Things to Do in San Francisco - page 4
Located beside San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, The Cannery is a historic building that (as you might have guessed) was once home to the California Fruit Company (later Del Monte) fruit and vegetable canning plant. In fact, while it was open it was the largest peach canning facility in the world.
It was utilized as such until 1937, and upon renovation in 1960 it reopened as collection of shops and restaurants. The beautiful red brick exterior surrounds a courtyard where trains once ran into the cannery. Its courtyard still has the same century-old olive trees which line the outdoor space for sidewalk cafes and, during the summer, street performers and musicians.
Unique shops located at The Cannery include a build-a-bear toy shop, art and sculpture galleries, and an international musical instrument shop. There is also a small wine tasting room, artisan bakery, and the classic Jack’s Cannery Bar. The shopping center overlooks San Francisco Bay.
To call the San Francisco Botanical Garden a living museum of plants does not adequately describe this remarkable conservatory. With 55 acres (22 hectares) of landscaped and open spaces, the urban garden is a veritable sanctuary, an escape from the hustle and bustle, in the heart of Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco’s Japantown, a microhood of the Western Addition neighborhood, is the oldest Japantown in the US and one of just a few left. It’s home to restaurants serving sushi, ramen, and other fare, a shopping center, a Japanese supermarket, and the 5-tier Peace Pagoda.
Tucked beneath the bluffs of the Presidio on the northwest edge of San Francisco, Baker Beach is a local favorite where a picnic on the sand comes with excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge. Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Baker Beach offers a respite from the busy city and a chance to spot dolphins just offshore.
Discover the history of a generation of writers known as the Beats at the Beat Museum, which pays tribute to the movement in memorabilia, books, and a video documentary. This small museum, situated on a busy corner of San Francisco’s Italian North Beach neighborhood, is easy to include on a tour of the city.
Part of San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, the Hyde Street Pier introduces visitors to San Francisco’s maritime heritage as a busy Pacific port with its collection of ships from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Jutting out into San Francisco Bay, the pier also offers scenic views of the waterfront.
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.
The two block pedestrian lane in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood is a charming and unique residential spot with extraordinary views of Alcatraz Island and the San Francisco Bay. Tucked away from the busyness of the main streets, Macondray Lane is known for its Edwardian style cottages with wooden exteriors, covered in flowers and greenery.
Its cobblestone walkways and overflowing gardens create a unique oasis in the middle of the city. Between ferns and flowers, look closely and you may even see the small pond. At one end of the lane lies a series of steps that offer up some of the best bay views. Fans of the Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City books may recognize the area (known as Barbary Lane in the books) — various scenes were set here and still come to life for many who visit.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) aims to capture the depth and breadth of present-day Jewish culture and experience. There’s a permanent collection by Jewish artists, but special exhibitions and educational programs change frequently and are designed to spark discussion about the arts today.
The state of California has a fascinating history, much of which occurred right in San Francisco where this organization and its museum is based. Stroll through the archives, which include a library, an art collection and a shop. Visitors can view the collection of more than historic maps, books, pamphlets, manuscripts and other visuals, including 500,000 photographs, or see works of art, including paintings, costumes, drawings, and other artifacts on display.
With historical exhibits for the city of San Francisco as well as the rest of the Golden State, it only makes sense that the building itself is a piece of history. Founded in 1871, the society is headquartered at the former home of the San Francisco Builders Exchange and E.M. Hundley hardware store. The historical group is a nonprofit organization that now has other locations throughout the state, but the greatest collection of artifacts is held here. The building was repainted in 2012 in a brilliant orange — to match the Golden Gate Bridge, of course.
More Things to Do in San Francisco
One of San Francisco’s grandest concert venues, Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall was built specifically for the San Francisco Symphony. Upon completion the symphony was able to expand to a year-round, full-time schedule of concerts. It formerly shared space with the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Ballet.
The symphony hall, designed by a team of architects and acoustic consultants, is artful and beautiful inside and out. Sound bounces off of glass walls built to create a building within a building, and the result is that audience members are surrounded by reverberant sound. To accommodate an expanded repertory, a massive pipe organ was added to the structure in 1984.
The San Francisco Symphony plays a wide range of classical music alongside hosting contemporary events. Windows and balconies on the second floor offer beautiful views of the skyline and the City Hall. The symphony hall is a beacon of elegance and culture in San Francisco.
With two blocks of public green space in downtown San Francisco, Yerba Buena Gardens offers a refuge in the middle of one of the city’s busiest areas. Located next to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the gardens include public art, waterfalls, and landscaped lawns for relaxing and people-watching.
