Baker Beach - A west-facing beach, primarily a day-use spot, closing well before sunset in summer. This spot is very popular with San Franciscans of all kinds, and because it's on Federal land where nudity is allowed, you'll almost always find a few unclothed folks up by the rocks. Dangerous water conditions, no lifeguard and occasional poor water quality make Baker Beach best for beach strolls, sunbathing and games. Wikipedia article.
China Beach - A north-facing beach with views of the Golden Gate Bridge. It lies between Baker Beach and Lands End and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In Gold Rush times, it was used as a campsite by Chinese fisherman, which is how it got its name. It's a pretty, small beach with a calmer surf than Ocean Beach or Baker Beach, accessed by long, steep stairs. This protected cove is said to be the only San Francisco beach where it's safe to swim, but strong warnings are posted here about rip tides and currents.
Ocean Beach - Stretches about 3.5 miles along San Francisco's western shore, from the Cliff House to Fort Funston. The beach is nearly always enveloped in San Francisco's characteristic fog throughout the late spring and summer, with average temperatures in the 50s. The water is notorious for its strong currents and fierce waves, making it popular, but dangerous, among serious surfers. This spot can be very crowded on a nice day. For a quieter spot, go south from the main beach area. Wikipedia article.
Recreation and Parks Department: Aquatic/Swimming Programs - The Recreation and Park Department's nine aquatic centers offer a variety of swimming programs and activities for people of all ages and abilities. Eight indoor, heated facilities are open year-round. An outdoor facility is open seasonally. The aquatic facilities offer programs such as water aerobics, recreational swimming, lap swimming, and learning to swim.
Attractions / Museums / Parks / Playgrounds
Alamo Square - Postcard Row, the row of Queen Anne-style Victorian houses along Alamo Square's eastern edge, may well be San Francisco's best-known landmark after the Golden Gate Bridge. Even people who have never visited the city have seen photographs or films featuring these colorful, ornate Painted Ladies, with the city skyline in the distance. Many other grand old mansions are along the park's perimeter or within a few blocks' walk. Perched on a hilltop in the Western Addition neighborhood, this park has grassy, tree-shaded slopes with spectacular city views (look for the Beaux Arts dome of City Hall to the east, down Fulton Street), as well as a playground, tennis court, popular dog play area, picnic tables, benches, and flowerbeds. Many groups lead walking tours of the square and surrounding neighborhood, and tour buses frequently stop here. Alamo Square is bounded by Scott, Fulton, Steiner, and Hayes streets.
Bay Model Visitors Center - A fully accessible education center administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers which makes possible the viewing of a scientific tool: a working hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento - San Joaquin River Delta System.
Billy Goat Hill - Hilltop park in the Diamond Heights neighborhood with amazing views of the city and bay, and a mix of urban forest and grassland plant communities.
Cable Cars - The San Francisco cable car system is the world's last permanently operational manually operated cable car system, and an icon. It is the only transportation system listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also see Official site and Wikipedia article. Buy tickets for the San Francisco cable cars at the turnarounds or from the conductor as you board. The San Francisco's cable cars run on three routes:
California Street - Runs Drumm to Van Ness on California St., through the Financial District, Chinatown, Nob Hill.
Powell-Hyde - Goes from Market and Powell to Aquatic Park, past Union Square, the Cable Car Barn Museum (a good place to learn more about the city's trademark method of transportation), Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Lombard (crookedest) Street, ends at Ghirardelli Square. Look for brown signs on the cars.
Powell-Mason - Goes from Market and Powell to Bay and Taylor Streets, through North Beach and ends near Fisherman's Wharf. Look for yellow signs on the cars.
Cayuga Playground - This modest 4-acre plot in the Excelsior District was transformed into a neighborhood treasure by City gardener Demetrio Braceros, who lovingly tended it for more than 20 years. His unique themed gardens and whimsical woodcarvings were featured on the PBS television series California's Golden Parks.
Chinatown - Chinatown has been traditionally defined by the neighborhoods of North Beach, and Telegraph Hill areas as bound by Bush Street, Taylor Street, Bay Street, and the water. San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Since its establishment in the 1840s, it has been highly important and influential in the history and culture of ethnic Chinese immigrants to the United States and North America. Chinatown is, by no means, a chintzy tourist trap. In fact, it is a living, breathing, and thriving enclave that continues to retain its own customs, languages, places of worship, social clubs, and identity. Also see Wikipedia article.
Chinese Cultural Center - The Center provides a variety of educational and cultural programs. These programs range from lectures, workshops, and classes to art exhibitions, dance and musical performances, and cultural exchanges-all of which enable members of the Chinese American community and the general public alike to gain a deeper knowledge of historical as well as contemporary Chinese and Chinese American culture.
