Tag Archives: biking San Francisco

Biking is Great Way to Tour San Francisco’s Must-See Attractions

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in San Francisco’s famous fog, from Vista Point on the bike trail © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin,

Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The weather is overcast on the day I have set to do that iconic bike ride along San Francisco’s waterfront, over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito and on to Tiburon. But that doesn’t stop me or several thousand other visitors to this engaging city. I just throw in some rain gear along with water and snacks.

I set out for Blazing Saddles, which has the largest bike fleet in California and some nine locations throughout San Francisco.

The company’s main location is at 2715 Hyde Street, ideally located in Fisherman’s Wharf, and just a block and a half from the start of the National Park Bike Path. This path takes riders on a beautiful, car-free bike ride along the bay, passed the Marina, through historic Fort Mason, and over to the Golden Gate Bridge, which is where most of the riders go.

Blazing Saddles has been in business over 30 years – it is the original “Bike the Bridge” company – but now has some new offerings, including a new electric bike model that was custom-made for the company, the Electric Blazer, and a free mobile app.

The new “e-Blazer” was customized for Blazing Saddles and they say is the lightest electric bike. The bike looks like regular bike (the battery is on the luggage rack on the back rather than where your legs are). It would be exceptional if you were riding San Francisco’s hills.

But a consideration for me, as the Blazing Saddles person explains, is that e-bikes, can only take the Blue & Gold ferry line from Sausalito or Tiburon to Pier 41, which has somewhat more limited service than the Golden Gate Ferry (which goes into the Ferry Building at Embarcadero  – so I see that my last time back from Tiburon (where I am trying to get to) would be 4:15 pm and it is already noon.

San Francisco skyline, from the ramp up to the Golden Gate Bridge © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I decide not to take the e-bike but to take a regular bike, which is lighter and easier for me to get on/off, and soldier through the hills, starting with Fort Mason (made it!), then the ramp up to Golden Gate Bridge (made it!).

The weather may be overcast, but I get to see that wonderful scene of the Golden Gate Bridge half-shrouded in San Francisco’s famous fog, a scene that changes moment to moment, it seems.

It is 8 miles to Sausalito – that takes about 1 ½ hours (you won’t just be riding over the Golden Gate Bridge, you will want to sightsee, stop for photos, and also have to keep stopping for pedestrians). Plan to spend time – at least an hour – in Sausalito which has really wonderful shops, galleries, eateries and scenic views, even if you are planning to continue the ride to Tiburon. (I have spent time in Sausalito a few days before on my way back from Muir Woods with Extranomical Tours.)

Plan on spending time in Sausalito, which offers delightful galleries, shops and eateries © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is 10 more miles between Sausalito and Tiburon, which should take another 1 ½ to 2 hrs.

Blazing Saddles does an excellent job of preparing  you – showing a 2-minute video of the route along the waterfront through the Marina district, up over Fort Mason (a strenuous hill) to the ramp up to Golden Gate Bridge (also strenuous hill), then down, down, down, into Sausalito.

They also give you a ticket for the ferry which you don’t actually pay for unless you use it (saves time and anxiety to buy the ticket at the ferry but I notice that the Blue & Gold lets you buy the ticket on the ferry, also). When I get back, I pay Blazing Saddles $11.50 for the ferry (the same amount as you would pay directly to the ferry). Their map/brochure even gives the time schedule for the ferries.

They tell us we should return the bikes by 7:30 pm or else call. They supply quality helmets, a lock, a pouch and luggage rack, and an excellent map (which also shows points of interest along the routes) and take care to properly fit the bike. (Blazing Saddles offers an all-day guided tour out of the 2715 Hyde Street location, departing 10 am and 1 pm, that includes the all-day Deluxe Comfort bike rental for $55/adult, $35/child).

Enroute to Tiburon I stumble upon the Audubon Sanctuary © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

I had really wanted to see the ride to Tiburon which is mostly on a bike trail but partly sharing the road. But once you get under the highway and go along the highway on the service road, the sign to the bike route (for Bike Route 8) to Tiburon is confusing (everyone else I met on the line to the ferry made the same mistake) – when actually, all you have to do is follow the service road maybe ¼ mile more and turn up on Belvedere Road, for a much more pleasant ride (just a few hills) which soon connects to a very nice bike trail (Bike Route 10).

