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By Lee Foster

Could a “website book” become a new mode of publishing in the modern era?

This is a “website book” version of my SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area. In this “website book” version, everything in the 120 chapters of the book can be seen from this Table of Contents file. All the content is in this file. When you click forward to a chapter, you can always browser click back to where you were.

The ways in which we want to receive travel content and other content, as consumers, continue to evolve. This book is an ebook for $3.99 on Amazon, one of my many books/ebooks/Chinese translations on my Amazon Author Page. It is also an app for $3.99 in Apple and Google. Each of these approaches has its fans.

This book also exists as a simple PDF, available directly from me, author Lee Foster, if you send $4 to my PayPal account [email protected] and send me your email. I will send the ebook to you as an emailed PDF attachment, about 10 MB. There is a lot to be said for the simple PDF version. Almost everyone knows how to look at a PDF on their device. The PDF version looks great, with all the photos and links working, on my iPhone 7+. I forward it on my iPhone to my iBooks, where PDFs can be read.

The PDF can also be licensed directly from me for a meeting, group, hotel, or organization.  I was recently asked to give a paid luncheon talk to a financial group in San Francisco, for example. They wanted an entertaining slideshow talk on “The Top Travel Experiences in San Francisco.” I enjoyed giving this talk. The Meeting Planner also licensed the right to email the PDF to the 50 people who attended, which I authorized her to do for $1 per email send, adding $50 to my talk honorarium. She reported back that the group loved it. Besides meetings, I am sure that there are hotel systems or organizations in San Francisco that will find this content useful in a licensed version.

So, here is the Table of Contents for this book. The overall subject is the wondrous travel experience possible in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the loveliest places on Earth. Not only is the beauty of nature a special treat here, but the cultural attractions present some of the most energetic and compelling contributions to our human story. You might start with Junipero Serra’s Franciscan Mission Dolores, the oldest building in San Francisco, or you could look at the dynamism of the Silicon Valley today, which has three great tech museums. You might start with the Intro and About the Author, placed also at the top, or scroll on to the Table of Contents.

Moreover, on my overall website, at www.fostertravel.com, you can Search subjects, on the right side of the page, that appear in this ebook. From this Table of Contents, for example, you can click into the glorious Montara Beach, one of the treasures of the north coast of San Mateo County in this ebook. On my overall website, you will also find more about Montara Beach in my other reportages and books.



Booking.com

Travel journalists such as myself need financial support to create innovative content for the public. This “website book” is funded partly by Google Adsense Ads. You need to endure the ads to see the content, as is true of most of our TV and print media. A few of you will click on an ad, and I will earn some revenue. When you buy an ebook or an app, part of your expense goes as a royalty to the author. When you buy a PDF direct from me, the income goes to me. The challenge for the modern travel content creator includes the expense of travel to develop all the content. Donations are welcome at my PayPal [email protected] and will be used to create more travel content.

Here is the Table of Contents for SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area

Intro/About The Author

What are the Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area? Award-winning travel journalist Lee Foster, a local, provides the answers, assisting you to make wise use of your valuable exploration time. What are the best things to see and do?

Foster selects the most interesting subjects in 10 areas of San Francisco, such as Fisherman’s Wharf or Golden Gate Park. He includes a few subjects out of San Francisco: Marin County to the north, Oakland and Berkeley in the East Bay, and south to the San Mateo Coast and Stanford/Silicon Valley. Additionally, he groups subjects thematically by special interest, such as Culture/Museums and Nature/Hikes. Everything can be seen from a clickable Table of Contents outline by area and special interest subject. All the sections are also shown in an easily understood “SF A-Z” order.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

For each subject, Foster presents a succinct write-up on why the subject was selected, based on his watching over the area for 40 years. Foster provides all the practical details you might want for a visit, such as a phone, exact address (for easy map search on your device), and the website for more information and for current information (such as today’s price and hours open for admission to a museum).

A noted travel photographer, Foster also offers a Your Best Shot paragraph for each subject, assisting you to get the objective photo and the selfie that will make your visit to the subject memorable. Almost everyone visiting San Francisco will want to create and share some of their own photos. Lee can help make your photo quest successful.

Within each subject presented, there are numerous details that only an experienced observer could accumulate. For example, “What time of day would be best for a visit to Baker Beach, with its views of the Golden Gate Bridge?” Answer: “Afternoon from 3 p.m. until sunset, you’ll see the western-positioned sun fall gorgeously on the Bridge.” Sometimes you’ll want to know the precise location where a special experience and photo are possible. For instance, “Where exactly should I stand to get that fabulous view of old North Beach, the Coppola Building, with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background, showing SF Old and New?” Answer: “Exactly at the corner of Kearny and Columbus on the uphill side, ideally about 2 p.m. to catch the light.” Another question: “Where is that park where you can see the Victorians with the city skyline in the background?” Answer: “That’s Alamo Square, a great place for a picnic.”

Your Author: Lee Foster

Lee is an award-winning travel writer and photographer and long-time resident of Berkeley, across the Bay from San Francisco. His work has won eight Lowell Thomas Awards, the highest prizes in travel journalism. He has been named a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year. All the write-ups and photos here are from Lee.

He has several parallel books/ebooks on San Francisco and Northern California. You can see them on his Amazon Author Page (http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz) and in independent bookstores (http://www.indiebound.org/).

Much of his travel journalism can be seen on his website at http://www.fostertravel.com. About half of the 300 worldwide travel writing/photo coverages on the website are about San Francisco and Northern California. The others range from Egypt to Bali. You can Search for a SF/Norcal subject or worldwide subject and find his presentations, all available for free on the website.

Lee’s travel writing/photos have appeared in almost all the major U.S. travel magazines and newspapers, plus in more than 300 Lonely Planet travel books. You can see his digitally ready photos at http://stockphotos.fostertravel.com. Most of his licensing of photos occurs with major magazines and book companies, such as the AAA Via magazine and National Geographic. Foster also offers an inexpensive and secure $20 Personal Publishing License for individuals who simply want a photo for their blog, website, book, or wall décor.

Contact Lee at [email protected] if you have any questions or suggestions on SF/Norcal travel and this presentation. New aspects for all these travel subjects emerge. Your experience, whether good or bad, is helpful to Lee as he continues to evaluate what should be in this select list.

Foster believes that few areas have done more than SF/Norcal to preserve the environment or improve the basics of travel, including enjoyable attractions/dining/lodging.

SF/Norcal ranks as his favorite place on Earth. The more he has seen of the world, the more he appreciates his home territory. He hopes that this presentation makes your own exploration more satisfying and insightful.

Table of Contents

Menu in brief overview:

Intro/About The Author

Google Maps: Where Are You?

Lee’s Top 10 SF Experiences

SF A to Z List: Everything to See!

Areas of San Francisco to Explore!

Area: Embarcadero

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Area: On the Bay

Area: Downtown

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Area: Civic Center

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront

Area: Golden Gate Park

Area: Mission/Castro

Iconic Photo Views

Nature/Hikes

Culture/Museums

Restaurants/Bars/Hotels

Annual Celebrations

Sports Teams

North to Marin County

East to Oakland/Berkeley

South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Menu with all sections and subsections indicated, with units repeated as needed. All sections and subsections are in the A-Z, and are then also distributed in the Areas and in the special interest subjects as appropriate:

Intro/About The Author

Google Maps: Where Are You?

Lee’s 10 Top SF Experiences

          Alamo Square Victorians

          Alcatraz Prison Island

          Baker Beach/Golden Gate

          Bay Bridge, Day and Night

          Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum

          Chinatown Walking Self-Tour

          De Young Museum

          Dungeness Crab/Sourdough Bread at Fisherman’s Wharf

          Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

          Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Building

Next are all entries, 120 total, all sections and subsections, A to Z:

SF A to Z List: Everything to See!

Academy of Sciences

Alamo Square Victorians

Alcatraz Prison Island

Angel Island

Annual Celebrations

Ano Nuevo Elephant Seals

Area: All San Francisco to Explore!

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Area: Civic Center

Area: Downtown

Area: Embarcadero

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

Area: Golden Gate Park

Area: Mission/Castro

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront

Area: On the Bay

Asian Art Museum

Baker Beach/Golden Gate

Bank of America Building

BART/MUNI/Uber to Get Around

Bay Bridge, Day and Night

Bay to Breakers Run

Beach Chalet

Berkeley Downtown/Arts/Restaurants

Botanical Garden

Buena Vista: Only-in-SF Bars/Restaurants

Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum

Café de la Presse: Traditional Restaurants

Carnaval Parade

Castro District/Gay SF

Cesar Chavez Park/East Bay Parks

Chinatown Food

Chinatown Walking Self-Tour

Chinese New Year

Christmas Holidays

City Hall

Cliff House/Sutro Baths

Coit Tower and Crookedest Street

Conservatory of Flowers

Conzelman Road Marin Headlands Views of the Golden Gate

Crissy Field

Cruise Terminals

Culture/Museums

De Young Museum

Disney Museum

Dungeness Crab/Sourdough Bread at Fisherman’s Wharf

East to Oakland/Berkeley

Exploratorium Science Museum

Farmers Market Civic Center

Farmers Market Ferry Building     

Ferry Building Ferries

Ferry Building Shops

Ferry SF to Oakland

Fisherman’s Wharf Shopping

Fort Funston Hang Gliders

Gary Danko: Celebrity Chef Restaurants

Gay Pride Parade

Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

Golden State Warriors

Google Maps: Where Are You?

Gourmet Ghetto Berkeley

Haight Ashbury

Half Moon Bay Town

Hilton Cityscape Elevated Views

Historic Trolleys Along the Embarcadero

Hyatt Regency Interior

Hyde Street Pier Historic Ships

Iconic Photo Views

Intro/About The Author

Jack London Square/Oakland Waterfront

Japanese Tea Garden

Jeremiah O’Brien WWII Ship

Joie de Vivre/Kimpton Boutique Hotels

Kayaking Tomales Bay

Lands End/Outlook NPS Center

Lee’s Top 10 SF Experiences

Live Theatre in SF

Local SF Travel Information/Insight

Main Public Library

Mark Hopkins/Top of the Mark

Mission Dolores/Junipero Serra

Montara Beach

Muir Woods

Murals of the Mission District

Museum of Modern Art

Nature/Hikes

Nob Hill/Huntington Park

North Beach Coffee and Culture

North to Marin County

Oakland Downtown

Oakland Museum of California

Ocean Beach/Great Highway

Pacifica Hikes/Pier

Palace of the Legion of Honor

Pescadero

Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay

Pier 39 Sea Lions

Pier 39 Shopping

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Point Reyes

Presidio

Princeton-by-the-Sea

Restaurants/Bars/Hotels

San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco Airport

San Francisco Giants

Sausalito

SF A to Z List: Everything to See!

South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Sports Teams

Stanford/Palo Alto

Tiburon

Tour Boats on the Bay

Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Building

Twin Peaks View

Union Square

University of California Berkeley

Victorian Architecture Self-Tour

Westin St. Francis

Zoo

Next are all the subjects presented by Area and grouped in Themes:

Area: All San Francisco to Explore!

Area: Embarcadero

          Ferry Building Shops

          Farmers Market Ferry Building

          Historic Trolleys Along the Embarcadero

          Hyatt Regency Interior

          Bay Bridge, Day and Night

          Bay to Breakers Run

          San Francisco Giants

          Exploratorium Science Museum

          Cruise Terminals

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

          Dungeness Crab/Sourdough Bread at Fisherman’s Wharf

          Hyde Street Pier Historic Ships

          Fisherman’s Wharf Shopping

          Jeremiah O’Brien WWII Ship

          Pier 39 Shopping

          Pier 39 Sea Lions

          Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay

          Buena Vista: Only-in-SF Bars/Restaurants

          Gary Danko: Celebrity Chef Restaurants

Area: On the Bay

          Alcatraz Prison Island

          Angel Island

          Tour Boats on the Bay

Area: Downtown

          Union Square

          Westin St. Francis

          Christmas Holidays

          Hilton Cityscape Elevated Views

          Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum

          BART/MUNI/Uber to Get Around

          Museum of Modern Art

          Bank of America Building

          Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Building

          Nob Hill/Huntington Park

          Mark Hopkins/Top of the Mark

          Local SF Travel Information/Insight

          Joie de Vivre/Kimpton Boutique Hotels

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

          Chinatown Walking Self-Tour

          Chinatown Food  

          Chinese New Year

          Café de la Presse: Traditional Restaurants

          North Beach Coffee and Culture

          Coit Tower and Crookedest Street

Area: Civic Center

          City Hall

          Main Public Library

          Farmers Market Civic Center

          Asian Art Museum

          Alamo Square Victorians

          Victorian Architecture Self-Tour

          Live Theatre in SF

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

          Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

          Crissy Field

          Presidio

          Disney Museum

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront

          Baker Beach/Golden Gate

          Lands End/Outlook NPS Center

          Cliff House/Sutro Baths

          Ocean Beach/Great Highway

          Zoo

          Fort Funston Hang Gliders

          Pacifica Hikes/Pier

Area: Golden Gate Park

          Academy of Sciences

          Conservatory of Flowers

          De Young Museum

          Japanese Tea Garden

          Botanical Garden

          Beach Chalet

          Palace of the Legion of Honor

          Haight Ashbury

Area: Mission/Castro

          Mission Dolores/Junipero Serra

          Murals of the Mission District

          Castro District/Gay SF

          Gay Pride Parade

          Carnaval Parade

          Twin Peaks View

Iconic Photo Views

          Alamo Square Victorians

          Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum

          Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Building

          Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

          Baker Beach/Golden Gate

          Conzelman Road Marin Headlands Views of the Golden Gate

          Muir Woods

          Tour Boats on the Bay

          Ferry SF to Oakland

          Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Nature/Hikes

          Crissy Field

          Baker Beach/Golden Gate    

          Lands End/Outlook NPS Center

          Botanical Garden

          Fort Funston Hang Gliders

          Pacifica Hikes/Pier

          Montara Beach

          Ano Nuevo Elephant Seals

          Angel Island

          Muir Woods

          Point Reyes

          Cesar Chavez Park/East Bay Parks

Culture/Museums

          Museum of Modern Art

          Asian Art Museum

          De Young Museum

          Palace of the Legion of Honor

          Live Theatre in SF

Restaurants/Bars/Hotels

          Westin St. Francis

          Mark Hopkins/Top of the Mark

          Hyatt Regency Interior

          Joie de Vivre/Kimpton Boutique Hotels

          Hilton Cityscape Elevated Views

          Café de la Presse: Traditional Restaurants

          Gary Danko: Celebrity Chef Restaurants

          Buena Vista: Only-in-SF Bars/Restaurants

Annual Celebrations

          Chinese New Year

          Carnaval Parade

          Bay to Breakers Run

          Gay Pride Parade

          Christmas Holidays

Sports Teams

          San Francisco Giants

          Golden State Warriors

          San Francisco 49ers

North to Marin County

          Conzelman Road Marin Headlands Views of the Golden Gate

          Sausalito

          Tiburon

          Muir Woods

          Point Reyes

          Kayaking Tomales Bay

East to Oakland/Berkeley

          Ferry SF to Oakland

          Jack London Square/Oakland Waterfront

          Oakland Downtown

          Oakland Museum of California

          Golden State Warriors

          Berkeley Downtown/Arts/Restaurants

          University of California Berkeley

          Gourmet Ghetto Berkeley

          Cesar Chavez Park/East Bay Parks

South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

          Pacifica Hikes/Pier

          Montara Beach

          Princeton-by-the-Sea

          Half Moon Bay Town

          Pescadero

          Pigeon Point Lighthouse

          Ano Nuevo Elephant Seals

          San Francisco Airport

          Stanford/Palo Alto

          San Francisco 49ers

Next are all the 120 Chapters, listed alphabetically A to Z. You can scroll through them or access them from the Table of Contents, above.

Academy of Sciences

Meeting a python up close

The sod roof on the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park is a symbol of the institution’s message: We need to develop more sustainable practices.

One such environmental practice: Collect the rainfall where it falls, rather than rely on a costly system of runoff, reservoirs, and transport systems to get water to people. Hence, the sod roof with its vigorous plant growth.

Diverse exhibits inside will delight visitors of all ages.

Your Best Shot: You can make effective photos of the new sod roof and the entire Academy building from the tower of the nearby de Young Museum, which lies across a treed expanse called the Music Concourse. Once inside the Academy of Sciences, you can make a selfie with a live white alligator in the background.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Admission is free to the de Young tower to get an elevated perspective on the Academy of Sciences.

Within the Academy of Sciences, concentrate on its tropical rain forest exhibit, among others such as the aquarium and the planetarium. This natural history museum is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Etched into the floor is one of Charles Darwin’s sobering observations–that survival of any species is dependent on something more than intelligence or strength. Survival depends on the ability of an organism to adapt successfully to changing circumstances.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: http://www.calacademy.org

Address: 55 Music Concourse Dr., San Francisco, CA 94118

Phone: 415-379-8000

Price: Admission charge, moderate

Alamo Square Victorians

View of Victorians and Downtown from Alamo Square
View of Victorians and Downtown from Alamo Square

Arguably the best-loved view of San Francisco’s Victorian houses is from a small park called Alamo Square, located in the Western Addition.

Your Best Shot: The iconic photo or view of the Victorians works well after 2 p.m. when the westward-advancing sun falls on the Victorians to the east of the park. It’s easy to get yourself in the photo from Alamo Square if you desire.

Not only is there a row of colorful Victorians, sometimes affectionately called “Painted Ladies,” but the modern city skyline looms in the background.

The setting juxtaposes the old and the new, best of both.

From Alamo Square you can venture out in the neighborhood to view adjacent Victorians. The Haas-Lilienthal House is your best source for further Victorian information and tours (see separate entry Victorian Architecture Self Tour).

If You Go:

Area: Civic Center

Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alamo_Square,_San_Francisco

Address: Hayes and Steiner Sts, San Francisco, CA 94117

Phone: 415-218-0259

Price: Free

Alcatraz Prison Island

Alcatraz Island, the former prison, in San Francisco Bay
Alcatraz Island, the former prison, in San Francisco Bay

Whether seen from the edge of Pier 39 or from a tour boat parading around the Bay, Alcatraz is an intriguing aspect of the San Francisco landscape.

The famous and draconian prison island can also be viewed close-up with a National Park Service tour, which leaves from Pier 33 and includes a guided walk through the cell blocks.

Your Best Shot: While a portrait of the profile of the island is compelling, there’s nothing quite like strolling through the cell blocks and making a photo or video of how the incorrigibles lived. If you put yourself in the image, you may have your most captivating portrait ever.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Although best known for its infamous Federal Prison period from 1934 to 1963, with Al Capone as the most famous resident, Alcatraz also has a long history.

The island was in military use in the Civil War.

When abandoned after the prison period, it was briefly occupied by a contingent of American Indians in the late 1960s.

In 1972 Alcatraz passed into National Park Service control, where it is destined to remain. The Park Service offers every visitor an informative group tour with a ranger.

Then there is time to wander around on your own before catching a desired boat back to San Francisco.

If You Go:

Area: On the Bay

Website: http://www.alcatrazcruises.com

Address: Pier 33, Embarcadero, for boat ride

Phone: 415-981-7625

Price: Transportation and park entrance charges, moderate

Angel Island

View of Golden Gate Bridge from Angel Island
View of Golden Gate Bridge from Angel Island

Angel Island in San Francisco Bay presents a multi-faceted adventure for the traveler.
Board the Blue & Gold ferry at Pier 39 in San Francisco or the ferry at Tiburon for the short ride over to Angel Island.

You disembark at Ayala Cove, a good spot for a picnic and a view of the handsome park service headquarters. Then make the 5-mile walk or tram ride around the perimeter road to see the sights.

Your Best Shot: From the perimeter road you can make interesting photos of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline, with or without you in the image. Poignant photos of human resilience can be made at the Immigration Station (see comments below).

One of the first stops is Camp Reynolds, a glimpse at 19th-century American military operations. See the parade grounds and the handsome officer houses.

Continue on the perimeter road to savor the fabulous views possible of the Golden Gate and of the San Francisco skyline.

If you are a backpack camper, you can stay out overnight at choice elevated camp sites on the hills to enjoy these views at dusk and dawn.

You can also hike to the top of Mt. Livermore, in the center of the island, and survey the 360-degree scene.

On the east side of the island is the restored Immigration Station, an introduction to how immigrants, mainly from Asia, came to San Francisco. For the new arrivals Angel Island was a kind of “Ellis Island West,” though the welcome was not warm.

The greeting in 1910-1940 was not congenial because of the pervasive discrimination against Chinese. Desperate poems of those who feared they might be deported back to China are recorded on the walls. Today this Immigration Station has been totally restored as a major museum to this element of the American immigration story.

If You Go:

Area: On the Bay

Website: http://www.angelisland.com and http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=1309

Address: Angel Island, San Francisco Bay

Phone: For ferry service from San Francisco 415-705-8200, from Tiburon 415-435-2131; Immigration Station information 415-348-9200

Price: Ferry price includes park admission charge, moderate

Annual Celebrations

 The Running Elvises in the annual Bay to Breakers run
The Running Elvises in the annual Bay to Breakers run

San Francisco is a vital city with a year-around calendar of celebrations for locals and visitors.

Your Best Shot: An engaging photo of the various parade participants can be a memorable image. Putting yourself in the scene can alert friends to your festive sympathies.

Some of the biggest events get their own listing in this travel guide presentation. Consider the following:

Chinese New Year and Parade in late January-mid February is one of the most robust celebrations of Chinese culture in the U.S.

Carnaval Parade in late-May showcases the entire Caribbean, Mexican, and Central/South American cultural contribution to San Francisco.

Bay to Breakers Run in May is a walk/run parade of thousands who proceed from the bayside heart of the city to the surf and beach just beyond Golden Gate Park.

Gay Pride Parade is the yearly LGBT celebration held the last Sunday in June. The huge turnout demonstrates why San Francisco is well known both as a welcoming milieu and as an advocacy force in the national political consciousness.

Christmas Holidays are especially festive in San Francisco, from Thanksgiving through the New Year, with three main locations: Union Square, the Hyatt Ice Rink at Market/Embarcadero, and Pier 39.

The local tourism authority, San Francisco Travel, presents a calendar on its website well worth perusing for the time of your visit. See http://www.sftravel.com/ and Search Annual Festivals.

Ano Nuevo Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo on the San Mateo Coast
Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo on the San Mateo Coast

Ano Nuevo State Park is a 1,500-acre nature reserve along the San Mateo Coast, 43 miles south of San Francisco. It is open all year.

But winter here is special. Then you can see giant elephant seals haul themselves out of the ocean and position themselves on the beach. Elephant seals are a species that barely escaped extinction, but now their numbers grow comfortably abundant. Call ahead to arrange a reservation, which is required,

Your Best Shot: The huge elephant seals present themselves as a remarkable nature photo subject. Be careful not to get too close for a photo of you and the seals. They can lunge quickly and bite or crush anything in their path.

Ano Nuevo State Park ranges from Franklin Point south to New Years Creek Road. The turnoff to the parking area on CA Highway 1 is clearly marked.

Paths and trails lead to the beach, which offers good fishing for halibut, croaker, and perch. The easily accessible beach at the mouth of New Years Creek, a short walk from the parking lot, is a good sunning and picnic area at low tide.

The shoreline at Ano Nuevo includes sandy beaches, dunes, rocky areas, and bluffs. Get a map in the interpretive center, located in the old Dickerman Barn, where there are informative displays on nature and the human use of the area.

Ano Nuevo is a particularly good area to see shorebirds, upland birds, and hawks. You can also explore Indian middens and the legacy of the Steele Brothers dairy empire, which started here in the 1850s.

If You Go:

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=523

Address: 1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

Phone: 650-879-2025

Price: Entrance charge, moderate

Areas of San Francisco to Explore!

Turing the Cable Car around at the foot of Powell Street
Turning the Cable Car around at the foot of Powell Street

San Francisco is a fairly compact city (7 x 7 square miles) with a dense number of extremely interesting places to explore.

This travel guide presentation will help you use your time wisely. Chances are you will also want to get some photos of the places you see and of yourself enjoying the scene.

If you have no idea where to start, you should use my “Lee’s Top 10 SF Experiences.” See the listings for them. These 10 blockbuster places please many travelers every day. You can’t go wrong experiencing them.

Besides the Top 10 you will be able to find many special San Francisco subjects. Maybe a friend has said, “Be sure to see the sea lions that hang out at Pier 39.” You will be able to find them under Pier 39 Sea Lions in the “SF A to Z” list. The list contains 120 subjects.

Another useful way to explore San Francisco is to ask yourself, “Hey, Lee, I’m at Fisherman’s Wharf. What should I see here?” I have divided the city into areas. For example, the Pier 39 Sea Lions are in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. This travel guide will tell you what else is of interest in that area and others.

No technology equals an app to guide you in such an area situation, working from the digital map. No printed book, ebook, or website can locate you contextually to show what’s around you. App technology can do this easily. Other forms of this travel guide presentation (coming later) may also be of interest to you.

My 10 areas of SF, with several subsections for each area, are:

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Embarcadero: All along the San Francisco waterfront, starting at the Ferry Building, then moving west or east.

Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39: A perennial favorite, here visitors find everything from Dungeness crab dining to the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39.

Downtown: This is the heart of The City, including Union Square and the great Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

Chinatown/North Beach: There’s lots to explore in the Asian/Italian neighborhood, and all easily walkable.

Civic Center: Site of City Hall, the Asian Art Museum, a Farmers Market, the landmark energy-efficient Federal Building, and more.

Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio: The bridge—one of America’s most recognized symbols—is a must-see stop, with perhaps a stroll at nearby Crissy Field.

Northern/Western Waterfront: This area offers dining with an ocean view at the Cliff House and a walk in the headlands, which are maintained by the National Park Service.

Golden Gate Park: San Francisco’s great greenscape contains the landmark de Young Museum and the nearby Academy of Sciences, which celebrate art and nature globally.

Mission/Castro: Here the Hispanic heritage of San Francisco began and continues, and the LGBT community found its gravitas when camera store owner Harvey Milk became a City Supervisor.

Besides the areas, you will find these relevant thematic subdivisions:

Iconic Photo/Views

Nature/Hikes

Culture/Museums

Restaurants/Bars/Hotels

Annual Celebrations

Sports Teams

You may also want to venture beyond San Francisco and experience the best nearby subjects in:

North to Marin County

East to Oakland/Berkeley

South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Lanterns in Chinatown along Grant Avenue
Lanterns in Chinatown along Grant Avenue

Chinatown (one of the largest outside Asia) and North Beach (the old Italian neighborhood) are two famous ethnic enclaves in central San Francisco that co-exist in close proximity. Both are best explored on foot.

Chinatown has much to offer. See the sections on Chinatown Walking Tour, Chinatown Food, and Chinese New Year.

Both Chinatown and North Beach have many hidden discoveries awaiting you. For example, Chinatown has herb shops where the time-honored art of herbal medicinal healing takes place.

Your Best Shot: Be respectful in Chinese herb shops. The owners don’t mind you there, but they don’t like to be seen as tourism curiosities. Please don’t interfere with transactions, as patrons come in and get the ground-up herbs to be made into a tea for their ailments. If you are unobtrusive, quick photos are OK.

Superior Trading Company, 837 Washington St, and Great China Herb Company, 857 Washington St, are two prominent herbalists.

North Beach is also a multi-faceted area. See the write-ups on North Beach Coffee Houses, North Beach Culture, and North Beach Washington Square.

There’s a lot of Italian San Francisco heritage and lore to enjoy here. Like Chinatown, much of it is hidden until you learn about it.

For example, you could order veal scaloppine at a restaurant that presents itself as “America’s oldest Italian restaurant.” That would be Fior d’Italia, dating back to 1886 (2237 Mason St, http://www.fior.com).

Area: Civic Center

City Hall in Civic Center Plaza
City Hall in Civic Center Plaza

Civic Center is a governmental and cultural area immediately southwest of Downtown off Market St. Here you will find ornate City Hall and the Asian Art Museum (see their listings).

Civic Center has its own BART and underground MUNI Station and has many subjects of interest when you emerge, such as City Hall and the Asian Art Museum.

