Visiting San Francisco

I wrote a post about being a tourist for the day in my own city recently. And it prompted me to write about my beloved city some more.

If I were visiting San Francisco, and I had a limited time, what would I see?

Note: The first time I visited was in  February. It was 55- 65 degrees, and I was coming from Minneapolis, so I brought shorts. It was 60-70 degrees warmer in SF than in Minneapolis, and by golly, I was going to wear shorts.  65 is a lovely spring day, and warm enough for shorts in some climes. Oh, but San Francisco is just a little bit different. You have heard of wind chill? Just because it doesn’t technically freeze here, you will freeze here. Bring layers and layers of clothing. I don’t care when you come. just because you are traveling to California, this is NOT San Diego. You will FREEZE here! BRING LOTS OF LAYERS. If you are dubious. And you don’t bring layers, you will spend money on layers when you get here. I promise.

1. Ferry Plaza Building:

This is a historic landmark that has been reclaimed by architects and visionaries, and turned into a foodie mecca. Locally sourced, sustainably raised meats are made at Baccalone. And the beautiful Prather Ranch.

The list of shops read’s like a who’s-who in the culinary scene right now.

Miette is one of the beautiful bakeries I have ever walked into. It’s all macaroons, and bon bon cakes and lovely pastel colors. The Cow Girl Creamery is the home of smelly perfection. I could go on and on. There is something there for everyone, sweet to savory.

Sweet Pea

The Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market is “not Auntie Em’s ” farmer’s market. Go EARLY. And if you are a serious foodie, and know your top chef’s by site, you may spot one or two. (most of our visitors are up EARLY anyway, because they have not adjusted to Pacific time yet. So here is your place to go, besides the hotel coffee shop.) Prepare yourselves for the “not farmer’s market” pricing. But also, for an abundance that represents the amazing climate in Northern California, and the passion for local goods that the weather and territory have inspired.
Ferry Plaza
Kids: My kid loves the Ferry Plaza. We ride public transportation in (the F car trolly). And there is the promise of ice cream. It can get a little crowded. And you will only stay as long as they want to stay. But, wait, how is that different than any other day of the year?

2. A Giant’s game at the stadium: Depending on when you read this, whom ever has paid for the rights to this stadium will name it. (Pac Bell, AT&T park…) I will call it beautiful. If you have the chance to go to a game (assuming you like baseball in the first place.) I would go. It’s a fun park. And so beautiful. On one side (right field) if the batter hits it out of the park it will go in the water in the bay! It’s called a “splash down”. There are usually kayakers dressed for the occasion waiting to paddle out and catch the balls! (Can you imagine?)
Coke Bottle and Glove - AT&T Park - San Francisco
(Photo by Tony Wasserman on Flickr)
Kids: There is a really NEAT play area in the stadium for the kids. You will go there, and miss 1 hour of the game itself. There is a cool slide, and a place where they pitch to the kids, (and pitch and pitch until the kid hits the ball!!) and then project it up onto a screen that looks like the jumbo tron. Super thrilling.

3. Pick a little neighborhood: Noe Valley, Hayes Valley, Cole Valley, you decide. And just walk down the “high street” with the locals. No Gap, Pottery Barn, or McDonald’s involved. Cool cafe’s and locals just ‘livin’.

4. Chrissy Field: Once a toxic dump, and an old US Army Airfield, it is now a gorgeous beach, lawns, and park.(all reclaimed and safe and green now.) This is also the place for pictures with the Golden Gate Bridge as the back ground.

Kids: House of Air. If the fields are not enough, book time here. SO fun!
5. Alcatraz: Book a ticket in advance. They sell out. Book the head phone “self led” audio tour. It is kind of an amazing place. And there is a wonderful boat ride to get there.

Kids: You judge your kid’s age and tolerance for that sort of thing. I bet 7- up boys especially would dig it.

6. Go visit the Castro: Every day is Halloween there. Every day is a  celebration. Every day is “naked” day for somebody. Take the F-line all the way up Market, jump off at Castro and just view the scene as it goes by. The Castro embodies the freedom and liberalism of San Francisco, at it’s finest.

What NOT to do: You can skip those little rental mini go cart things. They are yellow (that is as specific as I will get) . I saw some tourists roll one once, and it was one of the scariest things I have ever witnessed. I truly thought they were dead. They ended up being “okay”, but really how safe is that? Not safe. Take a cab. Or a trolly, or bart, or a cable car, or rent a car, or walk. But don’t strap on a helmet and ride a low slung push mower around the city streets.

The double decker tour buses are neat. And so is the “fire engine tour”

It all depends on what you are looking for. But what ever that may be, San Francisco has certainly got it. Enjoy.

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