I made the mistake of not biking out to Mill Valley’s Old Mill Park, where you get to see the Coastal Redwoods, and then connecting to the Bike Route #8 – which is the way Blazing Saddles recommends to go (I was in a hurry to get to Tiburon).

The weather does not cooperate, but fortunately I have prepared for rain.

Eventually you connect with Route 10 which is a dedicated bike trail along the water into Tiburon.

Tiburon’s main street © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Even with getting lost (involving riding up three major hills in the residential area and stumbling upon the beautiful Audubon sanctuary (until a very nice man stopped his car and pointed out the route to me), I still get to Tiburon at 3:55 pm. There is not nearly as much to visit as in Sausalito, so I basically walked up and down the street in the “historic” district where the shops are and still made it to the 4:15 pm ferry for the fun 35-minute scenic “cruise” back to San Francisco’s Pier 41 at Fisherman’s Wharf, stopping at Angel Island and passing very close to Alcatraz on the way. There were a gazillion other bikes – a huge slew with the Blazing Saddles emblem – and the ferry people are extremely efficient in loading and unloading the bikers.

A slew of bikes on the Blue & Gold Ferry from Tiburon to Pier 41 © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Besides this most popular Bike the Bridge ride (average 3 hours for the full 22 miles into Tiburon), other recommended routes include Bike the Parks (San Francisco’s bike route system connects Union Square and the “Wiggle” to the famous Golden Gate Park and the Presidio, 15 miles averaging 2-3 hours; the Marin Headlands Loop (from the north side of the Bridge, follow the coast west on Conzelman Road, out towards Point Bonita and Rodeo Beach, 10 miles, 2-3 hours; and “Conquer Mount Tamalpais, which would take you to Muir Woods National Monument, 15 miles beyond Sausalito, for a 5-6 hour trip – the elevations to Mount Tamalpais at 2,574 feet, make this especially challenging.

Rain doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm for biking through Fisherman’s Wharf © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Indeed, San Francisco, despite its hills, is one of the most bike-friendly, welcoming cities anywhere (and if you get tired, public buses and the BART subway system accommodate bikes).

Blazing Saddles has a score of different road, hybrid and mountain bikes and types, starting at $8/hour or $32 for a 24-hour day; the best bike for biking the Bridge is a deluxe comfort hybrid, $9/hr, $36/for a 24-hour day; the e-Blazer ranges from $48-88.

Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals and Tours, 2715 Hyde Street, San Francisco, CA 94109, 415-202-8888, www.blazingsaddles.com 

Maritime National Historical Park 

Besides all the marvelous tourist places – souvenir shops, eateries of every stripe – there are some excellent attractions at Fisherman’s Wharf, such as the Exploratorium and the Aquarium and most especially the famous and fabulous Cable Car (expect long lines of about 30 minutes but totally worth it; along the cable car route, there is the Cable Car Museum which is free and SO fantastic).

The lens from the Farallon Lighthouse is on view at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park visitor center © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

The end of Fisherman’s Wharf is the start of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and the Visitor Center which is free and fantastic (located in the Argonaut Hotel building). Here you experience the sights, sounds and textures of the city’s seafaring past, beginning with the Native Americans who lived here before the Spanish arrived. There are hands-on activities and exhibits that describe the Gold Rush, shipwrecks, and development of San Francisco. On view is the lens from the Farallon Lighthouse. There are many historic vessels along the Hyde Street Pier, where park staff volunteers lead programs where you get to participate (school children can even overnight on historic vessels).  The Maritime Museum is in the Aquatic Park Boathouse building (also free). (San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, 94123, 415-447-5000, www.nps.gov/safr).

I stop in on my way to picking up the bike from Blazing Saddles, and the exhibit gives me an excellent foundation for appreciating what I will see during the ride.

Riding San Francisco’s famous cable car © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

It’s also where a few of the marvelous San Francisco cable cars begin and end – be prepared for a 20-30 minute wait on a line but it is so worth it and is an excellent way to either arrive at Fisherman’s Wharf or finish off the day. The one-way fare is $7. (Locals can’t get on so it is almost exclusively tourists who ride the cable car.)

