San Francisco for Graduate Students and Others on a Budget (and Not)
Christian A. Hale, December 2001
San Francisco is never a dull place, even if you don't want to spend a lot of money! The following article will present some moderately inexpensive yet interesting ways to experience the city's vibrant cultural life.
Getting around the City
San Francisco does have a metro system called BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), but essentially, within the city, it is limited mainly to the Financial District/Market Street (Market Street is, basically, San Francisco's "Main Street"). Therefore, BART, which also goes into the East Bay to places like Oakland and Berkeley, is not the most reliable method of reaching various points of interest around the city, and a good deal of walking-or forms of public transportation such as the MUNI, which is San Francisco's light rail and bus system-is usually required. Though MUNI fares are inexpensive-usually about $1 each way-it is not a totally reliable means of public transportation, however, as most of its buses and trams never seem to follow the posted time schedule. Luckily though, many of San Francisco's highlights are within walking distance from Union Square and walking is definitely recommended to those who want to soak up the local atmosphere of its many diverse neighborhoods, like Chinatown and North Beach. For more information on BART stations and tickets, log onto www.bart.gov; for more info on San Francisco's bus system (MUNI), visit www.sfmuni.com or call (415) 673–MUNI (6864).
Fortunately for those on a budget, Union Square-the area around the annual meeting hotels-is San Francisco's version of New York's Times Square, is a very central location to many points in the city, and is also very close to the Montgomery and Powell Street BART stations. If you happen to be in San Francisco during New Year's Eve, it is also host to an excellent street party, again very similar to the one held in Times Square.
Food. Union Square can be a fairly expensive place, but there are some fast-food alternatives. For those in hurry and desiring a fast-food alternative to McDonald's, try either the Carl's Jr. near the annual meeting hotels at the corner of Powell and Market Streets, or the Jack-in-the-Box-the ubiquitous California fast food chain-at the corner of Geary and Mason (unfortunately, Union Square and the surrounding area does not offer the best California fast food chain-In-N-Out Burgers-though there is one in Fisherman's Wharf at 333 Jefferson Street).
Nightlife. Those who like old, lounge-style hotel bars should check out the Compas Rose in the ritzy St. Francis Hotel, located directly on the Square at 355 Powell Street, while the equally posh Sir Francis Drake Hotel, located next door, offers the ring-a-ding, martini-glass charm of Harry Denton's Starlight Room. Food and drink is expensive at both of these places, but it is fun to stay for just one or two drinks to soak up the ambience, and then leave for other less expensive watering holes. Many of the other bars in Union Square are, in my opinion, too hip for this planet, but, if you like spending an evening-and a small fortune-looking like you're "money," then you might enjoy places like The Red Room, located at 827 Sutter Street. Otherwise, if you head about five blocks west from the Hilton into the Tenderloin district, you'll find cheaper, more unassuming fare. The O'Farrell Sports Bar, at the corner of Larkin and O'Farrell Streets, is a decent little place to unwind. The Great American Music Hall, located at 859 O'Farrell Street, offers a diverse venue of live music acts, ranging from zydego and bluegrass to pop rock and jazz, and relatively inexpensive food. (415) 885-0750. www.gamh.com.
Shopping. Union Square is a shopper's paradise, and is home to many department stores such as Macy's, Neiman-Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as such up-scale, Park Avenue-type boutiques as Armani, Gucci, Tiffany, and other more commercial outlets such as FAO Schwartz, J. Crew, Nike Town, The Disney Store, all of which are within walking distance from the annual meeting hotels.
Sites and Attractions. But if you are not a shopaholic, you will definitely want to get out to other, less commercial parts of San Francisco. City Hall is a San Francisco landmark that has been featured quite heavily in movies ("Dirty Harry Callahan" turned in his badge here in all of the Dirty Harry films, while Christopher Walken torched the place in the lackluster James Bond entry, A View to a Kill), and is within walking distance of Union Square, just off of Market Street at 1 Carleton B. Goode Place. City Hall offers free, docent-led tours Tuesday through Friday at 10 a.m., 12 noon, and 2 p.m.; for more information call (415) 554-6023.
Market Street is also one of the major commercial hubs in all of San Francisco and many department stores, "megastores," and outlets, such as Nordstrom, Virgin Megastore, Old Navy, and The Gap, are located there just off of the intersection of Powell and Market Streets. The brand-new Sony Metreon, located immediately south of Market at the intersection of Mission and Howard Streets, is basically a neon-and-glass monument to consumerism and home also to The Discovery Channel Store and Microsoft, among others. There is also a Sony Cineplex and an IMAX theater. This area of Market Street is highly commercial -very similar to the "new" Times Square in New York and London's Leicester Square-and is recommended only for those wishing to totally immerse themselves in laissez-faire capitalism.
