These destinations are over a mile from the Marriott. Some are still very walkable, but others are farther flung and that’s where BART, Muni, taxi or our local “transportation network companies:” Uber and Lyft are probably your best bet.
Telegraph Hill Tour
Perhaps best known for Coit Tower, Telegraph Hill boasts some of the best views of the Bay the city has to offer. Before you go, be sure to download KQED’s Let’s Get Lost smartphone app for interactive tours of the famous New-Deal-era murals at Coit Tower (1 Telegraph Hill Blvd), as well as others around the city. To enjoy the richness of the area, take a tour from SF City Guides and along the way you’ll see some of the neighborhood’s most attractive gardens, as well as cottages that date from the Gold Rush era. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the flock of wild parrots made famous in the Independent Lens documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”
Neighborhood to Know: North Beach
Even if you can’t make the scheduled walking tour, you can still enjoy the panoramas of Telegraph Hill and North Beach. Just to the north of the equally fascinating Chinatown neighborhood (see our “In Downtown” guide), you’ll find the historic domain of the Italian-American community. While the neighborhood is now as multi-ethnic as any you’ll find in SF, you’ll still find scores of bakeries, gelaterias, espresso stands, and decadent Italian restaurants. You’ll also find notable literary landmarks such as City Lights bookstore (261 Columbus) and streets named after significant members of the Beat Poets. You can learn more about the West Coast contributions to that movement at the Beat Museum (540 Broadway) or just chill out and watch the Tai Chi practitioners in Washington Square Park.
Castro Walking Tour
There’s a bit of construction happening along Castro Street, the historic heart of San Francisco’s pioneering gay community. Sidewalks are being widened. Rainbow-hued crosswalks are being painted. Still, don’t let a little dust deter you from visiting the cafes and shops that line this energy-filled neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine now, but the neighborhood called the Castro was once a subdued, working class community known as “Eureka Valley.” Take this tour with Foot! Comedy Walking Tours and laugh your socks off while you learn about the neighborhood’s history from the 19th century to the present. Stops include the Castro’s very first gay bar, the surprising controversies that flutter with the iconic massive rainbow flag, and of course the Castro Theatre, which first opened in 1922. As the company’s web site promises, “you’ll have a gay old time.” $30 per person.
Neighborhood to Know: The Mission
Sitting right next to the Castro, you’ll find the super-hot Mission district. Sunnier than most of the city, this moderately flat neighborhood sports parallel arteries — Valencia and Mission streets — the former packed with upscale restaurants and trendy shops, the latter is still holding on to its everyman roots, but just barely. You’ll find an ever-increasing number of adventurous new spots nestled among the dollar stores and taquerias. If you can’t get the best burrito or small-batch fresh-roasted coffee you’ve ever had, you’re just not trying. And beer is making a big splash at places like Monk’s Kettle (3141 16th St), Amnesia (853 Valencia St), Abbot’s Cellar (742 Valencia St), and outdoor favorite Zeitgeist (199 Valencia St). If craft cocktails are more your thing, you’ll want to search out Trick Dog (3010 20th St) on the emerging 20th Street gourmet corridor right around the corner from the KQED building.
Golden Gate Park
While it’s sometimes compared to another great ubran expense in New York City, Golden Gate Park is 20% bigger than Central Park. Who can argue with that? Okay, it’s not a contest — it’s a treasure trove of amazing natural sights and home to a host of great cultural institutions.
Here are a couple of highlights you might want to consider:
The San Francisco Botanical Garden
San Francisco Botanical Garden
Located in the heart of Golden Gate Park, the San Francisco Botanical Garden (1199 9th Ave) is planted with more than 8,000 plants from around the world, including those rare and endangered plants that are the objects of conservation. Check their website to see what’s in bloom, and don’t miss the “cloud forests” – gardens that have the same conditions as rainforests at high elevations in Mexico, the Andes, and Southeast Asia. There you’ll find some of the garden’s most treasured plants, like the golden fuchsia (Deppea splendens) from Mexico and a type of passion flower called Passiflora parritae native to Andean cloud forests. San Francisco Botanical Garden is one of the only outdoor gardens in the world that can grow these species, largely thanks to Bay Area fog mimicking high altitude cloud cover. Free admission.
The California Academy of Sciences
This recently renovated wonderland of inquiry houses “the oldest scientific institution in the western United States.” Visit the California Academy of Sciences (55 Music Concourse Dr) and you’ll find an undulating living roof, an all-digital planetarium, an aquarium, and a host of rotating exhibits. Check their website for specifics on exhibitions and special events, including an after-hours cocktail party offering Do-It-Yourself workshops with veterans of the Bay Area’s world-famous Maker Faire.
The de Young Museum
Also newly rebuilt, the de Young Museum (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr) is an art-lovers paradise. The permanent collection includes American paintings and decorative art, African and Oceanic art, as well as textiles and photography. Current exhibits include Native American Art recently acquired from the Weisel family, photographs of the Bay Bridge during its original construction, and a show celebrating 50th anniversary of Walasse Ting’s “groundbreaking artist-illustrated book” 1￠ Life. Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 5:15 pm, museum admission costs $10. If you go, don’t miss the chance to ascend to the tower’s observation deck and take in its panoramic 360-degree views of the park (free).
Locations within a single mile of the Marriott Marquis.
Venture further afield within the city limits.
A quick overview of some great vistas.
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