San Francisco’s 49 Mile Drive (sort of)

We’ve been to San Francisco multiple times.  And we’ve always noticed these little signs here and there around the city.

49 mile drive sign

Last Sunday, we thought we would head to “the city” and take the 49 Mile Scenic Drive.  In looking for a map of the route before we left home, I found this great article:  https://www.tripsavvy.com/49-mile-scenic-drive-4064570

It has a lot of great tips, such as, the cute seagull route markers are only printed on one side, so if you’re hoping to follow the signs, you can only drive the route counter-clockwise.  Good to know!!!

The article also points out that the seagull signs are so cute, they are frequently stolen.  So, really, you can’t depend on the signs at all.  Also good to know!  And, that makes it that much more important that you have an idea of the route before you set off.

We didn’t do the entire 49 miles . . . that’s simply too much to do in one day if you’re going to actually stop and look around at all.  We had a fantastic day, following the route mentioned in the article.  Our dog, Sam, served as our landmark model.

First stop:  The Palace of Fine Arts

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That’s Sam, watching the duck.  It was built for the Panama-Pacific International Expo on 1915 (and later rebuilt – it wasn’t originally built to last this long).  There’s not much to actually do here but stop, stroll around the lovely lake and marvel at the whole thing.

Stop 2:  The Presidio

The Presidio is a sprawling old military area that has been lovingly re-purposed into museums, businesses, and many other things.  There are huge green lawns with lovely views.  The Walt Disney Family Museum is there.  https://www.waltdisney.org/  We haven’t visited the museum but plan to on another day.

Lucas Film is also headquartered in the Presidio.  Just tell the super nice security guard that you want to see the Yoda fountain.

IMG_20200129_182932_308  The reception area for Lucas Film is just behind Sam and the Yoda fountain.  Its closed on the weekends but we peered through the window – it looks cool!!  There’s R2D2, a life-size Darth Vader and all the Oscar awards.  We might have to go back on a weekday.

We wandered through the Presidio but did not stop at the Pet Cemetery.  My daughter said it would be weird to take Sam to a pet cemetery.  Plus, there’s really no where to park right near it.  But, the husband and I did stop there years ago and its worth a quick wander.

We also skipped Fort Point (an old Army fort right under the Golden Gate Bridge) and the Bridge itself.  We’ve been to Fort Point and have walked across the Golden Gate.  However, if you haven’t done those things, you really should!  (It takes longer to walk across the bridge than you would think!  And, its always chilly.  Wear a jacket!!!)

Stop 3:  The Legion of Honor

Basically, its an art museum located in Golden Gate Park.  If you like art museums, then its great.  We don’t.  But, we have been here on school field trips.  Admittedly, the mummy room with actual Egyptian mummies is pretty cool.  We stopped to take Sam’s picture in front of “The Thinker”.

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Stop 4:  Cliff House and Ocean Beach

The Cliff House has a really good Sunday brunch buffet.  https://cliffhouse.com/  We’ve been there numerous times.  The room can get a little crowded but the setting makes it one of my favorite places for brunch.

The ruins of the Sutro Baths are nearby and also worth a stop.  https://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/cliff-house-sutro-baths.htm  The setting is gorgeous, right on the edge of land.  There’s a good visitor center.

From the Sutro Baths area, there’s a nice walking / hiking trail that goes along the coast.  It offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge and, along the way, you’ll find some old military batteries to explore.  (Look out for glass – unfortunately, the batteries are littered with glass, trash and graffiti.)  Here’s Sam on the trail, on top of one of the batteries.IMG_20200129_182932_333

Stop 5:  Golden Gate Park

There’s a lot to do and see in the Park.  Its home to everything from the California Academy of Sciences (go see the albino alligator!), a Japanese Tea Garden (super cool bonsai), a herd of buffalo, to a Dutch Windmill.  My favorite is the Conservatory of Flowers.  https://conservatoryofflowers.org/

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We’ve been to the park numerous times and have seen all of the above so we skipped over the Park for the most part, besides just driving through.  If you’ve never been to Golden Gate Park, you could easily spend a day just exploring the park and all it has to offer.

Stop 5:  Haight-Ashbury

What can I say?  The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood was the center of the hippie culture in the 1960’s.  Think Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, etc.  Today, its quite the eclectic mix of people and places.  There’s high end sneaker stores – the sneakers were individually shrink-wrapped!!!  My kids knew the brand; I didn’t have a clue.  There are hookah shops, lingerie shops (some “nice”, some “naughty”), thrift stores offering velour jumpsuits, and stores packed to the rafters with things I couldn’t even begin to identify.  The sidewalks are filled with everyday folks, homeless folks, people who are clearly high, people who are talking to invisible people and everyone in between.  Taking a few photos just seemed weird, maybe rude and, either way, too touristy.  So just go and experience it for yourself!

Stop 6:  Twin Peaks

O.k., in all our times in San Francisco, we had never even heard of Twin Peaks.  So we went and oh my gosh, was it worth it!!!!  Twin Peaks offers a spectacular view of the entire city!!!  Its truly stunning (and windy and cold but that’s ok).  IMG_20200129_182932_328

That being said, don’t bother going if its foggy, which San Francisco often is.  You won’t see a thing!  This was one of our last stops so it was late in the day and the fog was rolling in quickly.   There is a viewing area and, despite the tour buses, we didn’t have a problem parking.  This will definitely go on our “place to bring out of town visitors” list.  My daughter noted that, from up there, the city looked “kind of flat”, which it definitely isn’t.

Stop 7:  The Castro

Our first sight in the Castro neighborhood was two older gentlemen, holding hands, dressed in matching jeans, red plaid flannel shirts, and suspenders.  They matched right down to their watches and were, honestly, adorable.   The main street of the area, which is home to the historic Castro Theater, is adorned with rainbow flags and rainbow crosswalks.  Its clean and friendly, but still has the people who are muttering to themselves or talking to invisible others.  (And that, kids, is why you don’t do drugs.)

The day was getting late and we had horses to feed at home so our stop here was fairly short.  But, of course, we took Sam’s picture!

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Oh, if you’re looking for an all-you-can-eat sushi spot for lunch, we recommend Sakana Bune at 5701 Geary Street.  Its one of those places where the little plates of sushi comes around on the boats.

l  For non-sushi eaters (that would be me), they have teriyaki, tempura, etc.

That’s as far as we made it on the 49 Mile Drive.  We’ll have to do the rest another day!