San Francisco – the very name awakens well-known associations beginning with the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz to the open-air cable cars rolling up and down steep city hills.
Then there are the historic neighborhoods, such as Castro, Haight Ashbury, North Beach and Union Square, that have made San Francisco into the fascinating, ever-transforming global destination it is today. I’ve been a fan for years, but this time, I'm setting out to explore a few outdoor recreation spots in this famous California city on the Pacific.
Culture and Nature in Golden Gate Park
Located in the heart of the city is San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, which stretches nearly 5 kilometers from east to west and 800 meters from north to south. In addition to beautifully landscaped meadows and lakes, a stunning winter garden, a Japanese teahouse and a bison paddock, the park also houses the famous de Young Museum. After a refreshing walk next to bikers, runners and skate boarders, I enjoyed looking at the tastefully displayed contemporary art in this uniquely designed museum that also features an unforgettable 360-degree view of the Bay Area from its Hamon Tower Observation Floor. Directly opposite is the state-of-the-art California Academy of Sciences, one of the largest and most environmentally friendly natural history museums in the world with a living roof made of self-sustaining plants.
Daily tours offered at the de Young Museum in San Francisco
Sunbathing on Baker Beach
When a city is surrounded by water, like San Francisco is, you long for a beach – and what a beach you’ve got in Baker Beach! Situated in the northwest of the city directly adjacent to the Presidio district, the 800-meter stretch features soft sand, gently rolling Pacific waves and a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge. No wonder it attracts locals and visitors alike for walks, sunbathing or a nice picnic.
Baker Beach with views of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
Unique Hiking on the Lands End Trail
After Baker Beach, I follow the urge to dive deeper into the nature of San Francisco and drive to the picturesque Lands End Lookout in Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Equipped with useful information and a good cup of coffee from the new visitor’s center, I'm on my way. There are a number of interesting trails to choose from. I opt for the Coastal Trail, which is part of the famous California Coastal Trail. It offers fantastic views at every turn, as well as the unique opportunity to walk along the coastal edge of the American continent.
Relax with a View at Alamo Square Park
San Francisco should be called the city of the countless vistas. Back in town, I round out my day at the elevated Alamo Square Park, the heart of the residential neighborhood with the same name. Here, locals and visitors mix while relaxing in front of the classic background provided by the famous Painted Ladies while the San Francisco skyline lies at their feet. As the sunset casts a beautiful light over the bay, I can sense the beginning of the vibrant downtown evening life in the distance as I sit on the grass hill watching locals walk their dogs.
This is where I realize there aren’t many cities that combine cosmopolitan flair and wild nature as effortlessly as San Francisco does. And I haven’t even mentioned the fantastic cuisine – that's for next time!
Alamo Square with the Painted Ladies houses and views of San Francisco