The Ferry Building is one place I always try to visit when we’re in the Bay Area, because it is just such a reliable pleasure for everyone involved. Hidden for decades behind an ugly double-decker freeway, the building was liberated by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake - the freeway came down for good in 1991, and the building's reincarnation as a first-rate destination and gathering place by the preservation architecture firm Page & Turnbull (among others) was completed in 2003.
The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 am to 2 pm, and on Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm. It’s worth visiting even you don’t have a kitchen to bring veggies home to, because of course they also sell fruit and other fantastic picnic-ready items. But you can eat and dine here any day, and it’s hard to find a place that is so child-friendly and also offers such high-quality eats, all in such a wonderful setting.
The food offerings throughout are amazing, and you can’t really go wrong (Click here for a full list of merchants). Although there are several sit-down restaurants, I prefer to get my meal to-go, and eat outdoors on the bayside. My favorites include Acme Bread Company, Frog Hollow Farm, Boulette’s Larder, and Boccalone Salumeria… but poke around for yourself, you’ll want to try everything. The nice thing is you can also easily pick up some great olive oil or other edible souvenir here, and just take everything with you.
For shopping, be sure to visit The Gardener and Heath Ceramics – both stock consistently gorgeous wares, mostly for the home. Distract your little one with something delicious while you browse (the shops are small - almost kiosks).
We love to eat our lunch while watching the action on the bay – the bridge seems to tower over the scene, the bay is a fantastic deep shade of blue, and all manner of watercraft is continually coming and going. Seagulls play over the water. It's usually pleasantly breezy. My son runs around for a bit while I relax on a bench and soak up the sun (or lack thereof – I don’t really mind either way).
From the Ferry Building, you can journey in a number of directions. It's fun to take a ride in one of the beautiful vintage streetcars zipping around; you can go down towards Fisherman's Wharf, or up Market Street towards downtown. Or just go for a stroll up the embarcadero, towards nothing in particular.