Author Sara Settegast Hare Photography Todd Pearson
DAY THREE / This morning you’ll explore San Francisco by car. Head west to the copper tower hovering above Golden Gate Park—the widely acclaimed de Young Museum. Feast on a breakfast of local products in the café while planning your museum visit.
San Francisco is known more for Victorian charm than for contemporary architecture, but since the de Young reopened last fall, pundits have hailed the copper-embossed building as a masterpiece. Floor-to-ceiling glass windows invite the natural beauty of the park inside, illuminating galleries of American art as well as haunting collections of African and Oceanic works. Head to the observation tower for spectacular views. Outside, a commissioned installation by famed British environmental artist Andy Goldsworthy recalls a fissure in the earth, an obvious reference to San Francisco’s tectonic activity.
After the museum, explore the vast, emerald-green canvas of Golden Gate Park, a sprawling landscape of waterfalls and windmills, lotus ponds, and furry bison. Ready to roll on an adventure? Rent a pair of in-line skates or a bike at Golden Gate Park Skate & Bike.
Stretching a third of the way across the San Francisco peninsula from the Pacific, Golden Gate Park features an exotic palette of flora. The center of the garden is surely the newly renovated Conservatory of Flowers, a white glass-domed building enclosing rainforest beauty.
Now it’s time for lunch at the Cliff House, the only oceanfront restaurant in San Francisco. The views of Point Lobos and the surging Pacific are exhilarating. At the casual New Bistro, sample the Ben Butler, a Dungeness crab sandwich topped with cheddar cheese. With the sea in your head, begin your journey through the Presidio, a former military base now popular with golfers and bicyclists.
Continue eastward to the Palace of Fine Arts, a classical sandstone rotunda created in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibit. It’s a pretty place to sit and reflect on a sunny day.
From here, ramble over to the Marina Green for Golden Gate views so commanding they deserve a bow. On a spit of land past the St. Francis Yacht Club, explore the musical eccentricities of the Wave Organ, a wave-activated acoustic sculpture.
If time allows, visit Fort Mason Center, the water-front home of five museums, six theaters, City College of San Francisco’s Art Campus, and Greens Restaurant.
Scoot back to the Fairmont to change for a romantic dinner at Quince. The hushed tones of this understated Pacific Heights restaurant are interrupted only by the “ahhhhs” of lucky diners savoring the sophisticated Italian cuisine of chef-owner Michael Tusk. Try the wild nettle sformato, followed by chitarra, square spaghetti tossed with anchovies, olive oil, and black truffles. End a sumptuous dinner with roasted California sea bass over puntarelle, a type of chicory.
After Quince, step out for live jazz and wine at Bacar, a restaurant and wine salon with the hip, industrial edge you expect in today’s San Francisco. As you savor the sultry sounds of yesteryear and the tantalizing tastes of today, remember your three perfect days, the myths and the motion, the flavors and the fantasy, making a heartfelt promise to return soon. Sara Settegast Hare is a freelance journalist and foodie who travels the world but is happy to call the Bay Area home.
The Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and coastal hills make San Francisco a unique climate unto itself.
By April, the rainy season is winding down; only about 1.5 inches of rain fall during the month, and rainfall occurs only one of every five days. High temperatures in the city generally make it to the middle 60s with lows only in the lower 50s. The dry season is May through September. In the fall, “diablo winds” can send temperatures into the 90s downtown.
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more San Francisco climatological details, visit weather.com.
Market Street leads from downtown to the residential neighborhoods in the west: The Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Noe Valley, etc. It is crossed by Van Ness, which leads north-south from the Mission to the Marina District. BART, the Bay Area Rapid Transit subway system, is fast, but its route is limited. The bus system, MUNI, goes wherever BART does not, including the remote reaches of Golden Gate Park and the Cliff House. Renting a car is always an option, though overnight hotel parking can be pricey.
A Zeum and the Yerba Buena Carousel (221 Fourth Street; Tel: 415-777-2800) In the heart of South of Market, this high-tech, video-powered museum is for kids 5–18. The carousel outside has been restored to its 19th-century grandeur.
B The Exploratorium (3601 Lyon Street; Tel: 415-397-5673) A gi-normous science museum dedicated to kids at the Palace of Fine Arts. Don’t miss the ever-amazing Tactile Dome!
C Presidio Bowl (93 Montgomery Street, inside Presidio Park; Tel: 415-561-2695) Enjoy a blast of the retro past at the Presidio Bowl, a bowling alley once reserved for employees of the former military post.
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