Your Best Shot: The serendipity of human life that greets you here can be your photo subject. Architectural monuments, such as the War Memorial Opera House, are an objective subject.

On Wednesdays there is a large Farmers Market, which is surpassed only by the immense Saturday Farmers Market at the Ferry Building.

Some of the high cultural entities funded by the San Francisco elite are located here, such as the War Memorial Opera House. Completed in 1932, this Beaux-Arts structure by the noted architect Arthur Brown, Jr., has somewhat severe Roman Doric columns, felt to be appropriate for the building’s theme: honoring those who served in World War I. In 1945 the newly formed United Nations had its first conference here, and the UN Charter was signed next door in the Herbst Theatre.

The handsome major library for San Francisco exists here, at 100 Larkin St, and is worth a peek inside for the design excellence of its spacious interior.

Another architectural delight is the recent Federal Building at 7th and Mission Sts. This Federal Building is said to be one of the “greenest” new government buildings in the U.S. You can take the elevator to its rooftop view.

North and west of the Civic Center is the gritty Tenderloin area, a world of SRO (meaning single room occupancy) hotels. The Tenderloin has its own museum now at 398 Eddy St.

Civic Center is the major urban gathering place in San Francisco. When there is a big citywide celebration, such as the annual Gay Pride Parade, or a substantial political protest, such as the Womens March of 2017, everyone converges at City Hall.

Area: Downtown

Sculpture on pedestal high above Union Square
Sculpture on pedestal high above Union Square

Downtown San Francisco offers a concentration of enticements for the visitor, starting with Union Square.

All the entities mentioned below have their own write-ups in this presentation.

Union Square is often considered the heart of the city. This luxurious square is a place to pause and rest on the outdoor chairs, perhaps with a latte. A pageant of San Franciscans may walk by. Street entertainers provide diversion. Several major department stores, such as Saks and Macy’s, line the square. Art galleries and specialty shops populate the nearby streets going east and west.

Your Best Shot: An interesting elevated view photo of Union Square is possible from the Cheesecake Factory restaurant on the 8th floor of Macy’s, which faces the square on the south side. Cheesecake Factory has an outdoor dining area and plenty of room for a photo of Union Square below.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Walk down Powell St and across Market to reach the Westfield Centre, another major concentration of shops. The rotunda and the circular staircases leading up to floors are mesmerizing.

The Cable Car turnaround at Powell and Market attracts many visitors who want to ride a Cable Car. This boarding spot is often busy, so it is good to know that you can board a Cable Car anywhere.

The California Street Cable Car, which can be boarded at Market and California, is usually less congested and takes you up to scenic Huntington Park on Nob Hill.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St, is one of the big cultural attractions Downtown.

Architecturally, the Bank of America Building and the Transamerica Pyramid are the signature business structures to admire and photograph.

BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit, is the metro system, which runs underneath Market St and fans out into outlying neighborhoods. The parallel, local rail/bus line, known as the MUNI, can take you to the far reaches of The City if you can master its schedule and routes.

Adjacent to the Powell St BART Station, in Hallidie Plaza, the local tourism office, San Francisco Travel, maintains a store, providing maps and information for visitors.

You can’t go wrong with a focus on a few of these major Downtown SF subjects.

Area: Embarcadero

Downtown San Francisco skyline as seen from the early morning ferry to Oakland
Downtown San Francisco skyline as seen from the early morning ferry to Oakland

San Francisco’s Embarcadero is the San Francisco Bay shoreline, spreading east and west from the Ferry Building at the foot of Market St.

This fascinating water-side area gets its name from the Spanish word for the landing place where you would embark, get on and off, a boat.

The Ferry Building, with its iconic clock tower, hosts numerous shops and restaurants, such as Book Passage, one of the larger bookstores in the Bay Area. The Ferry Building is, of course, where the ferries leave for Marin County and for the East Bay, especially Oakland. On Saturdays, you’ll find one of the most robust Farmers Markets in Northern California flourishing here.

Your Best Shot: Some image, with the iconic Ferry Building tower in the background, will locate your photo exactly. From across the street at Justin Herman Plaza, it is possible to get a good image of yourself and the ferry building, maybe even with historic trolleys or street artists in the selfie.

Walking east from the Ferry Building along the water, there is a public pier that takes you out for a close-up look at the Bay Bridge, a wondrous sight both day and night, when it is lit up in a changing artistic “light arts” performance. Farther along, there are upscale outdoor restaurants with views, such as Waterbar. Eventually, you will reach the San Francisco Giants baseball stadium, AT&T Park.

Walking west from the Ferry Building, the attractions include the Exploratorium Science Museum (Pier 15), two cruise terminals (Piers 27 and 35), Pier 33 where you catch the boat out to Alcatraz prison island, and the multiple appeals of Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39, for example, has its Aquarium of the Bay, which focuses on the Bay fish and wildlife. Fisherman’s Wharf offers its treasure of historic ships at the Hyde Street Pier.

One little-known aspect of the Embarcadero is that there is an interesting SF Bay Trail around and through the piers 1-17 west of the Ferry Building. Most folks will walk along the street, but you can get a more intimate glance at the water and the local businesses from this segment of the Bay Trail between the Ferry Building and the Exploratorium. This trail is called the Shoreline Walk of the Bay Trail.

Watch for signs to the Shoreline Walk Bay Trail at Pier 1, immediately west of the Ferry Building, near Starbucks coffee. More details on this walk can be found at San Francisco Bay Trail (http://www.baytrail.org). Public walk trails are now available for about 330 miles of the 550 miles around the Bay.

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Fishing Boats at Fisherman's Wharf
Fishing boats at Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf and nearby Pier 39 are must-see destinations for a visitor to San Francisco. Their appeals are diverse.

Fisherman’s Wharf was and is the fishing fleet headquarters, where the Dungeness crab and salmon delicacies come into The City from the sea. The Wharf is a bustling dining and shopping area. Boudin’s bakery carries on the sourdough baking traditions of San Francisco.

Your Best Shot: The nostalgic fishing boats at Fisherman’s Wharf are a photogenic subject, with or without you in the frame. Try to capture them on a sunny and calm day without distraction in the background and with their reflections in the water.

Be sure to see the landmark National Park Service-administered Maritime Museum, with historic ships at the Hyde Street Pier and their story told in the interpretive center across the street.

For shoppers, the major Cannery and Ghirardelli complexes house numerous specialty shops. You could pause in the rigors of exploring for an Irish coffee at the Buena Vista, a bar where the beverage was introduced to America. There are plenty of dining options, from seafood restaurants to celebrity-chef operations, such as Gary Danko.

Nearby is Pier 39, a major focus of travel attention. On the short walk over, you pass the Jeremiah O’Brien, a WWII Liberty Ship museum, plus an adjacent historic submarine, the USS Pampanito. Scramble aboard to admire these wartime vessels.

The Blue and Gold Fleet and Red and White Fleet tour boats and ferries can take you out on the Bay, as can some of the small fishing boats at Fisherman’s Wharf. Getting out on the Bay with a sailing underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and then a look back at The City skyline before turning around is highly recommended.

Pier 39 has a raft of restaurants and shops, plus street performers, often with ingenious entertainments. Pier 39 attracts visitors who want to see its famous sea lions, which bark away and have their own viewing platform for travelers.

The Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 displays the fish, crustaceans, birds, and mammals that live in the Bay waters. You pass through acrylic tunnels with the creatures swimming all around you, something especially exciting for children. The Aquarium wisely focuses just on the Bay and nearby Northern California natural habitats.

Many of these appealing aspects of Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 have their own write-ups in this presentation of the best things an explorer can enjoy in San Francisco.

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

Golden Gate Bridge from Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands
Golden Gate Bridge from Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands

The Golden Gate Bridge and adjacent Presidio form one of the most unusual National Parks in the U.S.

The Golden Gate Bridge environs are all part of the coastal Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The Presidio, once a substantial military entity, eventually became a public park space and had its status raised to become a National Park in its own right.

One of the ironies of San Francisco regional history is that former military lands now form the basis of several major parks. The military had the earlier authority to acquire any land it wished for national defense. The Presidio was the largest such property, but there were many other smaller ones. The military never fired a shot in anger from all these San Francisco-area lands, though the worry of an invasion from Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack was great.

Your Best Shot: Arguably the most substantial concrete example of the military presence around San Francisco, now recycled into a park, is the Battery Spencer gun emplacement on Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands. “Battery” was the military word for a massive cannon. Battery Spencer is your closest view of the North Tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Standing there on the massive concrete slab, you can imagine how large was the gun positioned to protect this vulnerable Golden Gate water route during WWII. Today, this is an excellent site at which to get an elevated selfie of yourself and the Bridge behind and below you.

Eventually, as modes of warfare changed, the military use of all these lands became obsolete. The “surplus” properties became parks, administered mainly by the National Park Service rather than sold for private development.

The Golden Gate Bridge can be enjoyed at its south end Vista Point, but also from the east at adjacent Crissy Field (once an air base) or from the west at Baker Beach (originally the site of a big gun emplacement). From across the Golden Gate Bridge, the great viewpoint at Battery Spencer is one of three turnouts on Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands (some of the most fortified acres on earth within a year after the Pearl Harbor attack).

The Presidio itself was the Spanish word for “fort” and was a place of military encampment when Mission Dolores, the San Francisco Mission, flourished. During the Civil War, work began on Fort Point, the brick fort at the base of the south tower of the Bridge. The Presidio’s large parade grounds and its many buildings served the military until 1989.

Finally, all the buildings and open space were turned over to the Presidio Trust and the National Park Service. Buildings were recycled into various public uses, such as housing the marvelous Walk Disney Family Museum, which celebrates the entertainer’s life story.

Area: Golden Gate Park

The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park
The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is an ample green strip of land in the western part of the city. It is one of the great urban parks of the world and has been carefully laid out with multiple attractions.

At the center of the park there are five big draws, all within a short distance of each other. They are a good place to start. Each of the blockbuster attractions of Golden Gate Park has its own write-up.

The top attraction is the de Young Museum, a great repository of historic European art in San Francisco.

Your Best Shot: Your photo of a fountain at the edge of the de Young, with the museum’s tower in the background, captures one of the newer architectural masterpieces in San Francisco. The de Young had to be rebuilt due to the earthquake of 1989, and the designers made this repository of art also an art object in itself.

Across from the de Young is the progressive Academy of Sciences, a leading proponent of the presentation and conservation of nature worldwide.

Just north of the Academy is the Conservatory of Flowers, a lacy Victorian glass greenhouse to display flowering plants from around the world.

Immediately south of the de Young is the Japanese Tea Garden, a cozy and tranquil stop for a reflective pot of tea, especially at the spring blossom time.

Across the street and slightly west from the Tea Garden is the Botanical Garden, formerly called the Strybing Arboretum. There you can walk through a fairly mature forest of redwood trees, one of the signature plants of California.

This is all right in the center of the Golden Gate Park. It’s easy to get there by taxi or Uber from anywhere in The City. Just ask the driver to drop you at the de Young.

The other area of the park especially engaging is its west edge. There a restaurant/brew pub known as the Beach Chalet and its adjacent twin Park Chalet restaurant. Both offer tasty meals. The Beach Chalet ground floor also happens to house some special art treasures from the WPA (Works Progress Administration) era of the 1930s. Be sure to check out the WPA murals.

Across the Great Highway from the Beach Chalet is wide Ocean Beach and the Pacific. This is the place to take off your shoes and wiggle your toes in the Pacific surf. The breakers here are usually moderate and the beach slope is gradual.

Glance to your right, looking north and up to a bluff, and you will see the legendary Cliff House restaurant. From there you can see the remains of the historic Sutro Baths, which once was the place for the younger set, who wanted to see and be seen.

Inland a few blocks from the Cliff House is the Palace of the Legion of Honor, another art museum in the same league as the de Young. The Legion of Honor focuses on the San Francisco-Paris cultural ties that have flourished, especially since WWI.

For all these options, many explorers in San Francisco put a visit to Golden Gate Park near the top of their travel list.

Area: Mission/Castro 

Murals in the Mission
Murals in the Mission

The Mission/Castro area southwest of Downtown and Civic Center is the oldest and one of the most culturally rich areas of San Francisco. The 16th and 24th Street BART Stations locate you in the area.

All the subjects mentioned below have write-ups of their own in this presentation.

The Mission area is the “oldest” because it was here that the Franciscan friar Junipero Serra chose to locate his Mission Dolores. Today the church is in good shape, well maintained, with an adjacent garden, and a local community of worshippers.

The Hispanic influence in the area has continued to deepen, with new migrants and their visions. A significant art form has arisen, parallel to the mural artists of Mexico. For more on the Murals of the Mission District, see information at Precita Eyes Gallery. 

Your Best Shot: The dramatic wall murals of the Mission are a special art form. Walk down Balmy Alley, one of the main mural streets, with your camera at the ready. Get some shots of the art objects by themselves and of you with a mural. 

The Castro District has been the congenial place for gay people to live and flourish. Here you will find the location of the camera shop of Harvey Milk, the first gay Supervisor of San Francisco, who was shot by Dan White in 1978. A GLBT Museum at 18th and Castro documents the story of the movement.

Each year the Mission celebrates with a Carnaval Parade. Participants represent the total Hispanic presence, from Mexico to Argentina, plus a Caribbean flair.

Finally, the Mission/Castro area offers one of the more stunning views of San Francisco, from Twin Peaks. There you can look north to see the entire downtown urban skyline of The City.

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront 

Northern Waterfront at Baker Beach
Northern oceanfront at Baker Beach

The northern and western perimeter of San Francisco locates you in publicly owned oceanfront real estate. Many enticing stops can make a visit to this area meaningful and memorable.

Each of these suggested places merited a write-up of its own in this presentation.

Baker Beach, west of the Golden Gate Bridge, presents an unsurpassed view of the Bridge with waves crashing on a wide and sandy beach in the foreground, the white foam inching up closer to your shoes. The Bridge is on your right and a huge container ship may be entering the Bay. If overjoyed, this is one allowable place where a lot of San Franciscans go naked, on the section of the beach closest to the Bridge.

Your Best Shot: Get a midafternoon image of the crashing waves and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background at Baker Beach.

Lands End/Outlook is on the northwest corner of San Francisco. It includes the ever-developing Lands End Trail, with native plantings now replacing the “invasive” plants from foreign areas that escaped their expected horticultural boundaries. The National Park Service’s Outlook Visitor Center can provide details for your exploration.

Cliff House offers fine dining and a glance out to Seal Rocks, where pinnipeds escape their alpha predators, such as sharks. Alongside Cliff House is the now forlorn Sutro Baths, just a stone shell of its former greatness. In its heyday, the saltwater swimming pool complex was the happening place where boy-meets-girl.

Ocean Beach/Great Highway is a stretch of miles of wide ocean sand with a gradual slope into the water. A dog or human can run freely here. Wiggle your toes in the Pacific.

Zoo is the San Francisco Zoo, on the east side of the Great Highway. This Zoo and the Oakland Zoo, and Safari West in Sonoma are among the great zoos. My last encounter here was reptilian, with a newcomer on display, a komodo dragon from Indonesia. For a species closer to home, the Zoo has restoration programs that give the endangered red legged frog of California a better opportunity to avoid extinction.

Fort Funston’s Hang Gliders linger lyrically on the updrafts coming off the cliffs, passing close to the wooden viewing platform built for your observation enjoyment. A walk down the bluff to the ocean can take you to a pristine area for a picnic.

Pacifica Hikes/Pier alerts you to a nearby lodging option in northern San Mateo County. Even without a car, it is only 12 Uber minutes from the Colma BART Station, or 20 minutes from SF Downtown with your own vehicle. Lodging is possible at Rockaway Beach where the ocean can lull you to sleep. There’s fine dining at Nicks or the Moonraker. A hike at Mori Point gives you an elevated perspective featuring wildflowers in spring and migrating whales in summer or winter.

All of these ocean-side options, while hugging the perimeter of San Francisco, can produce memorable moments.

Area: On the Bay 

On the Bay, view from Marina Green
On the Bay, view from Marina Green

If you can arrange to get out on the Bay, your experience in San Francisco will include another enjoyable dimension of the area.

The Bay defines many of the joys of the San Francisco region. When you think of “around the Bay” there is so much to consider. Standing at the Ferry Building and thinking clockwise, the Bay strongly defines the Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39, Crissy Field, the Golden Gate Bridge, the charming Marin cities of Sausalito and Tiburon, and the hefty metropolises of the East Bay, Oakland and Berkeley.

All these “around the Bay” subjects merit your attention.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

ut three “on the Bay” possibilities is our special focus here.

They include two islands and ferries and tour boats–the main mode of transportation to get you onto this cherished body of water, San Francisco Bay.

Your Best Shot: From the top of the most accessible island, Alcatraz Prison Island, you can survey a huge amount of the Bay. If nothing can please you in this view, you are a tough customer. Zoom out to get the details, zoom in to get a selfie shot of you and your favorite Bay feature. 

See the detailed write-ups on the three entities. 

The first of the two islands is Alcatraz Prison Island, which you can get to easily. Take a National Park Service boat out from Pier 33 and participate in a ranger-led tour. Then explore on your own, before returning. Though Alcatraz is best known for its draconian prison period, when law-and-order and organized crime were competing, the island also had an earlier military history.

The second island is Angel Island, accessible from Tiburon or from San Francisco by the Blue and Gold Fleet at Pier 41. Angel Island is more rustic than Alcatraz, with a pleasant walk on its level perimeter path as the major appeal. Angel Island also has a poignant human story, the tale of the Immigration Station, now restored. This was a kind of Ellis Island West for immigrants from Asia, but without the welcome of its East Coast counterpart. Asians had to endure major discrimination.

The third subject in this intro to On the Bay is the mode of transport that gets you out on the Bay, the tour boat operators. Check out what the Blue and Gold Fleet, Red and White Fleet, and Hornblower Cruises offer. Typical tours offer a two-hour outing and go out beyond the Golden Gate. Tours emphasize the time of day, such as twilight or sunset, or emphasize a route, such as the Bridges. Hornblower is the most posh, with classy brunches.

Another “on the Bay” option is the ferries leaving for Marin and the East Bay from the Ferry Building. Some small fishing boats at Fisherman’s Wharf see tourists as the “catch of the day” and take folks out for a small-boat view of the scene.

Each of the entities emphasized here has its own write-up.

Asian Art Museum 

Asian Art Museum Detail
Asian Art Museum Detail

The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco houses one of the great Asian art collections in the world today.

A vigorous exhibit schedule also draws from other prominent collections for special presentations.

Your Best Shot: A delicate close-up photo of some treasure in the collection can be a satisfying memory. Both you and a lovely antiquity can pose together, given the low-light competence of modern phone cameras.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Located in the central city on the wide Civic Center Plaza, opposite City Hall, the museum is easy to access. The building once housed the San Francisco Public Library. The museum was careful to retain its historic façade and grand staircase in the conversion.

Anyone wishing to experience the cultural richness that only a great city can offer, with superb museum holdings, will want to encounter the Asian Art Museum.

San Francisco, as an Asia-facing city, is also a logical place to house this great collection.

The notion of “What is Asia?” may surprise a visitor. Asia also includes Iraq and Iran, with their ancient and magnificent cultures.

The early years of the collection were strengthened by generous donations from Chicago construction magnate, Avery Brundage, who was also an amateur athletic sports enthusiast and Olympic Games president.

Brundage donated 7,700 pieces of his Asian art to the museum collection.

In recent years, other patrons have stepped forward, including Larry Ellison, of Oracle and America’s Cup fame. He provided many of his Japanese art holdings.

If You Go:

Area: Civic Center

Website: http://www.asianart.org/

Address: 200 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-581-3500

Price: Admission charge, moderate

Baker Beach/Golden Gate

Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge
Baker Beach and Golden Gate Bridge

Some of the most stunning views of the Golden Gate entrance and the Bridge are found on a long swath of sand on the north side of the city, west of the Bridge.

The place is known as Baker Beach, and it is worth a walk, and it will likely provoke a photograph.

The choicest time is from midafternoon to sunset, as the western-advancing sun falls generously with its golden aura on Baker Beach and on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Your Best Shot: You will likely want to make some photos of the beach and the Golden Gate Bridge, with and without you in it. These images may become some of your most satisfying memories of San Francisco.

You can capture spectacular views here in your mind and/or with your phone camera or DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.

The crashing waves, the beach, the rocks, Marin County greenery north of the Golden Gate, and the Bridge all figure into the scene.  Maybe a surfer or a salmon fisherman will show up.

If the sky is clear, the afternoon light will be golden. If it’s cloudy or foggy, the interplay of atmospherics and the setting sun can be dramatic. The dynamism of clouds or fog interacting with the bridge can create momentary beauty.

You might want to take with you a tripod and rubber boots to allow yourself to stand in the shallow surf and make careful stills or video of the incoming white foam and waves.

Note: In warm and sunny weather, a section of the beach nearest the Golden Gate will attract hundreds of clothing-optional San Franciscans.

Baker Beach is part of the overall Presidio National Park in San Francisco. It is also a segment in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes choice coastal elements north and south of San Francisco.

If You Go:

Area: Northern/Western Waterfront

Website: http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/baker-beach.html

Address: 1504 Pershing Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

Phone: 415-561-4323

Price: Free

Bank of America Building

Bank of American Building, 555 California
Bank of American Building, 555 California

This striking building in the Financial District at 555 California St, built in 1969, was formerly the headquarters of the Bank of America.

After a merger with NationsBank in 1998, the headquarters moved to Charlotte, N.C. But the name stuck to this San Francisco architectural masterpiece.

Your Best Shot: Position yourself, if you can, with the sun behind you as you face the building. Pleasing photos can be made close up to the structure with a wide-angle lens, looking up, emphasizing its verticality.

The 52-story, 779-foot skyscraper is now the third tallest building in San Francisco   (surpassed only by the Salesforce Tower and Transamerica Pyramid).

The towering monolith lends gravitas to the city’s Financial District.

If You Go:

Area:  Downtown

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/555_California_Street 

Address: 555 California St, San Francisco, CA 94104

Phone: None

Price: Free

 

BART/MUNI/Uber to Get Around

Historic Trolley at Ferry Building
Historic trolley at Ferry Building

San Francisco and the surrounding territory can be explored with a mix of public transportation and Uber or other ride-sharing services. In the City by the Bay, visitors can get around by bus, streetcar, train, or cable car.

In central San Francisco a private car can be cumbersome and difficult to park. It can also be prone to get parking tickets.

Your Best Shot: One charming aspect of MUNI (the municipal transportation entity) is its collection of working vintage trolley cars from around the world that have been lovingly restored. The F Line, for instance, begins in the Castro and travels down Market St and along the waterfront. Get a classic shot of one of these trolley beauties in front of the Ferry Building, with or without you in the image, as is your pleasure. Just wait and they will parade past every 15 minutes or so.

The celebration of the trolley car continues at the free San Francisco Railway Museum, on Steuart St kitty-corner from the Ferry Building (http://www.streetcar.org/museum). Be sure to see the video made of the trolley cars on Market St shortly before the cataclysmic earthquake and fire that destroyed much of the city in 1906.

The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the modern subway system that makes life livable here. With its dense population and choke points, such as the Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge during rush hours, the Bay Area gets relief from BART.

BART can take you diagonally through central San Francisco and to both of the major airports, SFO and OAK. For a trip from The City to Oakland or Berkeley, BART is an excellent option.

The MUNI is a parallel rail and bus system that operates efficiently throughout the city. Fans of BART and the MUNI sing its praises, especially for the QuickPlanner element on the website (http://www.bart.gov).

Uber and other ride-service competitors now add a remarkable new layer of transportation opportunity. For example, you could Uber quickly up to the Marina Green in the morning and walk one-way the full length of Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge, pausing for lunch at the Warming Hut Restaurant. From the South End Vista Point of the Bridge, you could Uber over to Baker Beach, enjoy an afternoon walk, and then Uber back to the central city. This is as good as it gets in San Francisco.

If You Go:

Area: Downtown

Website: BART (https://www.bart.gov/) and MUNI (https://www.sfmta.com/)

Address: Throughout San Francisco and region

Phone: See the websites

Price: Transportation charge, moderate

Bay Bridge, Day and Night 

Bay Bridge Lit Up at Night
Bay Bridge lit up at night

The Golden Gate Bridge may be the prettier sister, but the Bay Bridge is the greater achiever. Both were born around 1936. The Bay Bridge carries more traffic.

In its mature years, the Bay Bridge, with its new face-lift and tower on the eastern span, has come into its own.

At night, the Bay Bridge now rivals the Golden Gate’s beauty, due to Leo Villareal’s light art installation, known as Bay Lights, along the western section entering SF. After dark, walk the waterfront along the Embarcadero and observe the ever-changing lights in this computer-driven light-art installation on the bridge. The public pier immediately east of the Ferry Building is one of the best places to pause and savor the light show.

Your Best Shot: With the Bay Bridge now lit up so artistically at night, your loveliest photos might well be at dusk or night from the Embarcadero. Putting your camera on a tripod can help. The public pier immediately east of the Ferry Building would be a choice location for the image. Go to the end of the pier, putting you close to the Bridge.

This entire subject of “light arts,” meaning art objects created with light for night-time viewing, is a relatively new artistic subject in San Francisco. See more from me on this subject at http://bit.ly/1iXsYMZ.

The Bay Bridge is your path to the East Bay. It is also the only way to drive to Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay. Treasure Island offers a pleasing sunset view of the San Francisco skyline.

The ferry between San Francisco and Oakland passes under the western span of the Bay Bridge, which allows a close-up view and photo op. This is one of the most beautiful early-morning view experiences possible of the city skyline. 

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco-Oakland_Bay_Bridge

Address: Bay Bridge, connecting San Francisco and the East Bay

Phone: None

Price: Bridge toll for crossing

 

Bay to Breakers Run

Bay to Breakers Festive Run
Bay to Breakers festive run

Bay to Breakers, one of the most famous footraces in the world, occurs on the third Sunday in May each year.

If you want to run or walk yourself, or if you want to photograph wacky runners–such as the Elvis contingents–in a festive mood, this is the event for you.

Your Best Shot: A pedestrian bridge at the Moscone Center on Howard St makes a good elevated shooting platform if you are not running. From this pedestrian overpass you can capture the surge of humanity proceeding near the start of the race.

The name reflects the traditional course, from the Embarcadero near the Bay to the end point west in Golden Gate Park, near the surf along the Great Highway at Ocean Beach.

The 12K (7.46-mile) event attracts world-class athletes, bunched at the start. It also draws ordinary folks, out to have fun on a sunny day. Participants run up the iconic Hayes St Hill, along the Panhandle, and through Golden Gate Park.

Bay to Breakers is primarily a party event for many fun-loving runners and walkers who delight in parading—many in ingenious fantasy costumes—through The City. The fun race is known for teams dressed as Elvis Presleys, as centipedes (runners linked in a long bag), or runners wearing nothing at all. It’s like Halloween in May.

It takes more than an hour for the 65,000 annual participants in this pageant to cross the starting line.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://baytobreakers.com/ 

Address: Main and Howard Sts, the start

Phone: 415-231-3130

Price: Registration charge to run, free for observers

 

Beach Chalet

WPA Mural at Beach Chalet
WPA mural at Beach Chalet

The Beach Chalet and Brewery is a restaurant at the western edge of Golden Gate Park, opposite Ocean Beach.

The two-story establishment is a good rest stop while exploring the area and a refuge from the wind, cold, and rain that may be part of an excursion to this terrain.

Besides food, the restaurant offers a major cultural element—WPA Murals.

Your Best Shot: The most interesting subjects here for a photo are the colorful WPA murals that wrap around the entrance lobby area. Get shots of them with and without you in the image.

During the Depression of the 1930s, the Works Progress Administration hired artists and writers as part of the mandate to create new employment. Artists were assigned to create something beautiful at the Beach Chalet. Lucien Labaudt received the main assignment, as did others at Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill and at the Rincon Annex, a former post office in downtown SF. WPA murals are a significant SF cultural legacy. The murals portray an idealized and comforting view of that contentious time.

