A county park that bisects the peninsula south of the main city, San Bruno mountain is accessible by car and has loads of walking and biking trails. The Saddle Trail goes through woods and leads to fantastic views of the city.
It's particularly convenient for the airport, which is why if you've got a couple of hours to kill before or after a flight it's a great antidote to the stress of air travel. Parking is $5.
Guadalupe Canyon Parkway;
For directions see www.co.sanmateo.ca.us/smc/department/home/0,,5556687_12313315_12345092,00.html#Directions
San Francisco has 42 hills, many of them are so steep that streets become stairways. Adah Bakalinsky has written a great walking guidebook, Stairway Walks in San Francisco. It covers more than 350 stairways in 24 walks with maps. Some are in popular tourist neighbourhoods and some are off-the-beaten path.
The Waterstones/Amazon.co.uk link is for the 5th ed. (2004). A 6th ed. is scheduled for publication in late 2006 in the States.
The Amazon.com link lets you preview a few pages.
A great late afternoon/early evening walk up Grant Avenue starting at Market Street and ending at Coit Tower. You start in the heart of downtown but soon transition to Chinatown and then the Italian North Beach district before ending with panoramic views of The City and The Bay.
Stop at local establishments Tosca (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7859) for an Irish coffee, Cafe Macaroni (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7860) for dinner, then catch some live blues at the Saloon (www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/tips/7858) - Perfect!
Start at Grant Ave and Market Street.
San Francisco has some fantastic graffiti. The best is possibly found in the Mission District, and is normally quite political. Just wander around and you'll see a fair bit of it.
This is one of the photos I've taken of SF graffiti:
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
Walk around the Mission District, the heart of the Latino district. Eat at any place (I miss the food so much), and go into a few supermarkets for special treats. At night there are many good bars (Divas for their mojitos), movie theatres and clubs. Check out the area during the day first to familiar yourself with the streets if you are the easily-scared type. Some people think the area is a bit unsafe. This petite female never had any problems.
Around Valencia, 16th and 24th streets;
Muir Woods National Monument, thirty minutes or so north of San Francisco, is an absolute must on any visit to the Bay Area. The sheer scale of the redwood trees, some of which are over a thousand years old, is almost overwhelming. Film fans will also recognise it as one of the locations used by Alfred Hitchcock in 'Vertigo'.
Mill Valley, CA 94941;
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.
If you and your kids like walking and don't mind a bit of a climb the Saturn Steps will take you up from the Castro to the Randall Museum and Corona Heights Park with rocky outcrops and breathtaking views. Surprisingly underused. Walk back via the Vulcan Steps into the Haight Ashbury
The Randall Museum: 199 Museum Way, San Francisco, CA 94114;
tel: (415) 554 9600;
You are taken around all the important historic sites in San Francisco's gay area. The $45 fee includes lunch. Last time I was there, our group was introduced to Armistead Maupin on a street corner! Unfortunately, Trevor Hailey has retired as of August 15, 2005 and she was the epitome of Southern Charm.
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!)
Get a 360º view of San Francisco hills and neighbourhoods, Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It beats going to the top floor of a skyscraper.
Look at Coit Tower's vibrant frescos of life in California during the 1930s Great Depression that was commissioned by Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal to employ local artists. Then walk down the Filbert Steps. Telegraph Hill is so steep that Filbert St. is a stairway, part of it is still wooden. It has a quasi-park feel with homes clinging to the side of Telegraph Hill. You might want to watch the documentary film, "The Wild Parrots Of Telegraph Hill."
Halfway down at 1360 Montgomery St. is an Art Deco apartment building that was used as Lauren Bacall's home in the 1947 Humphrey Bogart movie, "Dark Passage."
When you reach the bottom of the Filbert Steps, you can walk up the Greenwich Steps back to Coit Tower or continue walking through Levi’s Plaza (Levi Strauss HQ) to the Embarcadero and walk, or ride a Muni F/Market-Embarcadero streetcar, to the Ferry Building or Fisherman's Wharf.
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94133
1 (415) 362-0808
Walk to the top of Telegraph Hill or ride Muni #39 Coit bus.
Take the ferry across the bay (passing Alcatraz on the way!) to the pleasant town of Sausalito, which, with its restaurants, antique shops and galleries, seems to be the place where San Francisco's artists end up when they find the city too hectic. Then if you can, hike past the bridge to the Marin Headlands on the Pacific - it's great for walking or dirt-biking, and has a nature reserve and a small museum dedicated to the Portuguese fishing community that used to live there, and even an abandoned nuclear missile silo!
The Golden Gate Bridge is very impressive. Walk along it (it takes about an hour), then either walk back or go on to Sausalito (all pretty houses and greenery) and take the ferry back to San Francisco from there.
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.
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.
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
The crookedest street in the world? You're all wet! Lombard Street is prettier, but Vermont St., stuck up against the James Lick Freeway in an industrial area, is the real answer.
The area is far from touristic, and couldn't handle an influx of curiosity seekers, so this place doesn't figure in tourist guides, and maps don't even indicate it's not straight. And be warned, you can get stuck here if you're not careful, it's that crooked!
Vermont St. between 20th and 22nd, Potrero District
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