3. Take the Bus

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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, October 24, 2011


Across Market Street from downtown is Soma (South of Market). For a long time it was notorious as a seedy and dangerous neighborhood. The city has been working on changing that, adding museums, parks, and recreational areas it. This has encouraged many businesses to move in. Soma is gradually losing that danger element and bad reputation.

To the west of downtown is Japantown, a cluster of businesses and cultural centers run by Japanese-Americans. Nearby is the famed Fillmore Auditorium.

A large area, connected with the Golden Gate Bridge, is the Presidio. This use to be a military installation but is now a park and recreation center, with many viewing areas and beaches.

The well-known Golden Gate Park is a series of gardens, museums, lakes, and lawns, between Haight-Ashbury and Ocean Beach.

North of Golden Gate Park, along the coast, is Sutro Heights Park, another breath-taking viewing area.

Some years ago, I visited Haight-Ashbury, eager to see the birthplace of the Hippie Movement. But I was perturbed by the gauntlet of panhandlers, about two to three on every block. Even two little boys, about seven years old, clean and well dressed, were getting into the act. I was so disgusted. I never went back again.


Baker Beach, along the west coast of the Presidio, is a well-know clothing optional beach. The entrance is off the southern area of Lincoln Blvd. On the north side nude sunbathers gather, mostly on warm weekends. Swimming is discouraged due to strong undercurrents and no life guards on duty.

Crissy Field, along the east coast of the Presidio, is the most spacious lawn in the city. This a perfect place for children to fly kites and play Frisbee, for dogs to run free, for families to have picnics, and for most people to just admire the view.  

Off the Embarcadero, in the Soma area, is Cupid's Span, an eccentric sculpture of a giant bow and arrow.  This is a can’t-miss for photographers.

Just south of Golden Gate Bridge is Fort Point, the remains of a gunnery that once protected San Francisco Bay from invasion by sea. All along the north coast are remains of cannon stations and gunners’ tunnels. A must-see for history buffs.

The Japanese Tea Garden is part of the Golden Gate Park, which can transfer you to the most beautiful places in Japan. Spend hours strolling, admiring the sculpted plants, photographing the pagodas, then sit for a cup of green tea.

Near City Hall is the Museum of Asian Art.  Be prepared to spend hours on your feet, viewing the history of the arts of East Asia.

The Museum of Modern Art, one of many art museums in Soma, boarders the Yerba Buena Gardens. Viewing the history of Western art, from the late 19th century till now, can take a large part of a day. The top floor is not for the acrophobic. Its walkway is transparent, revealing the massive space to the bottom floor.

Most of San Francisco’s west coast is made up of Ocean Beach. Like Crissy Field, it is very spacious and suitable for so many activities. What is most impressive is the view. The space where land and ocean meet is massive.

The Rincon Center is a hotel, on the eastside of Soma, which includes shops, eateries, and a small museum. Between its two buildings is a patio with fountains, statues, and plenty of seating. In Building 2, the northern side, is a food court, where a waterfall comes down in the middle and many large windows let in plenty of sunlight. Here is plenty of room to accommodate a weekly farmers’ market. In an adjoining space, many objects and photos, from San Francisco’s history, are displayed.

The north end of Ocean Beach terminates at the Sutro Baths Ruins. Here lie the remains of the worlds largest indoor swimming pool. This is another must-see for photographers and history buffs.

The Yerba Buena Gardens, the pride of the Soma, is another place for people to relax amidst a bustling city. A very ample lawn is surrounded by a waterfall, several gardens of native plant life, and recreational centers for young people. The nearby Moscone Convention Center includes a carousel for the enjoyment of entire families.


A segment of Fillmore Street, between Washington and Post Streets, is a heavy shopping area, away from the tourist areas. This is an area mostly for locals to shop, eat, and enjoy other activities.

The nucleus of Japantown is the Japan Center, composed of two large buildings and a plaza in between. The plaza includes the Peace Tower, symbolizing the peace between the United States and Japan. The buildings hold many Japanese import shops, restaurants, and other services.  There are also several more shops and restaurants all around the Center.

A segment of Union Street, between Fillmore and Gough Streets, is another shopping area, away from the touristy crowd.


Lou’s is a diner, just past the gate to Sutro Heights Park. They serve breakfast and lunch at affordable prices.

The Rincon Center food court offers an array of international lunches.


Between Ocean Beach and the Sutro Bath Ruins is the Cliff House. It has a long bar and several levels of dining areas with views of the ocean. I have a few beers and a seafood meal here every time I visit San Francisco.

Isobune [Ee-so-boo-neh] is one of the many restaurants of Japan Center. It’s a sushi bar, surrounded by a moat, where plates of sushi float by in little boats. Diners can take whatever they wish then the waitresses count the empty color-coded plates to calculate the tab. They offer beer and sake with the meals. Be prepared to pay a lot. (As a sushi lover, I believe it’s worth it.)

Tommy’s Joynt is a legendary eatery, very well known inside and outside of San Francisco. It sits on the east side of Japantown. On one side is a cafeteria-like line, serving many filling comfort foods. On the other side is a full bar. When I was a little boy, my parents brought me here and I enjoyed the buffalo stew. The last time I was there, I ordered the buffalo stew and it still tastes just as good.
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