Number 34 - May 2011Welcome 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, www.BlueHeronTours.com, to learn more about our private, custom tours.
Shortly after I became a full-time tour guide in 2003, I was at a meeting where the speaker said that two thirds of visitors to San Francisco don't venture beyond the triangle formed by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, and the Embarcadero (waterfront). I thought it was a pity that so many visitors were not taking advantage of all of San Francisco's diverse attractions. Here's a list of sights to encourage you to explore San Francisco beyond the triangle.
Enjoy Art from Around the World
San Francisco's Fine Arts Museums are located on the west side of town. The Legion Honor, which houses European art, is in Lincoln Park. Golden Gate Park is home to the De Young Museum, where you can see art from the rest of the world. Touring exhibitions go to both museums; although, the DeYoung seems to host the larger exhibits. Both museums are open daily except on Mondays.
Learn about Natural and Physical Sciences
Both of San Francisco's science museums are west of downtown. The California Academy of Sciences is located in Golden Gate Park, across the Music Concourse from the De Young Museum, and is home to a planetarium, aquarium, and natural history museum. The Exploratorium, an interactive physics museum, is in the Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District. The Academy is open daily while the Exploratorium is open Tuesday through Sunday.
Walk through Beautiful Gardens
Golden Gate Park is over 1000 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens. The most sculpted gardens are the Japanese Tea Garden and the Botanical Garden. Both charge admission fees. In addition, the Conservatory of Flowers, a wood-framed Victorian greenhouse, is home to many exotic plants. The Conservatory also charges admission and is closed on Monday. The Shakespeare Garden only contains plants mentioned in the works by the bard. This garden can be walked through at any hour.
Explore San Francisco's History
When the Spanish came north from Mexico to establish a settlement on the shores of San Francisco Bay in 1776, they built a presidio - army post - and mission - church. Today, the Presidio is a national park. You can learn more about the Presidio's long military history at the visitors center and by taking one of the many organized walks through the park. The original mission is long gone. However, the current Mission Dolores (Mission San Francisco de Asis) was built in 1791 and is the oldest building still standing in San Francisco.
Shop ?til You Drop
Fillmore Street, from Post to Jackson Streets, in Pacific Heights and Union Street, from Gough to Steiner Streets, in Cow Hollow are home to some of the city's finest boutiques. Spend a day strolling through both of these shopping districts. Start at the corner of Post and Fillmore Streets and head north on Fillmore. When you come to the end of the shopping district, continue north on Fillmore and walk down the very steep hill. Five blocks later, you'll arrive at Union Street. Most of the shops will be to your right (east). There are also many good lunch spots on both streets.
Discover Bohemian San Francisco
For those of you with more Bohemian tastes, upper and lower Haight Streets are fun to stroll. Upper Haight, also known as Haight-Ashbury, is home to many interesting stores, independent booksellers, smoke shops, and one of the best music stores in the country - Amoeba Music. Lower Haight is also very funky with a few interesting shops and better eats than upper Haight. Start your walk where Haight ends at Golden Gate Park. Continue east on Haight Street. You'll pass some beautiful Victorians near Buena Vista Park between Upper and Lower Haight.
Another funky neighborhood is the Inner Mission. A walk along Valencia Street between 16th and 22nd Streets will take you past many taquerias, a few galleries, Ritual Coffee Roasters - one of the city's purveyors of gourmet coffee, 826 Valencia - San Francisco's only independently owned pirate store, and other interesting shops. Check out the murals on Clarion Alley if you like political street art. If you complete the loop by returning on Guerrero, be sure to explore 18th Street between Guerrero and Valencia, one of our best gourmet ghettos.
Walk on the Wild Side
If you enjoy spectacular ocean views - and who doesn't - walk the coastal trail between Sea Cliff and the Cliff House along Lands End. One end of the trail is where El Camino del Mar enters Lincoln Park from Sea Cliff. The other end is at Fort Miley, just above the Cliff House. The trail is moderately easy, with only one steep climb, and provides wonderful vistas of the Pacific. A nice way to complete the loop is to return via El Camino del Mar, which is mostly trail between the USS San Francisco Memorial and the Legion of Honor.
See Some of the Mission District's 200 Murals
San Francisco is home to hundreds of murals, the majority of which are in the Mission District. You can pick up a map of the Mission's murals at Precita Eyes Murals Art and Visitors Center at 2981 24th Street. Precita Eyes also offers guided tours of the murals. If you are exploring on your own, a good place to start is Balmy Alley, which runs between 24th and 25th Streets, just west of Harrison Street.
Taste New Cuisines
San Francisco is home to people from around the world. You can dine at restaurants featuring food from five continents. The Mission District is home to a large Hispanic community and you will find restaurants with food from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, and other countries. The Richmond District is heavily Asian, and Clement Street has restaurants serving Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, Malay, Indonesian, and Burmese food. The Richmond also has a small Russian community so you can enjoy Russian cuisine at a few restaurants. Ethiopian restaurants can be found in the Western Addition, Lower Haight, and Inner Mission.
Gaze at San Francisco from Above
At over 900 feet above sea level, Twin Peaks offers a panoramic view of San Francisco. The west side of the peaks provides views of the Pacific Ocean and many of the neighborhoods on the west side of the city. From the vista point, you can see from the Golden Gate Bridge to Candlestick Park. Public transit does not service Twin Peaks so you will need to take a taxi or tour, or rent a car.
As you can see, there's lots to see and do throughout San Francisco. So go out and explore beyond the triangle. If you would like to take a private tour of San Francisco that includes some of these sights contact Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or Rick@BlueHeronTours.com.
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See you on the road,
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