Photos and text by Kathy Condon
You would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard about the Golden Gate Bridge in California. The suspension bridge over the Golden Gate Strait links the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay. However, you might not know about the region anchoring the south side of the bridge called Presidio in San Francisco.
Now a National Park, it was a US Army base until 1994. With the influx of funds through donations and investments, it has become a thriving community that welcomes the public. Here’s where to stay, eat, sightsee, and even visit an archeological dig.
Hike, Bike 60 Miles of Trails
Between Golden Gate Park and the Presidio of San Francisco, there are 60 miles of trails. Who would have thought all this was available so close to a major city? When the trail is marked multi-use, it means both bikers and pedestrians are welcome to use it.
Eat at Our Top Restaurant Choice
There are no lack of vista points or beautiful lawns to spread your blanket and pull out your picnic lunch if you just want to sit and enjoy the panoramic views. The bay is nearby around practically every corner.
However, if you prefer a sit-down lunch or dinner, Sessions would be my first choice. With a beautiful wood-paneled interior and glass-enclosed patio, this restaurant offers a menu filled with variety and suitable for anyone’s tastes. It serves Wagyu beef, organic produce, and wine from George Lucas’s Skywalker ranch just 20 miles north, so freshness is assured.
Take a Walk on the Beach
There are three beaches, complete with pristine white sand bumping up to the major throughways of the San Francisco. At Crissy Field, the beach is not only broad and inviting, its location offers superb views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Alcatraz. The other two beaches, Baker and Stinson, can be reached with the free shuttle or by car.
Because they are located so far north, the beaches are usually too cold for swimming. However, these beaches within the Golden Bridge Recreation Area offer a great opportunity to walk and let your cares of the world melt away.
Tour an Archaeology Dig
If you have not experienced an archeology dig, you will want to go to the Presidio Parade Grounds and observe the active dig uncovering the fort’s East wall built by the Spaniards in 1776. This site is readily accessible and has wheelchair access. Observe and listen to the educational narrative being presented as the dig continues.
The Presidio Archaeology Lab is steps away from the Main Parade Ground. Take a tour that explains the archaeological processes implemented at the Presidio. Learn the history of the area and see artifacts that have been cleaned, studied and documented for future generations.
See a Statue of Yoda
The Letterman Quarters (Named after a former General) was once home to the Army’s hospital. George Lucas saw the potential of this area and has invested millions in the refurbishing of the magnificent Presidio buildings. He holds long leases, so his presence at the Presidio is here to stay. Thanks to his vision, this area houses many offices, including Letterman Digital Arts Center, where you can see a life-size bronze statue of Yoda.
Play a Round of Golf, Relax on Main Parade Ground
You might want to head to the Presidio Golf Course, just a short ride from central San Francisco. You can breathe in the fresh ocean air as you wind your way through the course hidden among the tall cypress trees. Golf Magazine listed this course as number 12 for 9-hole par 3.
There are not many places in this region where one can toss a ball and not fear it will end up in the water or a forest. However, the Main Parade Ground at the Presidio, surrounded by historic buildings, provides the perfect backdrop for this open, inviting space where children can run until they are tired and want to start digging into your snack bag.
With unobstructed views, one can decide to sit here and lounge on the manicured lawns, watch the ships go by, and wait until the fog clears, so you can see Alcatraz Island. This region beckons you to stop, relax and breathe in the fresh ocean air.
Honor Our Heroes at the Presidio
The 29-acreSan Francisco National Cemetery was designated at the first National Cemetery developed on the West Coast. It spreads over the rolling hills and its ocean views, and distinctive white markers remind one of the sacrifices made for us.
Today, all ranks have found their resting place here. In some cases, generals ask to be buried with men they lost in battles. Since 1973, no one has been accepted for burial here unless the families already own a plot.
Where to Stay at The Presidio
Look no further if you plan to stay in the area, for the Inn at the Presidio is centrally located. This beautifully restored building once was the home for bachelor Army officers.
While somewhat formal due to the historically correct décor, you feel comfortable kicking off your shoes and sitting in front of the fireplace with a glass of wine after a day of exploring. The two-bedroom suites sleep four, and the luxurious linens will beckon you to stay in bed longer than you have planned.
Thinking of Getting Hitched? You Can Do That Too
The Chapel of Our Lady is adjacent to the Inn at the Presidio. This mission revival-style chapel was built in 1864. Hundreds of military personnel and their families worshiped there until the Presidio was turned over to the National Park Service in 1994.
With its distinctive murals, this historic facility provides a space for intimate weddings or even small retreats. The gardens adjacent to the chapel offer a well-appointed space surrounded by flowers and trees.
With a total of 1500 acres to explore, the Presidio has a way of unfolding as you set out to explore these magnificent grounds. Just a short ride or walk from the bustling city of San Francisco, it is easy to see why this area is becoming a must-stop on any visit to the Golden Gate Bridge.
May we suggest you plan to add a day or two to your itinerary for your next visit so you can explore this spectacular area?
For more information for all the places mentioned in this story, please visit www.presidio.gov.
Kathy Condon is a journalist and travel writer with immense curiosity that has taken her to 29 countries, 16 islands, and 49 states (Alaska is on the bucket list). Her motto: Let me help tell your destination’s story to the people throughout the world.