With a name like @pretty.city, I'm sure you thought you would hear more about what a pretty city San Francisco is. Truth is, my Instagram account did originally start because of this amazing place. While it does still include many elements of SF, the content has further developed into much more.
Last week I celebrated thirteen years since my arrival to this beautiful metropolis. I'll never forget my first week here, it was a magical whirlwind. Three days after arriving here I found my first apartment, a job, and a whole new beginning. It's always amazing to me the changes that you are able to endure all at once. No one realizes just how much they can overcome in such a short amount of time. Overall though, San Francisco has something to offer everyone, so it makes it easy to do.
Even though I've been here thirteen years, and nearly a third of my life, I still haven't been here long enough to be considered a local. SF has a very proud native population. Unfortunately, the dot com booms have made for an uncomfortable conflict between native residents and newcomers alike. I understand the pride that goes along with coming from such an amazing place as this though, and I respect it. The bottom line is, maybe I will never be a native, but my kids will always be.
Just because I wasn't born here doesn't mean I fall into a category of people who don't appreciate this amazing city. As a matter of fact, I have tried to experience so much in the Bay Area. This past year I made a point to explore as many new places and things that I hadn't in the previous twelve years here. I have walked across the Golden Gate Bridge (many times), hiked throughout the Marin Headlands, rode the Cable Cars, participated in Bay to Breakers, walked the entire Golden Gate Park, as well as John MClaren Park, walked up Bernal Heights, Corona Heights, Twin Peaks, and Ina Coolbrith Park to name a few. I have experienced more of SF in the past year than I have in the whole last decade. I can say that if my love for San Francisco wasn't solidified before, it most certainly is now.
I decided, that it was indeed time to share a list of my favorite places of this city. This list is not in any specific order.
1. Lands End
Located along the Coastal Trail on the westernmost area of the city, Lands End was once home to a scenic railway that ran downtown. It was developed by millionaire, Alfred Sutro and cost 5 cents per trip. As you walk down the coastal trail and down some of the side paths, you can still see some remnants of the extinct railway. To me, Lands End has so many unique nooks and crannies and seriously feels like you are miles away from the city. From the beautiful coastal and Golden Gate Bridge views, to the very special Mile Rock Beach and Labyrinth, this trail has it all. It is a beautiful yet sufficient place to accommodate all of your workout needs as well. Do this by utilizing all of the steps along with the boulders down at Mile Rock Beach. Gym? We don't need no stinkin gym. We've got a plethora of stairs and rocks galore to throw.
2. Ferry Terminal
The San Francisco Ferry Terminal, the Port of San Francisco, is located in the heart of the SF Bay. The Ferry Terminal building itself is special and gorgeous, but the Marketplace there is a culinary wonderland. The building, designed in the Beaux Arts Style in 1892 by American architect A. Page Brown, was completed in 1898. The terminal survived both major earthquakes in San Francisco. However, it has gone through a few changes throughout it's lifespan. The last incarnation of the building was a major renovation and restoration completed in 2002 and reopened to the public in 2003. The beautiful clock tower, which chimes every half hour, is actually the largest wind-up, mechanical dial clock in the world. It's crazy to think that for almost half a century this beautiful building was no longer a focal point of SF. This was due to the former Embarcadero Freeway that was constructed during the 1950's. It was only after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed much of the freeway that the city decided to once again make the beautiful waterfront accessible to pedestrians. I am so thankful they did!
3. Ina Coolbrith Park
I only discovered this amazing park with it's gorgeous panoramic views of downtown San Francisco last year. I don't know how I managed to miss out for so long. Nestled in a hidden pocket on Russian Hill, it offers probably one of the best views of SF and the Bay Bridge. There is not much parking available in the area and be prepared to walk up some of the steepest hills in the city to get there. I assure you though, it is worth it!
4. Golden Gate Park
It is almost a given that Golden Gate Park needs to be included on every "must do" list of San Francisco. It offers an array of culture, beauty, and recreation. Where else can you go in a matter of minutes to view American Bison, Windmills surrounded by beautiful flowers, multiple museums, a waterfall, the Japanese Tea Garden, and a carousel? It is also home to a bronze bust of William Shakespeare made directly from a cast of the one created in the 17th century (One of only two in existence). This bust is displayed in a beautiful garden containing flowers discussed in Shakespeare's works. The park is a completely man made creation that was developed out of the sand and shore dunes on the western part of the city in the 1860's. It is over 1,000 acres, making it 20% larger than Central Park in NYC. The wonderful green space is home to so many sports and recreational facilities ranging from a disc golf course, the famous Polo Grounds, an equestrian center, and even a golf course. You could spend a whole day here and still not experience all that this beautiful park has to offer.
5. Baker Beach
Let's face it, San Francisco is not known for it's beaches. Many people don't realize when they visit SF, that it generally is not your typical sunny California utopia that they had envisioned. Having said that though, we do get our share of beautiful beach weather days. The only downfall is that the Pacific Ocean that resides on the SF coast is absolutely freezing all year. Aside from that little blemish, Baker Beach is perfect. It has a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the coastline. If you time your visit just right, you might be able to snag a sweet shot of the reflection of the bridge in a tide pool. Many people have heard of Baker Beach due to the Famous nude section, but I can assure you it is only the north end that is. As long as you are comfortable with nudity (if you live in SF I assume nudity does not bother you one bit), you are welcome to chill out with your clothing on there sans judgement.
One of the best parts about Baker Beach is the Sand Ladder located at the north end. It is a must for any person that loves to add a little challenge to their walks. It is compiled of 200 poles tied together to form a rugged staircase in the sand. If utilized correctly, it can be an amazing workout all on it's own. I love it and I feel so much better when I incorporate it into my urban hikes.
This wraps up my first edition of "Must See" places in San Francisco. I'm sure there will be many more to follow. SF offers so much and I love being able to share my lovely city with you.