Monday, February 15, 2016

Great American Cities: San Francisco - Ai Weiwei Update

Immediately recognizable because of the features of its iconic skyline, San Francisco is a city that lives up to big expectations. There is no shortage of things to do and see, and it is packed with cool neighborhoods and exciting places. I've been lucky to have visited a few times, and while it's a great place to go for even a short visit, it takes time, and maybe even several repeated visits to see everything the city has to offer. SF luckily has a decent transit system - BART, Bay Area Rapid Transit - that can get you to and from its airport and around the city. A tourist should supplement that with a ride on the world famous cable cars. Riding the cable cars is fun and I think it's worth it to do it at least once, but it's not very cheap at $7.  Visitor day passes that are sold don't cover BART, so I don't find them to be a good value for me since I do so much walking.

There are plenty of free things to see and do in San Francisco. If you like to walk, and I think that is a wonderful way to get to know a city, SF will be a good place to go. 

While shopping features prominently in many places, there's no rule that you must buy, so visiting charming Ghirardelli Square or the Embarcadero waterfront is free, as is a stroll through Haight-Ashbury or Chinatown - the largest one outside of Asia. You get great views of the Bay at Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf , and may get overrun by either tourists or seals. 

Alcatraz is pictured here from Pier 39 above and Ghirardelli Square below.

There's also plenty of green space to fill your day, such as going to Golden Gate Park and continuing to walk over the Bridge. Walking to the top of Telegraph Hill is another popular activity, or head to the Presidio for great views of the city and wide open spaces.

Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate by foot (or bike)

The Golden Gate on a clear day by cruise ship

Disembarking the ferry from the city to Alcatraz, you are greeted by park rangers who give you a brief overview. We took a minute to step off to the side and eat our lunch since they don't want people bringing food (and trash) into the facility. Then we headed up...

Another excellent activity in SF is going to Alcatraz Island. As a National Park, it's been very well cared for and visits can be educational and informative. I was so thrilled to see it while an art installation by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was on display.

Ai Weiwei was recently named one of the Most Influential Living Artists of 2016, as part of a 2016 Year of Art feature, and his work has been highlighted here on Artsy, I encourage you to check out the many varied works of this incredible man.

Back to Alcatraz,
 I was able to get this shot at the last moment before they closed, when most other people had left.

The famously curved Lombard St - very steep, very narrow, very congested.

The Trans-America Building, up close and personal

Gay Pride Parade 2005, looking toward City Hall

Inside SF MOMA, the modern art museum scheduled to reopen in May 2016, there was a rooftop garden. Above, the view from that garden, and below, a view inside the old museum. I don't know how extensive their renovations are.

Street views of San Francisco

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