The current Beach Chalet facility actually has two restaurants. One, in the front and upstairs, is called the Beach Chalet, and faces the ocean. A second, in the back, called the Park Chalet, looks out on Golden Gate Park. Both are open daily for lunch and dinner.

At the Beach Chalet you can gaze out at the ocean, beyond the parking lot, from seats near the second-floor windows. The menu is contemporary and tasty.

The Park Chalet features ground-floor dining and window views of Golden Gate Park’s greenery.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: https://www.beachchalet.com 

Address: 1000 Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94121

Phone: 415-386-8439 

Price: Mural viewing free, moderate prices for restaurant

Berkeley Downtown/Arts District/Restaurants 

Berkeley Restaurant Ajanta
Berkeley restaurant Ajanta

Downtown Berkeley is a hotbed for the arts and for culinary adventures (see Gourmet Ghetto Berkeley).

Among the star attractions, Berkeley Repertory is a substantial arts effort. Located at 2025 Addison St, close to the Berkeley BART station, Berkeley Rep is a Tony Award-winning professional theater company. With two stages and a school, Berkeley Rep produces seven shows in a year-around cycle.

Your Best Shot: Besides people photographs, the façade of the Berkeley Rep building is a symbol of the arts in downtown Berkeley.

The Aurora Theatre Company is a smaller and more experimental company, also an icon for those following the live-performance scene. 

Jazzschool is a robust music school, offering a large array of instruction and performances, which are open to the public.

Freight & Salvage is a music nightspot that has acoustic music playing nearly 300 nights a year. Freight & Salvage calls itself the “home of traditional music.” The setting is at 2020 Addison, opposite the Berkeley Rep, and the venue offers a coffee house and cafe.

Cal Performances is the UC Berkeley cultural program, bringing in a diverse range of dance, music, and theater presentations on the campus, north of downtown.

The major new entity on the scene is the UC Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive, 2120 Oxford St, http://www.bampfa.org.  The website announces new art shows and film offerings.

A downtown block-square greenery park, bounded by Milvia, MLK, Center, and Allston, officially named the Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park, features festivals, protests, a weekly farmers market (Saturday), and a daily ongoing parade of humanity.

The Berkeley restaurant scene flourishes in the downtown, north in the Gourmet Ghetto on Shattuck, and in other more remote sections of the city. For example, on Solano Ave., the Indian (as from India) restaurant Ajanta has a substantial patronage. You can get on the proprietor’s monthly email newsletter about what’s new on the menu for the coming month. If you want to learn about Indian food, this is the place, as documented in the proprietor’s cookbook.

If You Go:

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: http://www.visitberkeley.com for the local tourism office 

Address: 2030 Addison St, #102, Berkeley, CA 94704

Phone: 510-549-7040

Price: Charges at performances, museums, otherwise free

Botanical Garden

The redwood forest

The San Francisco Botanical Garden, located in Golden Gate Park, is one of the most diverse botanical gardens on earth, due to the special climate of San Francisco and Golden Gate Park, which is mild, cool, and fog-shrouded at times.

The 55 acres of gardens display about 8,000 plant species from all over the world, including some unusual collections. Be sure to see the Cloud Forest Collection and the impressive Magnolia Collection, the largest outside of China.

Your Best Shot: Within the Botanical Garden you can get a choice photo of a mature redwood grove, believe it or not. Put yourself in a picture with the signature plant of Northern California, which grows to become the tallest tree in the world. Seek out the Redwood Grove.

Even more plants special to California are visible at the California Native Garden.

The establishment was known earlier as the Strybing Arboretum, named after benefactor Helene Strybing, who donated significant funds in 1927 to get the entity going.

The garden has elaborate monthly plant sales as well as some daily sales at its The Arbor shop. There is a Garden Bookstore and an ample Library. The website has a printable map useful in planning a visit.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: http://www.sfbotanicalgarden.org/

Address: 1199 9th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94122

Phone: 415-661-1316

Price: Admission charge

Buena Vista: Only-in-SF Bars/Restaurants

Scallops

Several bars and restaurants in San Francisco have an iconic and fun status that a visitor may enjoy or find amusing.

The Buena Vista is said to be the place where Irish Coffee was introduced to America. The idea was to counter the fog and chill of San Francisco by putting into your coffee a dollop of whiskey and some sugar, then float a thick cream on top.

San Francisco writer Stanton Delaplane was instrumental in getting this beverage concocted at the Buena Vista. The details are enshrined is the write-up on Irish Coffee on Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_coffee.

The Top of the Mark, 19th floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, is famous as a bar and dance spot where you can get a skyline perspective on The City. It was the place where servicemen and women spent their last night, with their beloved, before shipping out to the Pacific in WWII. See http://topofthemark.com/.

Your Best Shot: A dusk or night photo of San Francisco from the Top of the Mark bar/restaurant at the Mark Hopkins hotel could be a memorable aspect of your San Francisco adventure.

Tadich Grill, still operating, is one of the earliest businesses in San Francisco, dating to shortly after the Gold Rush. You get an establishment feeling in the place, where grilled seafood would be a good entrée choice, as you are served by career waiters. See http://www.tadichgrill.com/.

John’s Grill is forever linked with chain-smoking Humphrey Bogart and the Dashiell Hammett mystery novel The Maltese Falcon. See http://www.johnsgrill.com.

The Cliff House has been perched on the bluffs in the northwestern part of The City since 1863 and has gone through many transformations as the dining scene evolved. The swells from Nob Hill would carriage out here in the early days to dine and gaze out at the waves and Seal Rocks, as you can today. See http://www.cliffhouse.com.

The info below is for the Buena Vista.

If You Go:

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf

Website: http://www.thebuenavista.com

Address: 2765 Hyde St, at Beach, San Francisco, CA 94109

Phone: 415-474-5044

Price: Moderate, for food and drink

Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum

Cable Car mechanism, Cable Car Museum

The Cable Cars are both enchanting transportation and a highly practical way to climb up and down the steep hills of San Francisco.

There is a north-south line that splits into two segments as it heads north from Powell and Market to toward Fisherman’s Wharf. An east-west line travels along California St from Market to Nob Hill and beyond.

Your Best Shot: Many visitors like to photograph the turntable at Powell and Market, where the cars are turned around by their athletic operators. Another favorite image is at the top of the Hyde St hill, at Chestnut, as the car climbs away from Fisherman’s Wharf. There you can get off, pause, and wait for the next Cable Car to come up the hill, getting a shot of the Cable Car with the Bay and Alcatraz Prison Island in the background. Due to tall apartments, the best light falls on the Cable Cars here from about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

At night the Cable Cars return to the Cable Car Barn and Museum, where Mason and Washington Sts meet. This Cable Car Museum is a fascinating place to visit. You see up close the huge wheels that pull the cables around the system. Cars clamp onto the moving cable to proceed.

The system was begun in 1873 by Andrew Hallidie after he witnessed once too often a sickening sight. A horse was pulling a heavy wagon up a steep hill in muddy weather. The horse slipped and got pulled down the hill, breaking a leg, which necessitated that the horse be shot. Hallidie shook his head and vowed to create a better way to negotiate the hills.

The info below is for the Cable Car Barn and Museum.

If You Go:

Area: Downtown

Website: http://www.cablecarmuseum.org

Address: 1201 Mason St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Phone: 415-474-1887

Price: Charge to ride the Cable Cars, museum is free

Café de la Presse: Traditional Restaurants

Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl, Boudin’s

San Francisco has many traditional restaurants that have carefully built their reputations and clientele over a long time, sometime decades. They often epitomize an ethnic food style, good service, and good value, all of which allow them to survive.

Café de la Presse is a French restaurant on a corner near the entrance to Chinatown. Try the Plat du Jour, which might be a hearty Cassoulet, a casserole of duck confit, pork shoulder, Toulouse sausage, and white beans. Dinner classics are the Leg of Lamb or Boeuf Bourguignon. (See the contact info below.)

Your Best Shot: With a phone camera, a shot of your food or the restaurant interior can be pleasing. Among these restaurants, consider also a photo of Union Square stretching out before you from the elevated 8th-floor Cheesecake Factory location.

Henry’s Hunan Restaurant (1398 Grant Ave, http://henryshunan.com/) is a critically acclaimed Chinese restaurant. Try the pork dumplings followed by deep-fried shredded pork. Chef-founder Henry Chung has seven locations, run by various family members.

Fior d’Italia dates back to 1886 and calls itself “America’s oldest Italian restaurant.” This white table cloth eatery is the place to order veal scaloppine (2237 Mason St, http://www.fior.com).

Sometimes a chain restaurant can get established in San Francisco and become a landmark if it has a special edge. For example, the Cheesecake Factory (251 Geary St, http://www.thecheescakefactory.com) will please a family, even if kids are fussy, with pasta or pizza. There is a special attraction—its location on the 8th floor of Macy’s, overlooking Union Square, one of the more interesting restaurant views in The City.

The info below is for Café de la Presse.

If You Go:

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Website: http://www.cafedelapresse.com

Address: 352 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

Phone: 415-398-2680

Price: Moderate

Carnaval Parade

Carnaval Parade

Carnaval Parade is the event of choice if you want to experience (and perhaps photograph) the entire Latin flair of San Francisco.

The word “Latin” is broadly interpreted here to include the Caribbean, Mexican, Central American, and South American contributions to San Francisco culture. The sensual, musical, culinary, and festive perspectives of all these cultures can be seen in the parade.

Carnaval occurs in the Mission District over the Memorial Day weekend, with the Sunday parade starting at Bryant and 24th Sts, then proceeding west to Mission St.

Your Best Shot: Get the Parade participants when they are fresh and their dance moves are most vigorous. Mission and 24th is a good place to photograph because there are no tall buildings to obstruct the light.

Be sure to convey yourself by public transportation because car transport to the area will be totally choked off. Arrive on the BART and exit at the 24th St station.

The parade starts on Sunday about 9:30 a.m., but check the website for details in a given year.

At 24th and Mission the performers turn to face the light. The energetic samba dancers are just warming up, near the start of the event.

Begun in 1978, Carnaval is San Francisco’s version of Mardi Gras. The event is organized by the Mission Neighborhood Centers as a benefit for charity organizations.

The celebration attracts thousands of participants and partygoers. It is likely you will return home after this event thankful that the severe American sensibility of 16th-century Puritan New England was later augmented by the sensuality and musical verve of later immigrants from “Latin” America.

If You Go:

Area: Mission/Castro

Website: https://www.facebook.com/CarnavalSanFrancisco/

Address: Mission and 24th Sts, San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: None

Price: Parade is free, charge to ride the BART

Castro District/Gay SF

The Castro Theatre

The Castro, heart of The City’s gay culture, is a hilly district. It is bounded by Douglas, Church, Duboce, and the crest of the hill at 21st St.

Begin exploring at Market and Castro. Make your first stop the classic Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, a restored movie palace, which gives the area its name.

Your Best Shot: The facade of the Castro Theatre makes a pleasing photo when light falls on it in the afternoon. To photograph gay people in a celebrative mood, attend the annual Gay Pride Parade (see that write-up).

Design details of the theater may interest your eye. The movie house was built in 1922 by San Francisco theater entrepreneurs, the Nasser brothers, who started in 1908 with a nickelodeon in the neighborhood. The exterior design, reminiscent of a Mexican cathedral, has large windows, and the plaster wall decorations all combine to convey a look of grandeur that was typical of many theaters built in the 1920s. The marquee and the vertical neon sign were added in the late 1930s. The glazed tile street foyer, ornate tent-like box office, and the wooden doors are all from the early 1920s.

Up the street at 575 Castro is the camera store operated by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay supervisor in San Francisco. Milk was gunned down by Supervisor Dan White in 1978. There is a marker in the sidewalk honoring Milk. The address now houses the Human Rights Campaign.

The GLBT History Museum (4127 18th St, http://www.glbthistory.org/museum) documents the gay movement and its struggles, locally and nationally. Stop in to see the rapidly evolving archives

If You Go:

Area: Mission/Castro

Website: http://www.castrotheatre.com

Address: 429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Phone: 415-621-6120

Price: Theater tickets, as per show

Cesar Chavez Park/East Bay Parks

Moon over Cesar Chavez Park, Berkeley

Berkeley’s Cesar Chavez Park presents a tranquil walking path along the Bay with benches and some secluded picnic tables.

The view offers a direct look at the Golden Gate Bridge and the green bucolic outline of Marin County.

Your Best Shot: Cesar Chavez Park is the place to photograph people flying a kite or stretching out on the grass. You can make a selfie here with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

This Berkeley city park is a brilliant example of urban design and planning. When I moved to Berkeley in the 1970s, it was literally a garbage landfill with mounds of waste material, bulldozers pushing around the piles, and thousands of hungry seagulls. You can still see methane-relief pipes going deep into the ground to allow gases to escape.

Eventually the landfill was covered with dirt and landscaped to create a pleasing park.

There is a circular paved perimeter path around the park, which takes about a half hour to walk. This is a bracing walk or an easy bicycle outing.

The hour before sunset and the darkness after sunset can have surprises in these parks. I remember turning back one evening after watching the sun set, only to find a perfectly full moon rising.

Get to Cesar Chavez Park in Berkeley by taking the University Ave exit off I-80 and turning towards the Bay. Keep to the right when the road divides at the marina, putting the boats on your left. Drive ahead on this Marina Drive and turn left at the only road, Spinnaker, to park at a circular loop near the water.

Cesar Chavez is a close-in park for the explorer of the East Bay, but there is much more in parklands for further ad-ventures. An entity known as East Bay Regional Parks (http://www.ebparks.org) manages 65 more parks with 122,000 acres and 1250 miles of hiking trails in the two East Bay counties, Alameda and Contra Costa. Tilden Park in the Berkeley Hills is a close-by option.

If You Go:

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=56000

Address: 11 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, CA 94710

Phone: None

Price: Free

Chinatown Food

Food at Yee’s in Chinatown

Enjoying and photographing exotic food offerings in a destination can define an intriguing aspect of the local culture.

San Francisco’s Chinatown is an example. Many types of meats are eaten here, and unusual parts of animals are consumed. You might begin with some delicious cow tongue.

One good place to start is a simple Grant Ave eatery known as Yee’s Restaurant, 1131 Grant Ave.

Your Best Shot: The roast ducks hanging in the window at Yee’s make an intriguing photo. Inside, the small plates of multiple kinds of meats offer an interesting interior image.

Enter the restaurant to enjoy a tasty lunch. Choose some meat plates as you observe the scene. The chefs may be cutting up a roast pig in front of you.

Be unobtrusive, respectful, and follow the pattern of the local patrons. After you sit down, rice and tea will be set before you.

If You Go:

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Website: http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com

Address: 1131 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-576-1818

Price: Moderate

Chinatown Walking Self-Tour

Gate to Chinatown on Grant

Chinatown in San Francisco is an endlessly fascinating place to wander and to photograph.

There is an ongoing exotic feel to the area, which got started in the 1840s. Chinatown can only be experienced on foot.

Your Best Shot: You need to walk around with your camera or phone camera until a suitable photo subject appears. Maybe it will be the red lanterns hanging across the street on Grant, if you can catch them at the right angle and in good light.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Chinatown is roughly a 16-block rectangle bounded by Stockton, Broadway, Kearny, and Bush. The main street is Grant Ave, between Bush and Broadway.

A city within a city, Chinatown invites the browser. Shops sell jade, porcelain, silk, and succulent food. Food stores sell live pigeons, chickens, and turtles.

Today’s Chinatown was rebuilt after San Francisco’s earthquake of 1906. This is one of the older Chinatowns in North America and is one of the larger communities of Chinese outside Asia.

If You Go:

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Website: http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com

Address: Main Gate is intersection of Grant and Bush Sts, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: None

Price: Free to walk

Chinese New Year

Dragon at Chinese New Year Parade

The annual Chinese New Year celebration in San Francisco is one of the most colorful and vigorous ethnic celebrations in America to experience and photograph.

The parade celebration day occurs, rain or shine, in February each year, as the Chinese lunar calendar dictates and the local organizers determine.

Your Best Shot: On the parade route, sophisticated lights will be set up, high overhead, at Union Square for all the major TV media. Take advantage of these lights and position yourself in the crowd to get some illuminated images.

There are two aspects of the celebration to consider: the street fair on Grant Ave during the day, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and the night parade, 5:30-8:30 p.m.

The street fair is an amazing event. Grant becomes a freeway of humanity, even in a rainy year. Chinatown, always colorful, shows an exuberance of people, food, crafts, and general human excitement. Grant is closed off, with side streets also closed. On the Washington side street, an all-day musical venue provides audio entertainment. People will be dancing in the street.

The parade is a world-class event, one of the great parades in America today. It will be telecast locally, nationally, and internationally.

For parade watching (and photos), get to the Union Square area early, about 4:30 p.m., and commandeer a spot on the street, planning to tough it out 5:30-8:30 pm for the full parade.

The parade itself is a pageant of Americana with a Chinese emphasis. A dragon will appear at roughly 15-minute intervals.

If You Go:

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Website: http://www.sanfranciscochinatown.com

Address: Street Fair on Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94108

Phone: None

Price: Free to watch

Christmas Holidays

Christmas lights at Macy’s, Union Square

Christmas is a festive time in downtown San Francisco, starting at Union Square.

If you have children in your entourage, they will want to see the huge Sugar Castle that is displayed each Christmas in the lobby of the Westin St. Francis Hotel. The hotel is located on Powell St on the western edge of Union Square. This gingerbread Victorian fantasy confection, which changes thematically each year, is a charmer.

Your Best Shot: The Sugar Castle itself is an image to consider, and the setting is one of the most selfie-worthy places you will see at Christmas in San Francisco. The huge tree, outdoors in Union Square, is a close competitor.

Union Square boasts an ice rink, beyond its large and decorated tree. Stores, such as Macy’s, have large wreaths or other holiday décor in their windows. The street between Macy’s and Nieman Marcus is closed off and called a Winter Walk, with food carts and Christmas snowflake projections on the building walls. Inside Nieman Marcus you will see another huge tree in the rotunda.

Besides Union Square, there are three other sites eminently worth considering.

The Westfield San Francisco Centre at Powell and Market Sts portrays Nutcracker graphics, with music, on the interior of its huge dome each evening.

An ice rink on Justin Herman Plaza, next to the Ferry Building, attracts many visitors. The nearby Embarcadero Center buildings themselves are outlined in lights to look like giant gift boxes.

Pier 39, adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf, offers an ambiance of Christmas trees, holiday decoration, and numerous performers singing carols or doing tricks.

The info below is for the Sugar Castle at the Westin.

If You Go:

Area: Union Square

Website: http://www.westinstfrancis.com

Address: Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-397-7000

Price: Free

City Hall 

City Hall, Civic Center

Your Best Shot: City Hall faces east, catching the morning sun on its domed grandness. Photograph it from the plaza across the street, possibly with and without you in the image. 

If you are here on a weekday, you can enter the main floor to admire the rotunda. Public tours are sometimes offered. Check the website for current times.

City Hall is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece from 1915, replacing the earlier City Hall, which was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake. The spacious rotunda interior has been featured in many films, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Outside, on Civic Center Plaza, the serendipity of San Francisco life will greet you. This great open space is a palette for urban expression. You never know what you might see here, from Chinese practicing Tai Chi to a Farmers Market on Fulton St on the east side of the plaza. The great Asian Art Museum is also located adjacent to Civic Center Plaza

If You Go:

Area: Civic Center

Website: http://www.sfgov.org 

Address: 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-554-6139 

Price: Free

Cliff House/Sutro Baths

The Cliff House

The Cliff House is a historic seafood restaurant with a fabulous view on the northwest edge of San Francisco overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The setting was once the home of the famous Sutro Baths, where revelers partied in the 19th century. Within the restaurant, as you walk the stairs, from the top floor to the basement floor, there is an engaging painting of the Sutro Baths. Sutro Baths was the place to see and be seen. The site is now an empty ruin on the north side of the Cliff House.

Your Best Shot: From the south side of the Cliff House, at the street, you can make a wide angle photo of a totem pole, the Cliff House, and Seal Rocks, perhaps with yourself in the image. If photographing food, the scallops dish with Seal Rocks in the background sets the scene from a window table. 

From the Cliff House, either while dining or walking in the outdoor area, you can gaze out at Seal Rocks, a safe haven for seals, sea lions, and seabirds. Ships pass on the horizon as they approach or leave San Francisco Bay from the south.

Beyond the Sutro Baths, you can walk on toward Land’s End, an area whose landscaped amenities and hiking opportunities have improved in recent years.

The National Park Service has set up an information/memento store called The Outlook, adjacent to the Sutro Baths site. There is ample parking. This northern edge of the San Francisco waterfront is all part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, as is the Presidio National Park to the immediate east. All the trails and terrain are managed by the NPS.

With information and maps for the Outlook store, you could walk all the way from the Cliff House to the Golden Gate Bridge.

If You Go:

Area: Northern/Western Waterfront

Website: http://www.cliffhouse.com 

Address: 1090 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

Phone: 415-386-3330

Price: Moderate for dining, free for hiking.

Coit Tower and Crookedest Street

Columbus sculpture and Coit Tower

Coit Tower is a stunning place to visit because of its views. You can look out on the environs of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge from this Telegragh Hill location.

Your Best Shot: The statue of Christopher Columbus, with Coit Tower in the background, makes a pleasing shot, especially if the sky is blue and cloudless.

With Italian North Beach as a nearby setting, raising a statue to Christopher Columbus in front of Coit Tower was inevitable. The annual Columbus Day Celebration on October 12 confirms his enduring legacy here.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Lillie Hitchcock Coit funded this tower as a token of her affection for firemen. It has a fire hose nozzle look, although the design is apparently coincidental. Like many, Lillie Coit appreciated how firefighters tried to save San Francisco after the destructive Quake and Fire of 1906.

You can enter the tower and go up to the top for a more elevated view of San Francisco. The historic murals around the base floor are from the WPA (Works Progess Administration) era of the 1930s, when artists were hired as an effort to increase employment. Another WPA mural site is the Beach Chalet restaurant on the western edge of Golden Gate Park.

Looking west from Coit Tower toward Russian Hill, you will see the famous Crookedest Street, a winding block of Lombard St between Hyde and Leavenworth Sts. The crookedness is easier to see from a distance than from close up.

The Crookedest Street is an iconic zigzag of the street, begging for placement on a postcard. The postcard shot, however, requires that you get to the top of nearby private buildings.

The street appearance changes with the years, as the local homeowners debate their vision of just how floriferous they want to be and what is their visual entertainment mandate. A close-up photo of Crookedest Street works best as a morning photo because it faces east.

The info below is for Coit Tower.

If You Go:

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Website: http://sfrecpark.org/destination/telegraph-hill-pioneer-park/coit-tower 

Address: 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-249-0995

Price: Free to walk around on the ground floor, charge to take the elevator to top

Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

The Conservatory of Flowers is an immense, white, lacy Victorian greenhouse in Golden Gate Park, a delightful legacy from an earlier era, when collecting and displaying exotic plants was a mark of horticultural enlightenment.

Your Best Shot: The skilled gardeners who have managed Golden Gate Park since the early days of chief-gardener John McLaren seasonally replant the flower beds in front of the Conservatory. Catch these beds in a luxuriant phase, with the Conservatory in the background, and you will have a memorable image. Go ahead and put yourself in a few shots as the main blossom to celebrate.

April-May and September-October can be the best times to make an afternoon photo in good light of this outdoor landscape. Flowers in the beds may be in their prime. Summer fog and winter rainy clouds sometimes deaden the sky.

The Conservatory, from 1879, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is the only major conservatory with wooden window pane holders still extant. See more details of the remarkable historic journey of the building through time at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conservatory_of_Flowers.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/ 

Address: 100 John F Kennedy Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

Phone: 415-831-2090

Price: Free outside, entrance charge inside

Conzelman Road/Marin Headlands Views of the Golden Gate 

Golden Gate from Conzelman Road, Marin

What is the most iconic view of The City? If I had to make a single choice, it would be the view from the second turnout on Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands. 

Your Best Shot: Position yourself here after 3 p.m. as the sun advances to the west. In front of you is the Golden Gate Bridge, a green hillside, the skyline of SF, and the Golden Gate, likely with a ship passing through the narrow channel between the Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The photo opportunity is without parallel as the advancing sun falls on the Bridge. 

There is a small gravel shoulder at the second turnout on the road for parking. Fog, clouds, and moisture in the air all contribute aesthetic elements to what you see.

Get to Conzelman by taking the first exit on the right side after you travel north across the Bridge. Then make the first turn left, which will take you under the highway and on to Conzelman Road, a long hill.

Much of the surrounding land is administered by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. There is much to see in the Marin Headlands area, such as Battery Spencer, the WWII bunker that is at the first turnout on Conzelman Road.

Hawk Hill is the third turnout, a turn left onto a side road, giving you a perch high over the water. Signage describes how John Fremont named the Golden Gate after a spot in Turkey he had read about in poems but never seen in Turkey. Raptors at Hawk Hill sweep in close here in their annual migrations north and south.

If You Go:

Area: North to Marin County

Website: http://www.fostertravel.com/marin-headlands-conzelman-road-north-of-san-francisco/ 

Address: Conzelman Rd, Marin Headlands, Marin County, CA 94965

Phone: 415-561-4700

Price: Free

Crissy Field

Runner at Crissy Field

The paved path at Crissy Field is sometimes called the Golden Gate Promenade. The word “promenade” is not too lofty for this glorious walk.

Crissy Field offers one of the loveliest urban outings on the planet. Here the beauty of the Bay, the Bridge, and the greenery of the Presidio and Marin Headlands combine. Some of the freshest air breathed by humans blows in from the Pacific. 

Your Best Shot: People on the walking path at Crissy Field, including yourself, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, contribute to a satisfying image. Sometimes photos or videos can capture the visual drama of a ship emerging from the Golden Gate or approaching the Bridge from Oakland. Morning light falls on the path and Bridge.

Crissy Field is a reclaimed shoreline, once a small air base for the military. Joggers, bikers, and dog-walkers now love this pathway.

Come prepared for a brisk wind blowing in through the Golden Gate. The Warming Hut restaurant offers hot beverages and sandwich/salad/soup lunches.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crissy_Field 

Address: Crissy Field, San Francisco, CA 94129

Phone: 415-561-4700

Price: Free

Cruise Terminals 

Cruise ship terminal

San Francisco hosts a substantial number of cruise ships each year, due partly to its strategic geographic location. About 80 ships call at San Francisco annually, bringing in about 300,000 passengers.

Ships repositioning before and after the summer cruise traffic in Alaska frequently stop in San Francisco to take on passengers.

The cruise ship terminals are the James R. Herman Pier (Pier 27) and Pier 35.

Your Best Shot: Some of the most engaging shots can be made as the great cruise ships come in through the Golden Gate and approach their berths at the piers. An open shot of a cruise ship isolated on the water can be compelling.

Some ships travel back and forth from the Mexican West Coast or go through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean for the winter.

A few ships will use San Francisco as the launch point for Hawaii or South Pacific voyages.

For all these geographic reasons, San Francisco attracts great cruise ships.

Of course, there is also the reality that The City itself is a dynamic and desirable port for exploring, dining, shopping, and its California history.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://sfport.com/cruise 

Address:  Pier 27, The Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-274-0400

Price: Free

Culture/Museums

Dale Chihuly glass art

This is where a veteran travel journalist can help you use your time well. I can cut through the hype and even bypass the sometimes “gamed” systems of crowdsourced reviewers. I acquaint you here with my Top Five choices.

Your Best Shot: A delicate image of some art object that inspires you, with or without you in the image, is one takeaway from cultural exploring. No one will object to your non-commercial capture, probably on your phone, of some artistic object that brings you joy or enlightenment. 

Where should you go? First, go to Downtown/Civic Center to see the world-class San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Asian Art Museum. Then go to the Golden Gate Park area for three more prominent museums. Each of these entities has its own write-up in my presentation.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

SFMOMA, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St, should be your first stop. All the art objects presented here were created in your lifetime or within a century earlier. Art displayed here may reflect aspects of your modern sensibility.

As a counterpoint, the great Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St, in the Civic Center area, is a window into the thousands of years of culture that is Asia. What is “Asia” may startle you. I remember seeing a clay cylinder made in the era of Cyrus the Great, 5th century BC Iran, declaring that diversity of political/religious thought would be allowable in his kingdom.

