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Beyond San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park

by Elyse Glickman

Jul 21, 2020

Photo: Elena Dremova | Dreamstime.com

Destinations / North America

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park draws families from across the country for its many built-in attractions, including the Japanese Tea Garden, the De Young Fine Arts Museum and The California Academy of Sciences.


However, Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO, San Francisco Travel Association, pointed out there are more milestones worth celebrating in 2020 beyond the borders of the landmark city park.


“San Francisco is a city that never sleeps and constantly reinvents itself,” D’Alessandro explained. “When one considers what’s been happening in San Francisco over the past year, it’s easy to see why we have such a strong reputation as a city with business and cultural leaders who can see into the future.”


Everybody is familiar with tried-and-true Haight-Ashbury, which flanks the east side of the park and observed its 50th anniversary as a pop culture destination a few years ago. However, D’Alessandro stressed some of the city’s best-kept secrets and hidden treasures can be found just beyond the other borders of the park. The Richmond District, to the north, is effectively the city’s other “Chinatown,” with its own fascinating history and impressive spread of Chinese restaurants and retailers. On the south end, the fashionable Sunset has some of the city’s trendiest boutiques and retailers.


While he recommended families explore these lesser-known neighborhoods on foot, there are historic anniversaries taking place in more familiar spots.


In 1990, meanwhile, San Francisco and its visitors witnessed a natural scientific phenomenon firsthand, which continues to charm people today — the arrival of the sea lions at Pier 39, which began just a few months after the Loma Prieta Earthquake. Before their arrival, Pier 39 was a marina with a lot of little private boats. That changed, when the fleet of sea lions made their way to the little docks and claimed it as their home.


Pier 39. Photo: Rostislav Glinsky | Dreamstime.com


“Thirty years later they are still there, and it’s amazing how this natural phenomenon occurred,” said D’Alessandro. “It’s now one of the most popular attractions on Fisherman’s Wharf, and it is miraculous for people to watch this change still happening in real time in the heart of the city.”


D’Alessandro also pointed out many new attractions rooted in the city’s enduring appeal:


  • Last summer, the Salesforce Transit Center opened for business, crowned by the 5.4-acre Salesforce Park, which covers four entire city blocks four stories above street level. The new outdoor oasis, reminiscent of Highline Park in New York City, features paths on both sides, space for picnics, food venues and entertainment space. The massive transportation center below is poised to become the Grand Central Station of the west, according to D’Alessandro, and if circumstances allow, the future high- speed rail terminus for trains connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles.


  • When Tunnel Tops, part of the Presidio in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is completed next year, on top of the highway connecting San Francisco to Marin County, it will be part of the largest urban national park in the nation. Designed by the same architectural firm that created Highline Park in New York City, the park is intended to be more than another ambitious urban green space. “There will be 15 acres connecting the historic Presidio Barracks where military officers stayed 150 years ago (and visitors can spend a night) to the Walt Disney Family Museum and Crissy Field, where you can see one of the most iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge,” said D’Alessandro. “The grounds will be filled with local plants, and there are plans in the works to reintroduce wildlife back into the city.”


  • Chase Center is the new home to the Golden State Warriors, prompting Sports Journal to name San Francisco “Sports City of the Decade.” In addition to claiming teams that won three Warriors and three Giants championships, San Francisco was home to Super Bowl 50, and features a number of theaters, entertainment venues and restaurants.


  • Although San Francisco is not the first place people think about when the word “golf” is mentioned, the revamped TPC Harding Park public golf course is poised to change that. This PGA-caliber green designed by Willie Watson and Sam Whiting in 1925 is also affordable in comparison to the private course counterparts in other areas of California. In May 2020, it will be the site of the PGA Championship.


  • San Francisco Airport’s recently reopened Terminal 1 is named for Harvey Milk, making it the first named to honor an LGBTQ+ civil rights leader. Its 19 new gates help make it the fastest-growing international airport in the United States.


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