Also try to visit the Cable Car Museum, located in the historic Washington/Mason cable car barn and powerhouse. (Cable Car Museum, 1201 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA 94108, 415-474-1887, www.cablecarmuseum.org. See story A Day in San Francisco Revisiting the Past: Plucky Cable Car Epitomizes City’s Grit, Determination, Innovation)

Pier Market Seafood Restaurant at Pier 39 

Pier 39, which is celebrating its 39th anniversary in 2017, is a tourist mecca with scores of fun shops and restaurants such as the Hard Rock Café (especially fun during this Summer of Love celebration, we noticed live music going on; also, check out the autographed Grateful Dead guitar, a painting of Jerry Garcia by Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, Jerry Garcia’s bomber jacket, Jimi Hendrix’ jacket and one of the last photos of Janice Joplin, www.hardrock.com/cafes/san-francisco/).

This trip we enjoyed dinner at the Pier Market Seafood Restaurant, heralded for its New England clam chowder, Mesquite-grilled seafood, and lovely setting with views of the Bay, waterfront and resident sea lions.

Pier Market Seafood is one of the Simmons family’s restaurants in San Francisco (Fog Harbor Fish House, and Wipeout Bar & Grill are the others), offering menus that showcase all sustainable seafood offerings aligned with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch” guidelines.

“We undertook this transition based on a commitment to best practices, even in the absence of any specific demand from our customers,” Scooter Simmons commented. “It was important to our family and everyone in our company to do the right thing and lead by example. There are surprisingly few area restaurants that have made this choice.”

Three generations of Simmons’ are a part of the history of San Francisco’s hospitality industry. Warren Simmons was the creator and developer of PIER 39, which opened in 1978, and his son, Scooter, daughter-in-law, Nancy, and his grandchildren, Nicki and Ryan, now work running the four Pier 39 businesses still owned by the family.

Menu highlights include garlic roasted whole crab, fresh seafood cioppino, mesquite grilled lobster tail, red curry steamed mussels, and Anchor Steam battered fish and chips and Pier Market’s award winning clam chowder.

In addition to the sourcing of sustainable ingredients for all seafood dishes the menu reflects seasonality, the use of local purveyors, generous portions, and moderate (“non-tourist”) pricing (mains are priced from around $11 to $30). Pier Market Seafood offers a diverse selection of libations including a wine list that emphasizes California vintages and handcrafted classic, contemporary and signature cocktails, plus intriguing non-alcoholic beverages including a strawberry basil nojito.

The selections are wonderful for sharing, especially the starters like sourdough garlic bread, garlic fries (crispy fries tossed with fresh garlic, herbs and topped with parmesan cheese); Crispy Scallops (house-breaded and served with roasted jalapeño aioli); fried calamari coated with sweet & sour sauce; crab cakes, a house specialty, served with a Cajun rémoulade; clams steamed in garlic, butter and white wine; steamed mussels prepared with onions and peppers in a red curry coconut broth.

Pier Market Seafood at Pier 39 is very proud of its Cioppino, a classic San Francisco dish © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

The restaurant is also very proud of its Cioppino, a  classic San Francisco dish, a tomato based seafood stew with fresh fish, mussels, clams, shrimp and crab served over pasta ( for a few dollars more, they remove the crab from the shell).

The menu offers tremendous variety and selections – meats to salads, sandwiches, pastas – and the ambiance is casual, pubbish, perfect after a day of sightseeing. The restaurant serves until 10 pm.

One hour free validated parking in an easily accessed and conveniently located garage adds to the allure of the dining experience.

(Pier Market Seafood, Pier 39. San Francisco, CA 94133, 415-989-7437, piermarket.com/).

For more help planning a visit to San Francisco, contact San Francisco Travel. 415-391‑2000, www.sftravel.com. 

