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The Short List: An Abbreviated Guide to San Francisco Attractions

By Cari Tom

Already started planning your tripto the NASP 2011 Annual Convention? You will likely book a hotel, arrange transportation, and get your registration in order. As you get the basics out of the way, conside planning time for the top things to do in San Francisco. Following are some of the highlights in our beautiful city by the bay.

Golden Gate Bridge
Located on U.S. Highway 101, the Golden Gate Bridge links San Francisco to Sausalito, Marin, and north counties. The bridge is accessible to all by car ($6 toll if you are driving across), bike, or foot. See a massive cross section of the cable, walk through the gardens, or take a peek on one of the vista points! For more information, see www.goldengatebridge.org.

Golden Gate Park
More than 1,000 acres (20% larger than Central Park), Golden Gate Park was conceptualized around 1870. Golden Gate Park was California’s first state park before the City took control in 1899. Although the observatory, casino, and aviary have closed, several original features of the park still are enjoyed by visitors today. The park is located between the Richmond and Sunset Districts, bordering Ocean beach and Haight Ashbury.

Japanese Tea Garden
A historical Japanese-style garden designed by Makoto Hagiwara, the garden features monuments, bridges, native Japanese plants, ponds, and a tea house (7 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive; 415-752-1171).

Conservatory of Flowers
The Conservatory of Flowers is a unique living museum. The conservatory offers an intimate, up-close look at rare, exotic plants and beautiful tropical flowers (100 John F. Kennedy Drive, 94118; conservatoryofflowers.org; 415-831-2090; closed Mondays).

California Academy of Sciences
The only aquarium/planetarium/natural history museum/ 4-story rainforest all in one! A green building and close to 40,000 live animals (55 Music Concourse Drive, 94118; www.calacademy.org; 415-379-8000; open every day).

De Young Museum
The museum offers beautiful gardens, stunning views, and an observation deck. Some featured galleries include American paintings, American decorative art, African art, art of the Americas, Oceanic art, and textile art (50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, 94118; 415- 750-3600; closed Mondays).

Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39
Whether it’s the freshest seafood, family fun, souvenir shops, an up-close look at California’s playful sea lions, an encounter with a street performer, or delightful dining, San Francisco’s Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf can offer you hours of enjoyment. Conveniently, the wharf is also the start to many San Francisco/Bay Area tours (fishermanswharf.org).

Aquarium of the Bay
The purpose of this marine nature center is to inspire conservation of the San Francisco Bay and watershed. The Aquarium of the Bay offers glass tunnels and windows into the largest estuary on the West Coast (Pier 39 at the Embarcadero and Beach Streets; aquariumofthebay.org).

Ghirardelli Square & Aquatic Park
At the end of Fisherman’s Wharf sits a large brick fortress which holds food, wine, shopping, chocolate, and even a hotel! What may be considered the first successful re-use project in the country, this was the original home to the famous Ghirardelli chocolate manufacturer. Small shops, fine cuisine, and free wireless Internet are found within the square. Ghirardelli still operates the Original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Manufactory where guests can see the original chocolate manufacturing equipment and taste some of what makes this company so famous (900 North Point Street, 94109; ghirardellisq.com).

Hop aboard the nation’s first hybrid, eco-friendly vessel and journey to The Rock! Famous as being the former home to notorious criminals, today Alcatraz is still home to many Civil War era buildings and rare flowers and plants. Tours are held daily but sell out quickly. Make sure to reserve your tickets before you get into town to guarantee the date and time you want. Visit www.alcatrazcruises.com to reserve tickets. Tours depart from Pier 33.

Cultural Experience

Whether you decide to take in a show or visit a museum, San Francisco has something for everyone.

It’s Showtime!
Enjoy Broadway shows? Well, then you’ll be happy to know that San Francisco’s theatres play host to many large-scale favorites and small theatre productions. Be sure to check out SHN and Ticketmaster closer to the convention to see upcoming show schedules (shnsf.com and ticketmaster.com).

Beach Blanket Babylon
An everchanging musical spoof of pop culture, famous for its extravagant costumes and enormous hats has been performing to a sold-out house since 1974 (678 Beach Blanket Babylon Blvd. 94133; 415-421-4222; beachblanketbabylon.com).

Want to see a live cow’s eye dissection? Experience what it’s like to navigate your way through a world with no light? Rated Best Museum in San Francisco, the Exploratorium is not an ordinary museum. Filled with hundreds of things to see and do, this hands-on museum has been giving kids of all ages a chance to explore the world of science for decades (3601 Lyon Street, 94123; www.exploratorium.edu; 415-561-0360; closed Mondays).

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)
In addition to exhibiting and collecting the works of foremost artists, SFMOMA strives to serve as a place of inspiration and education for audiences of all ages. Be sure to check out the schedule of featured and traveling exhibits when you are planning your visit (151 Third Street, 94103; sfmoma.org; 415-357-4000; closed Wednesdays).

Contemporary Jewish Museum
Since 1984, the Contemporary Jewish Museum looks to engage audiences of all ages in contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. Traveling shows often feature influential Jewish artists (736 Mission Street, 94103; thecjm.org; 415-655-7800; closed Wednesdays).

Asian Art Museum
Housing more than 6,000 years of history, the Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums exclusively devoted to Asian art in the world (200 Larkin Street, 94102; asianart.org; 415-581-3500; closed Mondays).

The Walt Disney Family Museum
Celebrating the life of Walt Disney, this museum pays tribute to the many achievements of the man who transformed the film industry and helped to make animation an art. This unique museum displays material from the Walt Disney Company and private collections. Call or log onfor tickets prior to visit (104 Montgomery Street, 94129; Disney.go.com/disneyatoz/familymuseum; 415-345-6800; closed Tuesdays).

Look for additional local flavor and convention information articles in future issues of Communiqué and online at www.nasponline.org/conventions.

Cari Tom is the Convention Committee Local Arrangements Cochair.