San Francisco Things to Do Tips by cheap_tourist
San Francisco Things to Do: 3,245 reviews and 5,770 photos
Japantown's Peace Pagoda
San Francisco's Japantown (Nihonmachi) is the biggest among the three remaining Japantowns in California. The other two are in San Jose and Los Angeles. Japantown is roughly bounded by Geary, Sutter, Laguna and Fillmore streets; Post Street is like Japantown's Main Street.
Going to Japantown is like catching a glimpse of another culture. There are many restaurants there where you can sample a wide variety of Japanese cuisine. The shops offer a wide range of Japanese products, including manga (comics), anime, and related collectibles; souvenir items; and houseware. They have a lot of ingenious stuff (gadgets), at very affordable prices, which makes life and work a little bit better.
Japan is a thriving community, which helps to make San Francisco the unique and wonderful city that it is.
Directions: Just north of Geary and south of Sutter, between Laguna and Fillmore. Muni buses #2, #3, #4, #22, #38, and #38L (Limited) take you to Japantown. You can't miss its landmark--the Peace Pagoda (see picture).
San Francisco, like Los Angeles, San Diego, and other California cities, started as a mission--Mision San Francisco de Asis, popularly known as Mission Dolores. The original church, completed in 1791, is still intact. It is quite small and simple compared to modern Catholic churches. Its decoration, which tend to be ornate, reflects the style in vogue at that time. It is pretty sturdy, however. Pictures of the church still standing after an earthquake, while all around it was a scene of complete desolation, are just amazing. Beside the church is a cemetery where many prominent San Franciscans of old are buried. There is also a museum that houses many artifacts and memorabilia related to the California mission life. A visit to Mission Dolores is like a glimpse into San Francisco's very beginning.
Address: 3371 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114-1712
Fountain at Plaza Viña del Mar, Sausalito
They say that Sausalito has the look-and-feel of a Mediterranean town. I can't confirm this, however, because I haven't been to China...okay, Europe. The Blue and Gold Fleet that operates out of Pier 41 has a ferry that takes you to Sausalito and back (to Fisherman's Wharf). One-way fare in September 2006 is $8.50. The ferry ride is pretty interesting with great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Once you get to Sausalito, you can visit its various shops and attractions. Personally, I always have an ice cream cone at this restaurant in Hotel Sausalito...then I explore the place and buy the usual tourist stuff.
Address: Marin County
Directions: By car, cross the Golden Gate Bridge going north then follow the signs. Or you can take the Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry to Sausalito at Pier 41.
Other Contact: www.blueandgoldfleet.com
Acrobat Perfoming at Lunchtime
When at Fisherman's Wharf, be sure to check out Pier 39. It's one of those places that people love or have because it is so touristy. Basically, it is a pier that has been converted into a mall. There are many shops and restaurants there. I particularly like the souvenir shop at the entrance which has lots of items at a reasonable price. Pier 39's other attractions include the Aquarium of the Bay, the Venetian Carousel, and Turbo Ride (a simulation theatre). It is also known for the sea lions that seasonally make K dock their home. When I was there in July 2005, the sea lions were elsewhere. When I visited in June and September of 2006, however, they were there in numbers.
Address: The Embarcadero at Beach Street
Phone: (415) 705-5500
de Young Museum
Golden Gate Park is quite impressive in terms of size and attractions. It is considered among the world's greatest urban parks; it is bigger than New York's Central Park. For the longest time, however, I did not explore it. I thought that it was difficult to reach by public transportation. I was wrong--you can take Muni's #5 or #21 bus to the park. The first time I went there, I visited the de Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. The second time, my friend and I walked to the Dutch Windmill from Stow Lake via John F. Kennedy Drive. Along the way, we saw Lloyd Lake, Spreckels Lake, Bison Paddock, and North Lake. From the Dutch Windmill, we continued our walk to the nearby Cliff House.
Truly a great park and I've barely scratched its surface. As Arnold S. once said, "I'll be back!"
Address: Area bounded by Lincoln, Fulton, Stanyan.
Colorful and Crooked Lombard Street
I learned from a tour guide that Lombard Street is not the "crookedest street" in San Francisco but it certainly is the city's most famous crooked street. The crooked part of Lombard Street is bounded by Hyde and Leavenworth Streets. The street is beautifully landscaped. There are steps on both sides. When walking up and down the street, especially early in the morning, be careful not to disturb the residents, who have the mixed blessing of living in a world-famous tourist attraction. Cable cars on the Powell/Hyde line stop at Lombard Street. Views of the bay (and Alcatraz) from Hyde and Lombard Streets have appeared in many post cards.
Note to self: The crookedest street is at 20th and Vermont. Check it out.
Address: Lombard Street. Descent begins at Hyde Street.
Two Weeping Maidens
The Palace of Fine Arts is one of San Francisco's landmarks. Built to resemble a Roman ruin, Its domed rotunda is visible from afar. Beside it is a lagoon which is home to many ducks, swans, geese, and seagulls. Statues of weeping maidens and funeral urns complete the architecture.
The "palace" was constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. The architect, Bernard Maybeck, wanted to instill a sense of "moderated sadness" among visitors. He succeeded very well.
Beside the Palace of Fine Arts is the Exploratorium, "the best science museum in the world."
Address: 3601 Lyon Street
Directions: (415) 561-0360
Phone: (415) 561-0360
My friend was kind enough to take me to Muir Woods. I wanted to see the California redwoods. Before I knew it, I was taking a 5-mile, moderately difficult hike. I am not really into it but the experience was well worth it. We took the Ocean View Trail but the fog prevented us from seeing the ocean. Still, we saw a lot of spectacular views of what must be God's country.
We went there by car but I also saw a lot of tour buses. I'll find out if you can get there by public transportation. We were there early in the morning (8:00 AM) so we were able to get a good parking spot and enter the park for free. When we left at noon, the cars were parked along the road a long distance from the park entrance.
There is an easy trail that you can follow if you are not into hiking. You still get to see an old-growth forest with its spectacular sequoias.
Address: Mill Valley, Marin County
It's easy to miss the old brick-walled fort underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. This Civil War-era fort was designed to hold 500 soldiers and 126 muzzle-loading cannons. It was later abandoned because modern weaponry made it obsolete. Today, visitors can get a glimpse of 19th century U.S. Army life by visiting the fort. It still houses some of its old cannons and cannon balls. Park rangers dressed as Union soldiers regularly conduct guided tours of the building and its exhibits. By the way, the worm's eye view of the bridge from the fort is awesome.
Directions: Underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, south side.
Golden Gate Bridge, View From Fort Point
Golden Gate Bridge has come to represent San Francisco like no other structure. It's like the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty in this regard.
Thus, on my first trip there, I made it a point to cross it. I found out that at both ends of the bridge, there is a vantage point where you can park your car, take in the awesome scenery, and take pictures. I also saw that many were crossing the bridge on foot or on a bicycle. Before I get too old, I plan to do what thousands have already done--walk across the bridge.
UPDATE: On Labor Day weekend of 2005, I finally walked across the bridge--from the north vista point to the south--and back.
Address: Northwestern Tip of San Francisco Peninsula
Directions: The bridge is Highway 101's link from San Francisco to the counties North.
Phone: (415) 921-5858
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