Break Out in San Francisco
When your conference breaks early, or an extended lunch hour leaves you longing for a much-deserved diversion, hit the streets - and hills and shorelines - of San Francisco for some serious sightseeing. The following are ideas to indulge, when a few hours is all you have to take in a snippet of the 47 stunning square miles that make up America's Favorite City.
Ride a Bike
Catch the only moving historical landmark in the U.S. when you hop on a cable car up, then down, to Fisherman's Wharf, and slide onto your ride at Bay City Bike, Bike and Roll San Francisco or Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals. Enjoy the festivity of the Wharf and then peddle into tranquility when you reach the bike path on the newly preserved shoreline park of Crissy Field, on your way to the Golden Gate Bridge. Breathe in the breathtaking beauty of this easy ride (great for beginners as well as experienced riders) when you cross the Bridge, as sailboats linger and cruise ships coast along the Bay. When you get to the other side for the view, you'll know why Tony left his heart in San Francisco. Take a Walk...
The only problem with choosing a walking tour is deciding what part of this culturally diverse and historically strident city suits your style. Check out the city's hippie history with the Haight Ashbury Flower Power Walking Tour, follow the tumultuous Barbary Coast Trail or be dazzled by the murals in the Mission on the Precita Eyes Mural Arts. The architecturally inclined can lap up the beauty of the Painted Ladies on the Victorian Home Walk, or gain access to hard-to-find rooftop gardens and some of San Francisco’s most famous buildings on the San Francisco Architecture Walking Tour. The home of the San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park, is also very fan friendly with tours offered of the dugout, the visitors’ clubhouse and field.
Do Some Time
Set sail on Alcatraz Cruises from Pier 33 and head for The Rock - a.k.a. Alcatraz - the maximum security prison which operated from 1934 to 1963 among the icy waters of the Bay. The short cruise takes visitors to the island (which is now a National Park) where they walk the cell blocks where the Birdman of Alcatraz and Al Capone spent time, while learning about notorious escapes, island wildlife and its history as a military prison and the site of a Native Americans occupation from 1969-1971. Try to plan ahead, these tickets sell out fast.
Shop Til You Drop
Since the Gold Rush, when ships stuffed with goodies from around the globe began pulling into port to satisfy the city's burgeoning populace, the city has been poised to peddle. Bargain shoppers, vintage seekers or feverish fashionistas will find there's a place for everyone: Union Square boutiques offer up top designers; South of Market hosts outlets with cut-rate clothing; Haight Ashbury has hip threads, tie dye to die for and every type of hippie doohickey to be had; Presidio Heights caters to society sophisticates and dainty dames; and the Marina and Pacific Heights serve up the sublimely stylish for young and young-at-heart urbanites.
If modern art is your mantra, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art is a must. Drop in to peruse the iconic works of Warhol or Rauschenberg or the latest exhibitions in the architecturally stunning South of Market structure. If you have time for lunch, enjoy the first rate café with stylish fare - and peruse the museum store, which sells everything from plates to postcards, all with must-have modern design. Up and over Market Street toward the Civic Center, is the Asian Art Museum, one the largest museums in the world devoted exclusively to Asian art. The more than 15,000 treasures spanning 6,000 years of history, and all Asian cultures, will have the novice admirer in awe and the expert enamored. Of course, exquisite Asian-inspired eatables are available in the chic café. The de Young Museum and Legion of Honor share same-day admission fees and both offer extraordinary views of San Francisco – the de Young from its 144-foot tower and the Legion of Honor from its plaza overlooking the Golden Gate. But if these don't fit your fancy, one of the 60-plus other museums in the city surely will.