Food and Nightlife. As previously mentioned, the easily walkable Market/Powell Street intersection has numerous fast-food joints, such as Jack in the Box, Carl's Jr., Burger King, etc.
Though San Francisco has been home to many diverse music scenes, it is currently running a bit dry. However, it does maintain a decent number of clubs and bars. The Warfield, located at the corner of Market and Powell Streets at 982 Market Street, is the premier venue in the Bay Area for mainstream, alternative rock acts, and is these days serving up acts ranging from Weezer to Judas Priest. (415) 775-7722. www.thewarfield.com. Rock fans may want to check out a show at the renowned Fillmore Auditorium. Located at 1805 Geary Avenue, the Fillmore is best known as the home to the San Francisco "psychedelic" scene of the late 1960s and was renovated in 1994 as a tribute to the late Bay Area music impresario, Bill Graham. The Fillmore is accessible by public transportation: from Union Square, catch the MUNI #38L at the northwest corner of Powell and Sutter Streets, and ride to Geary Boulevard and Fillmore Street. (415) 346-6000. www.thefillmore.com.
Sites and Attractions. With its immense buildings that block out the sun and make the area seem like a dense, urban redwood forest, San Francisco's Financial District is within easy walking distance from Union Square and is accessible by public transportation via the Montgomery BART station. The "heart" of the financial district is the 48-story Transamerica Pyramid, one of the city's major architectural icons, located at 600 Montgomery Street. The Transamerica Pyramid has an observation level on the 27th floor that is free-unfortunately it is open only during weekdays-and offers many breathtaking panoramic views of both San Francisco and the Bay Area; keep in mind though that it will be very cold up there in January. For more info, call (415) 983-4000. Nearby is another San Francisco landmark, the historic Coit Tower. Perched atop Telegraph Hill at 1 Telegraph Hill Boulevard, it offers more spectacular views of the city and has a very cool collection of WPA murals, including one by Diego Rivera. Access to the mural gallery is free, but it does cost $3 to ride the elevator to the top. For more info, call (415) 362-0808. The Wells Fargo History Museum, located within the headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank at 420 Montgomery Street, is free and has an assortment of monetary artifacts that will appeal particularly to scholars of U.S. monetary history and of the gold rush.
The old Italian district of North Beach is also within walking distance from Union Square and is a notable destination for those wanting to sample some of the best restaurants in the city.
Sites and Attractions. Those wishing to pursue a more intellectual excursion should take a trip to the North Beach and San Francisco landmark, City Lights Booksellers and Publishers. Located at 261 Columbus Avenue (also down the street from the Transamerica Pyramid), City Lights was the progenitor of San Francisco's legendary beatnik literary movement of the 1950s and 1960s that made such writers as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and William S. Burroughs famous. It still offers poetry and author readings and has an excellent coffee bar. For details on readings and events, call (415) 362-8193. Nearby is the infamous Broadway "strip," originally home to notorious strip clubs where comedian Lenny Bruce and other artists identified as beatniks and hippies made their marks in the 1950s and 1960s, and which became trendy coffee bars in the P.C. 1990s.
Food and Nightlife. Café Greco, located at 423 Columbus Avenue, offers relatively inexpensive yet very tasty Mediterranean-style pasta and pizza. One can find very good burgers at the very kitschy Clown Alley, located at 42 Columbus Avenue (closer to the Transamerica Pyramid, actually). The Stinking Rose is a very popular (that is, touristy) and crowded Italian restaurant located at 325 Columbus Avenue, while O'Reilly's Irish Pub & Restaurant, located at 622 Green Street (between Columbus Avenue and Powell Street) is a great place to grab a couple of pints of Guinness.
Sites and Attractions. Also located within walking distance of Union Square is the city's famous Chinatown district, the entry of which is marked by the ornate Chinatown Gate on Grant Street.
Food and Nightlife. San Francisco has the largest Asian population outside of Asia, and some of the best Chinese food restaurants in the United States can be found in Chinatown, the best and least expensive of which is, in my opinion, the House of Nanking, located at 919 Kearney Street (between Columbus Avenue and Jackson Street). The interior is far from exotic but the food is first rate.