The other major area for cultural institutions is in and near Golden Gate Park.

Stop first at the de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, the great repository in San Francisco of historic art from Europe and around the World. There is even an Oceania section with many treasures. The de Young is not a musty fusty place, however. Check out their current shows.

Opposite the de Young in Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Dr. This is a showplace museum about the natural wonders of our modern world, and how we might sustain them. You’ve got to love a Rain Forest and find it wondrous before you’ll vote to save it. The sod roof on this science museum suggests that catching water, where it falls, has merit.

A third institution near Golden Gate Park is known as the Palace of the Legion of Honor. This is a major showplace and cultural repository for the special San Francisco-Paris connection that has flourished, especially since WWI. Both cities celebrate cultural attainments, plus the good life of culinary, artistic, viticultural, and bodily sensuality. Current shows and the permanent collection are worth perusing. Palace of the Legion of Honor is at 100 34th Ave.

These five great institutions can be a start. There are more ideas also, as you peruse my presentation in detail. San Francisco’s cultural/museum offerings are extensive, and are always changing in refreshing new ways.

De Young Museum

The de Young Museum

The de Young Museum is a jewel in the crown of Golden Gate Park. Both the permanent fine art collection and transient shows are impressive. The exterior of the building is a striking experience because of its tower construction and copper sheathing

Your Best Shot: If you want to photograph art masterpieces and people interacting with great art, including yourself, or appreciating distinctive museum architecture, the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park is a premier candidate.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Even if you don’t enter the museum, take the free ride to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the park’s greenery and a bird’s-eye close-up of the sod roof of the California Academy of Sciences across from the de Young.

Though the de Young was founded in 1895, the museum has a modern look because it was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and had to be entirely rebuilt, opening anew in 2005.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: https://deyoung.famsf.org

Address:  50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94118

Phone: 415-750-3600

Price: Admission charge

Disney Museum 

Disney Museum at the Presidio

The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio offers a good illustration of the “recycling” of the Presidio military buildings into life-enhancing cultural use. The Presidio military area near the Golden Gate Bridge is officially a National Park.

The Disney Museum features the life and entertainment legacy of the great director and cartoon/movie innovator, Walt Disney. As you walk through two levels of rooms in a handsome brick building in the Presidio, you can observe his life gradually unfolding.

Your Best Shot: The museum is as close as you will likely ever get to Mickey Mouse, so get your selfie skills ready for the moment. Details of the Walt Disney story can make poignant vignette photos for your visual memories.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

The museum proceeds from Walt Disney’s gradual early invention of Mickey Mouse to his theme park vision for Epcot near the end of his life.

Born in Chicago in 1901, Walt had a fairly idyllic early life. His family moved to a farm in Missouri, then back to Chicago. Walt showed a flair for drawing and a fascination with early movies. He took classes at the Art Institute of Chicago and eventually got a job at a Kansas City ad agency, where he started making short animated films.

At age 21, Walt headed west to Hollywood. Throughout the museum, as you watch Walt’s life progress, you’ll see artifacts from each era, such as some of his boyhood drawings.

After founding Disney Brothers Studios with his brother, Roy, Walt created the iconic animated character, Mickey Mouse, which was wildly successful. Emboldened, Walt ventured into full-length animated feature films, with his Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a major hit. The museum displays original art used in the creation of both Mickey Mouse and Snow White.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

Website: http://waltdisney.org 

Address: 104 Montgomery St, San Francisco, CA 94129

Phone:  415-345-6800

Price: Admission charge

Dungeness Crab/Sourdough Bread at Fisherman’s Wharf

Preparing Dungeness crab

Dungeness crab and sourdough bread are classic foods associated with San Francisco. One good place to enjoy them is at Fisherman’s Wharf.

The Wharf is where a lot of crab come ashore when the fishing boats go out for their winter harvest, November to June. This crab species flourishes all along the northern half of the West Coast, mainly from Santa Barbara north to Alaska.

Your Best Shot: You might enjoy photographing crabs as the bustling open-air vendors toss them into the hot boiling pots for their fresh preparation. This scene occurs at the corner of Taylor and Jefferson Sts. You can buy some crab and consume it at the outdoor tables.

Crab season usually gets going in early November. There is always much speculation about how big or small the catch will be each year. Some partisans argue that Dungeness crab is the tastiest of all crustaceans. An opposing contingent champions another creature from the San Francisco Bay Area–the Hog Island oysters from Tomales Bay at Point Reyes.

The classic food with which to accompany your Dungeness crab is San Francisco sourdough bread. You will find this a few steps away at the Bistro Boudin bakery and restaurant, 160 Jefferson St.

The favorite order here is clam chowder, served in a hollowed out sourdough bowl. Informative self-guided tours at Boudin acquaint you with the legacy of sourdough.

If You Go:

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Website: http://www.fishermanswharf.org/ 

Address: Jefferson and Taylor Sts, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-674-7503

Price: Free to walk around, moderate charge for restaurants

East to Oakland Berkeley

SF/Bay Bridge on morning ferry from Oakland

When you’ve explored San Francisco to your satisfaction, what are the options if you want to discover the world beyond The City?

There are three directions to consider: North to Marin, and beyond to the Napa and Sonoma Wine countries; east to Oakland/Berkeley; and south to the San Mateo Coast, the high-tech richness of Stanford and San Jose, and beyond to Santa Cruz and Monterey/Carmel/Big Sur.

Each of these three directions is a section, with detailed subsections, in this presentation.

East to Oakland/Berkeley is the most approachable area to discover.

How will you get there? Your own car or a rental can take you across the Bay Bridge. The under-Bay metro, the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), can transport you quickly and deposit you in downtown Oakland or downtown Berkeley. I use BART all the time. Another intriguing possibility is the ferry from the Ferry Building to Oakland’s Jack London Square. The ferry ride allows you to see the grandeur of the Bay and pass underneath the western section of the Bay Bridge, boating into Oakland through the robust Port of Oakland, the brawny California trade connection to the Orient. I love this ride in the early morning when the sun shines on the SF skyline, the Bridge, and the huge container ships you pass close to in Oakland.

From the downtown Oakland 12th St BART station, the blockbuster attraction is Oakland’s Museum of California. You can walk there through Oakland’s Asiatown, maybe stopping for lunch. From the 12th St station, there is a shuttle or a taxi or a short Uber ride to Jack London Square, where a seafood meal at Scott’s, looking over the harbor, is fun. Within Oakland, peruse Old Oakland, the historic area around Broadway, such as Ratto’s Deli, and the landmark Paramount Theater, an art deco masterpiece.

Berkeley is a few stops beyond on the BART train. Berkeley is a world unto itself, accessible from the Downtown Berkeley BART Station. A cultural entity of great interest here is the Berkeley Rep, an award-winning theater. It’s a 15-minute walk to the campus of the University of California, Berkeley, where you can do a tour and see Sather Gate and the iconic campanile tower. North from the downtown BART station along Shattuck Ave is the famous Gourmet Ghetto, with Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant as the cornerstone. A taxi or Uber ride can take you to the Bayside Cesar Chavez Park for a fresh-air hour on the circular path around the watery perimeter of the park.

Several of these East Bay subjects are subsections in themselves in this presentation.

Exploratorium Science Museum

Butterfly splendor

San Francisco’s famous hands-on science museum, the Exploratorium, resides on the Embarcadero at Pier 15. It is dedicated to exploring the world through science, art, and human perception.

Just about everyone in your travel entourage, from a child to adults, will find something intriguing at the Exploratorium.

The child might be fascinated with looking into a distortion mirror that can turn them upside down. An adult might be delighted to look into a microscope, seeing plankton, and learning that these small creatures produce half of all the oxygen we breathe.

Your Best Shot: A photo or selfie in the distortion mirror will amuse anyone. Outside, a re-creation of fog at the San Francisco Fog Bridge is an intriguing exhibit for a still or video, with you or your party as the cast of characters emerging from the fog.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

“Museum” does not begin to describe this wonder-inspiring facility. Science appreciation and engagements are the reasons. Interactive and imaginative experiences are the means.

The creator was a Berkeley physicist, Frank Oppenheimer. He desired a facility where critical thinking and curiosity could be inspired by tactile engagement in an informal setting.

More than 600 exhibits await a visitor in six galleries. The gallery Human Phenomena covers thoughts, feelings, and social behavior. Tinkering is thinking with your hands. Seeing and Listening considers light and vision. Living Systems is about the living world. The Bay Observation Gallery projects the local ecosystem. An Outdoor Gallery portrays the bay landscape.

There are always demonstrations going on. In Living Systems the dissection of a cow’s eyes may be taking place.

The Exploratorium also sponsors a robust range of programs for kids and adults. There is an adults-only After Dark party every Thursday. Adults wander around the exhibits while enjoying drinks, conversation, and sometimes live music.

The institution has a fine-dining restaurant, SeaGlass, overlooking the Bay, and a more modest takeout Seismic Joint Café at the entrance.

All practical details, such as admission fees and hours, are on the website.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.exploratorium.edu

Address: Pier 15, The Embarcadero & Green St, San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 415-528-4444

Price: Admission charge, moderate

Farmers Market Civic Center

Farmers Market bounty

The robust Farmers Markets at Civic Center on Wednesday and Sunday or at the Ferry Building on Saturday (with smaller events Tuesday and Thursday) are delicious happenings that a local, visitor, or traveler may enjoy.

The independent, farmer-operated Civic Center event calls itself the Heart of the City Farmers Market. One large audience it serves is the low-income world of folks in the SRO (single room occupancy) hotels in the nearby Tenderloin.

There is a lot occurring, on many levels. In morning hours the selection will be greatest. In the closing minutes some bargains can be snapped up. See the website listing for details.

Your Best Shot: The cornucopia of food at Farmers Markets San Francisco may entrance the designer eye in you. The entrepreneurial characters who are the stars on this stage may also intrigue you for a still photo or a video, if you engage them in conversation. You among the peaches can be a salubrious selfie.

Farmers Markets show the genius of American competitiveness at its best. The entrepreneurs here assert they can produce more interesting, healthier, tastier, and fresher food than the corporate supermarket, at a competitive price. Customers are won or lost one at a time.

Cultural ideals are on display. The ideal of decentralized, local food production and distribution is one issue. Whether the growing culture should be “organic” or not is another matter. How the seed may have been modified, by horticultural selection or genetic manipulation, is yet a further concern.

The Farmers Markets highlight the wondrous climate and soil of California. In the Bay Area cultivators can grow food all year, with some caveats. The diversified truck-farm produce from Sonoma County and the specialty products from everywhere, such as Harley Farms goat cheese from the San Mateo Coast, may be on display.

The great corporate farms of the Central Valley help make the state of California the “Farmers Market to the world,” contributing to the reality that California is the sixth biggest economy on the planet today. Much of the product created by skilled Northern California farmers, from the almond nut growers of Modesto to the rice producers south of Redding, ships out to the Orient from the Port of Oakland.

If You Go:

Area: Civic Center

Website: http://heartofthecity-farmersmar.squarespace.com/

Address: United Nations Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-558-9455

Price: Free to peruse, market price for purchases

Farmers Market Ferry Building

Farmers Market fruits

The Ferry Building, on the Bay at the foot of Market St, hosts a robust Farmers Market on Saturday (8 a.m.-2 p.m.) and a more abbreviated market on Tuesday and Thursday (10 a.m.-2 p.m.).

As many as 25,000 people patronize the Ferry Building Farmers Markets each week. The Saturday event attracts about 100 vendors. Sometimes celebrity chefs do food preparation demonstrations.

The range of ingredients available directly from suppliers is astonishing. Vegetables, fruits, herbs, fish, meat, eggs, cheese, breads, jams, and olive oils are some of the categories. Organic is the likely certification word.

Your Best Shot: The cornucopia of food at the Farmers Market will entice you to get visually sensual images of tomatoes or peaches neatly presented.

The market is managed by an organization known as Cuesa (see website below), which dedicates itself to the complex educational and political issues with which Farmers Markets and American society currently grapple. They have a newsletter, The Varietal, which welcomes subscribers from the public.

San Francisco’s food culture is especially energetic for some obvious reasons. All of these advantages come together in the Farmers Markets.

The mild climate in the region allows for year-around growing. Boutique truck-gardening farms of Sonoma are less than an hour away to the north.

The bread-basket Central Valley farms, starting at Modesto, an hour-and-a-half east, contribute significantly to the world food supply and to U.S. food exports (through the Port of Oakland in the Bay Area).

Add to these factors the progressive San Francisco culture that started with the Gold Rush, the new food energies flowing in from immigration (especially from Asia), and the relative prosperity (boosted with dot com windfalls).

The Farmers Markets meet an audience of people who love food, desire the best, and can afford it.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.cuesa.org/markets

Address: Ferry Bldg Marketplace, 1 Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 415-291-3276

Price: Free to peruse, market price for food

Ferry Building Ferries

Ferry boats on the Bay

The ferry service is gradually expanding, with Richmond in the East Bay an upcoming addition to the route from the Ferry Building in San Francisco. See the website below for the exact locations of ferry routes.

Your Best Shot: You can get some unusual views and put yourself in them, as you wish, from the ferries. Two of the best are the San Francisco skyline, as seen from the water, and the Bay Bridge western section, viewed from below, on the water. The two concepts can be joined together on the ferry over to Oakland.

For residents, ferries can cut commute times considerably and provide a far more pleasant option than driving a car. The evening commute home sometimes becomes a floating cocktail party.

For a traveler, ferries also provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the Bay, the San Francisco skyline, the Port of Oakland, and some iconic structures, such as the Bay Bridge western section, seen from below.

Beyond the ferries, the main option for getting out on the Bay for most visitors will be the tour boats organized by the Blue and Gold Fleet, the Red and White Fleet, and Hornblower Cruises. The Blue and Gold Fleet boat to Sausalito is itself a dependable ferry, leaving from Pier 41.

The ferry schedule can be readily seen on the website listed below. Keep the ferry option in mind as you explore the San Francisco area. There is some service to unusual locations, such as Vallejo in the North Bay.

Ferries also deliver fans to AT&T Park for San Francisco Giants baseball games. Alameda Main Street, Harbor Bay Alameda, and South San Francisco are among other destinations served by ferries.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://sanfranciscobayferry.com

Address: Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 707-643-3779

Price: Varies by distance

Ferry Building Shops

Cheese shop at the Ferry Building

The Ferry Building, foot of Market St, is where a network of ferries passes constantly back and forth to Larkspur in Marin County and to Oakland/Alameda in the East Bay, plus to some other locations.

The Ferry Building Marketplace is an upscale shopping, dining, and office space in the iconic and historic building along the Embarcadero.

The interior of the building is a long and stately hallway with about 110 boutique purveyors of fine food, drink, and assorted retail goods on the ground floor. The upper floor houses law firms and investment companies.

Your Best Shot: For that only-in-San Francisco photo suggesting the good culinary life, make a photo of your platter of Tomales Bay oysters at the Hog Island restaurant. The oysters alone or a selfie of the shellfish and your entourage are the concepts, perhaps even with a glimpse of the Bay in the background.

The Hog Island Oyster Co. restaurant (https://hogislandoysters.com/) epitomizes the Ferry Building food scene. These oysters are hand-raised at Point Reyes, in Tomales Bay, just north of The City.

Many parallel specialty food providers will be present at the Ferry Building Marketplace. Consider the Cowgirl Creamery for cheese. Olive oil, wines, meat, fish, California nut products, and vegetable produce are some of the categories. One specialty shop, at my last visit, sold only its farmed mushrooms.

Among the retail shops is Book Passage (http://www.bookpassage.com), one of the finest book stores in the Bay Area. The bookseller also has outlets in Corte Madera and Sausalito in Marin County, to the north. Book Passage creates a community of authors and readers with its lavish programs. You can sign up for their free monthly newsletter, which reads like a who’s who of what’s going on in the book world. If you’re an author, as I am, you can arrange a book announcement program at the store for each new book in your repertoire.

Add to this all the other activity going on simultaneously at the Ferry Building, such as ferry departures and Farmers Markets (on selected days), and you will conclude that this is a happening place. See other subsection write-ups, such as Ferry Building Ferries and Farmers Market Ferry Building.

The Ferry Building might be seen as the pulsing heart of the Bay Area in a parallel manner to Union Square being the heart of San Francisco.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com/

Address: Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 415-983-8030

Price: Moderate

Ferry SF to Oakland

Container ships at Port of Oakland

Getting out on the Bay can be a magical aspect of travel in San Francisco. There are things you can see only from the water, such as the lovely skyline of San Francisco, especially in early morning.

The ferry between the Ferry Building and Oakland’s Jack London Square in morning light is an excellent and economical option to see the view and take photos.

Your Best Shot: Savor the scene and record visually as you pass through the Port of Oakland, where giant container ships will be loading and unloading. This is California in its brawniest expression, as food goes out and manufactured goods from Asia come in.

The watery highway across the Bay may be invisible, but it is real, and it takes you to new worlds. One such world, best seen from the water, is the Port of Oakland. The ferry moves slowly down the estuary, passing the giant cranes loading and unloading the huge container ships. There can be drama, especially if the ferry moves aside to allow one of the mammoth ships to proceed in or out of the harbor.

The ferry lets you see the commercial vitality of Oakland and California today. California is one of the major food-producing regions in the world. Oakland is the main point of export. A hungry Asia begs for this sustenance. As long as free trade persists, the Port of Oakland will prosper.

When you get off in Oakland, seek out the statue of the favorite native son, author Jack London, in Jack London Square. You can see a cabin he stayed at in the Yukon. Heinolds First and Last Saloon is the place for a drink, recalling that young Jack hung out there because they had a dictionary that would help him learn his words. Jack was a poor boy who had to steal a few oysters from the local fishermen to survive.

Jack London had the street smarts to survive, competing with others who had more resources. He is a kind of metaphor for modern Oakland, as compared to San Francisco.

If You Go:

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: http://sanfranciscobayferry.com/

Address: San Francisco Ferry Bldg, San Francisco, CA 94111

Phone: 707-643-3779

Price: Moderate, tickets can be purchased on the ferry

Fisherman’s Wharf Shopping

Street performers at Fisherman’s Wharf

Shoppers flock to Fisherman’s Wharf partly because of the extensive amount of stores, mainly at two complexes, the Cannery and Ghirardelli.

These buildings are brick shells from a former era of canning and of chocolate processing.

The shopping scene continues to be dynamic, changing with the times. The Fisherman’s Wharf website listed below keeps track of all these details.

For example, one of the interesting newer stores in my experience is Mike Pollastro’s Vom Fass shop in Ghirardelli Square. This is a tasting place, replete with platters of olive oils, vinegars, wines, cheeses, and fruits.

Your Best Shot: A cornucopian photo of what’s tasting at Vom Fass today could become part of your California cuisine collection. Maybe put yourself in the image as the taster for some shots.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

I left Vom Fass with a small container of olive oil, as any visitor could. Pollastro had numerous California and European olive oils for tasting, and you could buy a small glass container of whatever oil, vinegar, liquor, or wine you enjoyed. He has drop-in tasting for free or a modest price, available to the typical traveler, and special tastings announced on his Meetup page.

Then I meandered through Ghirardelli and wound up at Peter Chouinard’s Bluxome Street Winery, where you can taste delicious Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs for a moderate price. This is the serendipity of prowling around the Wharf area.

The Fisherman’s Wharf organizers host annual events that attract the visitor. The October Wharf Fest with its chowder cook-off, engaging all the local restaurants in a competition, is a fun day.

More details from me on how Fisherman’s Wharf renews itself, as every tourism entity must, can be seen at http://www.fostertravel.com/fishermans-wharf-renewal-in-san-francisco/

If You Go:

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Website: http://www.fishermanswharf.org

Address: Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-674-7503

Price: Free to browse, moderate for tasting and restaurants

Fort Funston Hang Gliders

Hang gliders at Fort Funston

Hang gliders present a lyrical side of San Francisco travel to a visitor at Fort Funston, on the southwest edge of The City, along the ocean.

Fort Funston is a park with a cliff perch over the ocean and a walkable beach far below. Some of freshest air on planet earth blows in from the Pacific.

In earlier times, the military grabbed this choice ocean location to protect San Francisco. Now the public benefits from National Park Service control over this terrain, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Your Best Shot: A hang glider passing by you up close can be an engaging still or video image from this location. From the elevated viewing stand on top of the bluff, you can even put yourself in the image.

Hang gliders amount to an enduring main attraction here. The gliders launch off the cliff and catch the same thermal updrafts as the regal raptors and the more lowly sea gulls. Birds drift effortlessly in unending updrafts.

The Park Service has built a handsome wooden viewing platform over the cliffs. This is one of the choicest views in San Francisco of the ocean, the beach, the clouds, the setting sun, and some hang gliders who have jumped off a few yards south of the platform.

It is known that a glass or two of wine has been consumed on this lovely deck in celebration of life.

While you are there, it is likely that a hang glider will zoom by within shout-out range. The Park Service even has a sign to alert you, and reduce their liability, to the potential crash of a hang glider onto your person. However, the odds of your car getting hit as you drive to Fort Funston are exponentially greater than a hang glider crashing into you, trust me.

A pathway down the cliff to the ample beach beckons. Dogs jaunt happily on the beach.

The hang-gliding subculture is managed by a club known as The Fellow Feathers of Fort Funston (http://www.flyfunston.org/). Their website has a webcam that allows you to see how conditions are at the moment.

If You Go:

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront

Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Funston

And

http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/fort-funston.html

Address: Fort Funston Rd, San Francisco, CA 94118

Phone: 415-561-4700

Price: Free

Gary Danko: Celebrity Chef Restaurants

Roast ducks

Chef as artist, chef as personality, and chef as entrepreneur is arguably the story of many restaurants, but San Francisco raises this concept to a high level.

The City has culinary academies and culinary journeymen paths, well known to those in the trade. The pedigree of one’s past associations often launches the new chef forth into the taste stratosphere.

Your Best Shot: It is likely that a photo of the artistic culinary effort immediately in front of you, alone, and also with you or your entourage will be the visual goal here. One is reminded of a New Yorker cartoon in which the waiter approaches a table and says, “Is something wrong? No one is taking photos of their food.”

Gary Danko’s restaurant is one such operator. I have never met Gary Danko, but I have enjoyed eating a lamb dinner at his restaurant. And I know of acolytes who have volunteered their time, bringing this own knives, for the privilege of cutting up in the prep line at his establishment. See his restaurant’s contact info below.

The restaurant scene is dynamic and changing. Mourad (http://mouradsf.com/) is a Moroccan restaurant in SF. Chef Mourad Lahiou has spiced up the Moroccan menu with dishes such as small turnips with sunflower seeds.

Women entrepreneurs are much in evidence. Salisa Skinner is a Bangkok-born chef who opened up Tamarind Hall Thai (http://www.tamarindhall.com) in North Beach, featuring dishes such as her eggplant salad and crab meat curry.

Sometimes the quest to perfect a method of food preparation becomes the passion, such as: How to prepare and cook the perfect steak. For visionaries Jerry and Jennifer Dal Bozzo behind Osso Steakhouse (http://www.ossosteakhouse.com) the goal starts with “bone in,” hence the word “osso.” The hope is the highest quality 4- to 6-week aged prime beef, ready to deliver maximum tenderness. The steak is pan-seared, for perhaps two minutes on each side, in its own natural juices, along with a hint of garlic and rosemary.

Those of us who enjoy food should be thankful that celebrity chefs have internalized their high-art ambitions. That surely helps them weather the brutal reality that running a successful restaurant requires overtime attention to detail 24/7/365. It is also not easy to make money with a restaurant. One might cite the joke often mentioned in the California wine industry. Question: “What is the best way to end up with a small fortune in the California wine business?” Answer: “Start with a large fortune.”

The info below is for Gary Danko’s restaurant.

If You Go:

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Website: http://garydanko.com

Address: 800 North Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

Phone: 415-749-2060

Price: Expensive

Gay Pride Parade

Annual Gay Pride Parade

The Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco is a major expression of our current cultural diversity.

Your best opportunity to experience (and photograph) the gay scene is this yearly extravaganza.

Those on parade are pleased to flaunt their preferences, sometimes the more flamboyant the better. It is understood that anyone in the parade will not be camera shy.

Your Best Shot: You never know what will be appearing before you and your camera in this parade, but anticipate that unrepressed sexuality will be the theme.

The event is held the last Sunday in June, beginning at the Embarcadero, and marching up Market Street to the Civic Center Plaza.

This happening can only be described as an exuberant expression of gay and lesbian out-of-the-closet joy.

Traditionally, the procession starts with Dykes on Bikes, a lesbian motorcycle contingent. Floats abound with plenty of well-built young men and booming music. Stilt walkers and groups of political activists carrying signs are part of the mix.

Feel free to aim your camera at drag queens in stiletto heels as well as kids of gay couples in baby strollers.

The Civic Center finale amounts to a street party. Each year, the current political climate energizes the parade. For example, the year gays could be legally married there were a lot of couples in wedding garments.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.sfpride.org

Address: Ends at Civic Center, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-864-0831

Price: Free

Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point

Joseph Strauss, who built the Golden Gate Bridge

The Vista Point at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see stop for many. There is so much to consider.

You can walk out on the Bridge and glance back at San Francisco. You can bicycle across the Bridge all the way to Sausalito and return to Fisherman’s Wharf by ferry, using a bike rented at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Your Best Shot: The Golden Gate Bridge may be the most photographed structure on the planet. When you’re on the Bridge, its upright structure calls for a vertical. If you back away a little, both towers can be squeezed into a horizontal. Rare is the traveler who does not want at least of few shots of himself or herself in close proximity to the Bridge, a man-made wonder.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

At the Vista Point, glance down and observe Fort Point, a brick fort from the Civil War period. Look east from Vista Point to observe magnificent Crissy Field, a bracing walk available to you via a connecting trail from the Vista Point.

Savor at Vista Point a stature of Robert Strauss, the engineer who built the Bridge. The National Park Service maintains here an interpretive store and gift shop, called the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio

Website: http://www.goldengatebridge.org

Address: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA 94129

Phone: 415-921-5858

Price: Free

Golden State Warriors

Bay Bridge from Treasure Island

The Golden State Warriors is the region’s winning basketball team. The team is likely headed from its current home in Oakland at the Oracle Arena to a new home in San Francisco along the Embarcadero. Stay tuned.

This would give San Francisco its third major regional sports team, beside the baseball San Francisco Giants and the football San Francisco 49ers, now in Santa Clara.

The Golden State Warriors have a logo on their jersey of the new tower of the east side span of the Bay Bridge, which perhaps symbolically allows them to be a part of San Francisco and a part of the East Bay forever. This could be a wise logo decision so as not to alienate the fans.

As anyone who follows sports knows, the Golden State Warriors in 2017 were at the top of their game, winning the national title. We’ll see if that the team becomes a winning dynasty. 

Your Best Shot: Catching an image of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry in a parade to celebrate a championship is a possibility, but keep in mind that team success is not eternal.  Only a couple of years ago sports fans were betting on the 49ers Colin Kaepernick in a similar situation. 

Your in-person sports experience and possible close-up photos at a game would mean buying a ticket, so what does that cost? At a ticket broker such as StubHub, the price (as I write this) starts at about $90 and runs to $14,000. 

If You Go: 

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley 

Website: http://www.nba.com/warriors 

Address: 7000 Oracle Arena Coliseum Way, Oakland, CA 94621 

Phone: None 

Price: $90 and up on StubHub

Google Maps: Where Are You?

Cable Cars in SF

Google Maps and other digital map producers have transformed the way we travel and get our travel information.

For the ebook edition, use your phone, tablet, or computer to pull up a Google map. In the app version the maps are an integral part of the product.

It is remarkable to think of how different our map situation was just a decade ago.

Now we can key in an address on our device, most likely a smartphone, and come up with the exact destination.

We can move our fingers in or out to get a closer or a farther out context on a map.

We can get directions from our current location to the destination, along with a route, and absorb that information as a written record, a visual path, or a spoken command.

On the app version we can see on a map every address as a location, automatically.  We can also see the context of what subjects are around the desired destination. This can help us plan. This helps make an app product different from a printed book, an ebook, or a website presentation.