See also:

San Francisco Throwing Year-Long 50th Anniversary Celebration of Summer of Love – Be Prepared to Be Blasted into the Past

San Francisco Goes All Out With Special Events, Exhibitions Marking 50th Anniversary of Summer of Love

A Day in San Francisco Revisiting the Past: Plucky Cable Car Epitomizes City’s Grit, Determination, Innovation


© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures



On the Waterfront: A Day Spent Immersed in San Francisco’s Maritime Tradition

Biking along San Francisco's waterfront brings you to a fabulous overlook for an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Biking along San Francisco’s waterfront brings you to a fabulous overlook for an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, goingplacesfarandnear.com

I have two big wishes for my visit to San Francisco (yes, I know they are cliches): to see, really see, the Golden Gate Bridge and to ride the cable car. I get to achieve that in a day oriented around San Francisco’s maritime heritage.

I walk from the Green Tortoise Hostel in North Beach, a colorful district which retains its “Beat” Generation and Little Italy roots, down toward Fisherman’s Wharf, to the Bay City Bike rental shop. (which happens to be just where the Powell & Mason cable car starts).

The best way to experience this relatively flat (though not entirely flat) waterfront area is on a bike, which offers those incomparable views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and all the bustle of Fisherman’s Wharf, the Marina district, and the Presidio (San Francisco’s original Spanish center), at a perfect pace and from a perfect perch to really enjoy all that is about you, and with the freedom to stop and really look around.

I pick up my rental bike at Bay City Bike’s shop at 501 Bay Street (right beside where the Powell-Mason cable car starts). It is a very fine shop with new equipment (in fact, my helmet has just come out of the box). The bikes come equipped with a pouch, water holder, a handy map on the handlebars, bike lock and helmet. Before you set off, they give you a wonderful orientation to the route and what you can expect (where the hills are, where to turn off to Alexandria Road to go down to Sausalito). You can even purchase a ferry ticket at the shop, but since I am not sure I will be taking the ferry, or ride back (which means riding back up a steep hill for 2 miles from Sausalito), I decide to wait (you can purchase a ticket at the ferry (you can purchase a ticket at a kiosk or pay onboard).

It is one of the most delightful bike rides you can take anywhere- almost entirely on dedicated bike path (but it is also exceptionally popular, so expect many other bikers and walkers).

Biking along San Francisco's waterfront brings you to a fabulous overlook for an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Biking along San Francisco’s waterfront brings you to a fabulous overlook for an iconic view of the Golden Gate Bridge © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

It’s just a couple of blocks from the rental shop onto the bike path that takes you through Fisherman’s Wharf, and the National Maritime Historic District, passed Ghirardelli Square, the Marina District, through Fort Mason (that’s an uphill climb, but what a view!), along the water through the Presidio/Crissy Field to an overlook that gives you a breathtaking view of the Golden Gate Bridge in its full glory, and then over the 1.7-mile span of the Golden Gate Bridge itself, where there are dedicated paths on either side (only one side is open at a time, and there are specific hours).

Going over the bridge makes it my own – no longer a photo image. I love being on it, looking at the historic plaques (it is the same exhilarating feeling as riding over the Brooklyn Bridge).

It's fairly slow going on the path over the Golden Gate Bridge, but that's okay © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
It’s fairly slow going on the path over the Golden Gate Bridge, but that’s okay © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Biking in Sausalito© 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Biking in Sausalito© 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Golden Gate Bridge, which opened on May 28, 1937 at a cost of $35 million. I could never understand why it was called “Golden Gate” when it is red, nor (as I learn) was it named “golden’ for the 1849 Gold Rush, which put San Francisco on the map. Rather, it was named for the strait that connects San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. I learn later at the National Historical Park Visitor Center that the strait acquired the name “Golden Gate” from James C. Fremont, who wrote, “To this Gate I gave the name of “Chrysopylae”, or “Golden Gate”; for the same reasons that the harbor of Byzantium was called Chrysoceras, or Golden Horn.”

Indeed, the only real reason that San Francisco became a city at all was this proximity to the Pacific, and most of the waterfront area was created on the skeletons of the hundreds of wrecked ships, abandoned as passengers and crew raced to the gold fields, and with landfill blasted from the hills.

From the bridge, you ride down for two miles (you can veer off to go to the Bay Area Discovery Museum) into the charming village of Sausalito. (I decide then and there the ferry is the best option back.)

It takes me about 2-2 1/2 hours to ride the eight miles to Sausalito (I stop often for photos), where it is delightful to stroll around, visit the exquisite galleries (the Kokopelli Gallery is my favorite) and eateries.