South of Market (SOMA)
A commercial alternative to the overwhelming Market and Powell Street corridor is the former warehouse district just south of Market Street, rechristened SOMA in the 1990s. SOMA has become a haven for trendy lofts, nightclubs and restaurants, and other attractions, many of which are within walking distance from Union Square while others require either MUNI transportation or a cab ride (recommended, especially at night).
Sites and Attractions. Adjacent to the Sony Metreon is the very popular Yerba Buena Gardens, located 701 Mission Street (at 3rd and Howard Streets). The Yerba Buena Gardens is a beautiful, five-acre urban park and walkway that also houses the Center for the Arts and the brand-new Children's Center, which has a carousel, an ice-skating rink, and bowling. Also located within the Yerba Buena Gardens at 655 Mission Street is the Ansel Adams Center, which is operated by the nonprofit Friends of Photography and is a major center for photography exhibits from around the world. During the annual meeting, it will be offering the exhibit Ansel Adams, A Legacy: Masterworks from the Collection of The Friends of Photography. The Ansel Adams Center is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; admission is $7 for adults, $4 for students and seniors. (415) 495-7000, ext:302. www.friendsofphotography.org.
The main attraction of SOMA is the new home for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) located at 151 Third Street (between Mission and Howard Streets). The SFMOMA is one of the world's foremost houses of modern art and is the permanent home to works by Picasso, Matisse, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Jackson Pollock, among others. In January, the SFMOMA will have exhibits on Ansel Adams at 100, Julia Rothschild: An Artist's Search, and Swiss-American sound-artist Christian Marclay. The SFMOMA is open to the general public Monday, Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and is closed all day on Wednesdays. Admission prices are $10 for adults, $6 for students with ID, and $7 for seniors. (415) 357-4000. www.sfmoma.org.
Close to the SFMOMA and the Yerba Buena Gardens is the California Historical Society, located at 678 Mission Street, which has a vast collection of more than 5,000 paintings, photographs, costumes, and other objects that showcase California's diverse history from its pre-Gold Rush days through the early 20th century. Their gallery is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and costs $3 for adults and $1 for seniors over 62. (415) 357-1848. www.californiahistoricalsociety.org.
Food and Nightlife. Hamburger Mary's, located at 1852 Folsom Street, has all sorts of burgers on its menu and even caters to vegetarians; it also has a late-night bar. Venture Frogs, located at 1000 Van Ness, has some good, relatively inexpensive pan-Asian cuisine, while the Thirsty Bear Brewing Co., located at 661 Howard Street, offers some decent, local microbrews. For live music entertainment, check out either The Paradise Lounge, located at 1501 Folsom Street, is an excellent venue for live alternative-rock music, or Slim's, located at 333 11th Street, which caters to an older, more upscale rock-and-roll crowd. For more info on shows and tickets to Slim's, call (415) 255-0333.
The Embarcadero was one of the double-decker freeways that collapsed during the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake of October 17, 1989. Now it is a scenic long stretch of road that ushers drivers into San Francisco from the Bay Bridge and runs parallel to the Bay and along Fisherman's Wharf. If one has the time, I recommend a leisurely stroll along the Embarcadero's pedestrian walkway, especially if Fisherman's Wharf is your final destination. It is accessible by BART from Union Square: from the Montgomery & Powell Station, take the eastbound train to the Embarcadero Station.
Sites and Attractions. Adjacent to the Embarcadero BART station is the Embarcadero Center, which has many upscale shops, coffee houses, and bars; the Hyatt-Regency Hotel there may be familiar to fans of the Mel Brooks's Hitchcock parody, High Anxiety. The nearby Justin Herman Plaza is a nice, relaxing place to unwind, when, that is, it is not infested with rollerbladers and joggers. Local radio stations KFOG and LIVE 105 occasionally present free, outdoor concerts there (Bono was arrested for "defacing" a statue when U2 played a noontime show there in 1988).
Food and Nightlife. Though this is a bit of a walk from the Embarcadero BART station, beer lovers will definitely want to check out the Gordon Biersch Brewery, which is located near the base of the Bay Bridge at 2 Harrison Street. The food is not great, but the brewpub does offer a wide variety of some very first-rate California-style beers. Also in the area is Long Life Noodles, which is a good and inexpensive noodle place-very similar to London's Wagamamma's-located off the Embarcadero at 101 Fourth Street (between Howard and Mission Streets).