Chinese Historical Society of America Museum - Opened in its landmark Julia Morgan-designed Chinatown YWCA building in 2001. Founded in 1963, CHSA is the oldest and largest organization in the country dedicated to the documentation, study, and presentation of Chinese American history, art, and artifacts.
City Hall - San Francisco City Hall re-opened in 1915, in its open space area in the city's Civic Center, is a Beaux-Arts monument to the City Beautiful movement that epitomized the high-minded American Renaissance of the 1880s to 1917. The structure's dome is the fifth largest in the world. The building's vast open space is more than 500,000 square feet and occupys two full city blocks. The Rotunda is a spectacular space and the upper levels are public and handicapped accessible. Opposite the grand staircase, on the second floor, is the office of the Mayor. Also see Wikipedia article.
Clarion Alley Mural Project (CAMP) - CAMP has produced over 700 murals on and around Clarion Alley by artists of all ethnicities, ages, and levels of experience, with an emphasis on emerging artists, new styles and a social justice framework. Runs one block (560 ft long and 15 ft. wide) in San Francisco’s inner Mission District between 17th & 18th and Mission and Valencia streets.
Coit Tower - Coit Tower, a slender white concrete column rising from the top of Telegraph Hill, has been an emblem of San Francisco's skyline since its completion in 1933, a welcoming beacon to visitors and residents alike. Its observation deck, reached by elevator (tickets can be purchased in the gift shop), provides 360-degree views of the city and bay, including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. m urals inside the tower's base were painted in 1934 by a group of artists employed by the Public Works of Art Project, a precursor to the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and depict life in California during the Depression. Also seeWikipedia article.
Community Gardens - Use this tool to find community gardens throughout San Francisco.
Crissey Field - The restored Crissy Field is a favorite with locals and visitors alike, a place to walk or bike on a flat, hard-packed promenade by the bay and to bring the family for a class, exhibit, or performance at the Crissy Field Center. A wide, fully accessible trail slices through Crissy Field between Marina Green and Fort Point and is perfect for an easy walk, jog, or bike, or for strollers and wheelchairs. Crissy Field's beach brings you right to the water's edge. The waves deposit crab shells, jellyfish, and pebbles to examine, and there are driftwood "seats" for picnics and shoreline contemplation.
Crissy Field Center - Offers a wide variety of programs and amenities that connect the diverse population of the Bay Area to urban environmental issues. Since its opening in May 2001, the Center has served over 800,000 people through school field trips, public workshops, after school programs, summer camps, and more. Now housed in one of the nation's greenest park-based buildings, the Crissy Field Center is a model of sustainability for program participants and park visitors alike. The Center's facilities include a media lab, resource library, arts workshop, science lab, and gathering room which meet strict criteria for environmental, technological, and user performance and provide "healthy" environments to optimize learning. The facility is also home to the Beach Hut Cafe, furnished from top to bottom with reclaimed and recycled materials.
Diego Rivera Murals in San Francisco - From the 1920s to the 1950s, Rivera traveled all over the Americas and even graced San Francisco with three powerful murals that many citizens forget exist. These three frescos were meant to be an ever-constant reminder of public art, and they continue to inspire new artists to this day.
Exploratorium - The Exploratorium isn't just a museum, it's an ongoing exploration of science, art, and human perception-a vast collection of online interactives, web features, activities, programs and events that feed your curiosity. Developed in-house through extensive research and development, well more than 700 Exploratorium exhibits, with over 400 currently on view, have been designed to spark curiosity, regardless of age or familiarity with science. Exhibits cover a range of subject areas, including human perception (such as vision, hearing, learning and cognition), the life sciences, and physical phenomena (such as light, motion, electricity, waves and resonance, and weather). A wide variety of public programs, artists-in-residence projects, and demonstrations accompany all exhibit collections.
Ferry Building Marketplace - The Ferry Building Marketplace is a people's marketplace serving residents and travelers alike. Located within the historic Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street, shops large and small celebrate food in all its forms, offering everything from artisan cheeses to the freshest of local fish. Restaurants and cafes serve cuisine representing the quality and cultural diversity of San Francisco's best chefs. Ferry terminals operate at Larkspur, Sausalito, Vallejo, and Alameda with plans for continuing network improvements and expansion. Extensive renovation of the Ferry Building is now complete. The Ferry Building redevelopment represents approximately 65,000 square feet of first floor Marketplace space, and an additional 175,000 square feet of premium second and third floor office space. The Marketplace, organized along the central Nave, provides a distinctive space for bringing together the greater Bay Area's agricultural wealth and renowned specialty food purveyors under one roof. The exterior and main public hall have been restored to their original grandeur for use by ferry passengers and the public at large.
Fire Department Museum - A hit with all ages. It's jam-packed with firefighting memorabilia, and they have six antique fire engines on display.
