Best Free View

When you climb to the top of the 144-foot tower of the new de Young Museum and make your way around its panoramas of the bay, the Pacific Ocean, Twin Peaks, Mount Sutro, and Downtown, it's useful to think of this stunning view of San Francisco as the one that almost got away. Years of fighting between boosters and neighbors and other interest groups made the museum project a drawn-out drama until the grand reopening last October. The tower, which pokes out of the park's tree canopy like an oil tanker's spire, infuriated many. But the possibility of strolling through beautiful Golden Gate Park, entering the museum tower's top floor for free, and perusing one of the most stunning views in all creation — well, it's almost enough to make us think it was OK that the art patron magnates won this one.

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