If You're Going to San Francisco


Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than 25 years, I thought I knew many of the best sights and sounds of the city. Here are some you might not know about.

Years ago, Frank Oppenheimer founded the Exploratorium, a fabulous museum of science, art, and human perception. It is a home to hundreds of exhibits that help in the understanding of electricity, centrifugal motion, sound waves, optical illusion and superstitions, among other things. It was located at the The Palace of Fine Arts, but has since relocated to Pier 15 on the San Francisco Waterfront. What is still left from those days at the original location is the Wave Organ (pictured). Designed and created by artist Peter Richards from granite, marble and PVC, the Wave Organ actually creates music from the tides, best heard at high tide. It is located on a jetty in the San Francisco Bay and is dedicated to Mr. Oppenheimer. Here is a helpful tip from Yelp: "Hugely helpful tip, GPS your way to the Golden Gate Yacht Club. There is parking down there by the small brick lighthouse. Then you walk out on the jetty to find the Wave Organ. Really get down and put your ear near the pipes."

If jazz is your thing, you might want to check out the Saint John Coltrane African Orthodox Church. Reverend Franzo Wayne King presides over a service on Sundays, starting at noon, for 3 hours. It is a mixture of Pentecostal revival and jam session with musical stylings ranging from jazz to funk, gospel to reggae. There you can definitely mix in with some locals. It is located at 2097 Turk St - definitely off the beaten path.

The Sunset District is not usually a destination of many tourists. To be honest, there is not much to see, except for the The 16th Avenue Staircase which is a very colorful staircase comprised of 163 steps of mosaic tiles. Not only is the staircase breathtaking, but the views are spectacular, with it's beautiful gardens designed to attract the Green Hairstreak butterfly. The project was started in 2003 and inspired by the Selaron Staircase in Rio de Janeiro. It is located at 1700 16th Avenue and designed by Collette Crutcher and Aileen Barr.

If dining in the dark is your thing, you must visit Opaque at 689 Mcallister St. Your whole (pricy) meal will be served in the dark, literally. You won't be able to see a thing and the servers are all blind, as they are the only ones who are accustomed to working without seeing. It is a truly unusual experience. Another unique, but far less expensive, eating place is the Brainwash Cafe on Folsom Street. I have listened to music there and you can do your laundry while you eat. On a similar note of multi-tasking, if you like mini-golf you might want to head over to Urban Putt at 1096 S. Van Ness Ave. You can eat chicken and waffles while you swing the club.

As mentioned before, the new location for the Exploratorium is now on Pier 15. Go there on Saturday and you will catch some of the best food at the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building. Sit down outside and eat some of the local fare while gazing across the bay. The view of the Bay Bridge is fantastic.

There is so much more to this city and it is no wonder why tourism is such a huge industry in San Francisco. Just walking through the city and seeing the diversity of people and architecture is astounding, but this is not a place to visit without a lot of money.

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