Fort Point - Everybody wants to see the Golden Gate Bridge, and who can blame them? But comparably few people think to go downstairs to Fort Point, the army redoubt beneath its southern struts, an architectural gem in its own rights and an affordable alternative to Alcatraz.
Ghirardelli Square - Ghirardelli Square is located at 900 North Point Street at the corner of Beach and Larkin Streets. It is on the west side of Fisherman's Wharf, two blocks east of Van Ness Avenue and one block west of the Cable Car turnaround at Beach and Hyde Streets. Ghirardelli Square once featured over 40 specialty shops and restaurants. Some of the original shops and restaurants still occupy the square. Currently, Ghirardelli Square is undergoing extensive renovation. Many of the specialty shops have closed or moved to other locations (inside or outside the square). In the main plaza there are new shops and restaurants. The square also recently opened a new children's day care center, Peekadoodle Kids' Club. Notably, Gary Danko will soon open a second restaurant within walking distance of his original San Francisco eatery. This new restaurant will be in the Mustard Building along with the Fairmont Heritage Place.
Glen Canyon Park - What Golden Gate Park might look like if it was the product of nature rather than human whims.
Beach Chalet: Facing Ocean Beach on Great Highway, this is a good place to stop for a bite to eat in the upstairs microbrewery and restaurant, with a nice view of the beach.
Buffalo Paddock: Continuing east on Kennedy Drive, you'll come to the home of Golden Gate Park's small herd of American bison.
California Academy of Science: Opened in 2009 after a top-to-bottom rebuild, it's home to a white alligator, planetarium, aquarium and some great multimedia exhibits. The building sports a "green" roof covered with local plants and has a nice observation deck.
Conservatory of Flowers: The white, jewel-box-looking conservatory boasts a tropical area, a water lily garden and a rotating collection of potted plants.
DeYoung Museum: San Francisco's main art museum occupies a building that locals either love or hate. Admission charge.
Japanese Tea Garden: A rustic-style Japanese garden built to complement its surroundings, this is a good place for a quiet stroll and a cup of tea.
Koret Children's Quarter - Koret Children's Quarter is one of the oldest, biggest, and best playgrounds in San Francisco - featuring a huge, gloriously terrifying slide down a hillside, a carousel, and an amazing climbing structure in which kids can easily get lost. The playground (formerly known as Children's Playground) was originally built in 1887 and is thought to be the nation's first public playground. Koret Children's Quarter reopened in the summer of 2007 after extensive renovations and upgrades.
Spreckels Lake: A fun weekend stop, when radio-controlled boat owners take their small-scale craft out for a spin.
Stow Lake: The largest Golden Gate Park lake is popular with fly fishermen and amateur boaters. Rent paddle boats and rowboats on the northwest side.
Windmills: Turn right east (away from the ocean) onto John F. Kennedy Drive to see Queen Wilhelmina's Windmill, one of the two honest-to-goodness Dutch windmills that stand near the west end of Golden Gate Park. In spring, tulips bloom around its base.
Japan Center Peace Plaza - At the heart of San Francisco's Japantown is the Japan Center, a five-acre shopping and restaurant complex, and at the heart of the Japan Center is the Peace Plaza, with its five-tiered concrete Peace Pagoda. The pagoda, designed by Japanese architect Yoshiro Taniguchi, was given to the city in 1968 by the people of Osaka, Japan, one of San Francisco's sister cities. Japan Center and the Peace Plaza are the focal point of two major annual festivals, the Cherry Blossom Festival in April and the Nihonmachi Street Fair in August, as well as many other special events throughout the year.
John McClaren Park - McLaren Park is one of San Francisco's best-kept secrets--an extensive natural oasis with miles of trails and multiple recreational amenities tucked away in the city's southeastern corner, unknown even to many residents. Named for John McLaren, the superintendent of Golden Gate Park from 1887 to 1943, it is the second largest park in the city, after Golden Gate Park. McLaren Park lies between the city's Excelsior and Visitacion Valley neighborhoods.
Lake Merced - Lake Merced, a large freshwater lake in San Francisco's southwestern corner, is the heart of a 614-acre park that is popular with boaters, hikers, bicyclists, and birdwatchers. A 4.5-mile paved trail circles the lake's perimeter; facilities include many picnic areas and a boathouse, fishing pier, and boat launch. The park is bounded by three golf courses, including City-owned Harding Park.
Lincoln Park - Lincoln Park was dedicated to President Abraham Lincoln in 1909 and includes about 100 acres of the northwestern corner of the San Francisco Peninsula. In 1923, the park was chosen as the site of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor (a fine arts museum).