The map on our device is also totally compact, requiring no further expense, beyond the potential licensing cost for the software. There is no cost to print and no bulk of a paper product to carry around. The phone is not weighed down or bulked up by maps.

Digital maps can also project just how long it will take us to get to our destination and precisely how far away is the destination.

As time goes on, it is likely that more and more of our travel information and insight will be enhanced by digital maps from Google and other providers.

My hope is that you will have a better travel experience in and around San Francisco due to map capacities.

Gourmet Ghetto Berkeley

Lee Foster and Alice Waters

Alice Waters and her Chez Panisse restaurant remain a presiding spirit over Berkeley’s celebrated Gourmet Ghetto, where I happen to live.

Here are my four recommended stops if you want to immerse yourself in this remarkable stretch of Shattuck Ave in Berkeley, especially the block between Cedar and Rose Sts, about six blocks north on Shattuck from the Downtown Berkeley BART station.

Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse restaurant (see information below) is in and will remain in a stratosphere all its own.

Alice began the restaurant in 1971. The vision behind Chez Panisse has been immensely influential. She helped unleash the triumph of the entire organic and fresh/local effort in America back in the 1970s and 1980s. California, with its gifted climate for year-round growing, was the logical place for this revolution to occur. Today the vision is mainstream, even at your local supermarket.

Alice also made a very important business decision at the start. She owns the building. Her restaurant is not vulnerable to a high-rent future.

Your Best Shot: A shot of your food in this culinary cathedral is almost a requirement. Chez Panisse lunch prices are more reasonable and the meal is less elaborate than the detailed evening banquets. Lunch occurs upstairs in the restaurant, which is light and airy. You can also wander over to the open kitchen to watch the staff and make a quick, casual photo of these artists at work.

Across the street from Chez Panisse, you can plunk down exactly $12.08 of your hard-earned money at Cheese Board Pizza, arguably the most popular restaurant in modern Berkeley, For that amount you will receive a large box with half of a vegetarian pizza, enough for two people. You can also get an inventive salad, which might have “spelt” in it. If you need to Google “spelt” for a Wikipedia explanation, you are in for a delicious new treat.

California, San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands
California, San Francisco: The Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands

The restaurant is located at 1512 Shattuck (www.cheeseboardcollective.coop/pizza, 510-549-3183). The venue has a cute “parklet” on the street, makes only one kind of veggie pizza every day, usually has live music, and magically attracts a huge patronage. They make about 1,200 pizzas per day.

Next door is The Cheese Board Collective (1504 Shattuck, (www.cheeseboardcollective.coop, 510-549-3183). The people inside this establishment love cheese. They are in no hurry to sell you anything. Sample a few cheeses under their expert tutelage. Find something you like, and they’ll custom cut any size portion you wish.

A vast collection of worldwide cheeses is sold here, ranging in geographic origin from Europe to California to Wisconsin. Cow, goat, and sheep milk cheeses are available. The knowledgeable palates of the career cheese-sellers make the store one-of-a-kind.

Around the corner, the late Dutch coffee enthusiast, Alfred Peet, started his Berkeley “coffee revolution” in 1966. The flagship store is Peet’s Coffee (2124 Vine, www.peets.com/about-us/our-history, 510-841-0564). Visit the special side room display filled with coffee-milestone memorabilia honoring Peet. Paraphernalia of the coffee roasting, grinding, and serving craft are also shown. It took a few pioneers, such as Peet, to get the notion of quality coffee roasting and fresh grinding into America’s highly caffeinated blood stream.

For a more detailed discussion of the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto, see my write-up at http://bit.ly/28UznGL

The information below is for Chez Panisse restaurant.

If You Go: 

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley 

Website: http://www.chezpanisse.com 

Address: 1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709 

Phone: 510-549-5525 

Price: Moderate to Expensive

Haight Ashbury

Jerry Garcia T-shirt in the Haight

Haight Ashbury is a place and perhaps also a state of mind that existed and continues to persist on the eastern fringe of Golden Gate Park.

The 1967 Summer of Love celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2017. Some mature travelers and visitors look back on that era and ponder the uninhibited sex, the promise of chemically induced enlightenment, and the reality that many believed the military-industrial complex was out of control and proceeding in Vietnam contrary to the public will. The competing urges to protest or drop out wrestled for the soul of each young person.

Your Best Shot: It is not easy to photograph a past that has disappeared. Shops that epitomized the scene slowly fade away. The Love of Ganesha, 1573 Haight St, remains. Think drug paraphernalia and crystals. Put yourself in the image also if that is you, today and tomorrow, recorded digitally forever, ready to go permanently into the social  media record. 

Haight Ashbury is both yesterday and today. Today there are 20-somethings in the neighborhood, still walking around in tie-dyed T-shirts, happy to just enjoy their lives and a new era, unencumbered by the past. The DNA of the era seems to have been passed to them. The email message that the Haight Ashbury era is over probably got sent to their spam.

The area is fun to explore today, walking east on Haight from Golden Gate Park, perhaps stopping first at Amoeba Music, 1885 Haight St. The Haight will mean more if you can find a tour leader or an info source that can guide you on the way it was. Wikipedia is a start, see below.

Grateful Dead musician Jerry Garcia’s image is on a tie-dyed T-shirt, waiting for you out there, somewhere. You’ll just have to find it.

Keep your olfactory senses alert for the pungent sweet smell of marijuana and incense, which lingers in the Haight, and enjoys the new legal protections of modern California. A strong sense of Eastern mysticism still pervades the Haight, as evidenced by clothing and art objects in shops.

The shop, The Love of Ganesha shop, is an example of a fragile hold on a vanishing era. 

If You Go: 

Area: Golden Gate Park 

Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haight-Ashbury 

Address: 1573 Haight St, San Francisco, CA 94117 

Phone: 415-863-0999 

Price: Moderate

Half Moon Bay Town

Historic Johnston House, Half Moon Bay

Half Moon Bay is an engaging seaside town, the most substantial human habitation along the San Mateo Coast, south from San Francisco. Floriculture flourishes here, due to the cool climate and the close proximity of San Francisco Airport for flying flowers to market. You’ll see mammoth greenhouses along the Coast Highway 1 south of town.

Highway 92 leads over the hills from HMB to the Peninsula, but the narrow road can become choked by traffic.

Spanish and Portuguese were among the early settlers. The town was called Spanishtown before it became Half Moon Bay. Cunha’s Country Store (448 Main St) was for decades the all-purpose emporium, but now survives by serving up deli sandwiches to visitors.

Take a stroll on Main St, where the blue Zaballa House (326 Main St) is the oldest building. At 270 Main St, the Greek Revival-style house from the 1860s was the home of Pablo Vasques, son of the original land-grant owner.

Your Best Shot: A lonesome landmark house in the hills back of town on Higgins Canyon Road is an interesting photo op. The Johnston House is a New England style “saltbox” house, ordered by catalog in 1853. It still stands in isolated splendor, suggesting an earlier era. You could make a photo conveying the same lonely emotion as Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting, Christina’s World. 

The prefab Johnston House was manufactured in New England and shipped by boat around The Horn. The boards were floated ashore here. Horses dragged the wood up the hill, where a carpenter assembled the house.

Half Moon Bay hosts several major festivals each year. They include the Portuguese Chamarita Festival 7 weeks after Easter, a parade in the Fourth of July weekend, and the Art and Pumpkin Festival in October.

A long beach west of town offers good public access for an ocean-side walk. 

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 

Website: http://www.visithalfmoonbay.org. 

Address: Tourism office at 235 Main St, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 

Phone: 650-726-8380  

Price: Free

Hilton Cityscape Elevated Views

Union Square from the Hilton Cityscape

San Francisco is such a lovely city that a visitor often longs for an elevated viewpoint from which to see all the hills, the landmark buildings, plus the Bay and ocean landscape.

One of the newer such options is Cityscape Lounge, the 46th floor restaurant/bar at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square, 333 O’Farrell St. The space was formerly used only for special events, but is now open to the public each day 5 p.m. to midnight.

The Hilton San Francisco Union Square Hotel plays a unique role in lodging in The City and in the West. At almost 2,000 rooms, it is the largest hotel in The City and on the West Coast if you exclude some of the “gaming” hotels in Las Vegas. The Hilton also takes a progressive stance on “sustainability.” For example, you don’t need to buy expensive bottled water on the property. On the contrary, you can fill your own water container at a “hydration station” in the lobby area, saving money and the environmental cost of disposable plastic bottles.

Your Best Shot: After positioning yourself near a picture window, the view from Cityscape can create a memorable photo. Return visits will add alternative perspectives, depending on light at different times of the year.

Wander around to enjoy the 360-degree view. By dusk and night the beloved details of SF, such as Union Square, assume a twinkling and magical existence.

Where else might you go for elevated views of The City?

One long-time favorite is the Top of the Mark restaurant/bar at the Inter-Continental Mark Hopkins Hotel, 999 California St.

At Macy’s, 170 O’Farrell St, on Union Square, there is an eighth-floor observation deck and outdoor dining at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant. You look down immediately on the Square

The elevator to the top of Coit Tower, 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, gives you a perspective on the North Beach area.

The free Tower view at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, shows the greenery of the park and the western portion of The City.

Multiple perspectives on San Francisco can enrich the travel experience. There is no equal to a close-up walking tour of Chinatown/North Beach. The view from the Bay on an excursion boat or ferry is another outlook. Memories of grand landmarks from choice locations, such as the Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach or the Marin Headlands, add further dimensions.

Those who collect elevated views of San Francisco welcome the addition of Cityscape as a new enhancement.

The info below is for Cityscape.

If You Go:

Area: Downtown

Website: http://www.cityscapesf.com

Address: Hilton San Francisco Union Square, 333 O’Farrell St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-923-5002

Price: Moderate

Historic Trolleys Along the Embarcadero

Historic trolleys in SF

San Francisco offers practical transportation along the Embarcadero and into downtown on the F-line with historic trolleys/streetcars.

There is a free San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart St, which is kitty-corner from the Ferry Building. It tells the story of these “museums in motion.”

The historic trolleys/streetcars are in addition to the main celebrity historic transportation system of San Francisco, the Cable Cars, which are a story and a route of their own.

The F-line historic trolleys/streetcars have been carefully collected from all over the world, refurbished, and put into service. They are an excellent way to travel up and down the Embarcadero, and then deep into Downtown.

Your Best Shot: You can get two icons in one photo if you wait near the boarding platform for the trolleys in front of the Ferry Building, as they head towards Fisherman’s Wharf. Consider a shot with the historic trolley moving slowly past the historic Ferry Building tower.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

The vintage trolleys/streetcars (now numbering about 50) work well on the flat topography of the Embarcadero and Market St. The 50 are originals rather than replicas, dated from after the invention of electric trolleys in Richmond, Virginia, in 1888, all now carefully restored and maintained. Some come from Europe.

You switch to Cable Cars for the hilly areas of San Francisco, where cables pull the cars up steep hills.

The museum at 77 Steuart is a large rectangular room right on the transportation route, so it is convenient to access. The museum is not large, partly because all its historic objects are literally out on the street, rolling forward.

The reality is that visitors simply love these trolleys/streetcars as well as the Cable Cars. All contribute to the romance of travel to San Francisco. The museum will appeal to children as well as adults.

Tasteful collectibles in the gift shop of this non-profit San Francisco Railway Museum include classic posters of the vintage trolleys/streetcars.

One interesting collectible, dropped onto a DVD, is a 1906 film promoting San Francisco, made by the Miles Brothers. Unknown to them, they were filming just a few days before the famous Quake of April 14. They strapped a movie camera to a trolley and proceeded down Market Street. The filmmakers hired some of the 200 automobiles then in the city to zigzag in and out for special effect. You see the movement of people in the bustling life of this U.S. West Coast capital. Everyone is unaware, of course, of the destruction and devastation that will soon occur from the earthquake and fire.

The historic F-line along Market Street has had continuous rail service since the 1860s. Steam trains, horse-drawn cars, and finally electric trolleys/streetcars carried passengers.

San Francisco’s special blend of nostalgia and contemporary practicality is evident in the historic trolley/streetcar rail collection as well in the Cable Cars.

The info below is for the San Francisco Railway Museum.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.streetcar.org/museum

Address: 77 Steuart St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: 415-974-1948 

Price: Free for museum, moderate for streetcar rides

Hyatt Regency Interior 

Lobby sculpture at Hyatt Regency

The interior of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in San Francisco has a dramatic design flair, making it an attraction in itself.

This hotel features an airy atrium lobby with a grand fountain sculpture.

The John Portman-designed structure at Market and California Sts emphasizes the soaring openness of the mammoth lobby. The hotel website (see below) claims this 17-story interior space is the largest hotel lobby worldwide.

Your Best Shot: The widest angle on your phone or camera may be your best bet, getting the fountain and the atrium, plus perhaps yourself, in the image. The fountain and the soaring atrium, with elevators going up and down, make a beguiling vertical still photo or video.  

Charles Perry’s remarkable sculpture in the atrium is called Eclipse. This twisting metal apparatus makes four tons of steel appear to be suspended effortlessly above the water.

Activities of interest to many travelers are also only a few steps away, including the lively outdoor arts/craft vendor scene along Market St, the vibrant Ferry Building across the outdoor plaza, and a ride on the California St Cable Cars.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.sanfranciscoregency.hyatt.com

Address: Hyatt Regency Hotel, 5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA  94111

Phone:  415-788-1234 

Price: Free to peruse lobby

Hyde Street Pier Historic Ships

Balclutha historic ship, Hyde St Pier

The Hyde Street Pier presents to visitors nine ships and boats that played a critical role in the maritime history of San Francisco Bay and the West.

The pier is part of Fisherman’s Wharf. Details, including many historic photos and videos, can be seen across the street at the Visitor Center, 499 Jefferson St, corner of Jefferson and Hyde. A few steps away, there is also a display at the San Francisco Maritime Museum (see address and website below).

Your Best Shot: The Balclutha sailing ship is the beauty for a photo. Put yourself in the frame to build your nautical selfie collection. 

What you see, docked permanently at the Hyde Street Pier, are nine ships and boats that helped transform 19th-century San Francisco, the West, and the U.S. In that century, San Francisco was the main and vital West Coast port. Los Angeles was still a sleepy and undeveloped town.

Make the acquaintance of:

Balclutha: An 1886 square-rigger. The romance of the 19th-century sailing era comes into view when you gaze at the 256-foot-long Balclutha. This is the only square-rigged ship left on San Francisco Bay. The vessel carried California wheat to Europe.

Hercules: A steam-powered tugboat. Hercules was used for open-ocean towing of timber ships and barges between San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest.

C. A. Thayer: A wooden-hulled, three-masted schooner built to carry lumber along the California coast. Constructed of strong Douglas fir in 1895, the Thayer was maneuverable enough to take lumber from small ports, such as Mendocino, along the coast. Sometimes lumber was winched down to the ship with long rope lines secured to bluffs above the ocean.

Alma: A wooden-hulled flat-bottomed scow schooner built to carry bulk cargo, such as hay, around the Bay and the Sacramento Delta. The flat bottom allowed the scow schooner to maneuver in shallow water and wait for the next high tide if it caught on the bottom.

Beyond these four, there are more historic nautical treasures awaiting you.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf

Website: https://www.nps.gov/safr

Address: 2 Marina Blvd, Building E, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94123 

Phone: 415-561-7000

Price: Entrance charge to Hyde Street Pier

 

Iconic Photo Views

Golden Gate Bridge from Conzelman Road, Marin

Everyone will have their own favorite iconic views of San Francisco to see and photograph. Here are my recommendations. Your time is valuable. I’ve been watching the scene for decades. These are places I will gladly revisit to savor the nuances of San Francisco and the region.

Each of these subjects has its own write-up in my presentation.

Alamo Square Victorians. This park offers fine views of Victorian houses with the modern city in the background.

Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum. Go to the museum, also called the Cable Car “Barn,” to see the amazing innards of the cable car system.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Chinatown Walking Self Tour. Enjoy the architecture. Maybe locate some red lanterns strung across the street on Grant Ave.

Coit Tower and the Crookedest St. Coit Tower is a legacy salute to the firefighters after the 1906 Quake and Fire. See the outside with the Christopher Columbus sculpture. Be sure to see the WPA murals inside. Take the elevator to the top.

West of you is the Crookedest St, a quirky zigzag attraction in itself.

Conservatory of Flowers. This Victorian greenhouse contains an ever-changing floral tribute in Golden Gate Park. Flower beds are in the foreground and the lacy white Conservatory is in the background.

Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Bldg. See the modern Financial District with old North Beach architecture juxtaposed. See my write-up for the exact location.

Fort Funston Hang Gliders. You’ll witness a lyrical sight from the bluffs on the southwest side of The City.

Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. The south side view of the famous attraction is the place for encountering the Bridge and perhaps walking out on the structure.

Baker Beach/Golden Gate Bridge. This is my single most favorite view in The City, with the waves crashing on the beach and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. This is a great afternoon-light experience.

Muir Woods. Don’t miss the unforgettable and iconic towering redwoods to be seen north of San Francisco in Marin County.

Intro/About The Author

Aiuthor/photographer Lee Foster at Baker Beach

What are the Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area? Award-winning travel journalist Lee Foster, a local, provides the answers, assisting you to make wise use of your valuable exploration time. What are the best things to see and do?

Foster selects the most interesting subjects in 10 areas of San Francisco, such as Fisherman’s Wharf or Golden Gate Park. He includes a few subjects also from North in Marin County, East to Oakland and Berkeley, and South to the San Mateo Coast and Stanford. Additionally, he groups subjects thematically by special interest, such as Culture/Museums and Nature/Hikes. Everything can be seen from a clickable Table of Contents outline by area and special interest subject. All the sections are then shown in an easily understood “SF A-Z” order.

For each subject, Foster presents a succinct write-up on why the subject was selected, based on his watching over the area for 40 years. Foster provides all the practical details you might want for a visit, such as a phone, exact address (for easy map search), and website for more information.

A noted travel photographer, Foster also offers a Your Best Shot paragraph for each subject, assisting you to get the objective photo and the selfie that will make your visit to the subject memorable. Almost everyone visiting San Francisco will want to create and share some of their own photos. Lee can help make the photo quest successful.

Within each subject presented, there are numerous details that only an experienced observer can accumulate. For example, “What time of day would be best for a visit to Baker Beach, with its views of the Golden Gate?” Answer: Afternoon from 3 p.m. until sunset, you’ll see the western-positioned sun fall on the Bridge. Sometimes you’ll want to know the precise location where a special experience and photo are possible. For instance, “Where exactly should I stand to get that fabulous view of old North Beach, the Coppola Building, with the Transamerica Pyramid in the background, showing SF old and new?” Answer: Exactly at the corner of Kearny and Columbus on the uphill side. Another question: “Where is that park where you can see the Victorians with the city skyline in the background?” Answer: That’s Alamo Square, a great place for a picnic.

Your Author: Lee Foster 

Lee is an award-winning travel writer and photographer and long-time resident of Berkeley, across the Bay from San Francisco. His work has won eight Lowell Thomas Awards, the highest awards in travel journalism. He has been named a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year. All the write-ups and photos here are from Foster.

He has several parallel books/ebooks on San Francisco and Northern California. You can see them on his Amazon Author Page (http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz) and in independent bookstores (http://www.indiebound.org/).

Much of his travel journalism can be seen on his website at http://www.fostertravel.com. About half of the 300 worldwide travel writing/photo coverages on the website are about San Francisco and Northern California. The others range from Egypt to Bali. You can Search for a SF/Norcal subject or worldwide subject and find his presentations, all available for free on the website.

Lee’s travel writing/photos have appeared in all the major U.S. travel magazines and newspapers, plus in more than 300 Lonely Planet travel books. You can see his digitally ready photos at http://stockphotos.fostertravel.com. Most of his licensing of photos occurs to major magazines and book companies, from the local AAA Via to National Geographic. Foster also offers an inexpensive Personal Publishing secure license for individuals who simply want a photo for their blog, website, book, or wall décor.

Contact Lee at [email protected] if you have any suggestions on SF/Norcal travel and this presentation. New aspects for all these travel subjects emerge. Your experience, whether good or bad, is helpful to Foster as he continues to evaluate what should be in this select list.

Foster believes that few areas have done more than SF/Norcal to preserve the environment or improve the basics of travel, including attractions/dining/lodging.

SF/Norcal ranks as his favorite place on Earth. The more he has seen of the world, the more he appreciates his home territory. He hopes that this presentation makes your own exploration more enjoyable and insightful.

Note that the content of this ebook is also available as an app, titled “SF Travel & Photo Guide,” from Apple (http://apple.co/2ow44IC) and Google (http://bit.ly/2o9sWKJ).

Jack London Square

The robust Port of Oakland

Oakland boasts a fondness for Jack London, its native literary son. Jack London Square, at the foot of Broadway, contains London’s cabin from the Yukon and Heinold’s Saloon, where London supposedly polished his literary skills.

The city of Oakland grew up along the waterfront, now called Jack London Square. This multi-block area of shops and restaurants struggled for identity, even as the author did.  London has always been the city’s cherished son. He was the figure around whom a themed waterfront area could be built. London’s books on Alaskan adventures, featuring man surviving against nature, won worldwide readers.

Your Best Shot: Get an image of the sculpture of Jack London, perhaps without and then with you in it. The sculpture is at the waterfront, near the Scott’s Seafood restaurant.

Popular attractions here include shopping at places like Cost Plus World Market and dining at the fish restaurant, Scott’s Seafood. The Jack London Cinema features nine state-of-the-art theaters.

As mentioned, while at the Square, stop by Jack London’s cabin, his Yukon abode from the winter of 1897-1898. Next to the cabin, quench your thirst at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon. It is said that London acquired his self-made literary education at Heinold’s, where they had a dictionary. Inside, you’ll find London photos and memorabilia.

Jack London Square has nightlife vitality. The lively venue is the jazz club known as Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West. Yoshi’s also features Japanese dining.

A Sunday Farmers Market draws large crowds looking for everything from specialty apples to goat cheese.

The Oakland waterfront, associated with the Square, has many features. One is the robust Port of Oakland, seen best on the ferry between San Francisco and Oakland. (See my write-up Ferry SF to Oakland.)

Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidential Yacht, the Potomac, a National Historic Landmark, is now permanently berthed at Jack London Square. The public can sometimes tour the boat or participate in yacht excursions out on the bay.

An Amtrak Train Station is the departure point for trips to Sacramento, Seattle, and Los Angeles.

From the Square, walk or taxi/Uber up Broadway into downtown Oakland. My write-ups Oakland Downtown and Oakland’s Museum of California can guide you in that area.

If You Go:

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: http://www.jacklondonsquare.com

Address: Jack London Square, Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

Phone: 510-645-9292 

Price: Free

Japanese Tea Garden

Spring flowering, Japanese Tea Garden

The Japanese Tea Garden, southwest side of the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park, was first built for the Midwinter Fair of 1894.

Any time is good for a visit. May is especially congenial because then the cherry trees, azaleas, and other blossoming plants are at the peak of their spring petal exuberance.

Five acres of sculpted landscapes with bridges, ponds, miniature mountains, and bonsai greet you.

You Best Shot: A still life photo of a miniaturized and stylize landscape or a blossom explosion can be a fitting photo here. Get some images also of yourself among the delicate visual textures, such as maple leaves that change colors with the seasons. 

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Stroll the gardens for a nominal fee and meditate over Japanese ideals of design, emphasizing tranquility and harmony.

From spring to autumn, the Tea House also offers a $25 Tea Ceremony, available by advance phone reservation, 415-752-1171.

The gift shop features green tea, plus imported ceramics for sake and tea enjoyment.

The Japanese Tea Garden is characterized as the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. After the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, which included a Japanese-style village, park superintendent John McLaren reached an agreement with Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara to manage the site.

The Hagiwara family lived here and developed the site until 1942, when they and 120,000 other Japanese Americans were evacuated to internment camps. Other individuals took over the facility from that point forward as concessionaires, managed by the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Commission.

If You Go:

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: http://www.japaneseteagardensf.com 

Address: 75 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr, San Francisco, CA 94102 

Phone: 415-752-1171 

Price: Moderate

Jeremiah O’Brien WWII Ship 

Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien

The restored and operational WWII Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien, open to visitors every day at Pier 45, is a military history treasure.

The O’Brien is the only unaltered Liberty Ship still in existence and fully functional, able to operate, exemplifying the 2,710 Liberty Ships constructed to win the war. Many of those ships were built in Richmond, across San Francisco Bay.

After being built in just 56 days in Portland, Maine, at the height of the war frenzy, the O’Brien made seven WWII cargo runs and participated in the 1944 Normandy Invasion.

Your Best Shot: A horizontal view of the outline of the ship, at dockside or out on the water, with good light on it, can be a pleasing photo.

After its WWII service, the O’Brien ended up, as did most of the Liberty Ships, in a “mothball” fleet. The Bay Area fleet is located in Suisun Bay. Gradually, many of the mothballed ships were sold for scrap, but fans of the Jeremiah O’Brien felt she might serve a higher purpose, so they kept moving her to the back of the list for scrap.

Hundreds of volunteers, thousands of volunteer hours, and millions of donated dollars created another future for the vessel—as a living memorial on San Francisco Bay to the WWII Liberty Ship. The vision was that she would be operated as the National Liberty Ship Memorial. That goal was achieved in 1979.

In 1994, the O’Brien made an incredible nostalgia voyage back to Normandy for the 50th year celebration, managed by sailor veterans in their 70s. The O’Brien was the only large ship in the 7,000 vessel fleet for the invasion still operational at the 50th celebration.

Today the O’Brien welcomes visitors in San Francisco and steams out around the Bay several times a year for special occasions, with the public invited aboard.

The website has all the details for a visit or excursion on the Bay.

If You Go:

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf

Website: http://www.ssjeremiahobrien.org

Address: SS Jeremiah O’Brien, Pier 45, Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-544-0100  

Price: Moderate

Joie de Vivre/Kimpton Boutique Hotels 

Modern hotel room decor in SF

The lodging options for a visitor to San Francisco continue to proliferate.

There are the great landmark hotels, some celebrated in this presentation, such as the Westins, Hyatts, Hiltons, Marriotts, Ritzs, and iconic locals, such as the Mark Hopkins. Anything iconic is likely to be bought up, so the Mark Hopkins preserves its name, but the hotel website alludes to it being an InterContinental.

With the small hotels, there are some feisty individual owners who manage their properties like celebrity chefs handling restaurants. They do not seek the marketing energies of a group. However, there are clusters of boutique hotels with several individual locations, such as the Joie de Vivre group and the Kimpton group.

Your Best Shot: A cozy room, maybe with a view, and maybe with you in it, will help celebrate your San Francisco lodging adventure.

Add to this the new reality of the “sharing” economy, meaning Airbnb for lodging and Uber ready to get you there affordably.

The sharing economy opens up some remote lodgings options. For example, you could hang out nightly in Pacifica with ocean-side tranquility, south and west of San Francisco, including fine dining at Nick’s and Moonraker, knowing that your Best Western beachfront property is only a $12 Uber ride from the Colma BART Station. (See my Pacifica write-up.)

If you are a visitor to San Francisco, your lodging choices have never been greater.

Below are details for an example of one boutique hotel, the Vitale, in the Joie de Vivre group. Vitale puts you within sight of the Ferry Building, close to a walk on the Embarcadero waterfront, near the Bay Bridge lit up at night, and steps away from Bayside restaurants such as Waterbar.

If You Go:

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/california/san-francisco-hotels/hotel-vitale

Address:  8 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94105

Phone: 415-278-3700

Price: Expensive

Kayaking Tomales Bay 

Kayaking Tomales Bay

One action adventure to consider in the San Francisco region is kayaking on Tomales Bay. The water is fairly calm and Blue Waters Kayaking is an experienced operator with safe, guided day trips.

All kinds of routine and unusual outings are offered in the course of a year, including “bioluminescence” paddle trips and overnight camping. See their website (below) for details.

Tomales Bay is famous for its oyster farming. Your kayak outing may proceed past some of these farming operations in the water.

