When we were planning our trip to California and San Francisco in particular I wanted to do a number of things I had never done on my frequent business trips to SF in the 80's and 90's. Sue had been with me to SF once for a couple of pleasure days before my business portion and at the time we took a Grayline Bus Tour which went through a number of neighborhoods, but only stopped at a few designated spots. We had passed through the Castro District on that bus tour, but only got a glimpse from our bus windows.
Since the first full day of the San Francisco part of the trip was on Halloween I decided we needed to make the evening a fun one. We had thought first about taking a ghost tour, but since we already had tours set up the next day for an architectural tour and Alcatraz I thought it might be more fun to go exploring on our own. I then thought about going to the Castro District to see what type of entertainment we could find. We originally were planning on bringing our own Halloween costumes (We must have at least a dozen different costumes in our attic) but I forgot and Sue decided that was getting a little too crazy.
Fondest memory: Anyway, after having dinner just down the street in the Mission District (another area we had briefly been too on our last trip), we walked up 18th Street to see what we could find. As we got closer to the main intersection of 18th and Castro the noise just kept getting louder. For one the Giants were playing the 4th game of the World Series in Texas and were just about to win going up 3 games to 1 and for the other we started seeing more and more people in costumes. And when we finally arrived in the blocks fanning out in all directions from 18th and Castro we found ourselves in an Adult Halloween Parade.
It was really, well interesting, and that is a far milder term for what it really was. There were throngs of people in and out of costume along with a small army of local SF police officers to make sure things didn't get out of hand (apparently a couple of years ago there was some violence with some gun shots fired). Everybody in costume was literally parading up one street and down another. The more outrageous the costumes the more picture taking was going on. Everybody relished the picture taking opportunities and we joined them as you can see from the pictures posted here and in the travelogue on Halloween. I also took some video which I will have to put together in a montage to share.
All in all a very very interesting Halloween Night!!
I`ll be constantly updating this tip with new videos taken around the city. Right now, I have these:
- Fillmore Jazz Festival. It took place on the 5-6 of July, 2008.
- LGBT Pride Parade on the 29th of June, 2008.
- Alta Plaza Park - a small patch of green on a hilltop of Pacific Heights neighborhood.
SoMa (short for South of Market) comprises a huge section of downtown San Francisco bordered by Market, Embarcadero, Townsend, and 11th. This area is a unique mix of modern and run down, nightclubs and homeless men in abundance. Though SoMa is not overly touristy, it does have its draws such as Yerba Buena Gardens, the Museum of Modern Art, AT&T Park, the Metreon, and the new San Francisco Shopping Center. There are a variety of restaurants and nightlife in the area, but they seem to be pretty spread out, occasionally just a single popular club on a deserted street.
After watching a Giants/Pirates game at AT&T Park, we decided to check out the nightlife in SoMa, so we wandered toward Union Square stopping at a popular Mexican restaurant called Tres Agave then a smaller bar called Voda. Our hotel was also in SoMa, just a half block off Market Street, and it was called the Mosser.
Nob Hill is an exclusive neighborhood at the top of the hill near the intersection of the Powell and California cable car lines. It sits at the heart of the city, surrounded by Union Square, North Beach, the Tenderloin, Chinatown, Telegraph Hill, and Russian Hill. At the top of Nob Hill you'll find Grace Cathedral, the exclusive Pacific-Union Club, and fancy hotel such as the Fairmont, the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel, the Stanford Court, and the Huntington Hotel.
This neighborhood has always had a reputation as home to the rich and famous of San Francisco.
Favorite thing: I suppose every big city has its share of unique neighbourhoods, but SF seems to excel at it. We spent time in the Haight (I still remember the Haight Ashbury hippy era of the mid 1960's), the Castro, Noe Valley, at the top of Pacific Heights, Chinatown, North Beach (which is no longer a beach at all), SOMA (South of Market St), and the other tourist areas - Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Embarcadero, etc.
The Mission is a great neighborhood, though probably not for everyone. With it's heavy Latin influence, there are many restaurants that are worth visiting. And not just holes in the wall. Foreign Cinema (world reknowned) is right in the midst of the Mission as are several other great eats. I have also found some interesting shopping finds here, like an all Greek store. Things like that help to make the Mission greater than people might expect after just taking a glance on the surface.
