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.
If you follow Excelsior Urban Hikes' resident guide Christina, it will only take you two hours to see all of San Francisco. That's because it takes two hours to hike to the top of Mount Davidson, which offers stunning views of the city, both bay bridges, and the Pacific Ocean beyond to visitors who reach its summit.
Christina leads hikes down city streets and through nature trails to reveal scenic vistas. Besides Mount Davidson, she often takes groups to McLaren Park, where she points out interesting graffiti and pauses so hikers can take in views of the Outer Mission District. Christina also takes nighttime excursions to the top of Bernal Hill, where hikers can marvel at the sparkling bay lights and a lightening bug with a great stand-up routine.
Ryan Curtis loves local history, sunshine, and exercise, and he just happened to be clever enough to combine all three into a career. As the owner of Roam Local, he offers—and leads—private and semiprivate walking tours that explore the hidden stairways, alleyways, and gardens of San Francisco. As groups walk, hidden terraces with stunning views as well as famous sights come into view, usually from unexpected angles. That perspective often creates stunning photo opportunities that can’t be found on postcards, such as the Golden Gate Bridge before it’s infused with its morning coffee. As your guide walks and talks, they supplement their information with an interactive iPad presentation and San Francisco’s other standout: its balmy weather.
Many tour guides are passionate about history, but not enough to break into song. That’s where Wild Wes Leslie comes in. Rather than burdening sightseers with the droning narration and mandatory 19th-century ankle boots of a typical city tour, Wes divulges the details of San Francisco’s famous neighborhoods with energetic and original ditties sung to the strums of his ukulele. Resplendent in his bow-tie and bowler hat, the troubadour leads groups on 2.5-hour walking tours that explore well-known areas such as Chinatown and Union square, along with lesser-known spots including the city’s first red-light district.
Half Moon Bay Kayak Co.'s fleet of colorful plastic shells slices through the glimmering waters of Pillar Point Harbor, carrying crews of paddlers past playful harbor seals and chattering pelicans. Co-owners Doug Connor—who has conquered rushing rapids as a member of the United States Wildwater team—and Chris Manchester—who has kayaked along thousands of miles of coastline, including the world's second-largest barrier reef—channel their passion for paddling into a range of kayak and standup-paddleboard rentals, lessons, and tours. With expeditions to locales as far-flung as Honduras and Mexico, Half Moon provides sea explorers with exotic open-water explorations as well as local excursions to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, San Gregorio State Beach, and next-door neighbors' unattended kiddie pools.
Formerly known as Colquhoun Glass Works, the seeds of Half Moon Bay Art Glass were sown in 1977 when artist Douglass Colquhoun Brown stepped off a tall ship in the English Channel. Discovering the art of etched glass in France, Brown became instantly smitten with the craft, and vowed to learn it upon his return to the states. After honing his skills creating scientific glassware for Silicon Valley, the artist expanded into more decorative objects such as jelly fish lamps, orchids, and seasonal glass pumpkins ideal for the jack-o-lantern-averse. Located on the site of a winery, Half Moon Bay Art Glass teaches glass-blowing classes suitable for first-timers of all ages, 12 and up.