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San Francisco is a great place to visit because you can fit so many unique attractions into one or two days of sightseeing. However, while trying to see it all, you will be surrounded by fellow tourists and part of the vacation “race.” To recharge, get away from the crowds and sample the best the city has to offer, try some of the following suggestions:
Dodge the crowds at the Golden Gate Bridge/Fort Point by following the pedestrian path under the bridge to access the California Coastal Trail. Once on the trail, you will have stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, access to Baker Beach below, and the locals – i.e. pelicans and hawks - gliding above the cliffs.
The Mission District is a great neighborhood to visit because of its micro-climate (while the rest of The City may be covered in fog, the Mission is often basking in sun) and its distinct cultures. Head to 24th and Mission St. via BART, and you will be immersed in a vibrant Latin community. Be sure to walk east down 24th St to see the dramatic murals covering buildings along side streets (particularly Balmy alley - 24th St. between Harrison and Folsom St and Clarion Alley - 17th St between Mission and Valencia). And be sure to treat yourself to the fresh Mexican food at one of the many taquerias (Taqueria Farolito, next to the 24th and Mission BART station, has the best burritos and super nachos in town).
A thriving artistic and alternative community can also be found in the Mission - take the BART to 16th and Mission and walk west until you reach Valencia St. Here you will find a plethora of comfy coffee houses, bohemian bars, great restaurants, and boutique shops. Check out the murals on Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley. Catch an independent film at Roxie Cinema (3117 16th St.) and then head across the street to peruse the Adobe Bookshop before checking out a DJ at the Elbow Room. Today, the art/hip scene found in the Mission is second to none in San Francisco. Chestnut Street (Marina District), and Fillmore and Clay Streets (back-of-the-hill sunny side of Pacific Heights) are also thriving neighborhoods of cafes, coffee shops, sandwich shops and bookstores.
Japantown is a small, but great and friendly neighborhood to visit. The neighborhood is unique with its foods at the grocery stores direct from Japan, small businesses, and popular sushi and noodle restaurants. Many establishments are family owned and some have been in the community for over 100 years. The three malls are not your typical shopping malls, but provides various restaurants, gifts, jewelry, special interest items that are Japanese themed. Japantown is also home to the remodeled Sundance Kabuki Theater, the only movie theater with a liquor license. Japantown is located on Post St. and runs parallel to Geary Blvd, and is between Fillmore and Laguna. It is served by Muni lines: 2, 3, 4, 22, 38, and 38L. Parking is available on the street and in the Japantown garage at $1.75 for the first hour.
Do you want to walk with dogs? The southern end of Ocean Beach is off-limits to protect the federally listed endangered snowy plover, but there are dogs at a beach further south called Fort Funston Please respect the rules and etiquette at this Parkland, which is part of the extensive and treasured collection of parks within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
If you are looking to take a total break from the city and head to the hills, try an afternoon of hiking on Angel Island (spectacular views of San Francisco and the bridge) or head to Marin County. If you don’t have much time, just turn off US 101 at the first Sausalito turnoff, go under the freeway, and up the hill to the spectacular Marin Headlands, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, the Bay Bridge, the East Bay and beyond. Yep, 360 degrees. A little more time? Five minutes up US 101, turn off and head west on Highway 1 toward the majestic redwood groves of Muir Woods. While it will take you about 1/2 hour to reach them, this will be the shortest drive, for the most and tallest redwoods, that you will find anywhere. Caution: Get there before about 11:00am, as the parking lot fills. A little more time? The views from Marin’s Mt. Tamalpais (you can’t miss it) will make you feel as if you are in an aircraft.