Many a traveler to San Francisco has been seduced by visions of sun-soaked California, clear sunsets over the Golden Gate, and warm nights at a baseball game, only to discover that Mark Twain was correct when he said, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco”.
What the city lacks in ideal weather though, it makes up a thousand-fold in character. Yes, the dense fog, strong winds, and chilly air are commonplace (if you want to come to California for a tan, go to San Diego). But all that means is that when the warm sunny days come around, they are that much more special, and there are so many amazing things to do in San Francisco as far as outdoor activities are concerned that you won’t know which to choose from – which is why I’m here to help.
A paradise for outdoor lovers, the Presidio is a sprawling green space of thick forests, spectacular views, and hiking paths that rise above the Pacific along the west end of the city. For over two hundred years the land served as a military base, but it was finally turned over to the public, and many of the buildings have been converted into museums, including a barracks-turned-Disney exhibit and an impressive Exploratorium. I personally suggest the Presidio as a great way to escape the city, often finding myself wandering through meadows, walking along the bluffs, and enjoying the transcendental views of the Golden Gate.
Yes, it may be as touristy as it gets, but there is a reason why over twelve million people visit the Wharf each year. The mile-long stretch of waterfront is a bustling concentration of history, shopping, entertainment, and some of the best people-watching around. Personally, it’s the food that lures me in. On a sunny day, there’s nothing better than walking down Pier 39, getting a bread-bowl of the freshest chowder you’ll find on this side of the country, and enjoying the street-performances. Being the ocean-lover that I am, I somehow always end up inside the Aquarium of the Bay, mesmerized by the shark exhibits. For those who have never been, I also suggest taking a half-day trip from the Wharf to Alcatraz Island via one of the ferries that shuttle back and forth.
Golden Gate Park
New York City has Central Park and San Francisco has Golden Gate (which is actually bigger. Just saying). With lakes, gardens, fishing, hiking, wildlife, museums, and recreation areas, the park really has something for everyone. When the summer sun comes out, the city-goers flock to Golden Gate Park, yet with such an expansive space there is always somewhere to find solitude. For me, when the favorable weather forecast coincides with a Thursday, my plans are pretty much made for me. I’ll set up a towel in a grove alongside one of the gentle waterfalls with a book for company, and then stroll over to the California Academy of Sciences, which after 6 pm, has a twenty-one+ nightlife event. I’ll spend the evening exploring the indoor rainforest and aquariums with a cocktail in hand, and make sure to give cheers to the looming T-Rex skeleton in the dinosaur exhibit.
San Francisco isn’t the city to come to for a bronzing, but when the beach days do come around, Baker Beach is the place to be. The beach practically sits under the Golden Gate and stretches of sand turn to rocky outcrops as you approach closer to the Golden Gate base. So expect stellar views of both the landmark and of the attractive beach-goers looking to show some skin – although sometimes too much of it. Be careful, if you wander too far north, you’ll reach the original site of the Burning Man Festival, and many of those now old free spirits layout with nothing left to the imagination. Trust me, I learned my lesson the hard way. The beach sits right under The Presidio, and the historic lookout posts and artillery guns going back to the 19th century still rest atop the hills behind the beach.