San Francisco Safari – An Unexpected Travel Guide

SanFran1Image Source: Mike Behnken

As one of the top destinations for travelers, San Francisco offers unique experiences that are remnants of its illustrious history. Everyone knows about the landmarks and the top sites to visit, such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island, but there are also things to do that are a little off the beaten path but will make your visit to the City by the Bay even more memorable.

Between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge, you will find a rare musical instrument. The Wave Organ is a sculpture that creates sound from the waves. Completed in 1986, this organ was constructed on a jetty using granite and marble. Twenty-five PVC pipes and concrete are strategically placed around the site at different elevations.

SanFran2Image Source: Kārlis Dambrāns

As the waves crash against the pipe ends, the energy created makes a sound unlike anything you’ve heard. It is definitely not the same as holding a shell to your ear. The Wave Organ is best heard during high tide, but even if you don’t get to hear much sound, the beauty of the San Francisco Bay invites you to relax and enjoy your trip.

If you get tired of the bustle of the city, there’s a little piece of escape you can run to. Once a Spanish fort and then a military outpost, Presidio of San Francisco is now a trust run by the National Park Service to protect the area surrounding it to retain the history. This military base was the center for the defense of the Western U.S. during World War II, and until it closed in 1995, it was the longest continuously running military base in the nation.

SanFran3Image Source:  Nathan Yergler

It’s so large and is filled with many parks and visitors centers so you can learn the history of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge and Presidio itself. You could drive the entire area and enjoy the sites, but many have commented on simply enjoying the views of the ocean, the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

Inside Presidio, you will want to see Andy Goldworthy’s Spire, as well as his other natural art that appears here. Goldworthy is a British artist who visited Presidio in 2006 and decided he wanted to celebrate the beauty of the area. The first of his creations in the Presidio was the Spire, constructed two years after his original visit from aging cypress trees. The trunks were fastened together until it reached more than 90 feet high.

SanFran4Image Source: Brad Coy

Young trees continue to grow at the base and will eventually obscure the sculpture. The artwork is reminiscent of the lifecycle of nature and the process of creating something out of destruction and renewal. After that, he added Wood Line, made of eucalyptus branches laid out in sinuous curve near Presidio’s oldest footpath, Lover’s Lane. In 2013, Goldworthy returned and created Tree Fall.

Become a kid again and slide down the Seward Street Slides. Found in the middle of San Francisco in the district of Noe Valley and designed by a 14 year old in a competition, the two concrete slides were built in 1973 and are still free to the public. You’ll even find plenty of leftover cardboard boxes or even a few kids willing to loan you their cardboard for your ride down the slope.

SanFran5Image Source: teamboost

Many adults have mentioned that the slide is much steeper than it seems from below, but this is one stop everyone should make whether traveling for pleasure or business. Since it’s in the middle of a neighborhood, parking can be difficult and it closes at sunset, so be sure to stop by earlier in the day. This is one thrilling attraction that many people rave over when visiting San Francisco. 

Earthquakes are pretty common to San Francisco. There have been a few that are notable. The April 1906 earthquake is considered one of the worst natural disasters in the United States. It wasn’t the earthquake that did most of the damage but rather the resulting fires that destroyed the city. In Mission District, the water hydrants were running out of water, and the firefighters with their horse-drawn wagons had little water left.

SanFran6Image Source: Ryan Gessner

A group of people checked the last hydrant in their neighborhood and discovered the one hydrant still working that they used to fight the fire. Now known as “Little Giant,” this fire hydrant is painted gold every April 18th and has a plaque dedicated to the firefighters and the people of San Francisco. Stop by to learn more about the earthquake and also pay tribute to those who worked so hard to rebuild this beautiful city.

If you want to know more about the origins of San Francisco, go no further than the Mission District. Known by locals as “The Mission,” this neighborhood prides itself in the diversity of culture that intersects in this area. Whether you bike, drive, or walk this neighborhood, you’re sure to find colorful murals illustrating life in San Francisco. The oldest building in San Francisco, Mission San Francisco de Asís, is in the neighborhood. Although originally founded in 1776, the building as it stands was constructed in 1791 and is part of the Spanish missions that dot California.

SanFran7Image Source: Ken Lund

The Mission is open daily to view the building, ground, and cemetery where many prominent San Franciscans are buried. While roaming through the beautiful Mission District, you will find excellent Mexican cuisine from the various restaurants. If you really want to enjoy local flavor, order a mission burrito from one of the taquerías and take it wrapped in foil to any of the parks nearby if the weather allows.

Whether it’s your first time to San Francisco or a repeat visit, make sure you take the time to see and experience all the sights and sounds the city has to offer. Your trip will be all the more memorable when you add in a few unexpected stops to your travel itinerary.

This post was written and provided by IHG Hotels. IHG offers hotels for every type of occasion and has 4,900 properties in nearly 100 countries.

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