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Itâ€™s easy to be charmed by San Francisco. The cosmopolitan, ethnically diverse and oh-so-pretty city by the bay combines rolling hills, water views and elegant Victorian homes with a lively waterfront, urban parks, world-class museums and great restaurants. And did we mention spirit? Continue reading below to prepare yourself for downtime at this year's CDA conference.
At this year's CDA Presents in San Francisco, come prepared for fun by following our travel writer's suggestions
Along with being a symbol of pioneer perseverance and prescient tech innovation, San Francisco blossomed during 1967’s Summer of Love, a time when young people searched for alternatives to materialism and war. During the city’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of this singular moment, discover flower power’s music and message at many city venues.
Iconic San Francisco: scenery, salty breezes, historical attractions, museums, parks, beaches
San Francisco’s setting is part of its charm. For panoramic bay views when the fog lifts, cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Drive if you must, but to fully appreciate the dramatic expanse that has come to symbolize both the city and the American West, walk or bike the 1.7-mile span. To check off another time-honored tradition — and save your feet — ride a cable car. Purchase tickets before boarding at the cable car turnarounds at the terminus of each route.
Although Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39, longtime waterfront attractions, offer views, most people would label the area kitschy and over-crowded. A better way to experience the waterscape is to board the ferries that dock at Alcatraz Island and Angel Island. Alcatraz, a.k.a the Rock Island, is the former maximum security federal penitentiary that held Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and other notorious criminals. On a walk past cell blocks, you can listen to recorded inmates’ tales.
Less well-known than Alcatraz, Angel Island served as the Civil War era Camp Reynolds, as Fort McDowell during both World Wars and as a U.S. Immigration Station. Between 1910 and 1940, more than 175,000 Chinese and other Pacific Rim immigrants came through China Cove. Many were detained for months. At selected times, docents and park staff lead guided tours of the Immigration Station. Also a state park, Angel Island provides spectacular bay views as well as hiking trails, grassy fields and eucalyptus groves. Both islands are part of San Francisco’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, whose 80,000-plus acres stretch north and south of the city and include additional historical sites, beaches and woods.
Golden Gate Park, a 1000-plus acre city oasis, features lakes, greenery and museums. Stroll the Japanese Tea Garden, complete with ponds, pagodas and a teahouse. See the blooms at the Conservatory of Flowers, and row your own rental boat in Stow Lake. Among the exhibits on view at the park’s M.H. de Young Memorial Museum are “Revelations: Art from the African American South” (through April 1, 2018) and “Beyond the Surface: Worldwide Embroidery Traditions” (through August 31, 2017). The park’s California Academy of Sciences invites you to explore the natural world. At its Steinhart Aquarium, watch penguins preen and swim, search for frogs on a walk through a rainforest, and at CAS’s planetarium, learn about asteroids and comets.
Two additional museums make the must-see list. The Asian Art Museum at Civic Center holds one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian Art in the world, including temple sculptures, jades, Thai paintings and ceramics, Tibetan scrolls, Korean lacquerware and textiles, Japanese baskets as well as works by contemporary artists. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art features painting, sculpture, photography and media arts. Through October 9, 2017, the museum mounts a special exhibition on Edvard Munch.
In Chinatown, the second-largest Asian community in North America, stroll Grant Avenue, more targeted to tourists, and Stockton Street, geared more to locals for Chinese groceries, tea rooms, herbal stores and souvenir shops. Munch the goods at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory and watch workers make the treats. This is the neighborhood for dim sum lunches and authentic Chinese food.
The California of crashing waves and windswept beaches can be found in the city at Ocean Beach, but don’t swim there — the water is too rough and treacherous. Instead, stroll the 3-mile-plus stretch of sand while savoring the salty breezes and breaking surf. Ocean Beach’s north end may be dotted with seals lounging and barking in the sun.
Dining and Drinking
Take advantage of the city’s breezy coastal location and big-time foodie reputation. For waterfront views and good seafood, reserve a table at Waterbar, a restaurant practically under the Bay Bridge. At Mission Rock Resort, try the oysters, clam chowder and crab roll while dining on the deck. The Ferry Building Marketplace’s eateries offer grab n’ go coffee, pastry, cheese and chocolates, perfect sustenance for sitting outside admiring the waterfront. A farmer’s market sets up several days a week. Hard Water gains fame for its American whiskeys and fried chicken.