Your Best Shot: There’s nothing quite like the magic of a horizontal photo close-up of a kayak in open water. Get your guide to take a photo of you in adventure mode, out on the water in a kayak.

Blue Waters Kayaking has their operation in Inverness on the west side of Tomales Bay in the Point Reyes area.

If out exploring in the Point Reyes area, whether kayaking or not, consider proceeding up the west side of Tomales Bay beyond Inverness to Hearts Desire Beach and Tomales Bay State Park (http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=470). The Northern California ocean waters are always chilly, but Hearts Desire is likely the warmest place you will find in this stretch of the Pacific if you want to swim without a wetsuit.

Tomales Bay State Park also has an interesting tree, the bishop pine, which requires that its cones be singed in order to germinate. When forest fires are suppressed, this tree can’t reproduce itself.

The info below is for Blue Waters Kayaking.

If You Go:

Area: North to Marin County

Website: http://www.bluewaterskayaking.com 

Address: 12944 Sir Francis Drake Blvd, Inverness, CA 94937

Phone: 415-669-2600

Price: Moderate

Lands End/Outlook NPS Center

A walk at Lands End

Lands End is a scenic terrain at the northwestern edge of San Francisco, offering superlative views of the ocean and the Golden Gate.

The National Park Service has opened a Visitor Center there, called The Outlook, to inform you about the trails and terrain.

The area features nature, historic shipwrecks, and a glimpse of San Francisco’s past, such as the ruins of the Sutro Baths, said to have been the gala place where boy-met-girl in the era before the Great Earthquake of 1906.

Your Best Shot: Photos are possible of you hiking at Lands End from an elevated view with the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. 

One good source of info about Lands End is the Parks Conservancy website. This group supports all the entities in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). See their Lands End presentation at

http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/lands-end.html

When in the area, make the handsome Lookout Visitor Center (680 Point Lobos Ave) your first stop, for brochures and information. Then head out for a walk or enjoy a meal at the fabled, adjacent Cliff House restaurant.

The trails show the results that loving attention from dedicated naturalists can achieve. Native vegetation has been planted and “invasive” non-native plants have been removed. There has even appeared a wild river otter, nicknamed Sutro Sam, in the pools at the ruins of the former Sutro Baths.

The views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County are a special treat as you walk the trails at Lands End. There are opportunities for private moments of reflection and enjoyment while immersed in the natural beauty of the landscapes and seascapes appearing in front of you.

A memorial to the USS San Francisco, a WWII cruiser vessel, indicates that the ship took 45 hits and sustained 25 on-ship fires during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942.

If You Go:

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront

Website: https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/landsend.htm

Address:  680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121

Phone:  415-426-5240

Price: Free

Lee’s Top 10 SF Experiences 

Golden Gate Bridge from Marin

My recommended Top 10 SF Experiences tend to coincide with my vision of treasured iconic views. 

Here are my recommendations. Your time is valuable. I’ve been watching the scene for decades. These are places I will gladly revisit to savor the nuances of The City and region.

Each of these subjects has its own write-up in my presentation.

Alamo Square Victorians. This park offers fine views of Victorians with the modern city in the background.

Cable Cars/Cable Car Museum. Go to the museum, also called the Cable Car “Barn,” to see the amazing innards of the cable car system.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Chinatown Walking Self Tour. Enjoy the architecture Maybe locate some red lanterns strung across the street on Grant Ave.

Coit Tower and the Crookedest St. Coit Tower is a legacy salute to the firefighters after the 1906 Quake and Fire. Photograph the outside with the Christopher Columbus sculpture in the foreground. Be sure to see the WPA murals inside. Take the elevator to the top.

West of you is the Crookedest St, a quirky zigzag attraction in itself.

Conservatory of Flowers. This Victorian greenhouse includes an ever-changing outdoor floral tribute in Golden Gate Park. Flower beds occupy the foreground. The lacy white Victorian structure is in the background.

Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Bldg. This is a great view of old North Beach architecture juxtaposed against the newer downtown. See my write-up for the exact location.

Fort Funston Hang Gliders. You’ll find this lyrical sight on bluffs at the southwest side of The City.

Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point. The south side view of the famous attraction is the main place for encountering the Bridge and perhaps walking out on the structure.

Baker Beach/Golden Gate Bridge. This is my single most favorite view in The City, with the waves crashing on the beach and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. This is a great afternoon light experience.

Muir Woods. Don’t miss the unforgettable and iconic towering redwoods to be seen north of San Francisco in Marin County.

Live Theatre in SF 

Street Theatre in San Francisco

The Lion King at the Orpheum Theatre (1192 Market St) was my main 2016 experience of live theatre in San Francisco. That was a special treat. There is nothing quite so compelling as live theatre, amidst a sold-out audience of more than 2,000 people, watching what is purported to be one of the highest-grossing theatrical performances of all time.

Your Best Shot: It is not considered appropriate behavior to try to photograph at a live theatre event. But sometimes the cast meets the public after the performance in the lobby, and photos are then welcome. For example, at The Lion King, the cast was collecting donations for an actors’ charity in the lobby after the event. Selfie photos with the actors or shots of the actors were welcome.

Hamilton was the rage in 2017, and I saw this monumental performance. New rages will follow. Follow the website for SHN (see below) to keep abreast of many current theatre offerings. SHN is a main organizing entity for major live performances. On their website, you can see current performances at the Orpheum Theatre, Golden Gate Theatre, Marines Memorial Opera House, and Davies Symphony Hall.

What are some further options for theatre in San Francisco?

ACT (American Conservatory Theatre, http://www.act-sf.org) is another major player, focused on developing the acting skills of its artists.

One only-in-SF event is called Beach Blanket Babylon (https://www.beachblanketbabylon.com). This is a long-running local satirical and humor event, focused on the national and local political and cultural scene. The performance is known for its outlandish costumes, especially hair pieces and hats.

Regionally, the Berkeley Rep (http://www.berkeleyrep.org) is a major resource of thought-provoking theatre.

Check out also what Cirque du Soleil (https://www.cirquedusoleil.com) is currently offering in San Francisco or the Bay Area. I’ve been fortunate enough to see several Cirque shows, mainly in Las Vegas, and from each I have emerged with a greater sense of the joy and wonder of life. 

The info below is for SHN, a main theatre ticket organizer, and one on its major venues, the Orpheum Theatre. 

If You Go:

Area: Civic Center

Website: http://www.shnsf.com

Address: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 888-746-1799   

Price: Expensive

Local SF Travel Information/Insight 

Conzelman Road view of the Golden Gate

San Francisco is one of the most congenial places on earth to visit. A visitor deserves the best possible information when making a decision to explore in San Francisco.

Three competing sources of information vie for the consumer’s attention. Some consumers will check all three. Others will favor only one.

First, professional travel writers, such as myself, assemble our objective information and insights and try to rise above the noise. For our services, we request payment, or we require that the consumer endure ads. Ads are the engine driving most magazines and newspapers. My travel writings and photos have appeared over the years in all the leading U.S. travel magazines and newspapers.

Second, crowdsourced content for free is a new model. Many gifted amateurs like to express themselves. Their reviews are given freely to their peers. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google Reviews, etc. are examples. Some travelers will not venture beyond these sources. The system can be gamed, of course, with fake reviews meant to give overblown praise or do damage to competing travel providers.

Third, the great tourism organizing entities put forth their presentations on behalf of their dues-paying members. That is the main point of this section. For San Francisco, there are two major such entities, both of which do an elaborate and credible job to promote their constituencies.

For The City itself, there is San Francisco Travel, more precisely http://www.sftravel.com. Their website on the wonders of SF is among the most robust in the business. They also maintain a Visitor Center at Hallidie Plaza, Powell and Market Sts, a good place to stop for a map, guidance, and brochure information as you explore. Their mandate is to promote equally everyone who pays dues to the organization, allowing some oxygen to remain for the professional travel writer, who can be more selective.

Your Best Shot: The lively area at Hallidie Plaza around the Visitor Center can excite photo energy. The street looks down on the Plaza. The Cable Cars are making a turn-around. There are street musicians as well as citizens offering eternal salvation. There is never a dull visual moment around Hallidie Plaza.

For the State of California, there is a major promotional entity, Visit California at http://www.visitcalifornia.com. They too have an elaborate website, as befits one of the great destinations on earth. They do outreach to the world. They also maintain a Welcome Center at Pier 39, a good stop especially if you envision traveling around northern CA.

The info below is for the San Francisco tourism authority, with its outreach Visitor Center on Hallidie Plaza, corner of Powell and Market Sts.

If You Go:

Area: Downtown

Website: http://www.sftravel.com/visitor-information-center

Address: 900 Market St, Hallidie Plaa, Lower Level, San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: 415-391‑2000

Price: Free

Main Public Library 

SF Public Library, Civic Center

San Francisco’s Main Public Library, at 100 Larkin in the Civic Center area, represents imaginative public architecture, a refreshing approach. The building is owned by the people and all people are welcome here.

The main feature is the immense atrium interior, which has a certain cathedral-like grandeur, appropriate for this temple of literacy.

Your Best Shot: Aim your camera wide-angle at the ceiling to capture this interior landscape, a fitting shrine to the sacredness of the word.

The library has been and will be the subject of controversy, as have all great libraries, probably going back the magnificent library of Alexandria, Egypt, in ancient times. I have seen its lovely resurrected and modern state, with its décor being letters of various alphabets.

I remember when the SF library opened in 1993. Many citizens were upset because the library was selling or giving away many of its books. Wasn’t the library meant to be the keeper and collector of books? Well, yes and no. The visionary leaders of the library had another perspective. Their view was that the modern library was an “information retrieval” place, and the information was not just in the books. It was also in and accessed by the bank of computers at the library from a (then) new source, the Internet. Little did the library leaders know how visionary they actually were.

Today the library is enmeshed in another controversy, doing its best to serve modern social needs. I remember going to the library for an event, at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning in winter. I arrived a few minutes early and was surprised that there were a couple of hundred other citizens ready to enter. I gradually realized that these were homeless people who had left their night shelter in San Francisco and were seeking warmth for the day.

Probably Andrew Carnegie could never have imagined, when he endowed thousands of American small town libraries, including the one in Mankato, Minnesota, where I grew up, that in 21st-century San Francisco one of the public library’s main functions would be as a warming site for the homeless in winter.

If You Go:

Area: Civic Center

Website: http://www.sfpl.org

Address: 100 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Phone: 415-557-4400

Mark Hopkins/Top of the Mark 

Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins

The InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel is a classy, smaller grand hotel within the stratosphere of San Francisco’s grand historic properties.

Your Best Shot: At the Top of the Mark, make a dusk/night shot of some aspect of the SF skyline, with and without you in the image. 

The Mark Hopkins occupies a special Nob Hill location. Hopkins flourished in the California Gold Rush, selling vegetables and hardware, along with another hardware seller, Leland Stanford. Hopkins did well and set himself up in Sacramento. He then became one of the “Big Four” who arranged the building of the railroad across America.

Hopkins built his mansion on the choicest property in San Francisco, a hill name Nob Hill. The term “nob” was a somewhat sarcastic word for the “high fallutin” types, the 1%-ers of their day. They were called “nabobs.” They lived on Nob Hill. All went well for Mark Hopkins’ mansion until the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906. The grand mansion burned to ashes.

The Mark Hopkins Hotel was built on the property. It still has a multi-star feel to it, classy and old San Francisco. Take the elevator to the top, the Top of the Mark, to enjoy a drink and/or dinner, while surveying the glorious urban landscape of San Francisco. The appearance of The City will change from light to dusk to dark, depending on the hours you are there and the time of year.

You can dance away the night on the hardwood-floor area and sympathize with the thousands of sailors who did their last dance here, with their beloved, glancing out for a final view of SF, before shipping off to WWII in the Pacific.

If You Go:

Area: Downtown

Website:  http://www.intercontinentalmarkhopkins.com

Address: 999 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Phone: 415-392-3434

Price: Expensive

Mission Dolores 

Mission Dolores in San Francisco

Franciscan priest Junipero Serra built his Mission Dolores, formally called Mission San Francisco de Asis, in 1776. The mission still survives today and is the oldest building in San Francisco.

This landmark is a masterpiece to contemplate and perhaps add to your collection of photos of significant San Francisco architecture. Consider the primitive times and resources with which this edifice was erected.

The marvel is that this mission building did not get shaken down by periodic California earthquakes. Seismic shakes led to the demise of many other missions in the 21-church chain.

Good morning light falls on the mission façade. Missions were generally built to face east to catch early sunlight and warmth, encouraging attendance at worship functions.

Your Best Shot: Besides the simple and chaste exterior, the painted ceiling interior and ornate altar make a tasteful photo. Sun falls on the front of the Mission in the morning. 

The ceiling and altar of this church is a glimpse into the highly developed world of art and music that characterized several Franciscan missions in California. Many early reports about the missions talked about the impressive levels of choir music attainment that was achieved by the local Native Americans. This church interior must have been a magical place for the neophytes, as the Indians were called by the Franciscans.

A gift shop and small garden adjacent to the mission are also worth perusing. In the garden you’ll find a statue honoring Junipero Serra, a grave marker for the first mayor of San Francisco, and a reed house illustrating the 18th-century dwellings constructed by Indians around San Francisco Bay.

If You Go:

Area: Mission/Castro

Website: http://www.missiondolores.org

Address: 3321 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Phone: 415-621-8203 

Price: Donation requested

Montara Beach 

Montara Beach, San Mateo Coast

Montara State Beach is a major and lovely beach park as you proceed south from Pacifica along the coast on Highway 1 in San Mateo County.

If you want to make a leisurely walk on a beach in a totally pristine environment, Montara is a great choice.

An afternoon-to-sunset walk here is as good as it gets, bathing you in the glow of the late-day light before the sun drops below the horizon.

Your Best Shot: The golden afternoon sunlight on Montara Beach can provoke a memorable photo. Consider an image of the objective setting, meaning the incoming waves on the tawny sand with the bluff cliffs in the landscape. Then put you and your entourage into the scene, celebrating life.

Parking at two small lots at Montara can be tight. Scrambling down the cliffs to the beach can be problematic.

Beyond a beach walk here, the watery neighborhood going south has treats in store for you.

Just south, the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (http://parks.smcgov.org/fitzgerald-marine-reserve) offers some of the finest tidepool experiences you will encounter along the entire Northern California coast. Study the tide timetables to arrive there at low tide if possible.

The Point Montara Lighthouse (http://www.norcalhostels.org/montara) is located on a rocky promontory. Montara functions today as an all-ages hostel offering inexpensive accommodations along the coast, with the Pigeon Point Lighthouse the next great hostel option going south.

Lunch or dinner at a seafood restaurant in Princeton-by-the-Sea (see my write-up) can be part of your adventure.

The info below is for Montara State Beach.

If You Go:

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Website: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=532

Address: Montara State Beach, Montara, CA  94037

Phone: 650-726-8819

Price: Free

Muir Woods 

Redwoods at Muir Woods

Your best opportunity close to San Francisco to experience mature and giant coastal redwoods, the signature tree of California, is Muir Woods, 12 miles north of The City in Marin County.

(If you don’t plan to leave San Francisco, an impressive second-growth forest of redwoods can be seen in Golden Gate Park at the Botanical Garden. See my Botanical Garden write-up.)

For Muir Woods, if you can, arrange to arrive early, at 8 a.m., when the National Monument opens. You’ll get an uncluttered view of the trees before the crowds appear. Crowds can also mean parking problems.

Your Best Shot: An image of the towering trees, the tallest tree species on earth, can be compelling. You might want to get a vertical shot. Putting yourself in the image can also suggest scale. If you have a tripod, putting your camera on it and then stepping back into the scene can add perspective.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

You enter and exit the grove of redwoods on the same single path. Get a good map of the grove at the entrance to study the layout. Elevated paths proceed on the slope-sides adjacent to the main creek-bed path. An elevated perspective from these slope paths allows you to experience and photograph the trees in more striking verticality than on the creek-side path.

The grove is named after the ardent environmentalist, John Muir, who did more than anyone in the 19th century to preserve the American wilderness, especially its large forests.

The tallest of the tall trees in California are not at Muir Woods. The tallest tree is at a hidden location in Redwood National Park, north of Eureka, about five hours north on Highway 101. The exact site of the tallest tree is a closely guarded secret. Naturalists don’t want to see the tree loved to death by fans who might trample its roots. 

If You Go: 

Area: North to Marin County 

Website: http://www.nps.gov/muwo 

Address: 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941 

Phone: 415-388-2595 

Price: Park entrance charge, moderate 

Murals of the Mission District 

Murals in the Mission

San Francisco’s Hispanic Mission District enjoys a wall-mural art legacy that parallels the great Mexican tradition of Rivera and Orozco.

The subjects for the San Francisco murals range from the suffering of humanity to more lyrical observations on life. Artistic forms may extend from realism to cartoon animation.

Walk the Mission District murals with a self-guide map from the Precita Eyes Muralists, 2981 24th St. Better yet, take an insider tour with a Precita Eyes guide familiar with these major art installations.

Your Best Shot: The short street known as Balmy Alley has some of the most intriguing murals. Seek out Balmy Alley during your walking tour.

Precita Eyes Muralists is the organizing force behind the mural movement. As founder Susan Cervantes once expressed to me, “A mural is a bridge to the community. The artists communicate with the people. Meetings are held to discuss the issues. The result is a reflection, a mirror of that community.”

A mural walk can be a thought-provoking encounter cataloguing the issues of class struggle, racism, and oppression in the modern world. Murals are the “people’s art,” painted on walls and available to be seen without any charged admission.

The Precita Eyes store sells cards, books, and art copies of some murals. Aspiring artists can take art classes here and acquire their acrylic paints and brushes.

On a mural walk, two particularly dense clusters of murals are along Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley, so be sure to visit them. A dozen taqueria-style restaurants in the neighborhood offer an enjoyable meal and a glimpse at local life after a walk.

If You Go:

Area: Mission/Castro

Website: http://www.precitaeyes.org/index.html

Address: 2981 24th St, San Francisco, CA 94110

Phone: 415-285-2287 

Price: Moderate, for maps and tours

Museum of Modern Art 

Calder mobile at SFMOMA

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) opened anew in 2016 with a striking tower to house The Fisher Collection.

For several years the institution closed so that this major new acquisition could be properly housed.

The Fisher Collection includes 1,100 works gathered over a 40-year period by the Gap founders, Doris and the late Don Fisher. Their collection of art, hailed by critics as one of the world’s foremost private collections of contemporary art, warranted the expansion wing of SFMOMA.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Your Best Shot: Consider an image of one of Alexander Calder’s lyrical mobiles, both alone and with you in the scene. He was the Fishers’ favorite artist. They collected 45 of his works.

Mario Botta’s original design for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art merits a photo in itself from across Third St. A distinctive round front window announces the structure, which opened in 1995. The new tower is behind it.

The institution began in 1935 and was the first museum on the West Coast devoted solely to 20th-century art. The collection included works from Pollock, Diebenkorn, Klee, Duchamp, and California’s own photographic artist, Ansel Adams.

Across Third St lies an outdoor elliptical patch of greenery, the Esplanade at Yerba Buena Gardens. This amenity helps make Downtown San Francisco such a livable aspect of the city. Stroll past an elaborate fountain honoring Martin Luther King and consider lingering at one of the outdoor cafes.

If You Go: 

Area: Downtown

Website: https://www.sfmoma.org/ 

Address: 151 Third St, San Francisco, CA 94103 

Phone: 415-357-4000 

Price: Admission Charge, moderate

Nature/Hikes 

Goldfields wildflowers San Antonio Valley

San Francisco and the Bay Area offer travelers some of the most diverse nature and outdoor experiences possible anywhere.

I believe I do not speak with undue superlatives, partly because I have the comparative experience of seeing perhaps 150 of the great nature experiences in the world today. Search a favorite, such as Kenya African Wildlife, on my website at http://www.fostertravel.com and you will see some of my parallel delights in nature.

The San Francisco region has an inherently interesting topography, a mild climate allowing diverse ecosystems, and one of the great river estuaries in the world. The river outflow meets a fecund ocean environment.

This Northern California region has also been a worldwide leader in mankind’s struggle to preserve the natural environment, partly for nature itself and partly for human enjoyment. It is no coincidence that John Muir and the Sierra Club are San Francisco Bay Area entities.

Add to this a further and ironic reality: the U.S. military, in earlier eras, had the power to grab and control the choicest terrain, given that San Francisco, the Bay, and California needed to be protected. When military strategy changed, most of these lands were declared “surplus.” The National Park Service and the California State Parks people stepped forward to manage the assets for all the people.

So, where should you go to experience these best nature experiences in the SF Bay Area? Your time is precious. Here are my suggestions. Each suggestion has its own write-up in this presentation:

Crissy Field, located on the east side of the Golden Gate Bridge, is one of the glorious waterside promenades in the world today. Walk this former air base from the Marina Green to the Golden Gate Bridge, breathing in some of the purest air on the earth.

Baker Beach, on the west side of the Golden Gate, offers you a beach walk and a glimpse, especially in afternoon light, of the Golden Gate Bridge, the green Marin Headlands, and the drama of waves crashing in from the Pacific.

Lands End, at the northwest edge of San Francisco, has its National Park Service Outlook store to assist with information on hiking along this choice terrain, west of the Golden Gate, adjacent to the historic Sutro Baths and Cliff House.

The Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park celebrates the salubrious climate of San Francisco, which allowed the legendary park founder John McLaren to grow so many species of plants from all over the world. Today you can see here a fairly mature second growth redwood forest. The redwood species is the world’s tallest tree species, California’s own coastal redwood, the sequoia sempervirens.

Fort Funston will delight you with lyrical hang gliders catching the thermals off the ocean cliffs. Descend the bluffs to a welcoming beach walk below.

Pacifica’s Mori Point hike will show hikers glorious wildflowers in April and whale migrations along the California coast in winter and summer. The winter migration of California gray whales is well known. The summer migration of humpbacks is new, provoked by an explosion of baitfish populations as ocean waters warm.

Montara Beach presents, especially on a sunny afternoon, one of the most tranquil settings you will find on the California coast, Persistent waves wash up on tawny sand, with bluffs in the background in a pristine setting.

Ano Nuevo can acquaint you with one of the larger mammals you will ever get close to. That species is the northern elephant seal. The males bluster and bluff their way around the beach, controlling the more passive females, who will mate with the alpha winner. This species was harvested almost to extinction for its blubber, but a few survived. Today they flourish. I was there in 1976 when the first pup was born on the California mainland. Saving the elephant seal is an impressive conservation success story of which every Californian can be proud.

Angel Island, in the middle of San Francisco Bay, allures with a level perimeter road, good for a day’s outing. If the walk gets too long, you can wait for the perpetual shuttle bus to continue your journey around the island. If you are a backpack camper, you can stay on the island overnight, as I have, and wake up to see dawn on San Francisco and on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Muir Woods, 12 miles north of San Francisco in Marin County, presents the premier tree of California, the coast redwoods, sequoia sempervirens. Walk in the preserved grove to see a landscape saved to approximate its appearance from a thousand years ago.

Point Reyes is a National Seashore along the coast, north of San Francisco. Point Reyes presents a dozen competing nature joys to recommend. If I had to choose one, it would be a walk at Chimney Rock, good all year, but especially in the grand wildflower exuberance that occurs each April.

Caesar Chavez Park in Berkeley is a brilliant example of urban land recycling. When I arrived in Berkeley in the 1970s, it was a garbage dump for landfill. Now it is a rustic bayside park with a circular paved path, an excellent place for an hour walk, with views of the Golden Gate. Recently, I saw there the largest gopher snake of my California hiking experience, perhaps fattened up by the abundance of ground squirrels.

You can’t go wrong with any of these recommended nature outings.

Nob Hill/Huntington Park 

The Flood Mansion on Nob Hill

The most select place to live in San Francisco in the late 19th century, before the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, was known as Nob Hill. The elevated neighborhood is located around the present Huntington Park, along California Street, between Taylor and Cushman Streets.

You can go there by taking the California Street Cable Car up the hill. Get off at the summit and enjoy the greenery of this block-square park, bordered by the Mark Hopkins Hotel and other landmarks.

Your Best Shot: Only one great house survived the fire after the 1906 Quake. That was the red-stone James Flood mansion, 1000 California St. Get an image of this Victorian architectural treasure, including some shots of you in the photo. The Flood mansion is now an exclusive men’s club.

Around the square there are other notable structures. The imposing Episcopal Grace Cathedral looms to the west. To the east the Fairmont Hotel stands where James Fair’s mansion once flourished. Collis P. Huntington, another mover and shaker, had a grand house here, but it perished, replaced now by the Huntington Hotel.  A block west on California now lies the fancy Ritz-Carlton Hotel.

The fire after the Quake hopscotched through the great Victorian architectural legacy that had accumulated in San Francisco, destroying almost everything right here, but leaving other areas unscathed. The water mains in The City were broken, so there was no way to stop the fire, except, ironically, with dynamite, destroying some buildings to save others.

Pause on a bench in Huntington Park to absorb the scene. A lyrical fountain spews water. Children may cavort on a sandy playground with swings. Dog walkers follow their well-behaved and unleashed pets with discreet plastic bags. In early morning, tai chi practitioners may be pursuing their routines. On the weekend, the park may be hosting an art show

If You Go:

Area: Downtown

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nob_Hill,_San_Francisco

Address: 1000 California St, San Francisco, CA 94108

Phone: None

Price: Free

North Beach Coffee and Culture

Coffee in North Beach

San Francisco’s North Beach is an iconic Italian neighborhood best explored on foot. Coffee shops and small restaurants, a landmark bookstore, intriguing architecture, and specialty shops, such as bakeries and grocery stores, abound in the blocks around Washington Square, the heart of North Beach.

North Beach is adjacent to Chinatown and could be explored easily after a look at Chinatown. Walk up Grant St through Chinatown to Columbus. When you reach Columbus, start enjoying North Beach.

Your Best Shot: The iconic architecture of the beloved Sentinel/Zoetrope Building makes an interesting photo. Locate yourself at 916 Kearny St, the Sentinel Building. Movie director Francis Ford Coppola bought it and renamed it the American Zoetrope Building after his movie production company. Step across the street and view it with the visionary Transamerica Pyramid building in the background. The juxtaposition of the two adjacent buildings puts the elegant old against the innovative new. Within the Zoetrope building is Coppola’s Café Zoetrope, a fine-dining restaurant featuring wines from his Napa Valley estate.

For coffee, try Caffe Roma (526 Columbus Ave, http://www.cafferoma.com), which serves Italian espresso, roasted daily on the premises. Accompany with Italian pastries or authentic Italian panini. Later in the day the beverage of choice is wine by the glass. The restaurant attracts an assortment of locals and out-of-towners. It has changing art exhibits. You might want to peruse the specialty coffee-roasting equipment.

For culture, browse the famous City Lights Bookstore (261 Columbus Ave, http://www.citylights.com). The bookstore was founded in 1953 by Beat Generation literary luminary Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Go upstairs to a small room called the Poetry Room.

I remember sitting on the floor of this room with Lawrence and others in the late 1960s when I was a young student of literature at Stanford. We would read our poetry and discuss the anxieties of the time. Lawrence had a subtle influence on many. Perhaps it was better to write one poem of your own rather than do learned literary commentaries in academic books ad infinitum.

Ferlinghetti was also a publisher. His most famous publication, beyond his own lucid books, was Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. Today you may still find a copy of it for sale on the shelves in the Poetry Room.

The address below is for City Lights.

If You Go:

Area: Chinatown/North Beach

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Beach,_San_Francisco

Address: 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-362-8193

North to Marin County 

Yellow bush lupine wildflowers, Point Reyes

Marin County offers some of the outstanding nature experiences in the Bay Area, plus two small towns, Sausalito and Tiburon, that are cultural treats.

A car will generally be required for this exploration, though you could actually rent a bike at Fisherman’s Wharf and bike across the Bridge to Sausalito, ferrying back to SF. Both Sausalito and Tiburon are served by the Blue and Gold Fleet (http://www.blueandgoldfleet.com/) boats from Fisherman’s Wharf.

Each of these Marin County subjects has its own write-up in this presentation.

