Thursday, April 30, 2009

Must-Do List for San Francisco, California

In 2001, almost a year after my husband graduated from his residency, we decided to take a road trip around the United States. We had 2 months and a little Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck with a camper shell.

Occasionally we stopped in a bar at night to visit with the locals. And so often we would discover that the people that had lived in that particular area their whole lives had never been to the landmark we had just seen that day. We were at first shocked but then after talking about it Erik and I realized we had never been to Alcatraz!

Erik has lived in the bay area before he started elementary school and I am like a 6th generation Californian native. I have lived in the bay area my whole life and neither one of us have ever been to one of San Francisco's biggest landmarks. So last year Erik and I took care of that problem, and had a great time.

I am telling you this anecdote because my friend Barb sent me a list of Must-Do/See for San Francisco. Embarrassingly enough I haven't done a lot of these, so I need to get to work. I couldn't resist some commentary.

Eat a hot fudge sundae at the St. Francis Fountain, open since 1918 on lower 24th Street in the Mission District.

Stick a penny into "Susie the Can-Can Dancer" at the Musee Mecanique.

Watch jet planes roar over San Francisco Bay during Fleet Week.

Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Build a sandcastle at Baker Beach.

Rent a rowboat at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Step inside Mission Dolores, the oldest intact building in SanFrancisco.

The neighboring Cemetery is the final resting place for numerous Ohlone, Miwok, and other First Californians. (I did not know that, very cool)

Play in the water at Julius Kahn Playground in Presidio Heights.

Take the Alcatraz tour. (I finally did that)

Pick out a pastry at La Victoria Mexican Bakery on lower 24th Street in the Mission District. (Mexican pastries are too hard)

Fly a kite at Crissy Field. (Kites don't like me)

Hike the Coastal Trail where some of the most intact natural habitat in the Presidio harbors rare plants. (Done that)

Visit North Beach's Washington Square in the early morning and watch the groups practicing Tai Chi. (I can see that at my gym)

Enjoy a picnic at Dolores Park. (And pick up a used hypodermic needle)

Ride bikes along the one-mile Lover's Lane in the Presidio. U.S. soldiers once used the trail to visit their lovers in the city. (Soldiers or sailors?)

Look for the wild parrots on Telegraph Hill. (Seen those)

Wade in the Bay at Crissy Field Beach.

Visit the kittens and puppies at the SFSPCA. (No way! I would come home with some.)

Check out books from the Children's Center at the Main Library. (And not return them.)

Slurp up a bowl of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) at Turtle Tower in theTenderloin. (Yummy!)

Gaze at the Foucault Pendulum until it knocks over a pin at the Academy of Sciences.

Step inside City Hall and stand under the dome, which is the tallest in the United States, 42 inches higher than the one in the nation'scapital in D.C. Look up and scream "Wow!" (Scream?)

Take a walk down the Mission District's Balmy Alley, the most concentrated collection of murals in the city.

Look for turtles in the pond at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. ( I love that place)

Climb over the moon bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden.

Attend a sing-along movie at the Castro Theater. Sound of Music always plays over the Thanksgiving holiday; other favorites include Mary Poppins and Mamma Mia. (Of course)

Shop for vegetables in Chinatown and use them to make a stir-fry at home.(If you like melamine)

Ride the cable cars all the way from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf.(very cool)

Walk the one-block stretch of Lombard that twists and turns between Hyde and Leavenworth.

Zip down the slides, climb up the rope structure, and swing across the
monkey bars at Golden Gate Park's Children's Quarter, originally built in 1887 and recognized as our nation's first-ever public playground. (I didn't know that either. Bring your kids or you will look like a child molester)

Attend the Meet the Animals presentation put on at the Randall Museum every Saturday at 11:15 a.m. Pet a snake, feed a turtle, feel a rabbit's soft coat.

Explore Cayuga Park in the Excelsior. Gardener Demitrio Braceros has transformed this spot right next to the Bart tracks into a wonderland with winding paths lined with wooden sculptures and flowers.

Go out for dim sum. (My fave thing to do in S.F.)

Shop for art supplies at Flax on Market Street.

Lick an ice cream from Mitchell's in Noe Valley.

Drive to the top of Twin Peaks.

Fill up on blueberry pancakes at The Ramp's weekend brunch.

Stroll Ocean Beach in the early morning and look for sand dollars.

Buy chocolate malt balls at Miette in Hayes Valley.

Check out the Fire Department Museum where you can see an engine from 1810.

Spend your savings at Ambassador Toys in West Portal.