Lombard Street - Often billed as the "crookedest street," San Francisco's Lombard Street is, in fact, neither the crookedest nor the steepest street in the city, let alone the world. Oddly, that fact doesn't deter the hordes of tourists who come every year to see this famous street, built with eight switchbacks on a 40-degree slope. If you're on foot, you can walk down (or up) the sidewalks. In his film Vertigo (1958), Alfred Hitchcock chose to make 900 Lombard Street the home of John "Scottie" Ferguson.
Minnesota Street Project - Located in San Francisco’s historic Dogpatch district, Minnesota Street Project offers affordable and economically sustainable spaces for art galleries, artists and related nonprofits. The Project inhabits three warehouses in Dogpatch. The galleries at 1275 Minnesota St. and 1150 25th St. are free and open to the public during regular business hours. The Artist Studio Program at 1240 Minnesota St. is not open to the public.
Mission Delores Park - Encompassing more than 14 acres, Mission Dolores Park is one of San Francisco's most popular parks, the vibrant heart of its equally vibrant, culturally diverse neighborhood. Here you'll find lush green lawns shaded by tall palm trees, a soccer field, six tennis courts, one basketball court, a playground, a dog play area, and a clubhouse with recreational facilities and public restrooms. Many festivals, performances, and other cultural events are held here, and on sunny afternoons people flock to the park to play, picnic, lounge, walk their dogs, and enjoy spectacular views of the city's skyline and beyond.
Mount Sutro Cloud Forest - On the slopes of Mount Sutro (see map here), a 900-foot hill in San Francisco California, is a glorious historic forest that is over a hundred years old. It was planted by Adolf Sutro, one of the city’s most colorful characters, and a former Mayor of the city.
Museum of Ice Cream - A sprinkle pool, banana swings, giant ice pops, and cotton candy clouds — that patrons pay $38 to see.
Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) - MoAD invites everyone to engage in the cultural expression of the African Diaspora through contemporary art. Focus spans the African Diaspora across history, from the diaspora at the origin of human existence through the contemporary African Diaspora that has affected communities and cultures around the world.
Musée Mécanique - One of the world's largest (over 200) privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in their original working condition. Located on Pier 45 at the foot of Taylor Street in San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf.
Natural Areas - Use this search tool to find natural areas throughout San Francisco, or search for a natural area by activity.
Palace of Fine Arts - The lovely Beaux Arts-style Palace of Fine Arts, with its elegant rotunda and colonnades set against the reflecting waters of the surrounding lagoon, is one of San Francisco's most romantic settings and a popular backdrop for wedding photographs, films, and television shows. Situated along San Francisco's northern waterfront, next to the Presidio's Crissy Field and Letterman Digital Arts Center, it is also a popular park, where visitors and residents come to picnic, stroll, jog, take pictures, or just watch the swans sail gracefully around its lagoon.
Pier 39 Marina - Pier 39 attractions are of general interest. Some charge admission and discounts are available. The Pier 39 Pass includes Aquarium of the Bay, a bay cruise and a trolley tour. Attractions include:
Crystal Geyser Center Stage - Some of San Francisco's best street performers appear here at several shows daily.
Pier 39 Marina - On the quiet east side you can enjoy views of the marina, Treasure Island, Bay Bridge and Berkeley.
Sea Lions - The Pier 39 sea lions took over nearby "K" dock in 1990, becoming an immediate tourist favorite. You can see them from Pier 39, or try Pier 41 for a better view. In summer, don't be surprised to find the docks almost empty. Even sea lions have to take care of business, and they migrate south for the summer breeding season, coming back in August.
POPOS and Public Art - Privately-owned public open spaces (POPOS) are publicly accessible spaces in forms of plazas, terraces, atriums, small parks, and even snippets which are provided and maintained by private developers. San Francisco has a 1% Art Program that requires all projects involving new building, or the addition of 25,000 square feet or more in the Downtown and nearby neighborhoods, provide public art equal to at least 1% of the total construction cost. In the summers of 2011 and 2012, for the first time, Planning Department staff visited all POPOS and required Public Artworks and created a comprehensive database. Since then, staff have routinely updated the database to show the latest built and public art. The resulting map, provided here, is intended to raise awareness of such spaces and works of art that are available to the public.