Conzelman Road on the Marin Headlands provides three special turnouts where you can look back and see the Golden Gate Bridge, the skyline of The City, and sometimes even a huge container ship going in or out through the narrow Golden Gate passage.

Sausalito is a small town with art galleries, shops, and pleasant dining options with Bay views. Strolling and dining in Sausalito is a favorite combination.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Tiburon is a parallel to Sausalito, another small bayside town with fine-dining restaurants at the water’s edge. Tiburon offers many galleries/shops to explore and hosts a small ferry that is the main mode that goes to Angel Island. This island state park presents a level perimeter road where a walk or shuttle ride allows for stunning, fresh-air views.

Muir Woods, 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, is the choice place in the Bay Area to see the landmark old-growth redwood trees of California. This tree species, sequoia sempervirens, is the tallest tree on planet Earth.

Point Reyes is a National Seashore segment of the National Parks Service, 42 miles north and west of San Francisco, perhaps 1.5 hours on the narrow roads. A drive-up-and-stroll on Limantour Beach plunges you into the best of Point Reyes, but the helpful Visitor Center can also suggest many further options.

Kayaking Tomales Bay at Point Reyes is an exciting adventure option. The veteran provider of the service, Blue Water Kayaks, knows how to make a guided kayak tour safe and enjoyable.

North to Marin County is one of the enticing options as a visitor decides what to explore beyond the dense 7×7-square-mile urban expanse of San Francisco.

Oakland Downtown 

Paramount Theatre in Oakland

Beyond the Jack London waterfront and the brilliant Oakland Museum of California, there is a third subject in Oakland of vital interest to travelers.

That could be described as the Oakland Downtown, accessible from the BART 12th Street and 19th St stations.

Oakland Downtown is a diverse, diffuse, and a somewhat complicated subject, but here are some highlights.

The lovely Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, is a celebrated and eminently photographable movie palace. This gorgeous Art Deco masterpiece from the 1930s delights from the outside, with its tiled mural facade.

Your Best Shot: Get a photo of the lovely façade of the Paramount. Go ahead and put yourself in the image for some shots. 

Equally beautiful inside are exquisite Art Deco details. Perusing the Paramount takes you back to an era when such movie theaters were indeed flourishing. When built in 1931, the Paramount had the largest seating capacity of any theater on the West Coast. Tours are available (http://www.paramounttheatre.com, 510-465-6400).

At 9th Street, between Washington and Broadway, you’ll see renovation and restoration at work. This Old Oakland restoration consists of shops and restaurants, supplementing the excellent Ratto’s International Market & Deli, 821 Washington St, a kind of culinary mirror of this diverse city. Around Old Oakland are new office buildings that have changed the face of the downtown. Dedicated volunteers offer architecture tours. See the Visit Oakland website (below) for details.

On the other side of Broadway is Oakland’s vigorous “Chinatown,” but it is more correctly described as an “Asiatown.” Oakland has welcomed waves of new migrants from Asia for decades. My son Bart went to a middle school here with kids from about 30 countries, mainly from Asia. Up and down Broadway there are many restaurant entrepreneurs at work. For example, try Izzy’s Steaks and Chops, 59 Grand, for the perfect steak.

Lake Merritt, a 155-acre saltwater lake in the heart of Oakland, is a popular recreation area. Walking and jogging around the lake are popular. Along the edge of Lake Merritt, at 666 Bellevue Ave, you’ll find one of the outstanding public gardens in California, the Lakeside Park Garden Center, covering 122 acres that are intensely cultivated throughout the year. Permanent displays include a Japanese garden and an herb and fragrance garden.

So, put on your walking shoes, get some good info from Visit Oakland, and explore the Oakland Downtown.

The details below are for Visit Oakland, the tourism entity for the city.

If You Go:

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: https://www.visitoakland.com/

Address: Visitor Center at 481 Water St, Oakland, CA 94607

Phone: 510-839-9000

Price: Free

Oakland Museum of California 

Art at the Oakland Museum of California

The Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St, was one of the first museums to present exhibits as environments, such as the American kitchen in the 1940s. Before, most museums displayed static collections, such as seashells of the world. Separate floors cover California Art, California History, and California Natural Science.

Your Best Shot: This is a good place for you to seek out a painting, an artifact, or a creature that inspires you about California, making a photo of the subject and of you with the subject. The outdoor garden also has many visually interesting sculptures.

On the Art floor you can see paintings of California by Albert Bierstadt and photos by Dorothea Lange.

The History floor includes displays of the waves of immigration that enriched California life.

California’s wildlife and ecosystems are presented on the Natural Science floor.

The museum architecture is noteworthy, with the building sunk into the ground, allowing roof gardens on top of each tiered floor.

One of the popular annual shows is the Bay Area Mycological Society’s Fungus Fair, in November, which displays the season’s offerings of wild mushrooms.

There are usually three current shows going, often of highly varied subjects. For example, recent popular shows have been on “Bees: Tiny Insects, Big Impact” and on “Out of the Box: The Rise of Sneaker Culture.”

If You Go:

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: http://museumca.org

Address: 1000 Oak St, Oakland, CA 94607

Phone:  510-318-8400

Price: Entrance charge, moderate

Ocean Beach/Great Highway 

A walk at Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach is a sandy panorama stretching along the western side of San Francisco.

It starts at the Cliff House and proceeds south, past Golden Gate Park, for about 3.5 miles to Fort Funston. The beach skirts residential areas, known as the Richmond and Sunset Districts. The Great Highway is the road adjacent to the beach.

The beach is flat and spacious, inviting walkers, runners, and dog walkers.

Your Best Shot: If the weather is sunny, this beach can be a scenic panorama for the photographer, especially if there are some clouds floating by.    

The size of the beach and its public nature, but without a lot of oversight, allows for some unusual impromptu gatherings of citizens. I once observed there a meetup of more than 250 owners of the dog species known as corgis.

The beach is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, an entity in the National Park Service.

Expect dense fog in summer, but sun can prevail in spring and autumn.

The beach is popular with surfers and swimmers, but there are occasional fatalities when participants underestimate the chilliness of the upwelling ocean or the roiling character of the waves.

If You Go: 

Area: Northern/Western Waterfront 

Website: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_Beach,_San_Francisco

Address: Ocean Beach, Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94121 

Phone: None 

Price: Free

Pacifica Hikes/Pier 

Sunset at Pacifica

Pacifica is a peaceful near-San Francisco oceanside location in northern San Mateo County, just south from Fort Funston.

The town offers a potential alternative to lodging in the metropolitan downtown, about 20 minutes away by car.

Turn into Rockaway Beach, the central location. At Rockaway you can enjoy the ocean surf and take a hearty walk up Mori Point hill to see wildflowers and whales in season. Dine on a crab sandwich at Nicks or a boiled Dungeness crab at the Moonraker. Stay overnight and you can be lulled to sleep by the waves.

Your Best Shot: The beach and rocks at Rockaway make a classic sunset shot, with and without you in the image. You can also sometimes catch surfers riding the waves with the sun dropping from the sky behind them. 

A five-mile paved path along the ocean takes you north or south around the seaside hills and to new beaches. A Segway provider leads guided outings along this path on these “personal mobility” vehicles after giving you a thorough safety orientation.

One turnout north from Rockaway is the Pacifica Pier, which qualifies visually as an infrastructure repair opportunity. Walk out on the pier to see people fish or throw out their crab nets in season.

All along Pacifica the new nature story is how summer humpback whales now populate the area. The humpbacks pursue the exploding population of baitfish. Winter migrations of California gray whales swimming south from the Arctic to Baja and then back in spring is better known.

If You Go: 

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront 

Website: http://visitpacifica.com 

Address: Visit Pacifica, 225 Rockaway Beach Ave, Suite 1, Pacifica, CA 94044

Phone: 650-355-4122 

Price: Moderate

Palace of the Legion of Honor 

Sculpture at the Legion of Honor

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum rests on a promontory in Lincoln Park, near Lands End in the northwest corner of San Francisco, just north from the Golden Gate Park.

The building, from 1924, suggests a Francophile passion in the San Francisco elite, especially as The City recalled the loss of 3,600 California young men in the fields of France in World War I.

Your Best Shot: Consider a photo of the famous sculpture by Auguste Rodin, called The Thinker, in the courtyard. The sculpture alone and then you with The Thinker are the concepts. 

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Sugar baron Adolph Spreckels and his wife Alma fell in love with the French Pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition in 1915.

They wanted to contribute an uplifting cultural and educational institution to San Francisco. The war intervened, but soon after they took up the cause again, with the added aspect of recognizing the war dead.

They commissioned a reduced-size replica of Napoleon’s 18th-century Palace of the Legion of Honor in Paris, filling the structure with art and sculptural objects, strongly emphasizing France.

Besides many sculptures by Rodin, the collection has paintings by Degas, Renoir, Monet, Pissarro, Seurat, and Cezanne. Here you can see Claude Monet’s The Grand Canal and Water Lilies.

Temporary shows here and at the other great San Francisco museums are a big attraction. Check what’s on at the three FAMSF (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco) venues during your time of exploration. The other two museums are the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) in Downtown.

If You Go: 

Area: Golden Gate Park

Website: http://legionofhonor.famsf.org 

Address: 100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121 

Phone: 415-750-3600

Price: Moderate

Pescadero 

Goat cheese from Harley Farms, Pescadero

Pescadero is a small town and beach on the San Mateo Coast that takes its name from the Spanish word for “fishmonger.”

The town has charm and a destination restaurant, Duarte’s Tavern, which has been serving up fresh local seafood for generations.

Your Best Shot: The interior of Duarte’s restaurant or your plate of fresh seafood here would be a fitting photo. Walk up and down the main street and some other photos of village life may present themselves, such as a view inside a craft furniture store.

Get to Pescadero by driving south along the San Mateo Coast on Highway 1 and turning inland on Pescadero Creek Road.

However, before turning in, pause to enjoy Pescadero Beach, one of the largest along this coast. Pescadero Creek enters the ocean here. Birders love the Pescadero Marsh, where more than 180 avian species have been counted. There are walking trails.

From Pescadero, some travelers will continue south to take in the nearby architectural landmark Pigeon Point Lighthouse and the elephant seal-rich Ano Nuevo State Park.

When traveling north from Pescadero toward San Francisco, a scenic backcountry road alternative is Stage Road.

As you leave Pescadero there is an interesting tour possibility at Harley Farms. This goat cheese operation produces a high-end cheese, packaged in baseball-size balls with flower petal décor. You can see the goats, take a tour, and buy some tasty cheese. 

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 

Website: http://www.smccvb.com/welcome

Address: Pescadero, CA 94060

Phone: None 

Price: Free

Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay 

The wondrous Aquarium of the Bay, Pier 39

San Francisco’s Pier 39 Aquarium of the Bay, adjacent to Pier 39, presents a spectacular introduction to the wondrous creatures and habitat of the Bay and Delta environment, a critical ecosystem in Northern California.

The exhibits will please all ages. A focus on the local environment and its incredible richness makes this aquarium special. Long, clear plastic tunnels allow a visitor to see fish and other sea creatures both above and to the sides, creating an underwater experience that immerses a viewer in the subject.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Your Best Shot: An image of creatures, such as sharks, swimming outside the plastic tunnel on all sides of you can be a satisfying memento of the day. The eye level presentation also allows striking close-up photos of many Bay water creatures. 

A Discover the Bay exhibit greets you upon arrival. This crowd favorite includes beauties of the Bay, such as bright orange Garibaldi fish and green moray eels. A swirling school of anchovy fish prompts a visitor to wonder how they keep so evenly spaced in a swift-moving cluster. A jellyfish exhibit shows the moon jellies and Pacific sea nettles that are the main local jelly species along the California Coast.

There are touch-the-creature opportunities for young children and more complex laboratory presentations for older children and adults.

All visitors come face to face with the largest predator in the Bay, the sevengill shark. They also make the acquaintance of all five shark species that live in the Bay. A shark feeding tour, equipping the visitor with a bucket of fish, is another favorite behind-the-scenes option for an extra fee.

Besides the exhibits, special talks, tours, and theater presentations may interest you. All details are on the website. A paid behind-the-scenes tour informs on how the Aquarium keeps its 20,000 sea creatures healthy.

Parking is convenient at the Pier 39 garage. The historic F-Line trolleys/streetcars arrive right at the front door as part of their Embarcadero and Market Street loop.

After the Aquarium of the Bay merged a few years ago with The Bay Institute, a nature appreciation organization, the mission of the Aquarium as a force for environmental change became central.

An exhibits on river otters celebrates efforts to restore the Bay ecosystem. River otters are seen as an indicator of the improving Bay water quality and fecundity, just as the health of sea otters along the coast is an index of the food-chain abundance in the ocean.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39

Website: http://www.aquariumofthebay.org

Address: Pier 39, Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-623-5300

Price: Admission charge, moderate

Pier 39 Sea Lions 

Sea Lions lounging at Pier 39

The sea lions at Pier 39 are a destination in themselves. Somehow, in 1989, a few sea lions made a beachhead on a boat anchorage at the marina on the west side of the pier.

Then a few more followed them. Gradually an entire invading army of sea lions claimed the territory, barking triumphantly.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

In winter, from Pier 39, you can look down on about 900 of them from Pier 39. Most are males who hang out here, feeding on herring in the Bay, before venturing to the Channel Islands for the summer.

Your Best Shot: Bleachers built for sea lion observation give you a good position from which to photograph the pinnipeds or take a wide-angle selfie with you in their domain. 

If the winds are blowing in your direction, you will have olfactory evidence of the sea lions’ presence.

A Marine Mammal Interpretive Center on the deck above the viewing bleachers tells the sea lion story. Check out their webcam (http://www.sealioncenter.org) at any moment to see how many local flippered residents are lounging on the sailboat slips. Sea lions live up to 25 years and the large males may reach 850 pounds. Naturalists from the Center give talks about the aquatic mammals at the bleachers.

Sea lions are a large member of the pinniped group. The name sea lion was given to them colloquially because of their barking, which sounded like a lions’ roar. The barking chorus can be intense. All social interactions within the group are duly reported. Males can be touchy about any other males invading their space, especially if breeding opportunities are imminent.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 29

Website: http://www.marinemammalcenter.org

Address: Pier 39, Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133 

Phone: 415-981-7437 

Price: Free

Pier 39 Shopping 

Crabs as art at Pier 39

A striking Dungeness crab sculpture greets you at the entrance to Pier 39. The festive crab sets the mood for the place, a shopping mecca with 90 specialty shops and 14 full-service restaurants. Other attractions here are the resident sea lions, the view of Alcatraz from the end of the pier, and next door the Aquarium of the Bay.

Your Best Shot: The crab could be your first photo in a collection of public art on display in San Francisco. Other major public sculptures are found along Fisherman’s Wharf. Additional interesting visuals can be collected east of the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero. Consider the sculptures themselves, plus you and the sculptures. 

Pier 39 is a 45-acre complex adjacent to Fisherman’s Wharf that offers shops, plus views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Bay Bridge. Fog Harbor Fish House is a restaurant that serves sustainable seafood and offers a view of the Golden Gate. Wipeout Bar & Grill is an example of a lively “surf theme” restaurant with a kids’ menu including mac and cheese.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Watch for the street-performer stage, a carousel for young children to ride, and a trampoline attraction for older children. A California Welcome Center on the upper level assists visitors with regional information.

Check out the website (see below) to print out a Fun Pack coupon good for two hours of free parking ($9/hour) in the large garage across the street from Pier 39. Take the coupon to the California Welcome Center to get the parking validation.

Pier 39 is a favorite site for festive events, such as viewing July 4 fireworks or watching carolers sing during the December Christmas/Holiday time.

If You Go: 

Area: Fisherman’s Wharf/Pier 39 

Website: https://www.pier39.com

Address: Pier 39, Embarcadero, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-981-7437 

Price: No charge to browse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, San Mateo Coast

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, sometimes called a Light Station, is one of the major architectural legacies among lighthouses along the U.S. Pacific coast. By all means make time in your schedule to see it if you can.

Built in 1872, this brick structure is the second tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. It is located along the San Mateo Coast five bucolic miles south of the Pescadero turnoff. The total distance is 50 miles south from San Francisco on Highway 1.

The 115-foot-high lighthouse is named after an ill-fated ship, the Carrier Pigeon, which ran aground here. The shipwreck suggested the need for a beacon to guide the busy sea commerce that developed, especially after the Gold Rush. The site is now a California State Historic Park.

Volunteers offer interpretive explanations, more likely on weekends, so consider yourself fortunate if someone knowledgeable is there to inform you.

Your Best Shot: Close-up photos of this edifice make an engaging photo, but long shots from the bluffs south of the lighthouse can also be striking. You may want to get both an objective photo of the lighthouse and a selfie with the structure in the background. Morning light will fall on the lighthouse. In afternoon it will be backlit. 

Wooden houses on the site function as an all-ages hostel, similar to the Point Montara Lighthouse hostel.

Pigeon Point has informative signage explaining the lighthouse rationale, based on shipwrecks. The Fog Signal Building itself now displays the station’s Fresnel lens. The ingenious lens could magnify and project a small kerosene light far out to sea. Light station keepers were called “wickies” because they managed the wicks of the kerosene lamps.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=533 

Address: 210 Pigeon Point Rd, Highway 1, Pescadero, CA 94060 

Phone: 650-879-2120 

Price: Free

Point Reyes 

Goldfields wildflowers at Point Reyes

Though Point Reyes is one of the great nature outings near San Francisco, there is also a historical/cultural mystery there for you to discover and solve.

Where is the precise spot that the English swashbuckler, Sir Francis Drake, landed his ship, the Golden Hind, for repairs in 1579? It was somewhere here on the Point Reyes coast. Drake’s ship was literally sinking with the weight of plundered Spanish silver.

He said he left a brass plate marking the spot. Maybe you could find it. The word “hind” meant female red deer and referred to the coat of arms of one of Drake’s backers.

Your Best Shot: If you fancy yourself as a modern-day explorer and want to aim your phone-camera or SLR camera at beauty, my main suggestions would be go to Chimney Rock and to Limantour Beach, both enticing seaside locations. Don’t rush the exploration. Stock up with celebrative food and drink in advance. You could spend a few hours in each location. Get yourself in the image and your fans will know that you are at Point Reyes, one of the loveliest seaside panoramic destinations in the world. 

Point Reyes National Seashore, at 71,028 acres, is “Point of the Kings” in Spanish, the language of the country that made the historic investment to control California. Drake, an Englishman, may be been the first European to set foot here, but England never made the commitment to settle California. Spain had the multiple incentives to save souls, accumulate wealth, and expand its empire.

Be sure to stop by the excellent Visitor Center at Point Reyes maintained by the National Park Service. The rangers can alert you to several other attractions here, including the Earthquake Walk, showing how the earth pulled apart 16 feet in the great 1906 Earthquake, and Kule Loklo, a replica of a Miwok Native American village.

If You Go: 

Area: North to Marin County 

Website: https://www.nps.gov/pore 

Address: Point Reyes National Seashore, Inverness, CA 94937 

Phone: 415-464-5100

Price: Free

Presidio 

A walk at Crissy Field

San Francisco’s Presidio National Park is a transformed former military base in San Francisco that is now a glorious national park.

The Presidio occupies a forested green open space at one of the world’s choicest real estate locations, adjacent to the Golden Gate Bridge.

One of the ironies of California history is that the military requirement to commandeer prime locations around the Golden Gate for their strategic importance has now resulted in a massive Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with natural landscapes saved from mundane urban development.

The Presidio nurtures the spirit of the modern urban person in need of outdoor refreshment. The Presidio also protects a few endangered species of plants and animals, such as the Presidio clarkia wildflower, which has nowhere else to survive.

Your Best Shot: Some of the most engaging photos to be made at the Presidio are of the Crissy Field walk, adjacent to the Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

Three nations, in a 200-plus-year period, used the Presidio as a strategic military base, following its long use by the original Californians, the Ohlone Indian people, who appreciated it as a cornucopia for their hunter/gatherer culture.

The Spanish arrived in 1776 with Franciscan Junipero Serra leading the religious conquest, which was accompanied by a military garrison or “presidio.” Mexico eventually exerted its independence from Spain, so the Presidio was briefly in Mexican control. The long American military use peaked in WWII, when the imminent threat of a Japanese invasion and supplying the Pacific military operations were the defining concerns.

Be sure to stop at the new William Penn Mott Jr. Presidio Visitor Center, located in Building 210 Lincoln Blvd at the bottom of the Main Post Parade Ground near the corner of Montgomery St. Displays will orient you to what to see at the Presidio.

The Parade Grounds of the Main Post, the Walt Disney Family Museum, and the Crissy Field walking path are a few of the main Presidio attractions.

If You Go: 

Area: Golden Gate Bridge/Presidio 

Website: https://www.nps.gov/prsf

Address: Presidio of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94129

Phone: 415-561-4323 

Price: Free

Princeton-by-the Sea

Princeton Harbor, San Mateo Coast

Princeton-by-the-Sea is part of a cozy and approachable cluster of attractions between Montara Beach and Half Moon Bay, centered at the Pillar Point Harbor turnoff. This is a fun area in which to poke around.

As you proceed south from Montara Beach, some entities to consider are the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, good for tide pool viewing, and the Point Montara Lighthouse, once a working lighthouse but now an all-ages hostel.

The area has been famous for its Titans of Mavericks surfing competition, but the organizers have had some fiscal troubles, so stay tuned about Mavericks’ future. The nearby ocean floor topography creates remarkably high surf waves a half mile offshore. Competitors fly in from all over the world when the call goes out that the waves are optimal. The Bluff Trail lets you gaze out to the ocean area where Mavericks takes place.

Turn in to Pillar Point Harbor and look around. This is Princeton-by-the-Sea. There are several good restaurants and the Harbor Village mall for shopping.

Your Best Shot: There’s always a lot of action among the small boats in the harbor, starting at the Johnson Pier. Be ready to photograph if something interesting appears before you. This might be fishermen returning with a catch of Dungeness crab. Put yourself in some photos of the boats to set the scene.

The harbor is the San Mateo Coast’s main launch point for commercial fishing, deep-sea sport fishing, whale-watching cruises, bird-watching expeditions, and kayaking.  A paved path along the water delights bicyclists and walkers.

Moving south towards Half Moon Bay, several small public park beaches invite exploration.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 

Website: http://www.smccvb.com 

Address: Princeton-by-the-Sea, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019 

Phone: None

Price: Free

Restaurants/Bars/Hotels 

Pasta ready to please

A visitor exploring San Francisco has many pleasant options when thinking of restaurants/bars/hotels.

Your Best Shot: You might ask, “Can you guide me to a couple of sites that combine all three components? I want a restaurant, with interesting food and a view, plus a bar where I can linger, and maybe it would be in an iconic lodging.” Two contenders come to mind. They are the traditional Top of the Mark at the Mark Hopkins Hotel and the new Cityscape at the downtown Hilton. Both are selfie-worthy and offer dramatic photo views of San Francisco from above. 

The classic hotels of San Francisco are each a world unto themselves. The Westin St. Francis, Mark Hopkins, Fairmont, Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, and Hyatt Regency are a few in this select class.

San Francisco has also been a leader in the boutique hotel movement, offering high touch personalized service at a small-scale property. The Joie de Vivre and Kimpton groups are both headquartered here and have multiple properties in San Francisco and California.

Among restaurants, the scene continues to support both the classic visions and the experimenters who want to put their name on a new culinary presentation. Tadich’s Grill has been around since just after the Gold Rush and Café de la Presse will always offer its classic French dishes. But Gary Danko and other celebrity chef restaurants salute innovation and their signature dishes.

Among bars, a special iconic place in the pantheon goes to the Buena Vista, where Irish coffee was introduced to Americans. Arguably, the most San Franciscan type of bar would be the wine bar, considering the state’s dominant role in American wine production. Peter Chouinard’s Bluxome Street Winery tasting room at Ghirardelli Square is one such place, where you can sample delicious Sauvignons and pinot noirs.

Some of these mentioned entities have their own write-ups in this presentation. Others are part of a larger subject.

San Francisco 49ers 

49er Stadium in Santa Clara

Memories of past great teams, resulting in Super Bowl victories, inspire fans of today’s San Francisco 49ers football team.

A glorious past helps the follower to accept the dismal present. As everyone knows, fortune can change quickly in sport. 

Your Best Shot: Memorable photos can be made if you are in the stadium, looking down at the gladiators, recording the contest. 

The 49ers have been one of the legendary franchise dynasties of the National Football League, so fans always await in down times a return to the euphoria of the glorious past. The golden era was the 1980s and early 1990s, when the 49ers won five Super Bowls in 14 years, four of them in the 1980s.

The dynasty began with the appearance of Coach Bill Walsh in 1979, followed by the acquisition of quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young, plus pass receiver Jerry Rice. Coach Walsh strategized to develop a “West Coast offense” of short pass gains that proved difficult to defend against.

During the glory years, the 49ers played at windy Candlestick Park in southern San Francisco. In 2014 they moved to the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

If you take the 49 Mile Drive self-tour through San Francisco, you pass close to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. Kezar was the original home of the 49ers. The setting has a quaint and retro feel to it, recalling football before the modern era of huge television emphasis and multi-thousand fan seating. The San Francisco 49ers joined the NFL in 1949.

Sports fans in San Francisco have three main options for professional teams. Besides the football 49ers, there are the baseball Giants, who play in a handsome stadium along the Embarcadero. The basketball Golden State Warriors now play at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, but will likely re-locate to a new stadium on the San Francisco waterfront.

The following information is for the 49ers.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Website: http://www.49ers.com

Address: 4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way, Santa Clara, CA 95054 

Phone:  415-464-9377 

Price: Expensive, for game day tickets, if the team is winning

San Francisco Airport 

Approaching the airport

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) lies 13 miles south of San Francisco along the Bay, east of Highway 101 at Millbrae. The airport is easily accessible with the BART rail system, an excellent option compared to driving to the airport.

As befits a world-class airport, the scene at SFO continues to evolve. Four runways bring in and take out about 50 million passengers a year.

Your Best Shot: An impressive piece of public art at the airport can be an intriguing image. Get the shot of the art object and then an image of you with it. Art object possibilities at the terminals can be seen on the SFO website (below).

Recent developments include a futuristic new control tower, which opened in 2016. Terminals 2 and 3 have been refurbished. The public art on display at the airport is impressive, though harried travelers may scarcely notice it.

Developments on the horizon will be an in-airport hotel and an ever-better range of restaurant choices. Today’s traveler can sometimes do deals with nearby hotels, such as the El Rancho Inn in Millbrae, to stash their cars for free for a travel period and get a shuttle to the airport. The total cost is one night’s lodging at the hotel.

At the south end of the airport there is a parking lot for folks who like to relax in their cars and see the magic of giant planes taking off and landing from the four runways. 

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Website: http://www.flysfo.com

Address: San Francisco Airport, SFO, San Francisco, CA 94128 

Phone:  650-821-8211

Price: Free

San Francisco Giants 

Giants baseball in SF

The San Francisco Giants are The City’s highly successful baseball team.

They won the World Series in 2014, 2012, and 2010.

Wikipedia asserts that the Giants have won more games than any other professional baseball team. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Francisco_Giants).

The Giants play ball at AT&T Park, a handsome stadium on the Embarcadero adjacent to San Francisco Bay. I remember how a fleet of fans would hang out in the water in their kayaks to catch Barry Bonds’ record home run ball. Bonds hit the most home runs in a single season (73 in 2001). I happened to be there the electric day when he hit #71.

Your Best Shot: You are permitted to wander around the stadium during the game. Make your personal 7th inning stretch a walk to a high point in the arena behind home plate. From there you can get a shot of the diamond, the outfield bleachers, and San Francisco Bay. And, best of all, you can put yourself in some of the images to record your own fan-of-the-day selfies.

Maybe the mascots Lou Seal and Crazy Crab have the magic that propels forward this winning team.

Outside the stadium is a sculpture to the beloved Giants player, Willie McCovey. He was one of the greatest power hitters of all time. McCovey’s swing generated 521 home runs, 231 of which he hit in Candlestick Park, the former stadium for the Giants. No player hit more home runs in that stadium. One homer, from September 16, 1966, was measured as the longest ever hit in that stadium.

