San Francisco City Guide
From Angel Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, the views of the city, the bridges (all three of them), the rolling East Bay hills and the endless sight of ocean waters that sweep out into the Pacific are simply amazing.
So too are the miles of hiking trails that give visitors a chance to climb tall mountains and scour historical sights that once housed thousands of troops in wartime and welcomed thousands of immigrants from overseas.
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When a massive fire burned through the thick and dry brush on Angel Island in October 2008, people immediately began worrying about what the flames would do to the historic landmarks on the island.
People, like Eddie Wong, spent a nail-biting night watching the ominous orange glow devour sections of the island and wondering if one landmark – the Angel Island Immigration Station would evade the flames.
To his relief, it did.
From the outside of San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum, there is little indication that within the modest brick building situated at the corner of Washington and Mason Streets just a few blocks west of Chinatown is the powerhouse that keeps the city’s famed collection of 100+ year old transportation vehicles moving.
The building houses a museum, in every sense of the word, but it also functions as the barn where the cars are maintained and stored. It’s also the “engine” that keeps the underground cables which the cars latch onto moving at a constant speed of nine-and-a-half miles per hour.
Located below the Golden Gate Bridge, you will find a large old brick structure. Looking at it from outside, it looks rather out of place and unimpressive. But once you enter, you realize just how impressive Fort Point really is and why just over a hundred years ago, this was one of the San Francisco Bay’s most important defense positions.
The use of Fort Point’s location for defense began far later than when San Francisco became an American city. In the fact the first fort built here was the Castillo de San Joaquin built by the Spanish in 1794. In 1853 the long abandoned Spanish fort was torn down and construction of a new American fort began. The Fort at Fort Point, as it was then known, would be completed in 1861, a few weeks before the outbreak of the Civil War. Luckily for the city of San Francisco, war never …
When you’re at San Francisco’s Baker Beach, keep an eye on the people around you because the closer you walk towards the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge on the north end – the folks on the beach start to wear less and less clothing.
Take heed, as this will be your only warning from us.
But for the most part, Baker Beach is that nook-n-cranny spot in San Francisco that locals only discover after getting lost on a MUNI bus or while on a jog around town. It’s an awesome place to fly a kite on a windy Bay Area afternoon and a splendid spot to break out the charcoal for a good old-fashioned barbecue in a quiet natural setting.
Located along the San Francisco Presidio’s border with the San Francisco Bay, one can find a beach, a tidal marsh, a wharf, and an open field. While these may also sound completely unrelated, they are in fact the remnants of one the base’s most important historical landmarks. Though seeing many changes during its time, Crissy Field is today a great place to visit if you’re looking to unwind.
Originally the area that is known as Crissy Field did not exist. In fact it would be part of the San Francisco Bay until 1915 when it was filled in for the Pan-Pacific Exposition. After the fair, the land was taken over by the Army and after brief service as barracks during wartime, was converted into an airfield in 1919.
For the people who visit the Cliff House and Land’s End in San Francisco, there are often unanswered questions about the concrete ruins that lie directly north of the landmark restaurant and look-out to the Pacific Ocean. There are barbed pieced of rusting iron that looked like they once were part of a gigantic building and deteriorating slabs of cement staircases that lead to – well, nowhere now.
Now, these are definitely ruins in every sense of the word, because once upon a time, when old two-man streetcars used to run up and down the city’s grand Geary Blvd., this was the site of Sutro Baths, a gigantic indoor swimming complex that was an aquatic playland of sorts for San Francisco.
You’ve seen the postcards. Fishing boats with gigantic sails, warm sourdough bread bowls oozing with piping hot creamy white clam chowder, and huge steam clouds from the vats where the fresh caught crab is cooked. And you know there is only one place in the world that people flock to for the opportunity to see all of this in person.
We’re talking about Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.
Today, the wharf is a modern day look at a century old fishing harbor that props up one of the city’s biggest and most profitable industries. The glamor may not be on the fleets of fishing boats that set out in the wee hours of the morning for the daily catch, but sitting in the dining room of one of the fine restaurants while sampling the bounty may be.
During the Second World War, many brave young men left their homes to go out into the Pacific Ocean to defend their country against the Japanese military. Many of those men would not return home. Overlooking Lincoln Blvd in The Presidio in San Francisco, the West Coast Memorial stands looking out towards the Pacific in honor of some of the men who gave all for their country.