At the northwest edge of San Francisco lies the military-base-turned-National-Recreation-Area: the Presidio. With the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Bay to the north, and nearly 1,500 acres in between, it offers magnificent views and endless activities. During the summer, fog rolls over the Golden Gate and through the park, and as mornings give way to afternoons, the sun often breaks through. In the heart of the Presidio is the Main Post which has a large lawn overlooking the Bay and Alcatraz, perfect for a picnic. It is surrounded by art galleries, a visitor center, bowling alley and the Walt Disney Museum and a short walk to the city's only pet cemetery. Sundays on the Main Post lawn host Picnic at the Presidio, and a nearby pub is a warm and welcoming place for food and drink. Outdoor activities in the park are abundant, including hiking, biking, bowling and golf as well as rock climbing and a trampoline park. Beach options include a place to see-and-be-seen or a secluded getaway.
Art in the Presidio (various locations)
The Presidio is host to revolving art installations and exhibits, both indoors and out. All works are relevant to the park and often give visitors a unique perspective and a way to view the Presidio through a different lens. Two current exhibits are by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy and local photographer Lyle Gomes. Goldsworthy’s work includes three installations; Spire, Wood Line and Tree Fall all inspired by the parks forest, planted by the Army in the 1880s. Photographer Lyle Gomes’ exhibit Picturing the Presidio showcases panoramic black and white photography through two decades of transformation in the Presidio. The pieces can be viewed along the trails where the photos were originally made. Please visit www.presidio.gov for current exhibits.
Pet Cemetery (McDowell Ave. and Crissy Field Ave.)
Hidden beneath the southbound overpass of the new Presidio Parkway is the Presidio Pet Cemetery, a final resting place for many beloved dogs, cats, hamsters, fish, birds and rabbits. Gravestones date back to the 1950s when approximately 2,000 army families were stationed in the Presidio and buried the pets that had traveled the world with them. Currently closed to the public due to construction, you can still peer through the fence at the gravestones to catch a glimpse into the life of the pets and families that loved them. The site has been designated an environmentally sensitive area and an important cultural landmark. When construction of the roadway is complete in 2015 the cemetery has been promised a renovation and will open again to the public.
Batteries to Bluffs trail (Langdon Ct. and Lincoln Blvd.) and Marshall’s Beach
A moderate hike, the trail head starts at the historic Battery Godfrey, a gun battery built in 1892 and named for a general who was killed in action during the Spanish-American War. Winding down toward the ocean, the paths and stairs take you past wild flowers and breathtaking views of the Golden Gate and Marin headlands at every turn. Stop at Marhsall’s Beach, a secluded stretch of sand surrounded by rocky cliffs, or continue on to Baker Beach, a larger beach often filled with sunbathers on a hot day.
Liverpool Lil’s (2942 Lyon St.)
Just past the Lyon St. Gates of the Presidio is a neighborhood bar and restaurant opened in 1973 and named for a lady from Liverpool the original owner, Rob Maher, was hoping to bring to San Francisco. Whether she was lured to the City by the Bay or not only a visit to the bar will answer. Glasses hang above the L-shaped wood paneled bar and afternoon light pours through the stained glass windows creating an amber hue, evoking an earlier era. Sit on any of the leather upholstered bar stools and you’re likely to strike up a conversation with a long time local or sports aficionado. Dine or drink at the marble tables on the front patio, retreat inside to the cozy pub covered with sports memorabilia (often reflecting those who were regulars) or head for the white linen dining tables of the back room. Fish and chips, burgers and beef bourguignon are all staples on the menu.
Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.