If you choose, you can continue biking 8 miles further to Tiburon – or if you choose to ride back from Sausalito (I am cautioned) – but there is that steep two mile ride up to the Bridge.

Or, you can do what most people do and take the ferry boat back from Sausalito. There are two ferries and I take the one that goes back to Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco has a rich maritime tradition © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
San Francisco has a rich maritime tradition © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The 30-minute ferry boat ride is a fun sightseeing tour in itself – it stops at Angel Island, a state park now which used to be an important entry point for immigrants and had a role in the Civil War and World War II) to pick up the bikers and hikers; and gives you great views of Alcatraz Island and of course, San Francisco’s skyline. (The ticket is $11.50 and well worth it – you can buy the ticket at the bike rental shop, or at a kiosk or pay onboard.)

Bay City Bike has five locations in San Francisco, a selection of equipment, including e-bikes, and a variety of guided and self-guided tours (Explore the City, Golden Gate Park, Marin Headlands-Muir Woods).

Bay City Bike Rentals and Tours, 501 Bay Street (at Fisherman’s Wharf), 415-827-2453, www.baycitybike.com (opens daily at 8 am).

Palace of Fine Arts

I get off the ferry at Fisherman’s Wharf and continue my bike ride back through the historic district, back along the marina, back to the Palace of Fine Arts which I had passed before.

From a distance, it is an interesting but not memorable structure that seems out of place to its surroundings. But when you get close, you realize it is not a singular building at all, but these giant, amazing colonnades winging a rotunda, decorated with stunning reliefs and statues, overlooking a pond.

Bernard Maybeck's Beaux Arts masterpiece, the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts is a remnant of the 1915 world's fair © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bernard Maybeck’s Beaux Arts masterpiece, the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts is a remnant of the 1915 world’s fair © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In fact, the “palace of fine arts” isn’t a palace at all, but rather, what’s left of an exposition building that dates from the 1915 World’s Fair (the reason that 1915 is in lights on the Ferry Building, marking the centennial of the exposition).

Bernard Maybeck, the architect of the Palace of Fine Arts, designed it in the Beaux Arts style, modeled after the ruins of Roman Parthenon. “He believed that all great cities have ruins,” I am told inside the exposition building where the California Historical Society (calhist.org) has an excellent exhibit underway, “City Rising,” about the fair.

These columns were built for the exposition, but because they were only intended to last the two years of the fair, were only constructed of plaster, faux travertine and chicken wire. There are even a couple of the original statues that were saved, pocked with holes, where you can see they are more like props for a movie set.

Just about everything was taken down from the fair – indeed, the entire Marina district of homes was put up where the fair grounds were (the fair was built on landfill). But no one had the heart to tear down the columns. By the 1960s, they were coming apart, and in 1965, a Marina District resident funded a project to replace them with stone columns.

You absolutely forget where you are when you stand at the base of these towering columns.

Bernard Maybeck's Beaux Arts masterpiece, the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts is a remnant of the 1915 world's fair © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Bernard Maybeck’s Beaux Arts masterpiece, the rotunda of the Palace of Fine Arts is a remnant of the 1915 world’s fair © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The colonnade and rotunda are just outside the exposition building where inside is a fascinating exhibit presented by the California Historical Society, “City Rising.” The exhibit, on through Jan 10, 2016, is about San Francisco and the 1915 World’s Fair (the Panama-Pacific International Exposition): “a critical event that shaped the San Francisco we know today: a city undaunted by tragedy, audaciously innovative, and rising to meet the challenges of the day.” (Another exhibit is at the California Historical Society, 678 Mission St., through Dec. 6, 2015, ppie100.org).

The hall is also a great respite – with sitting areas, restroom, cafe. (Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon Street).

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Visitors Center

Definitely take time to visit the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Visitors Center, which offers fascinating exhibits and artifacts, superb videos that trace the maritime history of San Francisco (a perfect complement to Fern Hill Walking Tours’ Classic San Francisco and the Cable Car Museum).

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located on the edge of San Francisco Bay in the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood and can be visited year-round.

