Number 30 - May 2010
Welcome to "Rick's Tips," Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel's quarterly newsletter of fun and interesting things to do in San Francisco, the Bay Area, and Northern California. Whether you are visiting San Francisco or hosting visitors, Blue Heron can provide an unforgettable experience. Visit our website,, to learn more about our private, custom tours.

San Francisco's Hidden Gems

Many visitors to San Francisco stay within the triangle formed by Market Street, Van Ness Avenue, and the Embarcadero. Some may go further afield to see the Legion of Honor, Exploratorium, or Golden Gate Park. Yet there's much more to San Francisco. When you next visit, explore some of our outlying neighborhoods to get a real sense of the city. There are some great sights to see.

Below is a sampling of sights and activities to see and do out in the neighborhoods:

Citywide: Take a Guided Walk

City Guides provides free walking tours in many of San Francisco's neighborhoods. The tours are led by volunteer docents and provide an in-depth look at unique aspects of San Francisco's history. Tours are offered every day with more in the summer than in the winter. A schedule is available at

Alamo Square: Picnic in the Park

Pretend you are the Tanner family of the television series "Full House" and have a picnic in Alamo Square. You'll see the beautiful Queen Anne Victorians of Postcard Row on the Steiner Street side of the park. House shopping? If so, you can buy the green house on the southeast corner of Steiner and Grove for just $4 million.

Bernal Heights: See San Francisco from Bay to Ocean

From the summit of Bernal Heights you get a panoramic view of San Francisco. This dog-friendly park is on the east side of town and, therefore, sunnier than many other parks. Courtland Avenue is the commercial hub of the Bernal Heights neighborhood and home to an array of shops and restaurants. Few tourists venture out this far so come see one of the city's more eclectic neighborhoods.

Inner Richmond: Visit the Columbarium

In the 1930s all cemeteries in San Francisco were ordered to close. The only exceptions were the small cemetery at Mission Dolores, the military cemetery in the Presidio, and the Columbarium. Built in 1898, the Columbarium is a unique piece of San Francisco architecture and the only cemetery in San Francisco that is open to people of all faiths. The Neptune Society took over the facility in the 1980s. Today this unique structure is open to visitors on weekdays from 8:30 - 5:00 and on weekends from 10:00 - 3:00.

Marina District: Listen to the Wave Organ

On a jetty east of the St. Francis Yacht Club in the Marina District is the Wave Organ, one of San Francisco's most unusual attractions. Built in 1986 from material taken from a demolished cemetery, the organ has 25 pipes made from PVC and concrete. Stop by a listen to the sounds of San Francisco Bay.

Marina District: Explore Fort Mason

Fort Mason is an old army post that became a national park in 1973. Today it is home to many nonprofits. In lower Fort Mason, you'll find galleries, small museums, the excellent vegetarian restaurant - Greens, theaters, and exhibition halls that host an array of events. Upper Fort Mason provides beautiful views of the Bay. Walk the path over Fort Mason Hill between Aquatic Park and the Marina District and stop at Black Point Battery for a picnic overlooking the bay.

Mission District: Visit San Francisco's Oldest Building

Mission San Francisco de Asis, more commonly known as Mission Dolores, was founded in 1776 and the current building was erected 1791. Visitors are welcome to explore the chapel, which is little changed from the original; the more modern basilica; and the adjoining cemetery, where early settlers and thousands of Native Americans are buried. The Mission is open daily from 9:00 until 4:30 from May through October and until 4:30 during the remainder of the year. The basilica is not open to visitors during mass.

Mission District: Explore the Mission District's Contemporary Murals

The Mission District is home to an estimated 200 murals. If you are an art lover, spend a half-day walking through the Mission to see works inspired by current events, politics, and Hispanic culture. Start at Precita Eyes where you can pick up a map showing the locations of the murals. Nearby is Balmy Ally, the birthplace of the modern mural movement.

Outer Richmond: Hike along Lands End

For beautiful views of the Pacific and the Golden Gate, take a walk on the Lands End Trail adjoining Lincoln Park between Sea Cliff and Cliff House. You can walk one way on the footpath and the other on the remains of El Camino del Mar, which washed out many years ago.

Outer Richmond: Remember the Holocaust

San Francisco's Holocaust Memorial is not for the faint hearted. Created by American sculptor George Segal, the memorial dramatically depicts a scene from a WWII concentration camp. The memorial is located in Lincoln Park across the street from the Legion of Honor.

Outer Richmond: Wander through Sutro Heights Park and Sutro Baths

Adolph Sutro made millions in silver and had an estate overlooking the Pacific. The mansion is long gone but you can still stroll through the gardens. On the ocean side of the road are the remains of Sutro Baths, a public bath house that could accommodate up to 25,000 people. Wander among the ruins and imagine bathing in salt and fresh water pools.

Pacific Heights: Shop until You Drop

The stretch of Fillmore Street between Geary and Jackson Streets is the main shopping district for Pacific Heights, one of the city's wealthier neighborhoods. Take a stroll up the hill and you'll encounter many stores selling clothing, jewelry, gifts, books, beauty products, and home furnishings. There also are many restaurants and cafes for dining, snacking, and people watching.

Presidio: Learn about San Francisco's Civil War Defenses

Under the San Francisco end of the Golden Gate Bridge sits Fort Point. Built from 1853 to 1861, the fort protected San Francisco Bay from enemy attack during and after the Civil War, but no shot was ever fired in hostility from the fort. Nevertheless, during your visit you can see an array of cannon and learn about the Army's Pacific defenses. Fort Point was scheduled to be demolished during the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge but Chief Engineer Joseph Strauss redesigned the bridge so the fort could be saved. Fort Point is currently open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 10:00 to 5:00 but is likely to be open on additional days during the summer months.

Sunnyside: See a Diego Rivera Mural

The famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera painted three murals in San Francisco. The largest of the three murals was painted at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1940 and is now housed at the Diego Rivera Theater at San Francisco City College. Visitors are welcome on weekdays, but hours are limited and change each semester. The mural's website contains the current schedule. (The name of the mural is not included as, for some very mysterious reason, this message gets blocked if the name is included. To see the name, just click on the above website link. I can tell you that the first word in the name is Pan, the third word is Unity, and the second word is American.)

Upper Haight: Pay Homage to the Dead

The Grateful Dead that is. During the 1960s, the Grateful Dead and friends lived at 710 Ashbury Street. This beautiful Victorian is a private residence so please do not disturb the residents when you pass by to pay your respects to Jerry, Phil, Bob, Mickey, and all the others. While you're there, stroll down colorful Haight Street. If you need a piercing, this is the place to go. If you've got a youngster with you, go to the corner of Ashbury and Page Streets. On the northwest corner is the house where Raven lived in the Disney series "That's So Raven."

There's much more to do once you venture outside of the core of San Francisco. There are many great restaurants, delicious bakeries, pleasant parks, interesting shops, and beautiful vistas. So go where you are more likely to meet locals than tourists. Most neighborhoods can easily be reached by bus or streetcar.

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See you on the road,

Rick Spear
Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel
275 Staples Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94112
(866) 326-4237 (toll free)
(415) 337-1874 (local)
(415) 587-7433 (fax)
TCP 16309-S CST 20685 16-40

"Go Where You Want To Go!"

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