Castro & Market
Travel to San Francisco ‘s well-known Mecca of all that comes with gay life in the City’s Castro District. The North side of the Market District is the center of a mainly lesbian and gay community, boutiques, excellent bakeries, bars, restaurants, cafes, and of course, numerous gender-bending bars. The renown Castro Theatre, the historically important art deco movie theatre, usually screens a lot of old or independent film productions from all around the globe. On Halloween, San Francisco’s center is the Castro while tens of thousands of enthusiasts celebrate in the streets.
Bowley St. and Lincoln Blvd and Presidio, Phone: (415) 331-1540
San Francisco’s most popular and locally beloved nude beach is nestled in the western shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. Aside from being the birthplace of Burning Man, the great qualities of Baker Beach are its size, close shore breaks, tide pools, steep bluffs, and climbable rocks, and a totally nude north end that rubs friendly elbows with a decidedly family-style south side, complete with barbeque grills and picnic tables. While this stretch of the Pacific makes for rough swimming, it bodes well for panoramic sunbathing and excellent shore fishing.
1090 Point Lobos, Phone: (415) 386-3330
The third Cliff House, which was built in 1909, after its two predecessors burned, is considerably more modest than the eight-story French chateau built by Adolph Sutro in 1896. This newest one, built in 1909 by Sutro’s daughter, is operated by the National Park Service as a restaurant and boast commanding views of the Pacific Ocean and Ocean Beach. See more SF attractions here.
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd, Phone: (415) 362-0808
The wild local heiress Lillie Hitchcock donated the money for her posthumous tribute the San Francisco fire department, the 180-foot tall Coit Tower which overlooks an impressive 360-degree panorama view of the Embarcadero, Pier 39, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mt. Sutro, and the Financial District all in one dizzying sweep. Work up an appetite for North Beach ‘s Italian flair by trekking your way up Telegraph Hill to peruse the view and the Diego Rivera style frescoes housed inside the Tower. This post is number two in a series about What To See In San Francisco. Click here for post one.
3609 Lyon St, Phone: (415) 561-0360
Learn something new during your San Francisco vacation! Founded in 1969 by noted physicist and educator Dr. Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium houses a playful array of over 650 hands-on science, art, and human perception exhibits. From salt volcanos and bubble bombs to fault lines and frogs, the lineup tests imaginations young and old. Just the building itself, a palatial domed structure left from the San Francisco Pan-Pacific Exhibition of 1916, is worth a visit. This also a favorite spot for locals.
Tactile Dome in the Exploratorium
Winner – Best Place to Take Out Of Towners
The Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon St (at Bay), Phone: (415) 561-0362
Dr. August Coppola (Francis’ brother and Nicolas Cage’s dad) designed this touchy-feely 1971 oddity — a one-way maze inside a geodesic dome that you must feel your way through, in complete darkness. Coppola built the attraction so that one must climb, crawl, slide, and fall to get to the end, encountering surprising and delightful textures and objects along the way. The Tactile Dome is located inside the Exploratorium, and you must make reservations and pay a bit extra to get into it. It’s fun for kids, and you can rent the entire thing out (think birthday parties!). at an affordable rate. Rumor has it that with advance notification, you can even go through in your bathing suit, for maximum tactile stimulation — corporate team-building anyone? The Tactile Dome, which takes about 10 minutes to traverse, was once a favorite something-to-do-on-acid experience of hippies, who took much longer. Lucky for them, if you get claustrophobic and start to freak out, the attendant will turn on the light and let you out.
North Beach is sandwiched between Chinatown and Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s a lively stretch of strip joints, bars, cafes and restaurants that started as the city’s Italian quarter and gave birth to the Beats in the 1950s – City Lights Bookstore is here, at the corner of Columbus Ave and Jack Kerouac Alley. The neighborhood is hemmed in on the east by Telegraph Hill, which features tree-shaded stairways that ramble down the steep eastern face of the hill, and Coit Tower. One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the tower is a prime spot to let loose your postcard-vista voyeurism. The 360° views from here are superb.
900 North Point Street
Shopping and waterfront dining at fine restaurants and shops in historic San Francisco Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory near San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf. The building was saved from destruction in one of the U.S. ‘s first examples of adaptive reuse. The Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival takes place in early September.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission Street @ Third, Phone: (415) 978-2700
Fumihiko Maki’s daring architecture is home to eclectic exhibitions, performances, and films. The lawn of Yerba Buena Gardens above is great for frisbee throwing. The nearby Sony Metreon, which opened in 1999 has become a major South of Market destination with 350,000 square feet of shopping, restaurants, movie theaters, interactive arcades, and attractions, a great destination on your San Francisco vacation.