Monday, April 12, 2010


My parents and little sister came to visit a few weeks ago, and it was was so much fun showing them around our new hometown! I love it when people come visit because we get to do all the tourist-y stuff we might not otherwise. We were racking our brains for an idea of what to give my dad for his birthday when Adam received an email for a discounted tour in a GoCar, one of the small, yellow cars we see zipping all over the city. Equipped with a GPS unit and an automated tour, the mini cars are lightweight and super easy to operate. We had been interested in them since we'd moved to San Francisco, and with my parents in town, it seemed like the perfect time to try them out. We were very lucky that the day we scheduled our tour was the first warm, sunny day we'd seen in weeks. Perfect weather for driving around the city in an open-aired vehicle! There are a three different tours to pick from, each taking a different amount of time and visiting different landmarks. We chose the longest tour they offer. At 2.5 hours, it started in Fisherman's Wharf and went up near Golden Gate Bridge, then out to the beaches on the Pacific Ocean and through Golden Gate Park. After signing a waiver and watching a quick video tutorial, you are given a helmet and keys and sent off on your own.

The cars are a little scary at times. They don't accelerate as fast as a regular-sized car and have a maximum speed of 35 mph, yet you travel on roads with traffic. Sitting stopped at a light behind an SUV, I could barely see over the bumper of the metal monster in front of me and I found myself wondering whether I'd made a smart decision getting into this little contraption. Luckily, everybody who sees you stops to point and wave, so you know people are very aware of your presence. And we were lucky enough to have Adam escorting us on his motorcycle, which made getting around in traffic much easier. The tour itself was great. It took us to places that I don't think we would have otherwise ever known existed. Because it uses GPS and there isn't a tour guide, we were able to stop for photos and breaks whenever we wanted. Throughout the trip, the audio tour gives you the option to take "detours," so you are able to make the trip as long as you would like.

One of my favorite stops on the tour was a detour we took in Golden Gate Park to Stow Lake. Up a narrow road, elevated from the rest of the park, the lake was full of people in paddle boats, floating around a small island. When you're at the lake, it feels incredibly secluded, and I found it easy to forget that I was in the middle of a huge city while we were there. Adam and I will definitely be returning to Stow Lake whenever we need a break from big city livin'.

We had a really great time in our rented GoCars. I absolutely recommend a tour in one, whether you're visiting San Francisco or live here. Although it can be a bit pricey ($49 for the first hour, $39 for the second hour and $29 for each additional hour), it was the highlight of my family's trip. We're all still talking about how much fun it was. And if you have some patience, Groupon offers discounted coupons for GoCar tours on a fairly regular basis.

GoCars are also available for rental in San Diego, Miami, Lisbon and Barcelona.

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