If You Go: 

Area: Embarcadero

Website: http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com

Address: AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco, CA 94107 

Phone: 415-972-2000

Price: Expensive, if the team is winning

Sausalito 


Scoma’s Restaurant in Sausalito

Sausalito is a picturesque bayside town in Marin County, immediately north of San Francisco.

Cross the Golden Gate and take the first turn to the right. Or take a Blue and Gold Fleet ferry over. Or ride over on your rental bike from Fisherman’s Wharf, across the Golden Gate Bridge, with return on the ferry.

Sausalito is a dining, shopping, and strolling mecca with pleasing Bay views.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Your Best Shot: This might be your best opportunity to get an image on a plate of the signature menu item for the Bay Area, the Dungeness crab, with the iconic skyline of San Francisco in the background. Put yourself in some of the images. 

Some restaurants, such as Scoma’s and The Trident, are built literally on pilings over the water. Both have outdoor seating, with good views of San Francisco.

Walk along the main street, Bridgeway, to get a sense of the place. On weekends, you may encounter an unusual artist, rock balancer Bill Dan. He has an uncanny ability to set rocks on top of each other. Give Dan a tip and he will be pleased to let you photograph his creations, possibly with him, you, and the piled-high rocks in a selfie.

Proceed farther along the main street and stroll through the town. You will come upon the yacht harbor. A large number of sailing craft and yachts call Sausalito home. Houseboats are a Sausalito specialty. You’ll see a large number of live-aboard floating homes on the northern end of town.

Browse the tourism website (see below) to see the various attractions of Sausalito. One only-in-Sausalito possibility is the Bay Model Visitor Center. The Bay Model is a 3-D hydraulic model of the entire San Francisco Bay and Delta areas. The model is capable of simulating tides, currents, and river inflows. Visit the Bay Model at 2100 Bridgeway.

If You Go: 

Area: North to Marin County

Website: http://www.sausalito.org/

Address: 1913 Bridgeway, Sausalito, CA 94965  

Phone: 415-331-7262

Price: Free

SF A to Z List: Everything to See! 

Golden Gate Bridge

Under SF A-Z: Everything to See! you will find alphabetically the 100-plus subjects that I feel will be your best travel experience choices for San Francisco and areas nearby. I have personally visited each and every place recommended.

I have introductory sections alerting you to all attractions in an area, such as Golden Gate Park, or as part of a theme, such as Culture/Museums. The main group of these sections divides San Francisco into 10 Areas where subjects can be found. I also have a few thematic introductions (beyond Culture/Museums to suggest Lee’s Top 10 SF Experiences, Iconic Photo Views, and Nature/Hikes, etc.) and the three directions from SF where you will find nearby attractions (North to Marin County, East to Oakland/Berkeley, and South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside).

Each of my 100-plus subjects has a succinct text explaining why the subject is likely to interest you. Below that is If You Go information, citing the area where the subject resides, plus the website, address, and phone for a contact. If there is a charge or not, that will be indicated as Free, Moderate, or Expensive.

You are welcome to send me a note indicating how this presentation helped you. Email to me at Lee Foster, [email protected]. Please send me any errors you find or any omissions that should have been included. My hope is that this presentation will enrich your travel experience to San Francisco. More detail from me on many of these subjects can be seen if you Search on my website at http://www.fostertravel.com.

South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside 

Half Moon Bay Beach

The San Mateo Coast offers immediate ocean and beach access for an explorer leaving San Francisco. By contrast, the drive north to Marin/Sonoma and Point Reyes takes more time to get to the water.

Each of the sequential attractions on this San Mateo Coast has its own write-up in this presentation.

Pacifica offers hikes, seafood dining, and a long pier that gives you a chance to walk over the water.

Montara is a pristine beach presenting a rustic demeanor, especially in golden afternoon light.

Princeton-by-the-Sea lets you poke around fishing boats and perhaps negotiate with a live fisherman over a take-home super-fresh salmon or Dungeness crab.

Half Moon Bay’s classic general store, Cunha’s, is now the place to order a deli sandwich as you continue your excursion south.

Pescadero State Beach, where a stream enters the ocean, is one of the largest and most dramatic strands along the coast. Bluffs at Pescadero might be the place to eat that deli sandwich, unless you prefer a more posh seafood meal in the inland town of Pescadero at the landmark restaurant, Duarte’s Tavern.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse is one of the two grandest light stations constructed in the 19th century along the California coast. Pigeon Point’s rival is Point Arena on the Mendocino coast.

Ano Nuevo is home to immense elephant seals, bellowing their way up and down the beach. This species is now secure but was formerly on the brink of extinction.

All these enticements await you as you travel south from San Francisco on the San Mateo Coast.

When proceeding along the inland route as you leave San Francisco, traveling down Highway 101 along the Bay, there is space in this presentation for three options.

SFO or San Francisco Airport is a bustling world unto itself. Go there sometime when you are not frantically trying to make a flight. Admire all its public art, the inviting restaurants/shops, and the sophisticated airport design.

Stanford University can be perused for the Romanesque inner-quad architecture of its campus and the extraordinary Cantor Museum, where you can see a hollowed-out redwood log that served Yurok Indians as a sea-going canoe.

San Francisco’s 49ers have left their Candlestick Park home, now demolished, for new digs at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Fans long for a return to the good old days of winning records and championships.

That’s all that space allows in this direction for this presentation. But if headed south of San Francisco, you might want to explore the three great museums that define the Silicon Valley. They are the Intel Museum, the Computer Museum, and The Tech museum in San Jose. You can inform yourself on the museums by Searching on my website at http://www.fostertravel.com.

Sports Teams

Giants baseball in SF

San Francisco has three main professional sports teams. Each is a major aspect of travel to the region.

The teams are the baseball San Francisco Giants, basketball Golden State Warriors, and football San Francisco 49ers.

Each has its own write-up in this presentation.

The Giants play at the handsome AT&T Stadium along the San Francisco waterfront. Their World Series success in the last decade animates the fans.

The Golden State Warriors now play at the Oakland Oracle Arena, but will likely relocate to a site along the San Francisco waterfront in the future. With the new east span tower of the Bay Bridge as the logo on their uniform, the fan-base transition will probably excite only muted protest.

The San Francisco 49ers left their Candlestick Park home in 2014 and headed south to new digs at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Unfortunately, their mojo “went south” also. Aficionados long for the golden ages of the past.

For every winner at sport, there is also a loser. Fans have their hopes. Team fortunes can change overnight. A few live fans participate along with many TV fans. Many TV fans nationwide get their first glimpse of San Francisco’s travel allure through incidental images of The City presented during sport contests.

Stanford/Palo Alto 

Hoover Tower at Stanford University

Stanford University is both an intellectual bastion and a engaging visual campus to peruse. If you visit, include a free walking tour (see website), led by a current student.

One signature building to see is the Hoover Tower, which honors a famous alumnus, Herbert Hoover. His reputation suffered because he happened to preside as President over the Great Depression.

Another landmark is the inner quad, a collection of Romanesque sandstone buildings, plus Memorial Church, some of the first campus architectural elements.

Your Best Shot: The Hoover Tower and the inner quad are the signature architectural photos for your collection. It’s easy to include yourself in some images, creating a wide-angle selfie. 

The Rodin sculptures on the campus would be a further visual amenity to consider.

On October 1, 1891, Senator Leland Stanford and his wife, Jane, officially opened Leland Stanford Junior University. The school was destined to become one of the premier institutions of higher education and also one of the lovelier campuses in the West.

The University owes its existence to a tragic death in Italy. After typhoid fever took their only child, a 15-year-old son, while the family toured Europe, the Stanfords decided to turn their 8,200-acre stock farm into the Leland Stanford Junior University so that “the children of California may be our children.”

The Cantor Center for Visual Arts, formerly the Stanford Museum of Art, on Museum Way off Palm Drive, has an eclectic collection that includes much Stanford family memorabilia and the gold spike that united the first transcontinental railroad. A Yurok Indian canoe, carved out of a redwood log, is among the special California artifacts.

If You Go: 

Area: South to San Mateo Coast/Bayside

Website: http://www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo/tours

Address: 450 Serra Mall, Stanford, CA 94305 

Phone: 650-723-2560

Price: Free

Tiburon 

Sam’s Restaurant in Tiburon

Tiburon is a culturally rich, art-focused town on the water in the North Bay. It will delight a traveler who has an opportunity to explore north of the Golden Gate. Tiburon and nearby Sausalito are two of a kind (see my Sausalito listing).

A good way to view Tiburon is from the water. You can take a Blue and Gold Fleet ferry from San Francisco Pier 41. There is also a small local ferry going back and forth to Angel Island. The town is nestled along the bay with a low hill as the backdrop.

Tiburon’s appeals include its bayside walking path, its outdoor restaurants such as Guaymas and Sam’s Anchor Cafe, and the many art and antique shops. The shops occupy an L-shaped main street, one leg of which is called Ark Row. An example is the Ruth Livingston Studio, featuring custom-design furniture, at 74 Main Street.

The “Ark” story is fascinating. Tiburon had a Bohemian past, going back to the 1890s, in which recreational houseboats were prominent for artists, sea captains, and San Franciscans looking for a summer retreat. When the land was drained, the boats became arks and now house art and design shops. See authentic arks at 104, 106, 108, and 116 Ark Row. Another good fine-dining option in that area is the Don Antonio Trattoria for its Italian specialties.

For an ambitious walk or a bike trek, take the paved path along the water from town out to Richardson Bay, a major birding habitat, including a park known as Blackie’s Pasture.

Your Best Shot: There is a public art piece at a fountain in the center of town that captures the spirit of the scene. The sculpture, called Coming About, shows, abstractly, sails caught by the wind. This art object can be a lyrical image, with opportunities to put yourself in the setting.

The ride to Tiburon on a boat gets you out on the Bay with an opportunity to view and photograph sailboats, the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and rafts of seabirds in the water.

The Railroad & Ferry Depot Museum in Tiburon depicts local railroad history. Inquire if it is open during your visit. Tiburon functioned as the terminus of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad until 1963. Of course, before the Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1936, the railroad, the ferries, and cargo boats/ships were the only way to travel between San Francisco and the more northerly reaches of California.

If You Go: 

Area: North to Marin County

Website: http://www.townoftiburon.org/

Address: 1505 Tiburon Blvd, Tiburon, CA 94920 

Phone: 415-435-7373

Price: Free

Tour Boats on the Bay 

View from a tour boat on the Bay

Sailing out onto the Bay and under the Golden Gate Bridge into the Pacific Ocean in a tour boat is a magical adventure. The boat will finally pause, turn around, give you a view of the Bridge and the skyline of The City, and return to the Bay.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

Three main providers offer the service. They are:

Blue and Gold Fleet, from Pier 41, http://www.blueandgoldfleet.com

Red and White Fleet, Pier 39, https://www.redandwhite.com

And

Hornblower Cruises, Pier 3, https://www.hornblower.com/home/sf 

Your Best Shot: The moment when your boat turns at the far point of the trip, on the west side of the Golden Gate Bridge, will likely be your best photo opportunity. You can easily get photos of the Bridge alone and the San Francisco skyline. Get some celebratory images also of yourself with the Bridge and SF skyline in the background. 

Study each of the websites to see what kind of Bay boat tour meets your wishes. There are one-hour, two-hour, and longer tours. Some tours provide just basic transportation, while others, especially Hornblower, include lavish brunches or dinners, with live entertainment. Commentary on a Bay tour may be in English and/or in other languages, and may be intrusive or subdued.

Besides going out beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, what else do you want to see? Some tours sail past Alcatraz Prison Island, while others do not.

Other options for getting out on the Bay are the ferries, leaving mainly from the Ferry Building at the foot of Market St. Boats to Alcatraz Prison Island from Pier 33 also get you out on the water, 

Try to include some excursion out on the Bay as part of your celebration of San Francisco.

The information below is for Blue and Gold Fleet. 

If You Go: 

Area: On the Bay

Website: http://www.blueandgoldfleet.com/

Address: Pier 41, San Francisco, CA 94133

Phone: 415-705-8200

Price: Moderate

Transamerica Pyramid from Coppola’s Zoetrope Building 

Zoetrope and Transamerica, old and new SF

Sometimes, to enjoy the best experience and make the choice photo, you need to know exactly where to stand. This is one of those cases. Go exactly to the corner of Kearny St and Columbus Ave, then step across Kearny to the uphill curb.

Look towards Downtown.

In the background will be the Transamerica Pyramid, arguably the most architecturally distinctive modern building in San Francisco.

In the immediate foreground is Francis Ford Coppola’s Zoetrope Building, 916 Kearny, one of the most charming structures from an earlier era in San Francisco. 

Your Best Shot: Make an image of this view, the old and the new, the charming past and the distinctive present in San Francisco. With some framing effort, you can get your own visage into this picture. 

Because of its shape, the Transamerica Pyramid, 600 Montgomery, is such an unusual commercial building. This four-sided pyramid is covered with a white crushed quartz, which creates the bright-white appearance.

The story of why the pyramid shape was chosen by architect William Pereira for this 1972 construction is a tale of zoning intrigue, told best in a Wikipedia reference (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transamerica_Pyramid).

The movie director’s Zoetrope Building is a beloved older North Beach Italian structure.

The photo works best about 2 p.m. on a sunny day to view the sun on both buildings. The view is most striking when you can get a blue sky in the background.

Remember that this is San Francisco, so the gray times tend to be during winter rains and summer heavy fog days. April and October are choice times for blue sky weather.

Consider dining on Italian food, from pasta to chicken cacciatore, at Zoetrope Restaurant. See the menu in the link below.

Since there is not much that a visitor can do inside the Transamerica Pyramid, the info below is for the Zoetrope Bldg.

If You Go: 

Area: Downtown 

Website: https://www.cafezoetrope.com

Address: 916 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94133 

Phone: 415-291-1700

Price: Moderate

Twin Peaks View 

View of Downtown from Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks is a prominent set on two hills near the geographic center of The City. Atop these peaks, you can experience a stunning view of the Downtown skyline from a southerly perspective. The Downtown glimpse is a narrow aspect of the full panoramic presentation of San Francisco.

Your Best Shot: This sweeping vista of San Francisco, with and without you in the image, is a memorable addition to your Bay Area visuals. Light will be best in afternoon to evening, as the sun proceeds west and falls on the Downtown. You can return to Twin Peaks time and again. The light will always be different, and fog may be a drifting ally in your composition.  

The promontory reaches an elevation of 922 feet, exceeded in The City only by Mt. Davidson (928 feet). Hiking trails, managed by the SF Recreation and Parks, allow foot access to the 64 acres. A figure-8 road circles the summits, leading to the north peak parking lot and view area.

You might see a Mission blue endangered butterfly or a wily coyote on Twin Peaks. Coastal fog hits the west side, but the east flank is usually sunnier and warmer. Winds can be intense, so come prepared with a wind breaker or other warm garment.

The Recreation and Parks website (see below) is informative, with a trail map and details about Twin Peaks.

Coastal scrub vegetation, with coyote brush and silver blue bush lupine, helps you imagine what San Francisco hills looked like when Ohlone Indians lived here and walked the hills in search of medicinal herbs and berries.

If You Go: 

Area: Mission/Castro

Website: http://sfrecpark.org/destination/twin-peaks/

Address: 501 Twin Peaks Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94114 

Phone: 415-831-6331  

Price: Free

Union Square 

Hanging out at Union Square

If there is one site to be designated as the Heart of The City, it is Union Square.

Hang out here to observe the cast of characters passing through the sunny plaza, including the street performers who frequent the area. Pause at the outdoor cafe for a latte.

The Westin St. Francis Hotel and major department stores, such as Neiman Marcus and Macy’s, line the Square. Cable Cars clang their way up Powell St on the west side of the Square.

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

If there is a protest or political rally affecting the populace, it is likely to have some expression in Union Square and/or at Civic Center. Citizens offering you the promise of eternal salvation also frequent the Square.

Your Best Shot: A street entertainer, either here or at Fisherman’s Wharf, is a fitting candidate for your San Francisco image collection. Try to get the entertainer performing here before one of the logo “hearts” that line the western corners of the Square, to add context. Put a dollar in a tip cup, and you too could have a selfie moment with Gold Man, one character who appears sprayed gold, literally top of hat to toe, and stands mime-like as a frozen statue, except when he breaks to toy-soldier mode and gives a stiff but appreciative recognition of tips. 

Commercial, financial, and tourism energy all come into focus at Union Square.

If you want to see the Square well-lit, your best bet will be mid-day. The sun streams down on the loungers and the 97-foot-tall Dewey Monument in the center. For more on the Dewey Monument, including the voluptuous socialite who posed in a diaphanous garment to grace the top of the sculpture, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_Square,_San_Francisco.

For an elevated perspective on the Square, go the eighth-floor Cheesecake Factory restaurant at Macy’s and gaze down.

If You Go: 

Area: Downtown

Website: http://www.visitunionsquaresf.com

Address: 333 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94108 

Phone: 415-559-9579

Price: Free

University of California Berkeley 

Campanile at UC Berkeley

UC Berkeley and Stanford are the two main university campuses to consider for visits in Northern California.

UC Berkeley is at the apex of the state’s public university system. Stanford is the preeminent private university in the area. Both have visually interesting architecture.

The signature building of the UC Berkeley campus is the Campanile. With stairs to the top, the 307-foot-tall structure is officially known as Sather Tower. Sixty-one massive bells at the top, called the carillon, provide musical performances.

Almost everyone approaching the University comes in through a walkway known as Sather Gate. This unique funnel architecture defined the UC cultural experience, going back to the Free Speech days. Those with a cause to champion could get up on a podium at Sather Gate, where everyone must pass, and spread the message efficiently.

Your Best Shot: An image of Sather Gate with the Campanile in the background would capture the essence of the place. Put yourself in the image and the scene is complete.

Review the campus website (see below) for free student-led tours. Visitor info is at http://visit.berkeley.edu.

UC Berkeley got started in 1866 when trustees of an entity called College of California gathered on a hillside overlooking the Bay and proclaimed that a university would be founded. Someone read from the works of Irish Bishop George Berkeley, who wrote, “Westward the course of the empire takes its way.” The sentiments were thought to be appropriate, so the name Berkeley was given to the university and new town. Berkeley was a college town from the beginning.

Beyond the campus, there are three places especially interesting to explore in Berkeley. First is the artsy downtown, near the BART Station, including the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Second is the Gourmet Ghetto on Shattuck Ave, a few blocks north of downtown, especially between Cedar and Vine, where you’ll find Alice Waters’s famous Chez Panisse restaurant. And third, along the Bay, Cesar Chavez Park offers a fresh-air walking opportunity and is a brilliant concept of urban design, turning a former landfill into an engaging public park.

If You Go: 

Area: East to Oakland/Berkeley

Website: http://www.berkeley.edu

Address: University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720 

Phone: 510-642-6000 

Price: Free

Victorian Architecture Self-Tour

Haas-Lilienthal Victorian

The Victorian architecture that survived in San Francisco after the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906 amounts to one of the major amenities of The City.

One of the loveliest places to see Victorians is Alamo Square, where a row of ornate 19th-century houses can be viewed in the foreground, juxtaposed against the modern skyline of The City in the background. If you want to rest, relax, and picnic while exploring San Francisco, Alamo Square is an ideal place to pause, with this iconic view before you. The sun shines on the front of the Victorians after about 2 p.m. each day.

Your Best Shot: An image of these “Painted Ladies” at Alamo Square or a façade of one of the great Victorians, such as the Haas-Lilienthal House at 2007 Franklin St, would be a memorable element in your SF image collection. Possibly put yourself in some photos, perhaps with a subdued hand wave, as would have been royally acceptable from Queen Victoria (1837-1901), after whom all this grand architecture is named. 

The fire after the Great Earthquake of 1906 was a truly catastrophic event. More than 28,000 buildings burned. Because the water lines of The City were broken, there was no way to douse the flames as they ate their way through the wooden buildings. The only effective tool was dynamite, blowing up a house in the fire’s path, hoping that the break would allow the fire to be contained.

San Francisco’s remaining Victorian heritage is spread out. A driving tour allows you to see many of the survivors.

Here is my recommended drive. The directions are precise, taking advantage of one-way streets, and are easily understood with a map in hand or on a device. The area is rather large, so driving is recommended rather than walking.

Start at California and Franklin. Drive north on Franklin, then left on Pacific, left on Scott, left on Clay, right on Steiner, right on Sacramento, left on Divisadero, left on Golden Gate, right on Scott skirting Alamo Square, left on Hayes, left on Steiner, left on McAllister, right on Divisadero, right on Bush, left on Laguna, ending at Union.

Allow plenty of time to relax and enjoy the ride, pausing to admire the architectural gems. Repeat the drive at different times of the day, and the light will fall on the structures in contrasting ways. Sometimes you’ll savor individual Victorians amidst more modern buildings. Occasionally, a large cluster remains, such as a group near McAllister and Scott.

The information below is for San Francisco Heritage, an advocacy organization for the Victorians. They lead tours and are located at the Haas-Lilienthal House.

If You Go: 

Area: Civic Center

Website: https://www.sfheritage.org

Address: 2007 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94109 

Phone: 415-441-3000

Price: Free

Westin St. Francis 

The Westin St. Francis Hotel

The hotel in San Francisco most thoroughly embodying the mystique of The City is the Westin St. Francis, 335 Powell St, at the edge of Union Square.

For generations of San Franciscans, the social planning phrase has been, “Meet me at the St. Francis.”

Your Best Shot: In morning, when the light falls on the facade of this magnificent structure, consider a photo from the Union Square sidewalk opposite the front entrance, perhaps with a Cable Car passing by.

The St. Francis opened in 1904 as an investment by the estate of Charles Crocker, one of the “Big Four” railroad magnates.

There are several options for a drink or dining at the Westin, ranging from historic-themed cocktails at the Clock Bar or the Oak Room to casual dining at Caruso’s.

The lobby is especially lively at Christmas, when there is a Sugar Castle Victorian house that delights all generations.

If You Go: 

Area: Downtown

Website: http://www.westinstfrancis.com

Address: 335 Powell St, San Francisco, CA 94102 

Phone: 415-397-7000

Price: Moderate

Zoo

Meeting a python up close

The San Francisco Zoo aims to connect visitors with wildlife, inspire a delight in and caring about wildlife, and advance conservation efforts, both in California and internationally.

Highlighting this mission is an exhibit on the Komodo dragon, an immense reptile from Indonesia. The zoo’s Komodo dragon is being maintained for captive breeding purposes. Only about 3,000 of these venomous lizards, which can reach 10 feet in length, exist in their native country.

Your Best Shot: Seek out the Komodo dragon for your photo. Put yourself in some images to record one of your larger reptilian encounters. 

These folks have secure dated voucher tickets, no wait in line and some discounts, for Bus Tours, Boat Tours, Alcatraz, Muir Woods/Sausalito, Attractions/Museums, Wine Country, and more. See their All San Francisco Tours.

For California, the zoo has a program to save and repopulate the range of the Sierra Nevada yellow legged frog.

Located near the Pacific Ocean where Great Highway meets Sloat Blvd, the 100-acre zoo has an inviting website that can give a visitor a species-by-species virtual tour before a visit.

The website does a good job of introducing in an engaging manner the roughly 250 species present at the zoo. A look at the website can be a pre-visit enhancement. There is a photo and description of each species in the groups Amphibians, Birds, Invertebrates, Mammals, and Reptiles.

For each species, a visitor can study in advance Fascinating Facts, Physical Characteristics, Habitat/Diets, Social Behavior, and Status in the Wild. Although showy mammals, such as lions, are classic zoo animals, the Invertebrate group is a less expected category.

Among Invertebrates on the website and at the zoo you can meet a Chilean rose tarantula, for example, and learn that these stocky and hairy creatures love to feed on crickets and can live 15-20 years.

If You Go: 

Area: Northern/Western Oceanfront

Website: http://www.sfzoo.org

Address: Sloat Blvd at The Great Highway, San Francisco, CA 94132 

Phone: 415-753-7080

Price: Entrance fee, moderate

About the Author

Contact:

Lee Foster
Foster Travel Publishing
1623 Martin Luther King Jr Way
Berkeley, CA 94709
[email protected].

Lee Foster, born in 1943, grew up in a Minnesota of fishing for black bass, playing baseball, and hunting for ring-necked pheasants. He was the son of a factory owner in Mankato, a small city of 30,000.

He earned an under­graduate degree in Great Books/Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and a graduate degree in English-American Literature at Stanford University, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. While at Stanford his first two books, a novel about contemporary California and a memoir about growing up in Minnesota, were published (see list below). He was greatly assisted by his mentor, Wallace Stegner, who encouraged him on the path of writing and facilitated these early book publications.

In recent decades his main focus has been travel writing and travel photography, plus a literary travel book and a book on independent publishing. He lives in Berkeley, California.

Foster’s range of travel journalism (about 150 worldwide subjects) can be seen on his Foster Travel Publishing website at http://www.fostertravel.com. He has been active in developing travel articles, photos, books, ebooks, apps, websites, and an audiobook.

Some of his work has been with the leading traditional publishers; other efforts have been as an independent publisher. Over the years, Lee has published travel writing/photography in all the leading U.S. travel magazines and newspapers. His book partnerships include the use of his travel photos in more than 300 Lonely Planet books. His current main “traditional” book is with DK Dorling Kindersley, in the Eyewitness series, titled Back Roads California.

His main books/ebooks are listed on his website at

http://www.fostertravel.com/shop/

Foster’s books/ebooks currently available and visible in bookstores (http://www.indiebound.org) or on his Amazon Author Page (http://amzn.to/1jl9Lnz) include:

2017:

SF Travel & Photo Guide: The Top 100 Travel Experiences in the San Francisco Bay Area (an ebook in Amazon/other ebook vendors and an app available from Apple http://apple.co/2ow44IC and Google http://bit.ly/2o9sWKJ)

2016:

An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option (book and ebook) 

2015:

Minnesota Boy: Growing Up in Mid-America, Mid-20th Century (book and ebook, a re-publication on his 1970 book Just 25 Cents and Three Wheaties Boxtops)

2014:

Back Roads California (publisher DK, Dorling Kindersley, book)

2015-2009:

Three Sutro Media travel apps: San Francisco Travel and Photo Guide, Berkeley Essential Guide, and Washington DC Travel and Photo Guide (all now no longer downloadable) 

2013:

Northern California Travel: The Best Options (book, ebook, and website book, plus available as translated into a Chinese ebook and soon as a Chinese printed book)

2009:

The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco (publisher Countryman Press/Norton, book and ebook)

The Photographer’s Guide to Washington DC (publisher Countryman Press/Norton, book and ebook)

2006:

Travels in an American Imagination: The Spiritual Geography of Our Time, a literary travel book with 25 essays about places in Lee’s world travels and his perception that we live in both the wondrous and the most horrific time ever to be alive. Each place is an essay with a photo (book, ebook, audiobook, and translated as an ebook into Chinese)

2002:

Northern California History Weekends (publisher Globe Pequot, book, will be revised and published as a book and ebook in 2018)

His earlier books, still visible and available as legacy books on his Amazon Author Page, include:

1970:

The Message of April Fools, a novel about the tumultuous 1960s, being young, at Stanford, in the midst of the LSD/pot drug revolution and the anti-Vietnam War movement.

1970:

Just 25 Cents and Three Wheaties Boxtops, a writing/photo memoir about growing up in a Minnesota of the 1950s-60s. This book of literary sketches and photos was re-issued recently with the title Minnesota Boy as a book and ebook.

See Lee’s four Northern California books/ebooks on his Amazon Author Page.
See Lee’s books/ebooks
on his Amazon Author Page and in Independent Bookstores

 

Aside from this ebook/app, I publish other books/ebooks about San Francisco and Northern California. One is titled The Photographer’s Guide to San Francisco. My main book/ebook on Northern California is Northern California Travel: The Best Options. Those volumes, including some more on California, can be seen on my Amazon Author Page. My further books on Northern California are Back Roads California and Northern California History Weekends. One of my California books, Northern California Travel: The Best Options, is now available as an ebook in Chinese.

 

 

 

 

 

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