By JASON CAMPBELL
Almost 17 million people visited San Francisco in 2014.
People from all over the world coming to see Northern California’s crown jewel – a city that’s as renowned for it’s culture as much as its beauty and the one-of-a-kind charm that helps it stand apart from other major American metropolitan areas.
But we here in the Central Valley have a unique opportunity to take advantage of everything that San Francisco has to offer the world without requiring an overnight stay.
On a good day, when traffic is minimal, it’s possible to be on the other side of the Bay Bridge in just over an hour. If navigating the narrow, steep streets of some of the neighborhoods isn’t for you – and you’re going to contain your visit to the core of the city – then taking BART from Pleasanton alleviates some of that travel headache.
Either way you choose to get there, an abundance of opportunities ranging from museums and historical sites to world-class restaurants and entertainment abound.
Here are a few things worth checking out if you’re looking to get away to some cooler weather and an even cooler experience for a day:
*City Lights Bookstore – Tucked away in the heart of North Beach is this quaint and historically important bookstore that took the reins in the fight against literary censorship and free speech. While the majority of books today are bought in huge big box retailers or online through e-retailers like Amazon and Apple, this small bookstore – once a haunt of beat poets like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who frequented the “Poetry Room” that still exists upstairs – can get you just about anything you’re looking for.
*Golden Gate Park – San Francisco isn’t a large city. There are almost 830,000 people who live there, and they’re all crammed into a city that takes up only 49 square miles. That means that park space isn’t exactly plentiful. While places like Delores Park draw hundreds on clear sunny days, Golden Gate Park – which dead-ends at the Pacific Ocean – offers meadows, waterfalls, lakes, wildlife, windmills and recreational opportunities that you don’t expect to find in a major American metropolitan area. If you’ve never been inside of the Japanese Tea Garden – with the meticulously maintained pagodas and the beautiful ornamental horticulture – then you’re absolutely missing out on one the city’s crown jewels. It can get crowded, and when big events are taking place its next to impossible to navigate. But finding a spot in a neighborhood nearby and making the trek in is well worth your time.
*Treasure Island – We’ve all been across the Bay Bridge a hundred times, and most people don’t even realize that the island that connects the bridge’s two spans is actually a place that you can visit. Getting off on your way into San Francisco requires being in the far left lane and making the sharp left turn off of the freeway, but when you work your way around the bend you’re treated to a sweeping perspective of the beautiful Bay Bridge tower span that few people ever get the chance to see. Take the road straight around and down to the bottom of the hill and the San Francisco skyline pops in the background of the cold bay water – at times being shielded by fog that seems to settle down slowly from the sky like a big cloudy pillow. The island itself built for the World’s Fair – an infill island – and was eventually taken over by the United States Navy before being shuttered in the 1990’s. A lot of that naval infrastructure is still there, frozen in time, which makes exploring the island both fascinating and spooky. It’s well worth a trip. Just be careful getting back on the freeway. You go from stop to fast in a hurry.
*North Beach – Now this can get a little bit touristy from time-to-time as people head into the older Italian neighborhood rife with sidewalk cafes and a bustling street scene that makes it a wonderful place once the sun goes down. It’s also quite fascinating in its own right. On the edge of the neighborhood sits the Sentinel Building – which is owned by famed director Francis Ford Coppola. It’s the headquarters for American Zoetrope Productions – the company behind such famous films as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now – and the buildings ground floor is Café Zoetrope, which plays heavy on the director’s Napa wine connections and features memorabilia from some of his most famous works. In fact, up the street at Caffe Trieste Coppola actually wrote the majority of the screenplay that would go on to become The Godfather. Some of San Francisco’s best Italian restaurants are located here, and Broadway – which also houses the majority of San Francisco’s risqué adult businesses – becomes a nightlife destination thanks to its many bars and nightclubs.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.