Yup, it's a car that looks like a boat! Or is it a boat that looks like a car? Take part in a Ride the Ducks tour of San Francisco and decide for yourself! Ride the Ducks graciously offered me some tour tickets, so I seized the opportunity to give my kids a crash course in San Francisco history and culture. I mean, they've lived all their life in the Bay Area so they ought to learn something about it, right?! Besides, I figured that even if the tour guide bored them to tears, the novelty of riding on a tour vehicle that went on land and water would be entertaining enough.
Ha! My kids enjoyed every second of that tour! I've never seen smiles so huge, and it wasn't just because we were on a floating car/rolling boat. The tour took us all over the city, through major San Francisco landmarks, with our guide offering fun and interesting facts along the way. We drove past North Beach, Chinatown, Union Square, the Transamerica Building, Coit Tower, the Embarcadero, AT&T Park, the America's Cup Park and more. Yes, you could hop on a tour bus to see the same sights. But here are a few things that you won't get from any other San Francisco tour except Ride the Ducks:
No other tour draws as much attention from passers-by. We certainly felt like celebrities during our tour! All Ride the Ducks tours take place in an amphibious vehicle known as a DUKW. DUKWs were originally designed during World War II, for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks. The name stands for "Designed in 1942 for Utility/amphibious purposes, with front wheel drive (K), and two rear driving axles (W)". Is it any wonder people call them Ducks? The Ducks used in the tour aren't old relics, they're custom manufactured to be safe and comfortable. The fact that they look cool and they make heads turn wherever they go is just a bonus.
No other tour comes with noisemakers. Everyone who goes on the tour gets a fun quacker as a souvenir. Of course all the kids on the tour, mine included, couldn't help quacking away as soon as they got on board. But even the grownups got into the spirit when the tour started. Our tour guide turned something that could have gotten really irritating (QUACKQUACKQUACKQUACK!!) into a fun game, encouraging everyone to QUACK whenever we passed a Walgreen's store. Searching for Walgreens and quacking when they saw one really kept the kids amused, even when we were stuck in traffic. Everyone also had fun quacking to the beat of the Blue Danube and other tunes that were playing throughout the tour. Blue Danube? Other tunes? Yes indeed, that's another feature of Ride the Ducks......
No other tour has a playlist. Music was piped through speakers throughout the tour, and our tour guide had the perfect song for every place we drove past -- That's Amore as we drove through North Beach, Take Me Out to the Ballgame near AT&T Park, Little China Girl in Chinatown, and so on. Of course, the cruise portion of the tour featured songs like Rubber Ducky, the Blue Danube and In the Navy :) The music gave the whole tour an upbeat spirit, and everyone had so much fun quacking to the beat!
No other tour has a guide quite like Captain Dan. He not only fed us with interesting facts and trivia about San Francisco's major landmarks and districts, he also quacked everyone up with all his jokes. The kids even loved his corny jokes because they could blow into their quackers whenever he delivered a lame punchline.
No other tour involves the tour guide driving the tour vehicle off a dock. What other city tour conducts a portion of the tour on water? About halfway through the tour we went to the San Francisco docks and just drove into the water -- it was crazy! The sensation of shifting from car to boat, from the vibration on the ground to the swell of the waves, is quite novel.
No other tour gives you this view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. We spent about 20 minutes cruising the San Francisco Bay. The water was quite calm, not too many waves, so we didn't really have to worry about sea sickness (although by the end of the cruise portion, The Pea and I were feeling a bit nauseous, so in retrospect I would have brought our Sea Bands in my purse). Where the tour goes on the Bay depends on the current, wind and waves. For the most part, we stuck to the harbor area between AT&T baseball park and the Bay Bridge, which isn't the most picturesque part of the Bay, but hey, safety first right? And we were treated to some great views of the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island and the San Francisco skyline.
No other tour lets guests drive the tour bus! The tour guide (I suppose I ought to call him the captain, at least for this leg of the tour!) will let anyone come up to steer on the way back to the docks (the length of time depends on how many people want to do it). Jammy & 3Po couldn't believe that they were actually allowed to sit in the captain's chair and steer the boat. It was such a novel experience and I'm thrilled that Ride the Ducks could provide it for them.
One final note: the tour is supposed to last 90 minutes but ended up being closer to 2 hours due to traffic. If you book a tour, I strongly suggest booking a morning tour to avoid traffic since the streets of San Francisco can get clogged up during rush hour! Don't forget that other special events like Market Day at the Ferry Building (Tuesdays) and any San Francisco Giants baseball game (which are on the tour's path) can drastically affect traffic.
If you're planning to tour San Francisco -- or if you're a Bay Area native (like we are!) and want to rediscover your local habitat -- I highly recommend a Ride the Ducks tour. There's no other San Francisco tour out there that literally takes you on a tour of the City By The Bay, both through the City and on the Bay?!
Okay, enough with the review and on to the deals! If you're in San Francisco and see Splash the Duck around town, make sure you get your photo taken with him, because you can get 1 free tour ticket when you buy 2:
In addition, if you happen to see the DUKW amphibious vehicle on the streets of San Francisco, snap another photo -- you could win Ride the Ducks our tickets for you and a friend:
Disclosure: I received complimentary tour tickets to facilitate my review. The views and opinions expressed here are my own.