The huge hotel Westin St Francis on Union Square has five outside glass elevators that afford the most amazing views of the city. And it's all free! Walk through the lobby and take an elevator to the 32nd floor. Exhilarating.
Hotel Westin St Francis, at Union Square
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Hotel Westin St Francis, at Union Square
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Take a trip around the bay in a small boat. Walk along the seafront toawards the Golden Gate Bridge from Fishermans Wharf. Along the harbour there are many smaller ex-fishing boats. These are much better than the larger ferry-like boats available. Not only are they cheaper, the trip is longer and much more personal. You even get to go under the Golden Gate Bridge, which you don't in the larger ships.
Walk along Fishermans Wharf towards the Golden Gate Bridge.
Housed in the Palace of Fine Arts, this hands-on science museum is ideal for families (or a cheap date). There is loads to see and do, and almost all of the exhibits are interactive.
3601 Lyon Street, San Francisco (in the Palace of Fine Arts);
tel: (415) 561 0399; www.exploratorium.edu
Great for dogs and humans alike. 360 degree view from this centrally located gem. Bring your walking shoes as you might be tempted to explore some more! It also overlooks the kid-friendly neighbourhood of Bernal Heights. I'll leave that up to you to check out.
1 Andover Street, San Francisco
A great film by Judy Irving, a Sundance and Emmy Award winning filmmaker. It's about, well, the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. They are cherry-headed conures, also known as red-masked parakeets, an indigenous species from Peru. They have been also spotted farther east on Embarcadero Plaza.
For amazing gospel singing, inspirational speakers and just being in the presence of pure joy, acceptance and unconditional love, I recommend a celebration at Glide. Really beautiful. 9am and 11am on Sundays. Gets very busy so get there early if you want a seat downstairs. You'll come out uplifted and smiling.
330 Ellis Street (corner of Ellis and Taylor); www.glide.org
This is a small and perfectly formed pirate supplies shop down in the Mission District. More installation than retail, though you can buy glass eyes, wooden legs, doubloons, flags, eye patches, loaded dice and, er, lard. Treasure troves hide under the floorboards, there's an aquarium theatre and funny writings on the walls. You can barter drawings and poems for treasure, and buy the books of bartered drawings. It's actually the front for a literacy project and is the dreamchild of writer Dave Eggers. It's SO cool I could hardly breathe...
826 Valencia St (between 19th and 20th Sts) in the Mission District;
tel: (415) 642-5905;
Get the bus out along Geary Blvd to The Cliff House - which is reputably fantastic if you are not on a budget ;-) we ate at the diner just up the hill for a tenth of the price. But the views from the Cliff House over Ocean Beach on the Pacific are pretty special. Then head down to the old Sutro Baths to check out where the San Franners used to come for their r n' r.
A classic Greek portal opened to a massive glass enclosure containing seven swimming pools of various temperatures. There were slides, trapezes, springboards and a high dive. Together the pools held 1.7 million gallons of water and could be filled in one hour by high tides. There were 20,000 bathing suits and 40,000 towels for rent.
Balmy temperatures and abundant plants enhanced "California’s Tropical Winter Garden." The Baths could accommodate 10,000 people at one time. Now all that remains are the ruins.
From here you can head through the little tunnel down by the baths and up the hill to the trail which leads along the coast all the way around to Chinia Beach via an increasingly impressive panorama of the GG.
Surfers take on the Pacific swells just below you at the base of the cliffs. You re-enter civilisation at China Beach and could probably walk up to the Palace of the Legion of Honor about half way around if you had time.
Walk through China Beach past the millionaires row of ab fab homes and if you still feel spritely, you can continue along the coast path to the GG or if not, grab a bus on Lincoln Blvd into the city - a lovely untouristy gem of a walk that is pretty easy to reach via public transport and not too strenuous (I did it with a 1yr old on my back!)
