Things to Do in San Francisco - page 3
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of San Francisco’s original “Seven Hills,” Nob Hill gets its name from old gold-rush times when, as the bawdy waterfront offered no escape for the wealthy, the wealthy looked to build their homes on higher ground. The “nob” of Nob Hill actually is a contraction of an old Hindu word meaning, roughly, someone who has made his fortune. Today, Nob Hill is still home to some of San Francisco’s towering mansions and luxury hotels, but it’s historic feel and the eclectic neighborhoods that surround it give the area, for lack of a better phrase, a distinctly San Francisco feel.
While visiting, consider seeing some of the areas historic roots like the Huntington Hotel, the Fairmont Hotel, and Flood Mansion, all of which share in the vintage feel instilled by the old barber shops and cocktail lounges that line the streets. Popular sites of the neighborhood include the Cable Car Museum, the Grace Cathedral Episcopal Church and the Lumiere Theatre.
One of Nob Hill’s many stunning highlights, Grace Cathedral holds many interesting features. Its spectacular stained-glass windows include a series dedicated to human endeavor, depicting such modern figures as Thurgood Marshall, Robert Frost, and Albert Einstein, who is uplifted in a swirl of nuclear particles. Day and night you'll notice people absorbed in thought while walking the outdoor, inlaid stone labyrinth, meant to guide restless souls through three spiritual stages: releasing, receiving and returning.
Grace Cathedral also embodies a commitment to pressing social issues in its AIDS Memorial Chapel, which has a bronze altarpiece by artist-activist Keith Haring. Here his signature figures are angels taking flight – especially powerful imagery as this was his last work before death by AIDS in 1990. Alongside this magical ambience, Grace Cathedral also lifts spirits with Sunday services and musical performances.
Beautifully landscaped and cared for, Huntington Park is one of San Francisco’s most beloved neighborhood parks. It was formerly the site of a mansion destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. After the land was donated to the city by the widow of rail tycoon Collis P. Huntington, the park has become a favorite area of the Nob Hill area.
With beautiful landscaping surrounding the historic Flood Fountain, there is also a playground area for children. The park sits in front of the landmark Grace Cathedral, and with its wide lawn and many benches is great for picnicking and relaxing outdoors. The Roman “Fountain of Tortoises” at the park’s center is its most famous structure, often beautifully lit at night. The bronze sculpture is a copy of a 400 year old original in Rome.
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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Perched up on a hill looking over the San Francisco Bay, Pacific Heights is a historic neighborhood considered by many to be one of the city’s most beautiful. Aside from its location and views, the many Victorian homes of Pacific Heights are some of the most elegant and historic in San Francisco. One particularly notable home is that of author Danielle Steel, who lives in Speckles Mansion, an estate that once belonged to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. There’s also the Haas-Lilienthal House, a 19th-century Queen Anne-style Victorian home that is open to visitors and admired by passersby. The historic house has been preserved to represent the era in which it was built. High-end boutique shops and restaurants line Fillmore Street, the main pedestrian street in the mostly quiet, residential area. The neighborhood is also home to Lafayette Park and Alta Plaza Park, with its rolling grassy hills, dog walkers, playground, tennis courts and stellar city views.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visitors looking to add a touch of originality to their off-the-beaten-path trip should visit the quirky Beat Museum, which is entirely dedicated to spreading the spirit of the Beat Generation. Often referred to as “The Beats,” this collection of writers, artists and thinkers congregated in 1950s San Francisco to express disappointment in mainstream culture after the atrocities of World War II. The goal was to promote tolerance, compassion and the courage to live individual truth.
This two-story museum boasts an exceptional collection of Beat-era artefacts and memorabilia—some of the key items include the ’49 Hudson (which was used in the 2012 movie adaptation of On the Road by Jack Kerouac), the Beat Cine Room and its historical footage and the Beat Shrine with its original poems and artwork. The Beat Museum also features a bookstore area, which is filled with classic and modern books by and or about the Beats.
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.
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