Things to Do in San Francisco - page 3
Part of San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Center, Fort Mason is a historic landmark and arts center located on the city’s waterfront. It once served as the San Francisco Port of Embarkation for the US Army. Facing the San Francisco Bay, it is both a former military port and coastal defense site. It remains an example for excellent reuse of a military base, drawing more than 1 million annual visitors to its events and facilities.
Divided into upper and lower sections, Fort Mason dates back to 1864 when fortifications along the coast of the United States were built — as prompted by the Civil War. The area was also an important military base during World War II. Today it operates primarily as the home of the Fort Mason Center for Arts and Culture, holding regular events, festivals, and performances. There is also a youth hostel, various galleries and schools, and a bar, restaurant, and coffee shop on site.
Situated on a rocky and windswept point at the tip of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area lies the beautiful Lands End. With great views of the Bay and the magnificent Golden Gate, this park-within-a-park offers those who visit its dusty trails an unparalleled experience unlike any other in San Francisco.
Lands End has several hiking trails, the longest of which is an easy three-mile round-trip hike from Point Lobos to Eagles’ Point. You’ll pass the ruins of the Sutro Baths and the USS San Francisco Memorial, as well as getting some great shots of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Along the way, be sure to keep an eye out for the rocky labyrinth, located on a small plateau along the way, and, conservatively speaking, one of the most beautiful spots on earth. Well worth the time and effort to see all that Lands End has to offer, easier hikes can also be had by parking closer to the point itself.
Cutting southwest across San Francisco from The Embarcadero, Market Street is one of the city's major thoroughfares. It starts in front of the Ferry Building at the northeastern edge of the city and runs through downtown, passing the Financial District, Union Square, down to Civic Center and the Castro District, and to the intersection with Corbett Avenue in the Twin Peaks neighborhood.
On the south side of the street, close to the bay, is SoMA (South of Market Street), which is filled with fancy loft residences, restaurants, and nightclubs, as well as the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Yerba Buena Gardens. On the north side of the street is the Union Square shopping hub and downtown attractions. The best way to see this bustling street is to jump on the F-Market antique streetcars, which run along Market Street as well as the Embarcadero.
Amongst its famous hills and winding streets, the cable cars of San Francisco have become perhaps the most iconic part of the famous city. Though they have a historic feel, the cable cars remain both a draw for visitors and a part of the city’s public transportation today.
The subtle sound of the cables running underneath the tracks is only the first clue as to how this classic transportation system works. The city’s Cable Car Museum goes into greater depth about functionality and history of the cars. You can learn about how and when they were first developed, as well as see three original cars from the 1870s. All of the system’s mechanical parts are on display, from the brake to the grips, as well as a large collection of historic photographs that take you back in time. There’s also the chance to go underground and view a subterranean cable in operation.
There was once a time when San Francisco Bay had exactly zero bridges. Cars had yet to reach the masses of residents who stayed past the gold rush, and ferries were the only way of quickly crossing the San Francisco Bay. Boats would depart from Sausalito and motor to San Francisco, and also stop at the Berkeley Pier on the bay’s eastern shore. It was a time of spirited exploration and westward US expansion, and the frontier fervor was palpably strong on the docks of Hyde Street Pier.
Today, while the majority of visitors to San Francisco simply drive across a bridge, it’s still possible to experience this era while strolling the Hyde Street Pier. Old, historic, wooden boats are still tied to the creaking dock, and the smell of salt in the foggy air is the same as in centuries past. For an added fee, visitors can explore inside these boats that have literally sailed the globe.
It’s open spaces like the Yerba Buena Gardens that make San Francisco the loved city that it is. Only a block away from the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the Museum of the African Diaspora, the Yerba Buena Gardens offers visitors a bit of a rest in the middle of the bustling city center. A public place with rolling gardens , public art, cutting edge theater, dance, contemporary arts, a bowling alley, ice-skating rink, food court and movie theater, the Yerba Buena Garden truly has something for everybody – even if that somebody just wants a place to sit down and be at peace.
Ever wanted to investigate the living world beyond the pages of your science books? Ever wanted to see the world without color or have a bigger sense of yourself—upside down? Head to the Exploratorium to get fascinating scientific answers to all of the questions you wanted to raise in a science class but never did. It’s an educational fun house for people of all ages!
Now open at its new home at Pier 15, the Exploratorium is the global leader in informal learning, igniting curiosity and inspiring creativity in people of all ages. Explore nearly 600 hands-on exhibits, including 150 new experiences, and enjoy breathtaking views of the city and bay in the spectacular glass-and-steel Bay Observatory.
Wander through hundreds of exhibits and art installations, uncovering the mad magic of Einstein’s theory of relativity or the secret behind creating monstrous marshmallows. Safe, interactive exhibits abound, from food science to optical illusions to astronomy.
