San Francisco, There's a Cat Hair in My Tea and 5 Unique Spots Infinitely Better Than Fisherman's Wharf
The most popular place isn’t always the best place. For example, does anyone really like Time Square, The Alamo or The Hollywood Walk of Fame? We live in Louisiana and Bourbon street is mostly horrible. There are exceptions to this of course. There are tons of famous places that are amazing. That’s why they’re famous. Places like The Grand Canyon, The Golden Gate Bridge and The Eiffel Tower. All great. But the most memorable things are usually off the beaten path. Charise and I try to avoid tourist traps. That’s not to say we haven’t been suckered into some. For the most part though, we try to find quirky and unique places. Here are 5 spots in San Francisco we think are worth a look.
You might be saying to yourself, "Not so fast. Alcatraz is a tourist spot!". You'd be correct. A lot of tourists go there. However there's a big difference between a place tourists go and a tourist trap. Alcatraz is definitely worth your time. Where else can you tour an old prison on an island?
It starts with a boat ride across the bay. The ride on it’s own is pretty awesome. You get great views of both The Bay Bridge and The Golden Gate Bridge. Once you arrive you can tour the prison and the grounds. We also did the audio tour. Some parts of the tour are relayed by former prisoners of Alcatraz. We wish we could have done the nighttime version of the tour but it was sold out. The lesson we learned is book your tickets early. Alcatraz is well known and popular but it’s not a tourist trap.
2. Swings and Slides
Next we veer away from the travel books. All through out San Francisco there are neighborhood swings and even a couple of adult-size slides. They’re fun, different and Instagrammable. It’s not really a vacation unless all you’re followers know about it, right?
The swings we visited were at the Bernal Heights Summit and Billy Goat Hill, but there are several in other neighborhoods around town. Tank Hill, Glen Canyon Park, Presidio Heights and Kite Hill all have swings. Due to vandalism and other concerns, sometimes the swings will be damaged or cut down. So that’s a bummer. You can find a concrete slide at the Seward Mini Park in the Castro and a giant metal slide in Bernal Heights. There are usually pieces of cardboard for you to ride down the slides but bring your own to be safe.
3. KitTea Cat Cafe
We have now reached the weird part of the tour. This was definitely a Charise pick. It’s a tea shop where you pay to have cats run all over the place. You give them money and cats climb on you... while you drink tea. Generally when I eat, I like to keep furry animals away from me. To each his own though. Charise had fun and I sat safely on the other side of the glass.
If you like cats, this is probably heaven for you. Charise liked it and some of the money goes to help abandoned cats find homes. All the cats you play with can be adopted. So if you like animals check it out. My Earl Grey was tasty. Just make sure to check your mug for cat hair.
4. Privately Owned Public Spaces
Wouldn’t it be great if in the middle of downtown, there were parks on the roofs of the buildings? What if those parks were free and open to everyone? Enter the 1985 Downtown Plan and POPOS or “Privately-Owned Public Open Spaces”. In exchange for tax breaks, building owners built small parks and sitting areas on and around their buildings. They’re great spots to have coffee, eat lunch or enjoy amazing views of the city.
There are too many of these to list so if you want to check some out, visit sfpopos.com. The site has pictures and addresses to the best public places in the city. As much walking around as you'll do in San Francisco, these parks are a great place to unwind.
5. Sutro Baths and the Coast
I can't believe I didn't want to go here. Charise kept bringing it up and I kept dismissing it. As I look back at the dozens of amazing pictures we took here I am reminded that my wife is smarter than me. I’m a moron. Please don't tell her.
In my defense, the pictures I saw of Sutro Baths didn't inspire the greatest awe. Sutro Baths was a large privately owned saltwater swimming complex. It burned down in 1966 and is now left in ruins. We hiked and climbed all around it. Walking the trails and caves that run along the coast. We hung out a watched the sun set until a storm ran us off.
Sometimes thing are popular because they're great. Other times, they are simply popular because they’re safe and generic. What seems like a great time on paper is really just a place designed to separate you from your money. We’ve certainly been guilty of enjoying certain tourist traps but for the most part we have a lot more fun finding unique places. In San Francisco it’s not hard to find these kind of spots. You just have to look.