San Francisco – Everyday Insider! (TM) Trips 4

The 49-Mile Scenic Drive (called 49 Mile Drive by locals) meanders in and around San Francisco highlights. It’s worth using this itinerary to see many of the city’s major attractions and historic structures.

The route opened in September 1938 as a promotion for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. It featured views of the 2 then-newly-built SF bridges: Golden Gate Bridge (May 1937) and the Bay Bridge (November 1936). The route terminated then at the fairgrounds on Treasure Island, which do not exist today.

You will know that you are on the right track by watching for the blue and white signs that lead one through the city. But, you should also download a map, as sometimes people steal the beautiful signs!

The blue and white seagull “49-Mile Scenic Drive” sign was designed by a local artist named Rex May in 1955. May’s design won the competition held by San Francisco’s Downtown Association to create a new sign for the route.

They are so familiar to me, as I arrived to live in San Francisco in 1960 and had visited in 1957, but I had no idea they were only recently produced, back then. Now, they are iconic.

Currently the route begins at the intersection of Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue, near City Hall, where you can buy replica signs in their Gift Shop.

Check with your hotel or the SF Visitor’s Center to see which parts are best to walk and which parts may have construction happening.

Here are some first stops which I’ll comment on, and on successive days, Everyday Insider!(TM) will share more.

1. Civic Center – this is the place to start and the area includes San Francisco’s classic grey granite City Hall, Federal and State Office Buildings, Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Asian Art Museum, Main Library and PAC. The Performing Arts Center’s handsome components are: Davies Symphony Hall, War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building / Herbst Theatre, where the U.N. charter was signed in 1946.

A permanent memorial commemorating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations is located in United Nations Plaza.

City Hall is totally accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities, so be sure to utilize its resources, but like all government buildings, it is not usually open on the week-ends.

200 Polk Street at Grove Street, San Francisco, CA 94102
(this section of Polk is now Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place)
Tel: 415 554 4933 Fax: 415 554 4936
There are guided tours of this amazing building which is far more architecturally interesting than most State Legislatures!

2. Cathedral Hill is dominated by the strikingly contemporary white marble edifice of St. Mary’s Cathedral – the main Catholic presence in today’s San Francisco. Whereas the oldest Catholic church in the City is the Spanish Mission Dolores, which is also on 39 Mile Drive.

If you are driving, stop to look at St. Mary’s because right at that point, on Gough, you head straight down a very steep hill, and there’s no way you should be looking at anything else but the road!

3. Japan Center and Japantown have many shops, restaurants, several theaters and two hotels – the Hotel Kabuki (formerly the Miyako Hotel) is an East-West island of Zen quiet and beauty, where I spent part of my honeymoon 41 years ago. Radisson refurbished it in 2002 and now it is owned by Joie de Vivre. Needless to say, I think you will enjoy the area, and it’s my Everyday Insider! (TM) pick for your San Francisco hotel.

The Peace Plaza of the Japan Center is the focal point for Japanese festivals in Nihonmachi (i.e. “JapanTown”). The underground garage at the Japan Center is the best place to park and then come up the elevators to the Hotel Kabuki and out into the neighborhood.

4. Haas-Lilienthal Houseis the epitome of the classic 1886 San Francisco Queen Anne-style Victorian home. It is located at 2007 Franklin. The beautifully designed and constructed redwood and fir house is headquarters for San Francisco Architectural Heritage.

It is open for tours on Sundays 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m, as well as Wednesday & Saturday 12:00 Noon – 3:00 p.m. Tours leave every 20 to 30 minutes and last about 1 hour. All visits to the house must be guided. Reservations are not required. General Admission: $8; Seniors & Children under 12: $5.

Be sure to call to confirm the home is not closed for a private reception. Haas-Lilienthal House, San Francisco

5. Union Square is the heart of the downtown shopping and hotel district. Many civic events are held in the Square, and the mimes there decades ago were the first street performers in SF. The Square is surrounded by prestigious hotels and flagship stores from many prominent merchants. Theater is also in the neighborhood and there is auto parking beneath the Square.

More of 49 Mile Drive, tomorrow.

Part 1: San Francisco Everyday Insider It has all the links to others in this series.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

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