Celebrating the life and legacy of one of the most legendary of American lives, the Walt Disney Family Museum is an exploration of not only Walt Disney himself, but the forces behind the creation of one of the greatest treasures of childhood: the Disney machine. With stunning interactive displays, videos, and animations of your favorite Disney characters, the Walt Disney Museum has achieved artwork itself by combining elements of history, entertainment, and intrigue into a package that’s as much visual stimulation as it is mental. Entertaining for one and all, be sure to catch the special exhibits which feature the stories behind your favorite Disney creations like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic.
Perched on rocks overlooking Ocean Beach, the Cliff House sits on the coast along on the western end of San Francisco. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the largest urban national parks in the world, and was first built in 1863 before becoming a San Francisco landmark. Restored in 2004, it sits right next to the historic Sutro Baths with views of the ocean and rocky coastline that forms the Lands End trail.
Grab a bite at one of its two restaurants, enjoy views of the Pacific, or take a look at the room-sized Camera Obscura. Choose from the more casual Bistro Restaurant or get more formal at Sutro’s. On Sundays, it’s hard to beat the brunch served in the Terrace Room. Be sure to take a seat near the wide windows or walk out onto the large verandah and feel the proximity to the ocean, looking and listening for seals on the Seal Rocks below.
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From China to the Philippines, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum displays an impressive mix of historical works, rare pieces and unique objects that celebrate the astounding diversity and range of artists from across all of Asia.
Whether it’s emerald statues of Buddha, images of Indian gods like Shiva and Parvati or ornate gold pendants and other pieces of handcrafted jewelry from Indonesia, the Asian Art Museum showcases the richness of a culture, variation of beliefs and a multitude of mediums that prove Asia is one of the premier destinations for art. Dozens of masterworks line the galleries of this popular museum, and traveling exhibits on calligraphy, painting and archaeology mean there’s something new to explore.
Tens of thousands of immigrants to the United States came through Angel Island from 1910 to 1950. Though the exact amount of people who passed through is unknown, it served as a detention site and a records office for those entering and exiting the United States. With the start of the Gold Rush in Northern California, the majority of the immigrant influx came from China — though it estimated that citizens from more than 80 countries entered the United States here.
Angel Island has been called the Ellis Island of the West Coast. It serves as a reminder of the complicated history of immigration from the Pacific, where immigrants were more often detained or excluded rather than welcomed. The building was abandoned in the 1950s and remained in a state of deterioration until nearly demolished. The discovery of Chinese poetry carved into walls ignited an interest in restoring and preserving the site, which can be toured today.
Though it gets its name from a Russian cemetery dating back in the Gold Rush era, Russian Hill is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in contemporary San Francisco. It is most famous for “the crookedest street in the world,” the winding Lombard Street. Most of its streets curve up and down hills, with Russian Hill itself being one of the “Seven Hills” of San Francisco. Yet the many steep hills grant some the best views of the city, the bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The famous Ghirardelli Square and Buena Vista Cafe, home of the original Irish coffee, are both on the outskirts of the neighborhood. Locals dine along Hyde Street or Polk Street, or stroll past the small French area of restaurants and boutiques near Green Street. Russian Hill is a pleasant part of the city to take a walk, pausing to rest in one of the many parks with views of the city below.
When the sun breaks through the clouds in San Francisco, the Mission District feels it first. Thus, look to Dolores Park to find the first of the fair-weather fans in the most literal sense. Tennis and basketball courts, a soccer field, a children’s playground area and a dog play area as well as public restrooms make this one of the most popular family parks in San Francisco. Also noted for its spectacular panoramic views of the San Francisco skyline, Dolores Park is a highlight to any sunny day in San Francisco.
Tucked away from the main areas of the city, San Francisco’s Seward Street Slides are a bit of hidden gem. Built in the 1960s by a local teenager for neighborhood children, the two parallel slides are formed in concrete running down one of San Francisco’s famous hills. The community garden and mini-park was up for redevelopment when locals protested the change. A fourteen year old girl designed the slides in a competition, and the space was officially converted into a park in 1973.
Some bring their own cardboard for the ride, but others find discarded pieces next to the slides that make the journey down a bit smoother. From the top of the slides, be sure to pause and enjoy the views of the city and the bay. A sign reads “no adults unless accompanied by children” to mark the park’s original intent.
Few places offer more spectacular (and iconic) views of San Francisco’s most famous bridge than Baker Beach. Tucked below the raggedy cliffs of Presidio, this popular destination offers scenic picnic facilities, rugged beaches and a rare chance to spot harbor porpoises diving into Pacific surf.