Golden Gate Park – you could literally spend days there. A good idea is walking from the Eastern to the Western end, stopping off on the way to check out a few highlights, like the flower conservatory, Japanese Tea Garden (as featured in Memoirs of a Geisha) and the De Young museum. Your reward at the end: the waves of the Pacific and the Beach Chalet, a restaurant/brewery where, if you time it right, you can have dinner with lovely sunset views over the ocean.
Cable cars are handy but also a lot of fun, so jump on even if you’re not going anywhere in particular. Although the queues at Powell St turnaround can be off-putting, they move quite quickly - if you try to get on at the next stop often the cars come already full.
The Ferry Building farmers market must be the best way to spend a Saturday morning in San Francisco. The produce looks and tastes amazing and there are plenty of try-before-you-buy opportunities – and you will buy! Sit at the outdoor tables to consume your purchases while you listen to live music and admire the Bay Bridge.
1 Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111;
tel: (415) 693-0996;
Although most of Pier 39 is pretty horrendous and full of tourists guzzling chowder that looks like chunder out of 'bowls' made from hollowed out giant bread rolls, the sea lions are definately worth a look if you're passing. You actually get really close and can easily pass a pleasant half hour watching them lazing out in the sun on their floating platforms and generally having a good time.
Sausalito is a beautiful town that nestles in the hills across the bay from San Francisco. You can hire bikes at Fisherman's Wharf, cycle around the bay, enjoy great views over the Golden Gate Bridge and drop down into Sausolito. We used Blazing Saddles and the quality of the bikes was very good.
When you get there enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants and then return to San Francisco on the ferry. If you are feeling energetic you can run the route! As you would expect, runners are everywhere on the bay and it truly was a most memorable run.
Yueba Buena Gardens are situated opposite the Museum of Modern Art. After a little culture you can while away a couple of hours in these very tranquil gardens. Our two-year-old loved the waterfalls. Make sure you go across the bridge to the children's play area. It is sunk into the ground with really imaginative playgrounds, free equipment to play with and a wonderful puppet shop.
Opposite MOMA and above the Moscone Convention Center, covering two square city blocks bounded by Mission, Folsom, Third and Fourth Streets;
Want some Dim Sum? Go to the oldest dim sum house in San Francisco, with lime green tables and orange chairs. It's also by Hang Ah Street - one of the small back alleys in Chinatown between Grant and Stockton. After filling up wander along the street, cross Clay St into Spofford Lane, cross Washington St into Ross Alley - along the way see the fortune cookies factory and hear the mah jong players clicking away in the rooms lining the lanes.
Hang Ah Tea Room: 1 Pagoda Place; tel: (415) 982-5686;
Hang Ah Street is between Grant and Stockton Street, off Sacremento Street
San Franciscans (I am one) have many passions, and the Giants are among the most important.
This elegant baseball park was built in 2000, funded entirely by the club - a rarity in the American sporting world, where clubs often hold cash-strapped city governments for ransom. It's located on the southern end of the South of Market district, and the views from between the foul lines frame the entire San Francisco Bay Area, from the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island to the Oakland ports, Mount Diablo and even down to the San Mateo bridge, a good thirty miles away.
For value, sit in the bleachers in left (where Bonds hobbles around, feeling the effects of twenty years of baseball on two ravaged knees) and center field, where the hoi polloi sit, or even buy a standing room ticket and stand on the right field arcade - the closest thing you'll find to a terrace. For views, sit in the upper deck down the right field line.
But be sure to come soon, as Barry Bonds nears retirement. It may be your last chance to see the most controversial and most talented American athlete of this, or perhaps any other, generation.
24 Willie Mays Place
Mission Bay line - Third and King Sts.
Fantastic experience: 20mins or so training on a segway, then about 2hrs travelling on it, seeing parts of SF you otherwise might not (away from centre). The Segway is a unique, very interesting and very easy to use mode of transport. The staff are very helpful and nice to be with. A bit pricey - 65 dollars each, plus you are expected to slip the tour guide 5 or 10 dollars.
Beach Street, near Hyde. 30 Bus from downtown (get off at North Point and Hyde), or take Powell Street cable car to end. www.sfelectrictour.com/
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