3 picture perfect spots in San Francisco
There are very few things in San Francisco us locals can never do on a summer Saturday: casually walk around the Golden Gate Bridge, explore underneath the bridge, park in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, walk around without crowds, and park in front of the Painted Ladies and snap photos.
These are popular tourist activities, and locals normally visit them during the off season-or really early in the morning before the tourists wake up. While I am not celebrating the current lock-down, it does cut down on traffic, and allow for some stress-free activities we normally would not think of doing on a summer Saturday when there isn’t any fog.
We arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot-the one right in front with only twenty-five spaces-at 9:30am on Saturday morning. The fog had already burned off, and it was a perfect day for sight-seeing. I had to pinch myself when I got a parking spot inside the main lot-which is always full on summer days.
Excited about our parking spot score, we paid the fee and started our walk across the bridge. But don’t get too excited: just because we scored a fabulous parking spot, didn’t mean everything was going to be smooth sailing. One minute of walking on the bridge, and the police stopped us. There was “police activity” on the bridge, and the walkway was blocked off. They wouldn’t tell us what happened, but when we saw five squad cars, and a fire truck, we knew something bad was up; so we changed course, and took a walk underneath the bridge instead. This was a really good hike since it is very steep going under there!
We walked to Fort Point underneath the bridge, and snapped photos; just like tourists would do, next to the water. It was really fun! The last time I was there, was for a field trip when I was in grade school, so it was nice to bring the kids to a place which is normally crowded and eagerly avoided by locals.
The Palace of Fine Arts is leftover from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. When I was growing up, it was the Exploratorium. They moved the Exploratorium to the piers, and now I think of the Palace of Fine Arts as a tourist attraction. I haven’t been there since the it was the Exploratorium! It was weird walking around and looking at it, instead of walking past it to grab a good place in line to get into the Exploratorium. I don’t think I really ever took the time to enjoy how beautiful the structure is!
Another summer miracle, was grabbing a parking spot right in front, on a late Saturday morning, during the summer, on a non-foggy day. I really needed to pinch myself! It was fun showing the kids around the Palace of Fine Arts, and my oldest daughter really loved all the ducks!
After wandering around the Palace of Fine Arts, my husband suggested we go take pictures in front of the Painted Ladies. I protested. “No way!” I said to him. “It will be full of tourists, we won’t be able to park, and we will get stuck in summer tourist traffic.” He laughed when I said that, and assured me the city was free of tourists right now. Resigned, I got in the car and drove our family to the Painted Ladies.
I ate my words when we found a parking spot right in front. No joke, I parked in front of the apartment building next to the Painted Ladies, without waiting or circling for a spot, on a sunny Saturday in July. Now I realized I must be in the Twilight Zone.
My husband was really excited, and directed us across the street to the park so we could take the perfect, touristy family photos. An iPhone photo-shoot happened. It was very surreal. I have never been able to park and actually look at the Painted Ladies. I would normally avoid the entire area, and if I got stuck near them, and I do say stuck, very colorful words would flow out of my mouth as it would normally take me ten minutes to navigate out of the tourist-traffic-heavy area. Since my husband also grew up in the Bay Area, he understood the novelty of the situation; hence his excitement.
My “playing tourist,” and very comfortable, outfit details:
So there you have it! We were actually able to play tourist in San Francisco without hitting any traffic, crowds, or parking issues. I am still pinching myself to make sure it was all real.
If you are local, definitely plan a staycation day in the city! It’s the perfect time! If you are not local, these are three beautiful spots to check out when you visit our beautiful city. If you visit during peak tourist season, just take an Uber everywhere. It will eliminate any stress from trying to park. Take lots of photos, and enjoy!
Thanks for stopping by!