Once the original home of Burning Man, an art and music festival that has gained a cult-like following since its inception in 1990, Baker Beach is now a quiet—if popular—destination for travelers to the San Francisco Bay. Geologically inclined globetrotters will find a rare opportunity to check out gray-green serpentine, California’s state rock, from the shores of Baker Beach. And since this rare rock produces mineral rich soil, hard to find species of plants, like Marin Dwarf Flax, also grow here.
SoMa or South of Market, as it is sometimes known, is one of the larger neighborhoods of San Francisco. Containing the smaller micro-hoods of Yerba Buena, South Beach, and Rincon Park, it is known for its industry feel — with many warehouses, loft apartments, and offices of major and startup tech companies. The area is also home to many of San Francisco’s best museums, including SFMOMA (Museum of Modern Art,) the California Historical Society and the Museum of the African Diaspora, as well as the Yerba Buena Arts District. The Yerba Buena Gardens, surrounded by the skyscrapers of downtown, is a scenic place to walk around and feel both the energy and peacefulness of the city.
Aside from the many museums and industries, SoMa is also home to AT&T Park and the San Francisco Giants, the annual Folsom Street Fair, and many of the city’s nightclubs. It is a vibrant, modern cultural hub of San Francisco that continues to evolve.
Right off Union Square lies the famous Marrakech Magic Theater. Regarded as something of a hidden gem of San Francisco, this small but intimate theatre is where Magician Peter Morrison performs his signature magic and comedy routines in a close and comfortable setting. Known for greeting his guests at the door and encouraging audience participation, Peter Morrison makes the Marrakech Magic Theater feel like a comfortable evening amongst friends. Not flashy or over-the-top, the comedy and magic are performed tastefully, and the lounge before the show offers guests a chance to try some fairly-priced wine, beer, or cocktails with some hors d’oeuvres should they please.
Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market is the place where San Francisco foodies and some of the best local chefs come to peruse stalls hawking the finest Northern California produce, breads, dairy, flowers, ready-made snacks, and complete meals by local restaurants.
Outside, you can tempt your taste buds with artisanal goat cheese, fresh-pressed California olive oil, pasture-raised beef, and organic vegetables. The gourmet action continues indoors, where select local gourmet shops sell wild-harvested mushrooms, gold-leafed chocolates, sustainably farmed oysters and caviar from Marin, and other temptations. The variety and quality is amazing, and the crowd scene itself is something to behold.
San Francisco’s Japantown may cover a small area, but it is big on authentic Japanese culture. It’s one of only three Japantowns remaining in the United States, and San Francisco’s is the country’s oldest and largest. From architecture and shopping to events and cuisine, a walk through Japantown truly feels as if you’ve been transported to Japan.
Strolling through the neighborhood it’s hard to miss the five-storied Peace Pagoda, which was a gift from San Francisco’s sister city Osaka. It’s at the heart of the Peace Plaza, where it is easy to discover unique pieces of Japanese culture. There are a number of authentic shops and restaurants — many of which are located in the Japan Center, a large indoor shopping mall. Taste a number of different Japanese foods, or pick up ingredients from a Japanese grocer. The sights, sounds, and smells of Japantown are a rare chance to experience Japan outside of the country itself.
NOTE: THE MUSEUM WILL BE CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS THROUGH EARLY 2016. CHECK BACK HERE FOR UPDATES!
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) has always strived to be an eclectic, unconventional museum, since it opened in 1935, and a visit here will surely be a unique experience. After all, this is a museum that took a chance on then-unknowns like Matthew Barney and his poetic videos involving industrial quantities of Vaseline, and Olafur Eliasson's outer-space installations.
The permanent collection includes work by all the great American and European artists but is particularly strong in American abstract expressionism, with major works by Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock and Philip Guston. The permanent collection also contains several works by Mexican painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and by Bay Area artists Robert Arneson and Richard Diebenkorn. Willem de Kooning, Marcel Duchamp, and Andy Warhol are also represented.
Sandwiched between San Francisco’s Civic Center and Alamo Square, Hayes Valley has grown into one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods. Both residential and commercial, with its main drag Hayes Street, the area is full of custom shops and gourmet restaurants. There are also several Victorian and Queen Anne style townhouses in the surrounds, as well as numerous playgrounds and art-filled parks.
Though the area has been historically neglected, it has emerged as one of the most desirable areas in the city. Recent openings of coffee shops, craft cocktail bars, upscale boutiques, and even a beer garden have made this a hot spot of local activity. It seems that the city’s best new restaurants are opening in Hayes Valley on a regular basis. Its proximity to nearby arts and culture means it is often a pre- or post-show spot for dinner and drinks. It is also home to the new SJ Jazz Center.
Things to do near San Francisco
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