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 kids, 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 14-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.
The Barbary Coast Trail connects twenty of San Francisco’s most historic locations, with bronze trail markers on the sidewalks leading the way. Many of the sites correspond to two of the most important events of the city’s history: the Gold Rush and the earthquake of 1906. The Barbary Coast refers to the red-light district of saloons, dance halls, jazz clubs, and brothels that developed in the city at the end of the 19th century.
Developed by the San Francisco Museum and Historical Society, the trail takes you on a walk through the different eras of the city, including the time of “beat” poetry in North Beach and Depression-era murals near Coit Tower. The first Asian temple in North America is also a stop on the trail. The four-mile path begins at the Old Mint and passes through historic museums, sailing ships, pubs, homes, and cafes that tell the story of San Francisco.
The Fillmore District can be considered a microhood of the Western Addition, covering the blocks around Fillmore Street from Geary to Grove streets. At the corner of Fillmore and Geary, you’ll find the neighborhood’s most famous resident, the Fillmore, the legendary music venue that hosted performances by bands like Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane in the 1960s.
Spanning more than 60 miles (95 kilometers) in and around San Francisco, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is home to beaches, former military posts, hiking trails, and historic landmarks—including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and architecture lovers will all find something to delight them at the various sites.
Just across the bay from San Francisco in Sausalito, the Marine Mammal Center has been rescuing local sea life for decades. Visitors have the chance to interact with local marine mammals including harbor seals, sea lions, elephant seals, and fur seals. The center rehabilitates and protects sick and injured seals and sea lions, many of which were stranded and would die without direct help. It was the first hospital built exclusively for marine mammals in the United States, treating animals from along 600 miles of the California coast.
The center focuses on conversation and education, allowing for the public to tour their research and rehabilitation facilities. Since its opening over 40 years ago, it has rescued and treated more than 20,000 marine mammals. Animals are rehabilitated with the goal of re-releasing them back into the wild. Most of the year, it is possible to see the animals that are being housed at the center through a visit.
The largest and busiest of the three main airports in the San Francisco Bay Area—the others being in Oakland and San Jose—San Francisco International Airport, or SFO, welcomes visitors on all major US airlines as well as many international airlines. It's also the hub for Alaska Airlines and a gateway to downtown San Francisco.
One of three main airports in the San Francisco Bay Area (the others being San Francisco International Airport and San Jose International Airport), Oakland International Airport (OAK) welcomes visitors on most major airlines in the US, as well as a few international airlines.
Founded in 1984 and supported by a grant from Charles Schultz, San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum is the only museum on the West Coast devoted solely to this art form. With more than 7,000 original pieces, the museum’s collection includes everything from editorials and comic books to graphic novels and Anime.
San Francisco is famous for its distinctive Victorian homes, and the Haas-Lilienthal is the city’s only intact Victorian house open to touring visitors. It is complete with Queen Anne-style period architecture, authentic furniture, and original artifacts. Designed by architect Peter R. Schmidt in 1886, a walk through the home gives a real sense of upper-middle class Victorian era life. Since then it has survived major city fires and earthquakes to maintain its historic charm and style.
The three-storied exterior of the house is characterized by its circular tower and elaborately decorated wooden gables. The interior is luxurious, all 11,500 square feet of it, including a ballroom, parlor, and dining room most modern San Franciscans can only dream about. It was named a ‘national treasure’ by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Docent-led tours describe the history of the building as well as the family who once inhabited it.
One of San Francisco’s most storied watering holes, Vesuvio Cafe is an icon of the Beat Generation and a symbol of the history and culture of North Beach. Founded in 1948, the bohemian saloon was a popular hangout spot for writers and poets such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Other famous patrons include Bob Dylan and Francis Ford Coppola.
A community of stately homes along the Pacific Ocean, the Sea Cliff neighborhood of San Francisco is a prime city destination. The palm trees, ocean fog, and view of the Golden Gate Bridge together create an experience that is unique to San Francisco. Consider a hike, stroll along China Beach, or a stop at the colorful Lincoln Park Steps.
Thespians in search of inspiring theater and moving performances don’t have to travel to New York City. That’s because places like the San Francisco Playhouse are bringing high-quality work to Bay Area streets. This cozy theater offers visitors an intimate space to witness compelling (and sometimes quirky) productions like “Ideation” and “Tree”. And perhaps best of all, this local spot is free of pretension.
San Francisco Playhouse has a true community feel. Quality acoustics, comfortable seating and discounted tickets help to make theater accessible to the masses—despite this space’s small size.
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