It’s 65 degrees out, winds are blowing at 21 mph and Sutro is wrapped in a blanket of fog. In other words, it’s officially summertime in San Francisco.
So what could be better than a staycation highlighting some of The City’s most beloved attractions? Plus, whenever friends and family visit, you’ll have a perfect sightseeing tour ready-made for your guests. The best part: no driving required!
San Francisco is ranked as the second most walkable city in the U.S., a scant seven-by-seven square miles encompassing the entire breadth of the “Paris of the West.” Discover some of San Francisco’s favorite charms when you join Noe Valley resident and novelist Karen Allen, as she leads Walk San Francisco’s June monthly members walk.
On Sunday, June 18, take in a treasure trove of local landmarks, starting at Herb Caen Way, before scaling Telegraph Hill and then descending to explore Little Italy and Chinatown on a vigorous three-mile route.
Your tour begins in front of the San Francisco Ferry Building. While this landmark survived the Great Earthquake and fire of 1906, it was essentially lost to The City and the public behind an impenetrable wall of traffic after the construction of the elevated, double-decker Embarcadero Freeway in the late 1950s.
In 1987, despite a prior 8-2 resolution by the Board of Supervisors, voters blocked the tear down of the freeway. Instead, it would take the destructive force of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake to begin the process of knitting the historic Ferry Building and the waterfront back into the fabric of San Francisco.
Now, more than 20 years after the freeway’s demolition, when one looks northeast across the wide, palm-lined boulevard with transit and bicycle lanes to the thousands strolling along the 25-foot-wide promenade fronting the Ferry Building, and beyond to the Bay, Alcatraz and Angel Island, it’s almost impossible to envision the ironically named “Skyway” that once scarred and isolated this waterfront, blocking the view for people on the ground.
From the wide-open spaces of The Embarcadero, find your way up the long and steep, yet charming Filbert Steps. Climb the eastern slope of what was once a quarry, to discover the luscious Grace Marchant Gardens. Grace, who first reclaimed the area around the stairs (which was more or less a garbage dump at the time) to tend a garden, was a stunt double in her youth. After World War II, she and her family settled on Telegraph Hill and began clearing the area of trash. She maintained her garden until the 1970s. Since then, it has been adopted by a volunteer group of neighbors, The Friends of the Garden.
While scaling the Filbert Stairs, don’t be surprised if you spot (or hear) feral cherry-headed or mitred conures (species originally from Central and South America). These locally renowned birds were the subjects of a 2003 documentary, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,” although this neighborhood is only one of many where the birds forage for fruit, pine nuts and blossoms.
From Pioneer Park at the peak of Telegraph Hill, you’ll stop at Coit Tower to see the murals that were renovated a few years ago. The Tower renovation was the first since 1990 and also repaired a series of magnificent, Depression-era secco frescoes on the second floor, which had been unseen for decades.
After the Tower stop, you’ll descend to Washington Park before exploring a selection of alleyways in North Beach and Chinatown.
The walk ends at the Powell Street Station, with an optional lunch at Mikkeller Bar.
About Karen Allen: A 30-year resident, Karen loves walking in San Francisco. She is a contributor to Resilience.org, where she blogs about energy and sustainability. She’s also the author of the novels “Beaufort 1849” and “Universal Time.” Karen also serves as a member of the board of directors of Livable City.
IF YOU GO:
Staycation Adventure Walk
When: Sunday, June 18, 10 a.m. to noon
Where: San Francisco Ferry Building
Info: Walk space is limited; $10 minimum donation to Walk SF; RSVPs required at walksf.org/event/staycationwalk