The Embarcadero will eventually bring the intrepid walker to Fisherman's Wharf. The wharf is one part tacky carnival, one part suburban strip mall, and two parts seedy grotto, but it does have a certain San Francisco charm.
Sights and Attractions. Those wanting to escape displays of excessive capitalism should avoid the overly commercial Pier 39, but those who can tolerate it will find it to be a rather relaxing marina with excellent seafood, impressive views of both the city and the Bay, and an amusing home to hundreds of sunbathing sea lions! The wharf is accessible from Union Square by walking and by cable car. Though I am not a fan of San Francisco's cable cars-they are overpriced tourist traps in my opinion-the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines will take you directly from Union Square to the wharf and back again, though for an outrageous $3 fare each way! A cab ride will cost you about $10 each way, however, so if you don't want to walk, then a cable car ride is the least expensive way to go.
The best thing about Fisherman's Wharf is its proximity to Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz is one tourist attraction that is well worth the trip and historians will definitely want take a tour of the infamous federal prison there. The audio tour, a recorded journey led by former inmates and guards, is a first-rate use of oral history, conveying what life might have been like during Alcatraz's penitentiary days. Those with a more daring spirit might want to take the spookier night tours, which are available Thursday-Monday. The island can be reached only by ferry and tickets for both the ferry ride and the tour are sold as a package. It is better to buy tickets in advance by calling (415) 705-5555, though there is a $2.25 service fee attached for this service. Otherwise, tickets can be purchased at the Blue & Gold Ferry booth at Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf for $12.75 (adults and children over 12), $7.00 (children 5–11), $10.50 (seniors 62+). The night tours cost a bit more, at $20.75 (adults), $11.50 (children), and $18 (seniors). The ferries depart every 45 minutes starting at 10:00 a.m. and continue until 4:00 p.m.; the last ferry to leave Alcatraz Island-not including the night tours-is at 4:30 p.m. (415) 705-5555.
Food and Nightlife. As previously mentioned, In-N-Out Burgers is a "most excellent" southern California fast food chain that finally made its way up north in the 1990s. The only In-N-Out Burger in the entire city of San Francisco can be found at the northwest end of Fisherman's Wharf, at 333 Jefferson Street, so don't leave the wharf without checking it out. If you love seafood, then you might want to check out Aliotto's, which is the wharf's landmark seafood restaurant. Located at 8 Fisherman's Wharf, between Taylor Street and the Embarcadero, Aliotto's offers a nice view of the Bay though the menu is a bit pricey. Seafood lovers (and I am not one of them) claim that the seafood-chowder, clams, etc.- offered in the various inexpensive market stalls around the wharf, is just as good. Also close to the wharf is the Buena Vista Café, located at 2765 Hyde Street, which has a pretty cool bar and offers some relatively inexpensive diner-style food.
Within walking distance from Fisherman's Wharf is Ghirardelli Square, a quaint galleria, similar to London's Covent Garden, which is home to its eponymous chocolate factory; many boutiques, cafes and restaurants; and a seemingly endless supply of street performers.
Food and Nightlife. Most of the shops and restaurants here are expensive, but there are some good alternatives. The Boudin Sourdough Bakery and Café, located at the Beach Street entrance, has very inexpensive and delicious soups served in sourdough bowls that are most welcome on cold days! Also, if you like fresh, handmade crepes, then be sure to visit the little crepe wagon located in the north end of the square.
Those wishing to forgo the more comfortable upper- and middle-class offerings of SOMA, Ghirardelli Square, and the Embarcadero, and desiring an alternative experience, may want to check out San Francisco's legendary "hippie district," the Haight-Ashbury. Though somewhat rundown now, the Haight is still an interesting mixture of alternative businesses and trendy boutiques, though parts of it, especially near the "panhandle" entrance to Golden Gate Park, can be a bit rough. The more adventurous types can walk-in about 45 minutes-to the Haight from Union Square. It can also be reached from Union Square by bus: at Market and Stockton Streets, take the MUNI #6, #7, or #71, which will take you directly to the intersection of Haight and Masonic Streets; catch the same bus numbers on the opposite side of the street to return to Union Square. Fare is $1 each way.
Sites and Attractions. The famous corner of Haight and Ashbury Streets is still a major attraction, although be careful not to act like a tourist when you check it out. The Grateful Dead House, located at 710 Ashbury Street, is where members of the Grateful Dead (among others) lived in the mid-to-late 1960s, and is, of course, a major mecca for Deadheads.
