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Why Taking the Alameda Ferry is Great for a Day Out in the East Bay

Learn why taking the San Francisco to Alameda ferry is an ideal day trip in the Bay Area. Take the ferry to the Alameda Ferry Terminal and discover things to do in Alameda in the East Bay.
What's so great about the San Francisco to Alameda ferry? I have family in Alameda, California so visits to the East Bay are a regular occurrence when I'm in San Francisco. 

Traffic on the Bay Bridge can be a nightmare and BART is always a bit edgy so I jumped at the chance to try a new mode of transportation on this trip: the San Francisco Bay Ferry

The sun was shining and I was actually staying in the city so the ferry to Alameda was an ideal option for a day trip to the East Bay. 

Here's why I think taking the ferry across the San Francisco Bay makes for a great day trip to discover awesome things to do in Alameda. I think you'll find that this outing is especially ideal if you are visiting San Francisco with kids.

Ferry Building and San Francisco Skyline

An Excuse to Visit The San Francisco Ferry Building

San Francisco's Ferry Building
The San Francisco Bay Ferry departs from the Ferry Building in San Francisco, one of my favorite places in the city that hosts a farmers market twice a week. Even on non-market days, the Ferry Building is bustling with great shops and gourmet food outlets. 

How to Buy San Francisco to Alameda Ferry Tickets

Wander into the Ferry Building and buy your ticket (just $4.60 USD for a one way fare) at the Bay Crossings Store. Other options include using a Clipper card or using the San Francisco Bay Ferry Mobile App. 

Note that you can also buy tickets onboard the boat but this involves queuing inside the cabin and potentially missing the great views on the short ride across the Bay.
Signage inside the SF Ferry Building

A Perfect View of the San Francisco Skyline

Transamerica Building and the San Francisco Skyline
I boarded the ferry and found a seat at the back on the upper deck. As we pulled away from the Ferry Building, I was treated to picture-perfect views of the San Francisco skyline including classic icons like Coit Tower and the Transamerica Building.
Coit Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge viewed from the San Francisco Bay Ferry
Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline

See the Golden Gate Bridge and SF Bay Bridge in Perfect Alignment

SF Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge viewed from the San Francisco Bay Ferry
From my vantage point on the upper deck on the way to Alameda, I stood up in awe as the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge lined up perfectly in our wake. There is no easy way to get this shot on land and was worth the 15 minute crossing by itself.

Catch a Glimpse of the Scale of Oakland's Port

Containers at Oakland Port
As we approached Oakland Port, we got a close-up look at container ships being loaded and unloaded. From land in San Francisco, it's hard to appreciate just how massive these ships and the containers they carry are.

Spot Sea Vessels That Look Like They Are From Another Place or Time

3-masted sailboat and San Francisco Skyline viewed from the San Francisco Bay Ferry
I was also delighted to see a 3-masted sailboat on our approach to Alameda.
Pirate ship on the San Francisco Bay
On my return trip, I saw a pirate ship (the only thing missing was a Jolly Roger) in the waters around Oakland. It was very cool to see these sea vessels that look like they are from another place and time.


Did you know that Alameda has a great vibe at Christmastime? Californians seem to love Christmas light trails. Every year, the neighbors on Thompson Avenue in Alameda transform their street into Christmas Tree Lane. 

Grab a cup of hot chocoldate and check out the heartwarming light displays. One home on Christmas Tree Lane even does a Nightmare Before Christmas light show every 15 minutes or so.
Decorated white door on Christmas Tree Lane in Alameda CaliforniaGreen door with a wreath on it and lighted snowman, reindeer, and presents on Christmas Tree Lane in AlamedaBrightly lit door decorated for Christmas with a path of Christmas lights edged by lollypop lamps
If you brave the Alameda Ferry in December (or perhaps it's a better idea to drive in this case), definitely make time to visit Christmas Tree Lane and find out why Alameda is such a fantastic and family-friendly place to live.

