKW (or Duck), a refurbished World War II–era military craft capable of navigating land and sea. Half tour bus, half tank, and half marlin, each vintage vehicle is equipped with six-wheel drive and tires that inflate and deflate to match the terrain. Quack suggestively at passersby as you wheel through neighborhoods such as North Beach, Chinatown, and Union Square, then gape in slack-jawed astonishment as your driver plunges directly into the sea without incurring a fine or consulting an insurance agent. The seafaring leg of the journey includes aquatic highlights such as McCovey Cove and San Francisco Bay, as well as city and bridge views unattainable from the woefully conventional perspectives of the shore. Each tour lasts approximately 80 minutes.