Fondest memory: burritos at El Farolito
The row of Victorian Homes found here in ALAMO SQUARE is called 'Postcard Row' and is one of the most photographed residential areas in America. Bound by Webster, Broderick, Oak and Golden Gate Streets.
Fondest memory: Having a picnic at Alamo Square Park overlooking the downtown area.
Favorite thing: I describe Clement Street as a suburban Chinatown. There is a much larger mix of stores and restaurants here than Chinatown though. It is fairly crowded and busy, but not as much as Chinatown. There are quite a few places not to miss here.
My favorite part of town.
I probably spend more time in North Beach walking, eating, drinking & touristing around than anywhere else.
Here's my favorite hangout for beverages, conversation and people-watching....
Caffe Trieste on Vallejo and Grant, just up the block from Columbus ave.
Fondest memory: Chatting up & watching all the different people that hang out at Trieste, then walking the city until you are too tired & sore to walk it any more (and then you call a cab...).
Click below if you would like to go on a late-nite North Beach crawl with me:
North Beach crawl
Walking around the Castro is a great thing to do on a lazy afternoon. The formerly wild gay community seems now very relaxed with the rainbow flag flying everywhere.
Nice neighbourhood with stores and cafes and bars. I really loved the little corner shops with fresh fruit and veg and other basic groceries, they even decorated the streets outside with their supplies.
Fondest memory: The hills of the city, the Bay, Alcatraz, landmark constructions as the Golden Gate and the Oakland Bay Bridge, downtown skyscrapers... San Francisco is full of beautiful scenaries. At almost every street corner it is worth to stop and get you camera ready. Like on the picture you can see here. In the background you can see the island of Alcatraz in the middle of the bay.
(My "Must See Activities" sections discuss more details.)
Start with a good pair of walking shoes and a daypack. I start you off at Powell & Market, but you can pick up this tour from your hotel's front door.
Begin at Market Street, take the Powell/Hyde Cable Car up Powell Street, take it to the end of the line (Ghirardelli Square/Aquatic Park).
Walk down to Jefferson Street (runs along the shoreline/ the wharf). Stroll down Fisherman’s Wharf, along "The Embarcadero" (the name of the strip) to Pier 39. Walk down the entire length of Pier 39. Don't miss seeing the Sea Lions, the free street performances at the Crystal Geyser Center Stage, and bring your camera because at the very end of Pier 39 you will get some magnificent pictures of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge -- when you get your pictures developed, your friends will think you took the pictures off the side of a cruise ship. (Caution: Pier 39 has lots of pricey shops, but the fast-food is okay, Swenson's ice-cream is a dream, and it doesn't cost anything to look.)
Pier 39' s website www.pier39.com/pier39/english/index.html
From Pier 39, the Ferry Building would be nice to see, but it's too far to walk from here, with not much in between, so...
Walk back to Aquatic Park and visit Ghirardelli Square -- www.ghirardellisq.com
Catch the Cable Car at Aquatic Park which heads back to Powell & Market and get off at Union Square.
Walk around Union Square (this is the best window-shopping in the City -- the stores here are awesome, and the dress codes is REALLY relaxed -- don't worry about going into Nieman Marcus or Saks 5th Avenue with just shorts and sneakers on.)
Favorite thing: Pacific Heights is a nice place for a mid-day stroll. The neighborhood is generally defined as being bounded by Pine Avenue on the south, Vallejo on the north, Van Ness in the east, and Presidio in the west. The main shopping street is Fillmore, which has some decent and surprisingly affordable restaurants and boutiques along with those which confidantly cater to the chi-chi aristocracy nearby.
Favorite thing: Pacific Heights is probably the most glam part of San Francisco. It looks like a Hollywood movie set version of S. F., which makes sense because a number of Hollywood films have been made here. A few years ago there was a film called "Pacific Heights" - an "evil roommate" thriller for yuppies. But generally, good things happen to people in this neighborhood. It's the kind of place where you can imagine Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks living happily ever after.
I am very distantly related to the Huntington from whom the Huntington Hotel on Nob Hill is named. But so what.... Just enjoy the view. Visit Grace Cathedral! On Sunday AM there usually are artists who exhibit in the Cathedral area and courtyard!!
Fondest memory: Taking the Cable Car up Nob Hill - a great ride.