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People & Places

  • Best Evening Picnic Spot

    Sutro Baths

    Everybody loves ruins. They're romantic and eerie, and imaginations feed on the remnants to reconstruct the places and lives of yesteryear. San Francisco is too young a city to be rich in ruins, but we do have what's left of the Sutro Baths. The deluxe public bath house opened in 1896, and housed seven swimming pools under a huge vault. It was a last burst of Victorian grandeur that struggled to survive in the 20th century, and eventually burnt down... More >>

  • Best Public Pay Phones

    The Fairmont Hotel

    Those of you without cellphones — all four of you — know that finding a working pay phone in San Francisco can lead to a journey longer than Odysseus' trip to Ithaca. No dial tone, dead mouthpiece, missing receiver — many are the obstacles that thwart the would-be pay-phone user. (And let us not dwell on the most unsettling hindrance of all: the dreaded sticky earpiece.) That's why, for our 50 cents, we like to amble into one of the... More >>

  • Best Brunch Where You Might Also Get Laid


    It's not just the Castro location — ripe with horny and hungover twentysomethings looking for protein from a variety of sources — or the salmon deviled eggs that are so subtle yet tasty that you will want to make love to any and all after just one bite. Instead it's the bottomless glasses of mimosas they serve, like the free-refill soda machine at Carl's Jr. only slightly fancier, that tip this ordinary Sunday brunch over into hedonistic territory. The delightful... More >>

  • Best Morbid Display of Gay Pride


    Rainbow flags have waved over so many aspects of city life that it's not surprising to find them in a final resting place; still, it's a nice sight. The Columbarium is an exquisite, 110-year-old building in the Richmond where the cremated remains of thousands of San Franciscans are tucked away in niches — or "apartments," as caretaker Emmitt Watson calls them. The more modern niches hold not just urns, but mementos and souvenirs from lives well lived. Thus, the rainbow... More >>

  • Best Cemetery

    Mission Dolores

    In a city famously (and intentionally) lacking in graveyards, this lovely little "cemetery garden" at the city's oldest landmark is a hands-down winner. The gravestones date to the 1830s, but they don't begin to tell the whole story. There are an estimated 5,000 Ohlone Indians buried on the grounds. And for good reason: They built the place, as slave laborers, when Mission San Francisco de Asis (aka Dolores) was established in 1776 as the sixth in the string of 21... More >>

  • Best Place for Doggie Dating

    Alamo Square Park

    A local, let's call him "Steve," takes his dog twice daily to Alamo Square, and recently veered away from his pooch's regular "business" spot. The reason? "See that girl over there with the golden retriever? I slept with her a few weeks ago and haven't been returning her calls lately." Veering away from the golden's owner, a girl with a teeny Boston Terrier in a sweater saunters up, batting her eyes. Suddenly, some of the reasons for owning a dog... More >>

  • Best Panoramic View

    Buena Vista Park

    It's not uncommon to see a few European tourists huffing and puffing their way to the top of this park that's true to its name (it means "good view" in Spanish). On a clear day, hiking up the steep 575-foot hill offers spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge and much of the whole Bay Area. Tourists aside, most visitors to the park seem to live within walking distance. This park that's San Francisco's oldest (it was originally dubbed Hill... More >>

  • Best Scenic Stairs

    Harry Street Stairs

    A perfect way to experience the varied architectural and horticultural charms of San Francisco with an elevated heart rate is to climb the Harry Street stairs. The wooden steps climb in a reasonably straight line from Laidley to Beacon Street in the border region of Glen Park and Noe Valley referred to by some neighborhood precisionists as Fairmont Heights. Start out among the preciously painted Victorians and quaint cottages on Laidley, then climb through a panoply of greenery that turns... More >>

  • Best Place to Farm Fennel

    San Francisco Community Gardens

    Now, fennel is something that actually grows with wild abandon all over the city if you know where to look (waist-high, pale-green fronds under the freeway overpass, anyone?), but if you're an urban dweller with a green thumb, there is hope for you if you want to think outside the window box. San Francisco community gardens have numerous plots available in 10 districts. The San Francisco Garden Resource Center offers free workshops and a highly interactive Web site that catalogues... More >>

  • Best Fire Hydrant

    The Golden Hydrant

    It isn't often that a city recognizes a lowly fire hydrant as a significant historical landmark, but this one near the southwest corner of Mission Dolores Park has earned the props. In the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire, it was here that a handful of exhausted firemen and throngs of volunteer citizens made a valiant (and successful) stand against the approaching conflagration that — except for the water that gushed from the hydrant, after many other hydrants had... More >>

  • Best Place to Walk in Circles

    Grace Cathedral

    Talk about the benefits of going nowhere! Labyrinths, those circular paths leading to a center, have been around for centuries and in Europe they were a common feature of medieval cathedrals. Aficionados have long recognized labyrinth-walking both as a kind of spiritual journey and as a way to clear the head and lift the mood. Which is exactly what the Rev. Lauren Artress, a canon at Grace Cathedral, had in mind when she pushed to have the landmark Episcopal house... More >>

  • Best Little-Noticed Shrine

    Fisherman's & Seaman's Memorial Chapel

    Nestled on the inner harbor side of Pier 45, this small wood-framed chapel, built in 1979, is a charming memorial to the memory of Bay Area fishermen who've lost their lives at sea. It's also something of a touchstone for San Francisco's mostly Italian, mostly Roman Catholic fishing community, which traces its origins to Sicilian immigrants from the early 1800s. Officially known as St. John the Apostle Oratory, the chapel received the blessing of the Archbishop of Palermo during a... More >>

  • Best Place to Wait on a Plane

    San Francisco Airport Museum

    Dedicated to commercial aviation and SFO's role as the "Gateway to the Pacific," this museum constitutes an island of sanity amid the hustle and bustle of SFO's concourses. Step inside this 11,500-square-foot trove of flying lore and you're transported to an imposing model of the 1937 San Francisco Airport Administration Building. Rotating exhibitions are mostly, but not always, aviation-related. Currently (through August), exhibits include a collection of early aircraft engines and propellers and another of 20th-century silver and metalwork. Open... More >>

  • Best New Old Skyscraper

    New Old Skyscraper

    When it comes to tense relationships, Hatfields vs. McCoys have nothing on architects vs. building code inspectors. Take the example of 450 Sutter St., the 26-story, Art Deco landmark designed by Timothy Pflueger, the architectural mind behind the Pacific Stock Exchange, Union Square Plaza, the Castro Theater, and the California Academy of Sciences. The historical landmark is an odd combination of Mayan motifs, Art Deco-style angled spires, and San Francisco bay windows — all clad in terra-cotta. And it works.... More >>

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