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Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge is Mount Tamalpais State Park, a popular hiking area and home of some of the best views of the Bay Area. There are many hikes over varied terrain, including oak and Douglas fir forest, vast grasslands and the distinctive redwood trees. The views of the Pacific are jaw-dropping - once the fog has cleared, that is. Visitors can drive into the park and enjoy the sights, including the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed, the Mountain Theater (a stone amphitheater which can accommodate over 3000 people) or they can park in the many parking lots throughout the park and hike down to Stinson Beach. For a less strenuous hike, venture a little down a winding trail high above the ocean, with incredible views of San Francisco.
In the late 1800s, California's first state engineer, William Hammond Hall, and his assistant, a Scotsman named John McLaren, transformed more than 1000 acres (405 hectares) of sand dunes into a wondrous haven in the midst of the city, christened Golden Gate Park after the eponymous strait nearby. Stretching over 50 blocks from Stanyan Street to the Pacific Ocean, the lush landscape is etched with numerous trails for walking, jogging, biking and horseback riding, alongside a golf course, bowling greens, a lake with paddle boats, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. From the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers to the California Academy of Sciences and the De Young Museum, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park encompasses a wealth of scenic beauty and cultural intrigue within is expansive embrace. There are also several playgrounds, a quaint carousel, an aquarium, a buffalo reserve and an outdoor bandshell where open-air concerts are hosted each summer.
Wild sea lions have flocked to Pier 39 since the 1989 earthquake and the population has grown ever since. Every winter the number increases to almost 900, thanks to the availability of space and ample food. Although some of the sea lions choose to migrate seasonally, usually some still keep Pier 39 as their regular haunt. You can bring your kids over for free educational talks by the Marine Mammal Center, held on weekends year-round provided the weather is good. See these wild adorable creatures up close and personal at this family friendly spot.
Beginning at the south of Golden Gate Point, this half mile long beach was part of the Presidio, a military base of the Spanish from 1776 until 1997. Since the military base was decommissioned, the beach is now administered by the National Park Service. This scenic beach provides a panoramic view of the Golden Gate Bridge and has a nude beach towards its northern end.
The San Francisco Cable Car is one of the most popular mode of transport for those visiting the city for the first time. The cable cars run across various routes throughout, offering passengers a spectacular option for touring the City by the Bay. One could also visit the cable car barn where you get to see how the machinery operates the cable cars. All in all, there is nothing like a ride on the cable cars to tour the city.
Tucked away amidst the houses of Seward Street is a set of concrete slides. The slides were built upon the designs of Kim Clark, who was only 14 years old at that time. What was once a vacant lot is today a mini park that thrills and delights children and adults alike. At the center of the park lies a pair of steep concrete slides that are perfect to be enjoyed by the entire family. Laugh till your sides ache and bask in the after-glow of the adrenaline rush that is sure to engulf you as you slide down the Seward Street slides. The park is open daily during daylight hours, and all adults must be accompanied by a child. You will find a few cardboard boxes at the park to ride down the slides, however you are always welcome to bring your own along.
Located at the western end of Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's biggest beach. It extends from Fort Funston in the south, to the Cliff House in the north. Typically, the cold winds, fog and low San Francisco temperatures deter any regular beach activities (unless you're lucky enough to be there on a hot day) but visitors fly kites or just walk along and admire the views of Seal Rocks and Point Lobos. Adventure seekers love surfing here. There are also bonfire pits provided on the beach for the general public; to claim one, go early in the evening.
This long stretch of highway has some of the most spectacular views of the Pacific in the city. Located along the Outer Sunset, the Great Highway Path begins at the Cliff House and stretches across Ocean Beach for roughly three miles. Locals use this scenic path for walking, jogging, cycling and other such activities. Wooden benches can also be found periodically along the path, perfect for taking in a gorgeous ocean sunset.