Presidio of San Francisco - For 218 years, the Presidio served as an army post for three nations. World and local events, from military campaigns to the rise of aviation, from World Fairs to earthquakes, left their mark. Enjoy the history and beauty of the Presidio. Explore centuries of architecture. Reflect in a national cemetery. Walk through an historic airfield, forests, or to beaches, and admire spectacular vistas. The Presidio of San Francisco is a park on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, characterized by many wooded areas, hills, and scenic vistas overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It was recognized as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The park has a large network of buildings (~ 800), many of them historical. By 2004 about 50% of the buildings on park grounds have been restored and (partially) remodeled. Among the Presidio's residents is The Bay School of San Francisco, a private coeducational college preparatory school located in the central Main Post area. Others include The Gordon Moore Foundation, Tides Foundation, Internet Archive, the Arion Press, and a museum in the memory of Walt Disney. Recently, the Presidio Trust - which manages the site - entered a major agreement with Lucasfilm to build a new facility called the Letterman Digital Arts Center (LDAC), which is now the headquarters of Industrial Light and Magic and LucasArts. The site replaced portions of what was the Letterman Hospital. As the Doyle Drive viaduct was deemed seismically unsafe and obsolete, in 2008, construction was started on the demolition of Doyle Drive which is to be replaced with a flat, broad-lane highway with a tunnel under a part of Crissy Field, called the Presidio Parkway. The project costs $1 billion USD and is scheduled to be completed by 2013. The Trust plans to create a promenade that will link the Lombard gate, the new Lucasfilm campus to the Main Post and ultimately to the Golden Gate Bridge. The promenade is part of a trails expansion plan that will add 24 miles (39 km) of new pathways and eight scenic overlooks throughout the park. Also see Camping at the Presidio page and Wikipedia article.
Presidio Pet Cemetary - The final napping place for hundreds of furry, scaly, and feathered companions who faithfully served the military families who lived at the Presidio when it was an Army post.
Randall Museum - This children's museum is situated on a 16-acre hill overlooking San Francisco and the Bay. The museum features a live animal exhibit, an earthquake exhibit with a working seismograph and a replica of a 1906 earthquake refugee shack, a treehouse toddler space, a working model train (Saturdays only) and other interactive exhibits. The museum's theater is host to a number of concerts, movies, plays and lectures year-round. The museum also offers a variety of low-cost, hands-on programs in the arts and sciences for families, children, teens and adults.
Rob Hill Campground - A hidden treasure, located at the Presidio's highest point above Baker Beach amid a beautiful eucalyptus grove. The campsite welcomes groups of all kinds and is also home to the Camping at the Presidio program, which provides youth with meaningful outdoor experiences.
San Francisco Design Center (SFDC) - Offers two locations to accommodate a wide array of events. The Galleria Atrium is a polished elegant space featuring a fully retractable skylight and exposed brick walls. It is a perfect location for corporate receptions, galas and fashion shows. The Concourse Exhibition Center, a historic converted railway station made of glass, steel and sandblasted wood, offers over 125,000 square feet of space. An ideal venue for your next large scale event or exhibition. See Upcoming Events calendar.
San Francisco Zoo - The San Francisco Zoo is located on the Great Highway between Skyline and Sloat Boulevards, next to the Pacific Ocean. Exhibit highlights include African Savanna (giraffe, zebra, kudu, horned oryx and African bird species), Grizzly Gulch (two female grizzly bears), Lipman Family Lemur Forest (four species of endangered lemur); Penguin Island (penguin colony of more than 50 birds). Additional exhibits include: the dramatic Jones Family Gorilla Preserve, Koala Crossing, Puente al Sur ("Bridge to the South"), the Lion House, the bear grottos, South American Tropical Forest, Australian WalkAbout, and Flamingo Lake. The Fisher Family Children's Zoo is home to the Family Farm, the meerkat and prairie dog exhibit, the Insect Zoo, and the Fisher-Price Littler Learners Cabin. In addition, the Koret Animal Resource Center, located adjacent to the Fisher Family Children's Zoo, is home to animals participating in the Zoo's outreach and education programs, including the summer Nature Trail program.
Stern Grove and Pine Lake Park - This 63-acre park in San Francisco's Sunset District is the site of the city's longest-running free concert festival, the Stern Grove Festival, which features weekly music, dance, and theater performances every summer in the grove's outdoor amphitheater. Situated along 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, the park also has picnic and dog play areas, hiking trails, a playground, and tennis, lawn bowling, and croquet courts. At its far western end is Pine Lake, one of the city's few remaining natural lakes and an important stopover for birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Pine Lake is managed by the Recreation and Parks Department's Natural Areas Program.
Union Square - Union Square, bounded by Powell, Geary, Post, and Stockton streets, is known the world over as the heart of San Francisco's shopping, hotel, and theater district. During the day, the park bustles with shoppers, sightseers, and office workers who linger to eat lunch or just rest and watch the cable cars go by. Stately palm trees are clustered at each of the park's four corners. You may see artists displaying their work or enjoy a free concert, and during the holiday season, be sure to catch the lighting of Macy's Christmas tree and the Bill Graham Menorah. The cable car bell-ringing competition is held here every summer, and the Chinese New Year pageant is staged in January or February.
Urban Trails Program - The Recreation and Parks Department's Urban Trails Program is a two-part initiative to restore key trails and expand the current volunteer trail corps to help create and maintain a trail network in the city's natural areas. Because funding for trail improvements is limited, the Department has worked with community groups and stakeholders to focus spending on parks and open spaces that have the greatest needs and would provide the greatest benefits if improved. Parks currently slated for improvements are:
"Venus' Statue in Mid-Market - San Francisco’s tallest piece of art, the towering nine-story contemporary riff on the Venus de Milo became the centerpiece of the Trinity Place public plaza.
Washington Square Park - An oasis of green in the heart of San Francisco's bustling Little Italy," North Beach, Washington Square is the perfect spot to bring a picnic from one of the neighborhood's many restaurants and markets. Situated on the block bounded by Columbus Avenue and Filbert, Stockton, and Union streets, the park consists of a grassy lawn shaded by trees, with benches scattered along the walkway that winds through it. A gathering place for the community, the park hosts many concerts and other cultural events.
Alcatraz Island - Spanish Eexplorer Manuel de Ayala named this barren rock in the middle of San Francisco Bay Isla de los Alcatraces (Island of the Pelicans). The island called Alcatraz has been used as a Civil War fort, Federal prison and symbol of Native American plight. Now, the National Park Service runs Alcatraz Island. Many Alcatraz Island prison buildings are gone. Some burned during the 1960s' American Indian Alcatraz occupation. The guard's residences, deteriorated beyond repair, were torn down in the 1970s. Barracks from Alcatraz Island's stint as a military base, the cell house, lighthouse and a few others remain. Alcatraz Island offers a close-up look at the site of the first lighthouse and US built fort on the West Coast, the infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public, and the 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes. The Alcatraz Occupation greatly influenced the American government's decision to end its policy of Termination and Relocation and to pass the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. Also see Wikipedia article.
Angel Island - Because of its strategic location in the San Francisco Bay, Angel Island has been home to a long succession of peoples and activities, from the Coastal Miwok Indians who hunted here two thousand years ago to the U.S. Army (dating from Civil War days thru WWI and II and on to the building of its underground Nike Missle Silo) to today's tourists who come to hike and see the sights. Perhaps the most famous and interesting chapter in Angel Island's history was its life as Immigration Station from 1910 to 1940. Official website and Wikipedia article.
Aquarium of the Bay - The 65,000 square foot facility features 300 feet of crystal clear acrylic tunnels holding over 700,000 gallons of filtered Bay water that is home to over 20,000 aquatic animals, including sharks, bat rays and skates and thousands of other animals including eels, flatfish, rockfish, Wrasse, Gobies, Kelpfish, Pricklebacks, Ronquil, Sculpin and Sturgeons. New exhibits installed in April 2009 include an octopus exhibit, a jellies exhibit and PG&E Bay Lab, an interactive climate change exhibit. Embarcadero and Beach Street.
Blue and Gold Fleet - Located at Pier 39, Blue & Gold Fleet's famous one-hour Bay Cruise sails along the City's waterfront, past the Pier 39 sea lions, under the Golden Gate Bridge, by Sausalito, past Angel Island and around Alcatraz. Blue & Gold Fleet also provides scheduled ferry service to Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island, Vallejo, Alameda and Oakland.
Cliff House - Today's Cliff House, renovated in 2004 is the third to stand on the cliffs overlooking Seal Rock. Cliff House is mostly a place to eat. The informal bistro serves basic fare and is open all day. It doesn't take reservations. The fine dining restaurant, Sutro's serves lunch and dinner daily. Reservations are recommended. You can ask for a window table, but they won't guarantee you'll get one. The patio behind the Cliff House offers nice ocean views and a chance to see the Camera Obscura. Based on a Leonardo da Vinci design, it uses lenses and a mirror to produce 360-degree images of the area. Just north of the Cliff House are the romantic Sutro Baths ruins, remains of an extravagant bathhouse built in 1896. Continue through this gallery to the Camera Obscura and Sutro Baths.
Golden Gate Ferry - operates frequent ferry service between San Francisco and Larkspur in central Marin County, and between San Francisco and Sausalito in southern Marin County.
San Francisco Marina Yacht Harbor - The San Francisco Marina is located on the northern waterfront of the City of San Francisco. It is approximately one and one-half miles east of Golden Gate Bridge and west of and adjacent to Fort Mason. San Francisco Marina, as it is also known, is a destination sought by thousands of boaters from all over the world. The oldest recreational marina operating in San Francisco, and perhaps the Greater Bay Area, the harbor has had vessels berthed in its original basin, now known as the West Harbor, since before the 1906 earthquake. The original marina was expanded in the mid-1960s, is approximately 35 acres. The entire facility has 671 berths, plus ten end ties for guest berthing vessels up to 100 feet, free pump out stations and a commercial fuel dock.
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park - The park includes a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility. The park also incorporates the Aquatic Park Historic District, bounded by Van Ness Avenue, Polk Street, and Hyde Street. The maritime museum was originally built (starting in 1936) by the WPA as a public bathhouse, and its interior is decorated with fantastic and colorful murals. The Steamship Room illustrates the technological evolution of maritime power from wind to steam, while the second-floor displays include three photomurals of the early San Francisco waterfront, lithographic stones, scrimshaw and whaling guns. The third-floor gallery is used for visiting exhibitions. Also see Wikipedia article. The historic fleet of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is moored at the park's Hyde Street Pier. The fleet consists of the following major vessels:
S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien - Operated as the National Liberty Ship Memorial, she is moored at Pier 45, Fisherman's Wharf and open to the public most days. Virtually the entire ship from engine room to flying bridge can be seen by visitors. Boilers are "lit off," and the 2500-horsepower, triple-expansion reciprocating steam main engine is operated on Steaming Weekends (normally the third Saturday and Sunday of each month) so visitors can see the engine plant in action. Fisherman's Wharf. Also see Wikipedia article.
USS Pampanito - A World War II Balao class Fleet submarine museum and memorial that is open for visitors daily at San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf. Pampanito made six patrols in the Pacific during World War II during which she sank six Japanese ships and damaged four others. Also see Wikipedia article.
Nearby San Francisco
Bay Area Discovery Museum - For children ages 1-10 and their families. A one-of-a-kind indoor and outdoor children's museum at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, serving over 300,000 visitors per year on its 7.5 acre Sausalito campus. The Museum is the only children's museum in the U.S. to be located in a national park, and its exhibits are admired and emulated by other children's museums nationwide. The Museum is recognized as the leading children's museum dedicated to nurturing childhood creativity, fostering future generations of creative thinkers and innovators. With this emphasis on creativity through play, the Museum encourages children ages 6 months to 8 years to develop into curious, creative, adventurous lifelong learners and explorers.
Camp Mather - Choose your favorite summer recreation and you will find it at Camp Mather in the High Sierra. During each session of camp, there are many activities for all age groups. We have swimming, arts & crafts, softball, basketball, bike riding (bring your own), sack races, and many others sports and activities. Fun filled days are capped with entertaining nights of camp films, videos, bingo and dancing.
Castello di Amorosa: Kid-friendly Winery - If you'd like to do a little wine-tasting, try Castello di Amorosa, where the tour of the big castle is lots of fun (many kids like their dungeon best). They charge a reduced admission fee for youngsters and provide juice for them to enjoy while the adults sip the fermented kind. Owner Dario Sattui has created a 121,000-square-foot, 12th century style, Tuscan castle to house his winery. Built from authentic materials and in the style of a real castle that would have been built in sections over many years, it's as close to Italy as you'll get in the United States. So beautiful and created with such care, it's an attraction in its own right, no matter how much you like wine.
Gilroy Gardens -An agricultural-themed park that's best for younger children and/or garden lovers. Near Gilroy, south of San Jose. A rarity in the world of ever larger theme parks and faster-bigger-taller-scarier rides, Gilroy Gardens was created for families. The theme here is botanical, inspired by a collection of extraordinary trees. Also impressive here is the maintenance. The entire park is spotlessly clean and all the rides and attractions are well maintained. Official website.
Great America -Paramount's theme park. Santa Clara. Rides, attractions, concerts and events.
Jelly Belly Factory Tour -Few kids (or adults, for that matter) can resist learning how these flavorful candies are made. On weekdays when the factory is working, visitors view the live action from enclosed walkways above the factory floor. On weekends, holidays, and during the annual plant shutdown at the end of June, guides rely on videos showing the factory in action. As the guides lead you above a rainbow-colored sea of trays and bins, they gush information and trivia, relating that it takes seven to ten days to make each of the 1.25 million beans finished each day. With steam baths, sugar showers and lots of rest, the process sounds more like a spa than a factory, but at the end, all the Jelly Bellies wind up in the "engrossing pan," a copper clothes dryer-like contraption, where they get four flavored syrup and sugar coats. After they're polished, a printer emblazons the Jelly Belly logo on every one. Official website.
Monterey Bay Aquarium - Fun for all ages. They make a special effort to have kids' activities associated with their exhibits, and little ones love hugging the human-in-an-otter-suit. Among the aquarium's numerous exhibits, two are of particular note: The centerpiece of the Open Sea Exhibit is a 10 meter (33-foot) high 1.3 million liter (1/3 million gallon) tank for viewing California coastal marine life. In this tank, the aquarium was the first in the world to grow live California Giant Kelp using a wave machine at the top of the tank (water movement is a necessary precondition for keeping Giant Kelp, which absorbs nutrients from surrounding water and requires turbidity), allowing sunlight in through the open tank top, and circulation of raw seawater from the Bay. The second exhibit of note is a 4.5 million liter (1.2 million gallon) tank in the Outer Bay Wing which features one of the world's largest single-paned windows (crafted by a Japanese company, the acrylic window is actually five panes seamlessly glued together through a proprietary process). Monterey. Also see Wikipedia article.