Order the Bullet Train children's meal at Mifune in Japantown. It comes with cold soba noodles and tempura served on a toy train.(Which I would eat while my kids play with the train)

Zip down the 25-foot tube slide at the Yerba Buena Gardens Play Circle.

Glide across the ice at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating Center.

Knock down some pins at Yerba Buena Bowling Center.

Ride the carousel at Golden Gate Park.

Watch the 4 p.m. giraffe feeding at the San Francisco Zoo.(And get eaten by a Tiger)

Hike the Land's End Trail, from the Cliff House to the Palace of the Legion of Honor. Looking down at the rocky shoreline, you can see the remains of three shipwrecks.

Grab a dozen donuts at Dynamo on lower 24th St. in the Mission District.

Ride to the top of the tower at the De Young Museum.

Check out the Presidio's Battery Chamberlin, the last six-inch"disappearing gun" of its type on the West Coast. On the first full weekend of each month, take part in demonstrations of the gun.
Visit Fort Point and attend the Cannon Loading Demonstration and learn how soldiers were taught to load and fire a Napoleon 12-pounder cannonduring a Civil War artillery drill. (Hee hee, my dear sister-in-law's own in-law's fire a homemade cannon on their ranch a few times a year. Way more entertaining to watch drunk men shoot bowling balls.)

Attend a Family Art Encounter on some Sundays at the Asian Art Museum. It's a drop-in class in which parents and kids create art related to the museum's collection.

Say hello to the sea lions at Pier 39. (Done that)

Catch a Giants game at AT&T Park.(Did that with my MIL and we had awesome box seats)

Ride a ferry to Angel Island State Park.

Volunteer at the San Francisco Food Bank.

Attend a service at Glide Memorial Church in the Tenderloin.

Marvel at the 100-year-old giant Imperial Philodendron inside the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.

Visit the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in Chinatown.

Chow down on pizza at Giorgio's in the Inner Richmond.

Watch the trains circle round the tracks maintained by the Golden Gate Model Railroad Club in the basement of the Randall Museum. Saturdays only.

Suck on a fruity popsicle from Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission District.

Step aboard the Balclutha at the Hyde Street Pier. The 1886 three-masted ship once transported cargo between California and theBritish Isles via Cape Horn.

Tour the Cable Car Museum.

Create gigantic bubbles at the Exploratorium.( I highly reccomend this)

Visit Coit Tower--and ride the elevator that takes you to the top of the 210-foot tower in the elevator.

Watch the break-dancers at the Powell Street Cable Car turn-table.(Michael loved that)

Listen to the ocean's song at the Wave Organ, just east of the yacht club on Bay Street. When the waves crash over sculpture of PVC pipes sound is created.

Watch the remote-control model boats sail around Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Walk by the Painted Ladies, a row of elaborately painted Victorians facing Alamo Square Park on Steiner Street. Afterward, play in the park.

Catch one of the free summer performances at Stern Grove.

Read inspiring words from Martin Luther King Jr. behind the cascading fountain at Yerba Buena Gardens.

Attend a family concert at the San Francisco Symphony.

See a Concord Coach used by Wells Fargo in the 1860s at the WellsFargo History Museum on Montgomery.

View the Diego Rivera mural, "Making a Fresco," at the San Francisco Art Institute on Russian Hill.(Done that)

Order an ice cream cone at the first-ever Swensen's on Russian Hill.(Done that)

Take a docent-led tour of the Haas-Lilienthal House, the city's only Victorian house museum.

Zoom down the Winfield Street Slide on a piece of cardboard, nestled away amongst the trees and curvy hills of Bernal Heights.

View the collection of works by El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, Monet, Matisse, and Picasso at the Legion of Honor.

Savor scones spread with clotted cream and finger sandwiches at Lovejoy's Tea Room in Noe Valley.

Explore Justin Herman Plaza's Vaillancourt Fountain with walkways that allow you to walk over, under and through its waterfalls.

Chow down on a burger and fries at one of the city's old-fashioned Mel's diners.

Kayak along the waterfront.(Sure I will get right on that)

Go for a hike and watch the hang-gliders at Fort Funston.

Sit on the dock of the bay at India Basin Shoreline Park in Hunter'sPoint, known for its sun, birds, stunning views, and fishing dock.

Take the ferry to Sausalito.

Pay your respects to artist Keith Haring's "Three Dancing Figures"--an abstract sculpture featuring brightly colored figures with their arms and legs intertwined- -at Moscone Center between Howard and Third.

Eat a burrito at La Taqueria on Mission Street.( Oh Hell yes. )

That is a perfect note to end on.

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