Yank Sing, located outside of Chinatown, serves traditional and modern dim sum, offering 60 varieties daily. Aficionados like the Shanghai soup dumplings stuffed with pork, the shrimp dumplings, and the snow pea shoot dumplings. In Chinatown, Begoni Bistro is known for its Peking duck, Chong Qing Xiao Mian serves tasty Sichuan-style noodles and Golden Gate Bakery’s egg custard tarts are much loved. The recently opened China Live mixes eateries, bars, restaurants and markets in a 30,000-square-foot space.
Among San Francisco’s trendy new places are August 1 Five, helmed by a former chef at Rasika, Washington D.C.’s best Indian restaurant. August 1 Five offers flavorful, modern interpretations of Indian cuisine. Flores serves traditional Mexican food and Media Noche plates Cuban fare.
If you can’t make it to California’s vineyards, console yourself by sampling the wine at Bluxome Street Winery, which highlights Pinot Noir, and Chateau Montelana, a tasting room in the Westin St. Francis. San Francisco also has a thriving craft cocktail and beer scene. Esquire magazine named White Chapel San Francisco’s best place for gin, and Thrillist crowned Buddha Lounge one of the 33 best dive bars in the U.S. and dubbed Victory Hall one of the 25 best bars in San Francisco alleyways.
Victory Hall attracts both cocktails and craft beer drinkers. Anything with rum is the drink of choice at Smuggler’s Cove, rated Best American Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards. At ThirstyBear Brewing Company, the city’s only organic brewery, down the Polar Bear Pilsner or the Golden Vanilla. The 21st Amendment Brewery’s summer favorites include Hell or High Watermelon and Brew Fee! or Die IPA. The Mikkeller Bar boasts 42 taps.
Beg or borrow a ticket to Eat Drink SF, the Bay Area’s annual food, wine and spirits festival, August 24 to 27. The festival, which features 160-some trendy restaurants and 70 breweries, wineries and distillers, was sold out last time we checked. Look again later in case the food gods miraculously cooked up more tickets.
Summer of Love
In May 1967, Scott McKenzie released the tune “San Francisco,” a.k.a. “Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair.” The hit came to be known as the flower power anthem, a theme song for the nearly 100,000 young people, artists and musicians who converged on the city during the summer of 1967. Fifty years later, several venues celebrate and analyze the Summer of Love through exhibits and events.
Gain some background or experience déjà vu via a Magic Bus Ride through Haight Asbury and other neighborhoods. On the tour, watch clips of musical performances and listen to a guide relate tidbits of poets and activists. You can follow in the steps of the hippies and the hopefuls with walking tours of Haight-Asbury offered by Flower Power Walking Tours, FOOT! Fun Walking Tours and Wild SF Walking Tours.
Discover the cultural context that made San Francisco the locus for hippies, dreamers and disaffected youth at the California Historical Society. At the GLBT History Museum, “Lavender-Tinted Glasses: A Groovy Gay Look at the Summer of Love,” explore the roles of poet Allen Ginsberg, filmmaker Kenneth Anger, philosopher Gavin Arthur and singer Janis Joplin in that colorful season. Learn how flowers came to be symbols of peace and love at the Asian Art Museum’s exhibit “Flower Power.”
With the Kids
Biking the Golden Gate Bridge, ferrying to Alcatraz and Angel islands, strolling gardens and museums and building sandcastles at Ocean Beach convey some of San Francisco’s history, setting and culture to children. Another must: visit the Exploratorium. At this hands-on museum, kids push, pull, talk and listen to more than 650 interactive exhibits that reveal science and natural phenomena. Kids can turn themselves upside down by peering into a curved mirror, “freeze” their shadows and crawl through a pitch black tactile dome using tactile navigation.
You and your kids can cross the Golden Gate Bridge in style aboard a retrofitted, shiny red 1955 fire engine on a San Francisco Fire Engine tour. Departing from Fisherman’s Wharf, the 90-minute adventure clangs across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and back. Reservations required. Check off Experience another much-photographed city site: Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, the apotheosis of Can Francisco’s zig-zagging streets.
Whatever your age, San Francisco, with its iconic attractions, noteworthy museums and beautiful setting, engages visitors.
Follow Candyce H. Stapen on Twitter: @FamilyiTrips