We’re all familiar with the big ticket San Francisco attractions that everyone needs to see…
Golden Gate Bridge; Alcatraz; Fisherman’s Wharf; cable cars. They’re going to be in any Bay Area travel guide that you’ll ever pick up in your lifetime, and with good reason. All are icons, and are all worth checking out at least once should you find yourself in this legendary cosmopolitan ‘city.
However, there’s much more to the place locals affectionately call ‘The City’ than gigantic red bridges and offshore prison fortresses. Do a little digging, and you will see a few lesser known attractions that, if they were in a different city, might be considered top level attractions in their own right and due to the influx of of high-tech firms, many areas are experiencing a further rennaissance such as the mid-market area of San Francisco where you’ll find the Cavalier, San Francisco’s version of a hunting club. Stuffed animal heads and cushioned booths form much of the décor accompanied by Californian twists on British culinary classics like Welsh rarebit or devilled crab with rock shrimp served with cucumber slices rather than with bread, and the rarebit is actually a soufflé.
There is of course the mission district for a strong dose of trendy mixed with strong Latino roots with traditional mexican groceries sill available here alongside bars with names like Trick Dog, a former warehouse space operated by a trio of mixology masters originally basing their menu on Pantone colours moving on to signs of the Zodiac or stores such as Viracocha where you can pick up a refurbished typewriter, an antique piano, handmade furniture, vintage cameras, records and ‘zines, letterpress greeting cards plus a performance space downstairs hosting poetry readings to brass bands.
Once a maze of factories, shipyards and warehouses an area affectionately known as Dogpatch is home to a wide range of art studios and restaurants carved out of industrial buildings such as the American Can Company. This is where you’ll find the Museum of Craft and Design, one of the few US museums dedicated to contemporary craft and design and not far way is Magnolia Pub & Brewing Company which has also taken advantage of Dogpatch’s industrial spaces to expand their brewing capacity in addition to their Haight-Ashbury digs and over in Russian Hill, one of San Francisco’s older areas is the worlds ‘Most Crooked street’ along with an eclectic range of boutiques such as Velvet da Vinci where anything from earrings to wire sculptures are on display and the staff are craftspeople of various disciplines who are more than willing to explain the the pieces.
When its time to wind back the cool factor, grab your camera and head towards the Sutro Baths Ruins , once touted as the world’s largest indoor swimming pool venue. It once housed seven swimming pools including six salt water baths; a museum; an 8,000 seat concert hall, and even an ice skating rink. Eventually, the complex lost its drawing power, shut down, and was marked for demolition, however, a fire broke out in the middle of it being demolished in 1966, and city officials decided to leave whatever remained unscathed.
Today, people can wander to the cliffs to explore what’s been left to overlook the ocean, including walls, stairs, passageways, and a shimmering rectangular concrete pool. Black and white photo enthusiasts will enjoy this as well as the sprawling artwork known simply as The Wave Organ which consists of a series of pipes that open up to the bay’s waters; the waves interact with the mouths of the pipes, producing musical sounds and tones that fluctuate based on tide levels. The structure features several places where people can sit near some of the pipes, so they can get an up close and personal listen to the unique tunes that are produced. Commissioned by the city’s highly lauded science museum The Exploratorium, it serves as a fascinating study on what happens when the power of nature intersects with the ingenuity of man and it’s art, music, and science.The Wave Organ is located on the shore of the San Francisco Bay east of the Presidio.
Walt Disney Family Museum – It may surprise people to see a museum devoted to Walt Disney up in San Francisco, since the man behind the Disney legacy and mystique is so deeply attached to Southern California. And it is technically not part of the modern, 21st Century version of the Disney Empire; it is owned and operated by Walt’s heirs and not the eponymous corporation. Yet in a way, that familial involvement adds an even more substantial layer of authenticity to this museum. Since its opening in 2009, it’s been home to a treasure trove of personal artifacts and documents that celebrate Walt in a more intimate manner. The famous miniature Oscars he won for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” are here, but so is the Presidential Medal of Freedom that he was awarded for film in 1964.
San Francisco Ferry Building – From a functional standpoint, this massive structure located on the Embarcadero serves as a major transportation hub, as commuters flock to the building to catch a bus, take the subway, and – of course – ride the ferry across the San Francisco Bay. And while the building’s Beaux Arts design and 245-foot clock tower makes it a pretty breathtaking sight to behold, it’s what is inside that truly makes it worth your while; a wall-to-wall funhouse of artisanal foods that are born from passion first and the bottom line last. From obscure teas and fresh oysters to weird cheeses and honey practically scooped from the hive, it is Nirvana for hardcore foodies.
Yerba Buena Island – Ever see one of those photos of the San Francisco skyline fronted by glimmering bay waters? Of course you have. Chances are those photos were taken from Yerba Buena Island. This tiny island located in the waters between San Francisco and Oakland has an interesting military component to it – a man-made structure known as Treasure Island was essentially affixed to it in 1939 and used by the Navy for several decades, and the natural island boasts several buildings associated with the US Coast Guard. There’s really not much to do here except find a spot along the shore and gaze out onto the skyline with a picnic perhaps.
However, the panoramic view is so spectacular, that’s really all you need.