Debark at One of Three Alameda Ferry Terminals

Did you know that there are now 3 ferry stops in Alameda? The ferry stops are:
  • Main Street Alameda Ferry Terminal
  • Alameda Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal
  • Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal

Visit the USS Hornet Air-craft Carrier in Alameda

Air-craft carriers in Alameda, California
My sister-in-law and her family (including my young niece and nephew) picked me up at the Alameda Seaplane Lagoon Ferry Terminal and we made our way to the USS Hornet air-craft carrier after lunch. 

The entry fee is a bit steep at $20 USD per person but it's fascinating to explore the ship and see the planes parked on top.
Shark-faced plane on the deck of the USS Hornet in Alameda, California
Plane with folded wings on the deck of the USS Hornet in Alameda, California
Yellow plane on the deck of the USS Hornet in Alameda, California
As you can see, the USS Hornet is massive!
Upper deck of the USS Hornet in Alameda, California
Anchors aweigh!
Shimmering reflections on the anchor of the USS Hornet in Alameda, California


If you have time for a little detour before returning to San Francisco or if you plan to return by BART instead of on the ferry, make sure to check out the amazing freshly prepared churros at Fruitvale Public Market or take a food tour in Oakland with See.Eat.Love.

Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland is another great place to take a quiet walk in the East Bay. The cemetery was designed by Frank Law Olmsted (best known for for influencing the architectural footprint of Buffalo, NY) in the mid-19th century. 
View from Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland California
Here you'll find sweeping views over Oakland and San Francisco. Mountain View Cemetery simply lights up with fall foliage in November and early December. Bundle up as it can feel quite cold here in the winter.

Take a Walk on Harbor Bay Island

The Harbor Bay Island Ferry Terminal is an ideal stop if you want to take a walk along the shore. Harbor Bay Island is home to Oakland Airport but is still part of Alameda. 

We found the gravel path and views across the SF Bay toward the San Francisco skyline to be delightful on a summer's day. Staying close to the water is a great way to beat the heat.  

Views near the Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal in Alameda California

If you're visiting on the weekend and feeling hungry, head to Jim's on the Course for a casual brunch. I was particularly delighted by the specials. 

Breakfast at Jim's on the Course in Alameda near the Harbor Bay Ferry Terminal

I tend to enjoy savory and sweet flavors for breakfast. Special #6 at Jim's came with eggs, bacon, and pancakes. I opted for chocolate chip pancakes for the perfect savory-sweet mix. 

Laze About with the Sea Lions on Pier 39 Upon Returning to San Francisco

Sealions at Pier 39 in San Francisco
The San Francisco Bay Ferry stops in two places in San Francisco: the Ferry Building where we departed and Pier 41. 

On my return, I decided to disembark at Pier 41 which is right next to San Francisco's tourist mecca: Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. I couldn't resist fighting through the crowds at Pier 39 to catch a glimpse of sea lions sunning themselves.

Take the Classic F-Market Line To Come Full Circle in San Francisco

F Market Street Car in San Francisco
My trip to the East Bay focused heavily on modes of transportation including the ferry and the aircraft carrier. From both the Ferry Building and Pier 41, you can easily catch a historic F Market street car to come full circle.

As you can see, I found the ferry boat ride from San Francisco to Alameda and back again to be a fun and relaxing day trip to explore an off-the-beaten-path part of the San Francisco Bay Area. I don't think I'll ever drive or take BART to Alameda again! 

SIDEWALK SAFARI SPOTLIGHT: Looking for other ideas for a day out in the San Francisco Bay Area? Why not:

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Why Taking the Alameda Ferry is Great for a Day Out in the East Bay
Why Taking the Alameda Ferry is Great for a Day Out in the East Bay
Learn why taking the San Francisco to Alameda ferry is an ideal day trip in the Bay Area. Take the ferry to the Alameda Ferry Terminal and discover things to do in Alameda in the East Bay.
Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog