Grab your walking shoes and become an urban adventurer. San Francisco is a richly historic city of scenic vistas and diverse neighborhoods. Let Kathleen Dodge Doherty and Tom Downs guide you through 35 unique walking tours that traverse the City by the Bay’s length and breadth. The self-guided tours lead you through the heart of the left coast.
Each featured walk includes full-color photographs and detailed neighborhood maps. The walks’ commentaries touch upon such topics as architecture, culture, trivia, and a local history that includes the Gold Rush, the Summer of Love, and the current tech boom. Route summaries highlight points of interest on each tour, while tips on local cafes, bars, nightlife spots, and five-star dining options help to ensure that you find the “can’t miss” locales.
Walking San Francisco takes you from the Embarcadero to Lands End, from Bernal Heights to Golden Gate Park. It provides the perfect path for a weekend, an after-work ramble, or a sociable pub crawl. Find a route that appeals to you, and walk San Francisco!
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About the Author
Day & Section Hikes: John Muir Trail (Menasha Ridge Press) and has also written for Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Moon Handbooks, Afar Magazine, AAA Via Magazine, and many websites. A one-time researcher, developer, and leader of bicycling and hiking tours worldwide, Kathleen largely runs after her kids and jumps in local puddles these days. A swashbuckler at heart, Kathleen is continually surprised by the never-ending treasures that await in her city by the bay.
Tom Downs grew up in the Santa Clara Valley, south of San Francisco. He has lived in Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, and Berkeley, as well as in Chinatown and the MissionDistrict in San Francisco. He is a travel writer who has authored books and articles about New Orleans, Hanoi, and the West of Ireland for Lonely Planet, BBC Studios, and a host of magazines, newspapers, and websites. His photography has appeared in publications including National Geographic and The New York Times. In 2007 his post-Katrina Lonely Planet New Orleans was honored with the Lowell Thomas Award, granted by the Society of American Travel Writers, for Best Guidebook.
Read an Excerpt
From Crab Traps to Tourist Traps: Maritime History Along the Waterfront
- BOUNDARIES: Beach St., Jefferson St., Grant Ave., Aquatic Park
- DISTANCE: 3 miles
- DIFFICULTY: Easy
- PARKING: Off-street parking is available at Anchorage Square, corner of Leavenworth and Beach Sts. Most street parking is metered 7 days a week. On side streets south of Bay St. you might find unmetered street parking, limited to 2 hours for nonresidents (on Sunday you can park for an unlimited time in these zones).
- PUBLIC TRANSIT: Powell–Mason cable car; F streetcar; 47 Muni bus
Most San Franciscans roll their eyes at the thought of walking through Fisherman’s Wharf, but this is because they equate it with mass-produced T-shirts, overpriced waffle cones, and tacky tourist schlock. And while all of this does exist along the quay, you’ll also find a rich history of Italian and Chinese immigrants, a still-vibrant fishing trade, fascinating museums, and some unexpected surprises lurking beneath the surface. From penny arcades to submarines to barking sealsnot to mention the gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatrazthe area is not without merit if you’re willing to look for the worthwhile sights. Further, to understand San Francisco is to understand how Fisherman’s Wharf came to be in the first place. So while street hawkers pitching soup in a bread bowl and wax museums lend an air of inauthenticity, there’s actually quite a bit of genuine San Francisco hiding in plain sight here.
Start at Longshoremen’s Hall, a homely but historical structure at the corner of Mason and Beach Streets. It houses the headquarters of the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union. Bodies outlined on the sidewalk suggest that this corner was a crime scene, but these figures are tributes to the striking longshoremen who were shot by police in the general strike of 1934. The riot and shootings took place not here but at the corner of Mission and Steuart Streets, where the Coast Seamen’s Union kept its offices. A significant historic event did take place in this building in January 1966, when the Trips Festival was held here. The three-day event, organized by Ken Kesey (who penned One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest), rock promoter Bill Graham, and others, ushered in the hippie era. Entertainment was provided by the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, light shows, and a “stroboscopic trampolinist” who hopped up and down while a strobe light flickered on him. The real point of the festival was to drop acid, and some 6,000 people showed up to do just that. Take a look through the plate-glass windows and imagine the place full of wigged-out flower children.
Turn right onto Beach Street, take a left on Stockton Street, and cross the Embarcadero to enter Pier 39. This open-air shopping center is about as touristy as it gets, with businesses obviously preying upon impulsive shoppers. One attraction that is heads above, however, is the Smithsonian affiliate Aquarium of the Bay, which features a walk-through fish tunnel and touch pools. If you’re not checking out marine life, then head straight to the San Francisco Carousel, a handcrafted classic, made in Italy. Horses and chariots rotate around a mechanical organ in the center, while hand-painted San Francisco scenes decorate the top. Rides cost $5. (Interestingly, when Pier 39 first opened, there was a diving pool where the carousel sits, and sometimes it was filled with Jell-O for various games.) When you reach the end of the pier, turn left to pay a visit to K Dock, where a small colony of raucous California sea lions overtook a row of boat docks in 1990. The colony quickly grew, and now as many as 1,000 barking sea lions compete for space on the docks on a winter’s day. In summer, most of them migrate to warmer waters to breed, but a few usually haul out here year-round. They’re rightly the biggest attraction on Pier 39.
Exiting the pier, turn right onto the Embarcadero (which feeds into Jefferson Street), and walk two blocks until you see and smell Boudin Bakery. The modern building is nothing much to look at, but the company has been providing the city with sourdough bread since 1849, and some of its “mother dough” is said to have been carried over from the first batch, surviving in the fog-cooled air.
Veer right onto Pier 45, and allow yourself to be drawn into the magical penny arcade Musée Mécanique, the undeniable hidden gem of Fisherman’s Wharf. For some, it’s the only excuse to venture into this part of town. It’s the private collection of the late Edward Galland Zelinsky, consisting of mechanical amusements and games, mostly from the early 20th century. Risqué mutoscope moving pictures (mostly of women showing their ankles), player pianos, and old-fashioned black-and-white photo booths will easily suck the quarters out of your pockets. Save a few coins for the real showstoppersautomated displays of carnivals and circuses, toothpick Ferris wheels, and even a Chinese opium den with a dragon that peeps out from behind a curtain. Be sure to pump some quarters into Laffin’ Sal to keep her howling. Her belly laughs are infectious or terrifying, depending on your sensibilities. Some of the one-of-a-kind machines here are fine works of folk art.
Exit through the back doors onto the waterfront, where the sight of a submarine and a Liberty-class ship from World War II will tell you you’re on the right track. The submarine is the USS Pampanito, which patrolled the Pacific during the latter half of the war. For 20 smackers, you can board the sub to see how uncomfortable life beneath the waves must have been, and to puzzle over the state-of-the art technology of a bygone era. The Liberty ship is the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a cargo-carrying vessel that delivered supplies to Normandy on D-Day. Fully outfitted and in working order, it was used to shoot scenes from Titanic, among others. For an additional $20, you can climb aboardwe suggest heading straight for the engine room for an astonishing view of the ship’s awesome 2,700-horsepower, triple-expansion steam engine....
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments
- Lower Market Street
- Embarcadero (North)
- Financial District
- Union Square and the Theater District
- Jackson Square
- North Beach
- North Beach Bars
- Telegraph Hill
- Nob Hill
- Russian Hill
- Civic Center and Hayes Valley
- Fisherman’s Wharf
- Marina and Cow Hollow
- The Presidio
- Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
- Pacific Heights
- Embarcadero (South)
- Dolores Street
- The Inner Mission
- Mission Bars
- Potrero Hill and Dogpatch
- Bernal Heights
- Glen Park and Glen Canyon
- Upper Market and the Castro
- Twin Peaks
- Westside Cordillera
- Golden Gate Park
- Japantown and Fillmore Street
- Richmond District
- Lands End
- Inner Sunset
Appendix: Walks by Theme
About the Authors