Begin at the Visitor Center, located at 499 Jefferson Street at the corner of Hyde Street. Park Rangers are available to help you plan your visit (415-447-5000).

Visit the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park's collection of floating historic ships. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com \
Visit the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park’s collection of floating historic ships. © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

From the Visitor Center, cross Jefferson Street to Hyde Street Pier and visit the park’s collection of floating historic ships. Here, you can also see magnificent views of the San Francisco Bay and Golden Gate Bridge.

From Hyde Street Pier, take a short stroll across the park to the ship-shaped Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building (this is being restored now but will house additional exhibits).

There is also the famous Ghirardelli Square, where the chocolate company is located (and offers tours).

Fisherman’s Wharf – despite Cannery Row (a nod to John Steinbeck and the brick structure’s earliest origins as a cannery, then warehouses, today shops and cafes) – is more or less a theme-park re-creation, with shops and restaurants and such, but it is wonderful fun to wander around.

Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco

The Hard Rock Cafe, right on Fisherman’s Wharf at the entrance of Pier 39. is a wonderfully entertaining dining experience, offering a fun, lively atmosphere, tasty “all-American” food, hand-crafted beverages, amidst a museum-quality collection of Rock legend memorabilia. Each of the Hard Rock Cafes likes to feature music of its own area, and here, in San Francisco, the Grateful Dead is in the spotlight, and instead of sports on TV screens, there are music videos playing.

Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco, right at Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf is a festive place to dine © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco, right at Pier 39 on Fisherman’s Wharf is a festive place to dine © 2015 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I take a “tour” to more closely inspect the memorabilia decorating the walls: BB King’s Electric Guitar; the Beatles’ Derby Hats, Carlos Santa’s electric guitar, a painting of Jerry Garcia by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship; Janis Joplin’s cape; Jimi Hendrix’ jacket; an autographed black hat of Michael Jackson; an autographed guitar from Journey, a San Francisco-bred band inducted into the Bay Area Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and James Taylor’s guitar. The most expensive single item I’m told is an autographed electric guitar given to Jason Becker, a guitar virtuoso who was diagnosed with Lou Gehring’s disease, by Eddie Van Halen (estimated to be worth between $20,000-$30,000).

What is surprising for a place that is so much a part of a tourist destination is the quality of the food. The menu has all the fun, comfort items foundational to American pub fare, and the preparations and quality of the ingredients are excellent.

We start with (what else?) the Jumbo Combo, a collection of its most popular appetizers: Signature Wings, Onion Rings, Tupelo Chicken Tenders, Spinach Artichoke Dip with Parmesan flatbread and bruschetta (particularly delicious, this is toasted artisan bread topped with herb cream cheese and marinated Roma tomatoes and fresh basil, served with a drizzle of basil oil and shaved Parmesan).

For the main, I go with the Cowboy Rib Eye, a 28-day aged 16-oz bone-in rib eye steak, perfectly prepared.

There are a variety of smokehouse favorites – hickory-smoked ribs, barbecue chicken, and a combo, a grilled Norwegian Salmon – sufficient variety to satisfy any palette or diet.The Hard Rock Cafe isn’t just a tourist place, the fine dining, fun atmosphere and beautiful setting brings you back over and over.

The location at Pier 39 also is near some of the most breathtaking views of Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco Bay, and the gorgeous city skyline. We leave the restaurant just in time to take in a magnificent sunset from the skyway just outside, to the Golden Gate Bridge

Get to the restaurant early and enjoy the Sea Lion Center (sealioncenter.org) and the Aquarium of the Bay (aquariumofthebay.com) just next door.

(Hard Rock Cafe San Francisco, Pier 39-Beach & Embarcadero Streets, SF 94133, 415-956-2013, hardrock.com).

See also:

Walking tour tells story of San Francisco’s improbable rise as a great city and slideshow

Green Tortoise Hostel – Living the San Francisco Vibe

A Day in San Francisco Revisiting the Past: Plucky Cable Car Epitomizes City’s Grit, Determination, Innovation



© 2015 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit www.examiner.com/eclectic-travel-in-national/karen-rubin,www.examiner.com/eclectic-traveler-in-long-island/karen-rubin, www.examiner.com/international-travel-in-national/karen-rubin, goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures