Lonestar's friend Eva is visiting San Francisco for a few days. We're hoping to inspire her with some fun and easy experiences in San Francisco that will give her a good taste of the cities delights. Have fun!
This friendly neighborhood joint has a flair for combining everyone's favorite vice, the humble doughnut, with another, such as bacon or alcohol. They first earned notoriety with their maple-bacon-apple doughnut -- wash two of those down with a cup of Four Barrel coffee, and you might have a heart attack immediately, but at least you'll die happy! My preference is for the Bitter Queen (maybe I just like the name) -- grapefruit Campari flavor, which is my favorite cocktail in a doughnut format, so I guess I'll be dying happy too. They change their menu every day so check the rundown before making the trip: http://twitter.com/dynamodonut
You can grab your doughnut at the takeout window on 24th Street, but if you have time, I encourage you to grab a seat inside -- where you can watch the bakers making fresh batches of doughnuts as the smell of bacon fills the air -- or out back in the sunny doughnut garden. This is a peaceful spot to read the paper and sample one or five of Dynamo's finest.
Angel Island is one of the best ways to get your nature fix from downtown San Francisco - especially if you don't have a car. Just take the ferry from Fisherman's Wharf and enjoy a windy boat ride with great views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Angel Island has been a state park since the fifties, and today is relatively undeveloped (despite its fascinating and quite bleak history as a strategic location for army garrisons, prisoner-of-war camps and immigration stations). Within minutes of stepping off the ferry, you'll find yourself in a dense Californian forest with only the foghorns and boat sounds to remind you that you're actually in civilization. The North Ridge Trail and Sunset Trail allow you to complete a walking loop around the whole island, passing through many different types of forests and landscapes. If you have time, do take the small trail up to the top of Mount Livermore. It's an easy uphill walk and from the top you can enjoy true 360-degree views of the entire Bay Area, including downtown San Francisco, the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island, Emeryville, the Richmond Bridge, Tiburon, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sutro Tower. I especially like the view straight up the hill streets in San Francisco - they almost look like an optical illusion or a special effect from "Inception" as they appear to form vertical lines within the body of the city. If you go past the peak you will come to a small picnic area with just a few tables and a splendid view of the Golden Gate Bridge - savor as much time as you can up here without missing your boat home!
Battery Spencer is an old favorite among Bay Area photographers because you can capture amazing shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, including cool angles that show downtown San Francisco through the cables of the bridge. The night view is sensational as well - bring your date! It's also a great spot for history buffs, since it served as a gun emplacement defending the Golden Gate from the late 1800s into World War II, and you can still wander around what remains of the battery itself. Battery Spencer is located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge off of Conzelman Road. Just bring your coat and hat - it tends to be really windy up here!
Perched on top of a cliff, with the Presidio on one side and Ocean Beach on the other, the Cliff House is one of San Francisco's landmark destinations. The Cliff House offers two restaurants, the more casual bistro on the main level and the elegant Sutro’s at the Cliff House on the lower level. Generally speaking the food isn't too bad, but is probably not the reason you're going to make the trip to the farthest reaches of San Francisco. The main attraction is undoubtedly the view: a sweeping Pacific seascape reaching from Ocean Beach to the Golden Gate. Be warned though - betting on the view is a gamble and the winner takes all! At its best this view is frankly stunning and takes my breath away, but on a foggy day (not uncommon) a vast whiteness will stretch out as far as the eye can see. At which point attention must turn to the food.
Downstairs, Sutro's has an accomplished, if slightly stuffy and conservative, menu - offering traditional, well-presented dishes using high-quality ingredients. The service is impeccable if a wee bit stiff, the cocktails and wine list fun. But on those white days I must admit that the meal never seems able to cut through my disappointment about the missing view.
Upstairs, the bistro is a different story. This is a great brunch spot, and is absolutely perfect to take tourists and/or parents as the first stop on a journey of discovery around the many local attractions. A walk on the beach to soak up the ions followed by a hearty brunch is a fairly decent way to start the day. The staff are friendly and the atmosphere is sunny and relaxed. Every meal starts with a bowl of popovers, AKA Yorkshire Puddings, that will probably be a delicious curiosity for the uninitiated. I love to use this place as a starting point for a fantastic walk from Ocean Beach to the Ferry Building.
Oh and one last thing, popovers and Bloody Marys a good breakfast do not make!
Easy access to wild nature is undoubtedly one of San Francisco's best characteristics. A short hop and a jump over the Golden Gate Bridge can put you in the middle of pristine redwood forests or on crashing Pacific beachheads. However, if you're only in San Francisco for a short time, then this local version is the perfect alternative. It's accessible by public transport and offers wonderful views of the must-see Golden Gate Bridge.
The Land's End Coastal Trail follows the Pacific coastline around the western edge of the Presidio, offering stunning views of the craggy coastline. The path starts from just above the ruins of the Sutro Baths in a shady cypress wood. The first section follows the old route of the Cliff House Railroad, built by the ingenious Adolph Sutro to bring crowds of San Franciscans to the Sutro Baths and his restaurant. As a result the first stretch is flat with a well-paved surface, great for the less nimble. After a few miles the terrain picks up and the path rises and falls over the bluffs, occasionally breaking into staircases.
As you twist and turn through the verdant woodland it's difficult to imagine that you're so close to a city. The path rewards you with view after view, from the cyprus trees silhouetted against the wild coastline to the remarkable Golden Gate Bridge lording it over the mouth of the bay. Numerous foghorns serenade you - I think there are seven in total, each one with a slightly different pitch to help sailors pinpoint their position.
The path finishes up at Eagle's Point, but there is no need to stop here - you can continue all the way through Seacliff towards the bridge.
No self-respecting visitor to San Francisco would miss a trip on the famous cable cars, but for some reason, the city's assortment of wonderful electric streetcars gets short shrift. Unbeknownst to many people, we San Franciscans are living in the midst of what amounts to an open-air, living museum of vintage streetcars, still run as a proper form of public transportation by MUNI.
Reading a description of the fleet is truly amazing. You might find yourself on the No. 496, an unusually smooth-running tram that dates from Melbourne, Australia, in 1928. I'm partial to No. 1818, a funky wooden tram from 1930s Milan - originally designed by the industrious Peter Witt in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1915! There are also trams from Japan, Switzerland, and England (including one in the shape of a boat that has actually sailed across the Atlantic).
And yes, theatre fans, we do have "A Streetcar Named Desire." (And people don't know about this?!) MUNI currently runs one of these streetcars in the form of No. 952, which dates back to New Orleans in 1923, and which ran on the original "Desire" line. I have yet to catch that one, but if I ever do, I am fairly certain I am going to faint. Perhaps Stanley will catch me!
As an ex-Londoner, my mental image of “urban beach” is a small patch of scraggly cigarette-butt-speckled sand surrounded by promotional drink stands and forbidding bouncers. It’s not appealing. The experience at Baker Beach could not be more different.
There are so many reasons to love Baker Beach. Just a short drive from the city, along a quasi-mountain road that ducks and dives through the Presidio, lies this stunner of an urban beach. Despite your proximity to downtown San Francisco, the high cliffs and the Presidio behind you create the illusion that you’re in a secluded cove halfway down the Big Sur. But then, as you cast your eyes about you, you suddenly appreciate the outstanding landmark in the distance - looming high above you is the Golden Gate Bridge. This has to be one of the best views of the city.
It’s a great place for people-watching: hipsters doing photo shoots, families playing in the sand, old couples taking in the ions from the crashing waves, and (if you're at the northern end of the beach) nudists letting it all hang out.
I have heard reports that it can get crowded, but every time I have visited there has been plenty of space and the atmosphere has been tranquil. So I highly recommend bringing your friends, a picnic basket, some cold beer, a rug, and a dog, and settling down for a day of watching the waves roll in.
On the corner of Haight and Masonic you will find a place that is fast becoming a new social hub of Haight-Ashbury (2010s edition): Magnolia Gastropub and Brewery. I like this place because they brew their own beer and also obviously have a great time brewing up the names of the beers: just try not to order the "Cole Porter" (ha!) or "Stout of Circumstance." My usual choice is "Sara's Ruby Mild" - doesn't that just sound like a home-brewed health tonic from 1902?
They also have a witty and yummy menu - I am quite partial to their brunch, which features a not-at-all-English English breakfast, the not-at-all-healthy but super-scrummy Duck Benedict, and beer ice cream for dessert. (BTW I finally figured out the real difference between breakfast and brunch - it's considered 100% permissible to have dessert after brunch. Hooray!) I am also pretty much genetically obligated to love something called "Brown Sugar Peppercorn Bacon."
You might have to wait for a table because the place is not big and demand often exceeds supply, but try to make a little place for yourself near the bar at the back and enjoy a drink while you wait. The people-watching is usually ace here, too.
I moved to the Bay Area from my native London a few years ago. I knew I was in for a treat, but nothing prepared me for the delights of the Bay Area; the amazing nature on our doorstep, the great food, the good beer and the friendly and outgoing people. This is what inspired Lonestar and I to build jov.io; We want to share these amazing experiences with our friends.
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