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Best Hidden Gems in San Francisco

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Hailed as San Francisco's real 'crookedest' street, Vermont Street is a hidden gem often overshadowed by Lombard Street. Tucked away between 20th and 22nd Streets in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, this winding road is full of hairpin turns and switchbacks. Unlike Lombard, Vermont Street doesn't see many tourists, so walking paths are limited. However, ask any tour guide and they'll confirm Vermont is indeed, the 'crookedest' street, making it a San Francisco must see!

This out-of-the-way rock-wall on the northeast side of Corona Heights Park is a popular destination for climbers looking for an urban adventure. The wall, which is about seven stories tall and has a smooth surface of slick red, pink, and grey rock, is maintained by volunteers who come out and prepare it with climbing chains and links from the top. Recently, bolts have been removed to preserve the wall, which, in addition to being a climbing destination, is a geological curiosity, a “slickenslide,” or a polished rock face that has risen out of a fault.

San Francisco Model Yacht Club is located in Golden Gate Park. Established in 1898, it is one of the oldest surviving clubs in the country. Check out these tiny boats as they glide across the water. The club features a clubhouse and the artificial lake Spreckels Lake, that supports motor and sail model boats. Visit this club for its boating events and regattas, as well as for a glimpse of its unrivaled model boat collection.

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.

A penny for your thoughts? In addition to a melange of penny structures, this quirky, offbeat museum has a variety of interesting gadgets and knick-knacks. A must-see is the toothpick amusement park, built by San Quentin inmates. Bring a handful of quarters to Musée Mécanique so you can play some of the antique games, including the miniature pinball machines. Visiting the museum is free of charge.

The Walt Disney Family Museum offers a look back into the history of the Disney family as well as the Disney franchise. Exhibits mainly focus on Walt Disney's life, including Walt Disney sketches, such as early versions of Mickey Mouse, a model of the original Disneyland and audio clips of Walt Disney. The museum is geared more towards adults rather than children, but their is a section perfect for children where you can put music to cartoons!

Sutro Baths was built in the late 19th Century. It was a large swimming pool owned privately by Adolp Sutro, who was a former mayor of San Francisco. It had seven different pools, one having fresh water and the others having salt water, but varying in temperatures. Below the Cliff House, a small beach inlet was filled almost hiding the vast iron, glass and concrete structure. The bath had a high operating cost, due to which it eventually closed and a fire in 1966 almost destroyed it leaving behind the ruins. The ruins of the Sutro Baths are open to the visitors as well as the cave where you can catch a glimpse of bats.

Precita Park, located on Folsom Street is a wonderful shaded haven smack between the Mission District and Bernal Heights. The beautiful park features several benches, playgrounds, and is exceedingly popular with kids from the neighboring school areas. Although not as popular as the neighboring Dolores Park, it has all the trappings of a low-key fun day out where everyone in the family can enjoy. Established in 1894, Precita Park witnesses many a fun kiddie birthday party, dog training session and quick lunch relished by workers from neighboring areas. It makes for a nice stop-by when you're in Bernal Heights with the family.

The Golden Gate Park windmill is located close to the Pacific Ocean and is ideally suited to use the strong ocean winds. Standing 75 feet tall the windmill was used to pump well water for irrigation purpose. The Queens Wilhelmina Tulip Gardens that surround the windmill adds to the beauty of the Golden Gate Park. It also makes it the most picturesque spot in the park and is also referred to as the North Windmill.

Focusing on African-American culture from the 19th Century to the present, the African-American Historical and Cultural Society Museum includes photographs and artifacts that reveal facets of U.S. history that have often been ignored. The museum features permanent and temporary exhibitions, with an emphasis on well-known and emerging artists of African descent. Its sister facility, located on Fulton Street, features a library. Visit on the first Wednesday of the month to enter free of cost.

Part of the Fort Mason Center museums, which include the African-American Historical and Cultural Society Museum, this museum celebrates the Italian-American community by offering classes in Italian language, art and architecture. The gallery functions as a space for historical and contemporary works by Italian and Italian-American artists. Both admission and parking are free!

One of the most well-kept secrets of San Francisco, The Cayuga Playground is a four acre stretch of green expanse that features trails, sports facilities and lots of shade to take in the fresh air. Great for walking with pets, the playground was lovingly developed by Demetrio Braceros, an ex-employee of the park. Statues, figurines and works of art made from recycled waste adorn the corners. The park is open from sunrise to sunset.

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