Food and Nightlife. Escape from New York, located at 1737 Haight Street, offers good and cheap, "New York-style" pizza slices. El Balazo, located further up the street at 1793 Haight, has some very good and inexpensive burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. Also recommended is a Vietnamese noodle place called Citrus Club, situated at 1790 Haight Street. One of the main attractions is the Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop, located right at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury. A good place to eat on Haight Street is the Magnolia Pub & Brewery, located at 1398 Haight. The Magnolia Pub was once a notorious hippie hangout (known as Magnolia Thunderpussy's) that now serves up burgers and brews.
Shopping. LP collectors should definitely pay a visit to Haight Street's excellent used record shops: Recycled Records, located at 1377 Haight Street; Reckless Records, located at 1401 Haight Street; and Amoeba Records, located at 1855 Haight Street (avid collectors may even want to take BART over to Berkeley and check out Amoeba Records and Rasputin Records located off of the U.C. campus on Telegraph Avenue). The Haight is also home to a few used or vintage clothing stores, such as Wasteland, located at 1660 Haight Street.
Golden Gate Park
Adjacent to the Haight, among other parts of the city, is Golden Gate Park. Modeled after New York's Central Park, Golden Gate Park is one of San Francisco's crown jewels, and even though the weather in January will be cold, it will be a great place to unwind and relax. Most central points of interest within Golden Gate Park can be reached by public transportation via the MUNI bus line, #71, exit on the south side of Golden Gate Park on 9th Avenue and Lincoln Way.
Food. A good number of inexpensive pubs and restaurants can be found near the 9th & Lincoln entrance to Golden Gate Park. Some of the highlights include Canvas Café, which serves up economically-priced pasta-type dishes, at 1200 9th Avenue, and the Little Shamrock, which is an unpretentious Irish pub, located at 807 Lincoln Way.
Sights and Attractions. A leisurely stroll through the park's tree-lined avenues and lushly wooded regions yields a multitude of treasures, such as the old-time carousel located in the center of the park, and the city's beautiful Conservatory of Flowers-which is essentially a replica of London's Kew Gardens-located at the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Middle East Drive. Another highlight is the California Academy of Sciences, located at 55 Concourse Drive. The academy houses the Steinhart Aquarium, the Morrison Planetarium, and the Natural History Museum, and is a richly educational way to spend an afternoon-the Morrison Planetarium also has some excellent laser-light shows in the evenings. The academy is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; entry is $8.50 for adults, $5.50 for children and students with IDs; admission is free for all on the first Wednesday of each month, while all Morrison Planetarium shows are $2.50. (415) 750-7145. www.calacademy.org.
Also located within Golden Gate Park, right across the street from the California Academy of Sciences, is the Asian Art Museum, which has an outstanding collection of Japanese, Chinese, Southeast Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern artifacts and pieces of art on display. Located between the Japanese Tea Gardens and John F. Kennedy Drive, the Asian Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; admission is $7 for adults, $5 for seniors over 65, though the museum is free on the first Wednesday of every month. (415) 379-8801. www.asianart.org.
Other Sights and Attractions Near Union Square
Graduate students may also want to check out Mission Dolores (San Francisco de Asís), also located in the Mission District at 3321 16th Street. Mission Dolores is one of the best-maintained Spanish missions in all of California, and its cemetery was also featured, along with Mission San Juan Bautista (located about 50 miles south of San Francisco), in Hitchcock's Vertigo. Entry into Mission Dolores is free but it does offer audio tours for a small fee, and it is also easily accessible by BART; exit at the 16th Street Station.
Further south, in the Mission District, beer lovers will also want to check out the famous Anchor Steam Brewery, makers of, in my opinion, the best beer in the world, Liberty Ale. Located at 1705 Mariposa Street, Anchor Steam offers free tours of its facilities Monday through Friday, at 1:00 p.m., though you do need to make a reservation at least a week in advance as the tours are very popular and fill up fast. The brewery can be reached by public transportation: take BART from Powell Street to the 16th and Mission Sts. Station; from there catch the MUNI bus #22 and ride to 17th and Deharo Streets-the brewery is about a block from this stop. (415) 863-8350.
Though baseball season will not be on in January, sports fans will nonetheless want to check out the beautiful Pacific Bell Park, the new home of the San Francisco Giants (and where Barry Bonds recently broke the Major League Baseball home runs-per season record). The new ballpark was modeled after the "classic ballpark" style defined by
Oriole Park in Baltimore's Camden Yards and has a brilliant public walkway that extends right along San Francisco Bay. Pac Bell Park is located south of Market at 24 Willie Mays Plaza and is accessible from the Embarcadero BART station by MUNI's N-Judah light rail line to 4th & King Streets, or by MUNI #10 bus line to Townsend & 3rd Streets. (415) 972-2000. www.sfgiants.com.
Other Points of Interest to the North and West
Both the northern and western sides of the city, in fact, offer many inexpensive attractions outside of the Union Square/downtown area, though if you do not have a car then you will have to rely on MUNI to get there. With a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, located in the Richmond district at 34th Avenue and Clement Street, is the stately home to many Renaissance and Baroque art pieces, such as works by El Greco, Rembrandt, Rubens, Monet, and Picasso. Filmgoers might recognize it as also being featured in the classic Hitchcock film, Vertigo. In January it will feature the exhibits In Focus: Photographically Illustrated Books, 1857-1930, and Artists' Books in the Modern Era: 1870-2000. Admission into the legion is $8; $6 for seniors 65 and over; $5 ages 5-7. It is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It can be reached by public transportation via the MUNI bus system: from Union Square, take the #38 Geary to 33rd Avenue and walk two blocks north to 34th and Clement or take the #2 Clement to 33rd Avenue and walk two blocks north to 34th and Clement. (415) 863-3330. www.famsf.org/legion.
Situated between the Marina district and the Presidio, the Palace of Fine Arts is a major architectural landmark of San Francisco that was originally built as a mock-Roman ruin for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, and has been featured in numerous films (most notably, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo). Directly behind the Palace of Fine Arts, at 3601 Lyon Street, is the Exploratorium, which offers a refreshing mixture of both educational and entertaining enjoyment for both old and young alike. Tickets for the Exploratorium are $9 for adults; $7.50 for students with IDs and seniors, and $6 for people with disabilities and children aged 5-17; as with other museums, admission is free on the first Wednesday of every month. To get to both the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium via MUNI: from Union Square, catch the #45 (Jefferson & Beach) at the corner of Sutter and Stockton Streets and ride to the Lyon and Greenwich Street stop; the fare is $1 each way. The Exploratorium is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (415) 674-2893. www.exploratorium.edu.
Historians may also want to check out the Presidio, one of the oldest military establishments in the United States. Located in the northwest section of San Francisco between the Marina district and the Golden Gate Bridge, the Presidio is rich with heritage, ranging from its pre-Spanish Ohlone Indian origins through its role as a bastion of American defense during the Cold War. Though it is no longer active, it does have a museum and tours of its Five Point National Historic Site, located at Lincoln Blvd and Funston Ave. Public transportation is available by MUNI: from Union Square, catch the #45 bus at the northeast corner of Stockton and Sutter Streets and ride to Lyon and Greenwich Streets; walk for about a half mile down Lyon, turn left at Lombard, and continue for about two blocks to Lincoln; the fare is $1 each way. The Presidio has beautiful beaches that offer impressive views of the Bay and many excellent hiking and biking trails, some of which will take you directly under the southern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It also maintains a visitor's center at 102 Montgomery Street, which is within walking distance from Union Square. (415) 556-0856 (Historic Site and Museum) or (415) 561-4323 (Visitor Center).
The Cliffhouse is a beautiful restaurant that was rebuilt in 1909 after its two previous incarnations burned down in 1894 and again 1907 (unrelated to the 1906 earthquake). Located at 1090 Point Lomas Boulevard, it has three dining rooms and two cocktail lounges that offer brilliant views of the Pacific Ocean and reasonably priced meals, and easy access to a nearby beach. It is accessible by MUNI, though it is not easy: from Union Square, take the #48L at the corner of Geary Blvd. and Powell St., to 48th and Point Lobos Aves; walk about a quarter of a mile down Point Lobos to the Cliffhouse. (415) 386-3330. www.cliffhouse.com.
Last but not least-if you have some time, check out the San Francisco Zoo. Located on the western side of the city-in the quiet and more residential Sunset district of San Francisco, the zoo is quite beautiful and is open every day from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and over. The zoo can be reached by public transportation; from the Powell Street BART station, catch the MUNI Route-L train to Wawona and 46th Ave (San Francisco Zoo). (415) 753-7080. www.sfzoo.org.
—Christian A. Hale, who received his master's degree in history from George Mason University, studied at San Francisco State University for his BA and grew up in the Bay Area. While deliberating on future steps, Chris is working at the AHA as a research assistant.