Mystery Spot -Worth a stop if you're in the area, this weird attraction will keep you thinking. In reality, what you see at the Mystery Spot is more related to optical illusion and location (where no reference points can be seen). Sandlot Science offers a good explanation of how they're created. Nevertheless, the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot is very popular. It's fun to suspend disbelief and join in the fun - or to try to keep your wits about you and figure out how it all works. Santa Cruz. Official Site. Also see Wikipedia article.
Napa Valley Wine Train - Runs from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back, serving meals and wine on the trip. It's a small-ish train, nine rail cars powered by a double-sided Alco Diesel Engine. It's also kid-friendly on selected Family Fun Nights, offered twice a month during the school year and on summer Sundays. One child per paid adult travels free, entertained by a professional care provider in a separate car with their own meals, while the adults have an uninterrupted dinner. Ages 3 to 12 only. Official site.
Old Faithful Geyser of California - Kids and adults alike are fascinated by the Old Faithful Geyser, which erupts as regularly as its more famous cousin in Wyoming, but it costs as much to see as a night at the movies. It's one of the few geysers in the world that erupt at regular intervals. Every half hour or so, on the average, Calistoga, California's version of Old Faithful erupts, throwing 350-degree Fahrenheit water as much as 60 feet into the air. The erupted water is hot enough to inflict severe burns, so keep a tight grip on wanderers of any age. Besides the geyser, you'll find a few llamas and a herd of Tennessee Fainting Goats, a breed that faints when startled. The goats grow used to human noises and seldom faint, but they're cute and children seem to like them.
Petrified Forest - A remarkable collection of petrified trees up to 8 feet in diameter and 65 feet long, some with their bark texture still visible, the California Petrified Forest has been a tourist attraction since 1870, attracting visitors as varied as author Robert Louis Stevenson and naturalist Luther Burbank. Ace wizard Harry Potter himself couldn't have done a better job of turning trees into stone than Mother Nature did at the Petrified Forest. Hike through the woods and discover how water and silica transform wood into rock or just say: "Wow! Would you look at that!" Visit Official website.
Rodeo Beach - Rodeo Beach is located in Marin County, California, two miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge. This thousand-yard-long crescent-shaped beach faces west. Its north end is covered with tiny, shiny multicolored pebbles. Orange ones are the rarest and prettiest. This pebbly Pacific beach offers good picnic sites, abundant wind for kite flying, and nearby bluffs for hikes and wave-watching. Careful beach-walkers may see (but must not collect) jasper, carnelian, black agate, and jade among the beach sands. In summer, the beach can be very busy.
Safari West - Tours that combine a walk around their wildlife compound with a safari jeep tour to see antelope, zebra, wildebeest, and dozens of other animals roaming the wine country foothills. You can even stay over night in their safari-style tent cabins. Northwest side of Calistoga.
San Jose Children's Discovery Museum - The striking 52,000 square foot purple building, designed by Mexico City-based architect Ricardo Legorreta, signals the purpose of Children's Discovery Museum to serve the needs of children, families and schools as a center for learning and discovery. For children, it is first and foremost a place to call their own, offering interactive exhibits and programs in a warm and inviting setting. In its unique environment, children actively make connections among ideas, people and cultures.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk -The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a thriving American seaside amusement parks, one of only about two dozen still in operation and the largest on the West Coast. Opened in 1907, the entire amusement park is a California Historic Landmark. Most popular among the 35 Boardwalk rides are the Giant Dipper, considered one of the world's top wooden roller coasters, the Carousel and Double Shot, a tower ride that offers panoramic views before dropping you 125 feet. Their newest ride, added in 2010 is the Haunted Castle, an amped-up version of the old-fashioned house of horrors lurking in the basement below the Boardwalk itself. You'll also find games and arcades, shopping, restaurants and fast food stands. Free concerts are held on summer Friday nights. Santa Cruz. Official website and Wikipeida article.
Winchester Mystery House - A monument to what someone can do if they have too much money. Doors leading to nowhere, windows with walls behind them, and on and on and on. Winchester's fascination with the number 13 is evident everywhere: bathroom number 13 has 13 windows, one of them looking into the bedroom next door, the kitchen sink sports 13 drain holes and Winchester even modified a 12-light gas chandelier to hold 13 lights. Other tours take in the grounds and gardens or go behind the scenes. On Friday the 13th and just before Halloween, you can take a Flashlight Tour, which always sells out ahead of time. San Jose. Also see Wikipedia article.
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