I just spent the last weekend in beautiful San Francisco at the Dad 2.0 Summit, hanging out with over 300 other Dads (and a bunch of Moms), talking about parenting, children, beer, fashion, toys, Star Wars, travel and beer. I also hosted a roundtable discussion on teens and Internet safety, but that felt like a minor part of the weekend, no question. I have been to every Dad 2.0 Summit — this was the fourth — and each time I leave invigorated by the friendships, the shared enthusiasm and the camaraderie of men in the front lines of changing the world and reminding our culture at large that us dads aren’t only important, we’re critical to the success of the next generation.
Having worked in San Francisco for a couple of years and lived in the greater SF Bay Area for well over a dozen years, I already know what a wonderful city it is, absolutely one of my favorite places in the United States. A bustling metropolis with a wonderful ethnic mix, it’s also a center for gay culture, bringing an additional layer to the culture of the city. From North Beach to The Castro, SoMa to the Sunset, I’ve been there, done that.
Or had I?
This time as I explored the city on foot, first with the delight Jennifer Powell, then a few days later with my new mates Darrell Milton and Michael Kaufman, I managed to find all sorts of corners and areas I hadn’t explored in my many years of living in the area. Sometimes it takes being a tourist to find all the cool stuff, that’s all I can conclude. Because I really did find a ton of really cool places, with a little help from my friends!
If you’d like to follow along at home, we started out each time at 3rd and Market, walked through Chinatown, then the first day walked directly to the waterfront, then went north/west along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf, then continued along the coast through Fort Mason to the Marina district and then to the Palace of Fine Arts. The second walking tour was similar, except we wandered through North Beach, up as many hills as we could find (you think I’m kidding. I’m not!), through Russian Hill, past Lombard Street and down to Fisherman’s Wharf again. The first time we were so tired, we took a taxi back to the hotel, but the second time we took the Powell and Market cable car back to Market Street. Easy.
Not in chronological order, therefore, some photos taken during our adventures…
Darrell (on the steps), Michael (with the tiny backpack) and I prepare to climb up yet another set of stairs on our way to the top of Russian Hill. I love that there are so many of these hidden stairs and paths in a city that seems incredibly urban and completely assembled out of concrete on first glance. No wild parrots, though.
View of the ships from Hyde St. Pier with the beautiful Golden Gate Bridge in the background. Rather to my surprise, I realized I’d never actually been to the Hyde St. Pier before, even after having lived so many years of my life within an hour’s drive of this historic landmark.
Lombard Street. Now we’re really doin’ the tourist thing. I remember from years ago that I found another street that’s just as windy further south in San Francisco, but it’s in the middle of nowhere and all concrete without any plants, trees or effort at landscaping. It might not be quite as windy, but it’s definitely not as busy. We did see a cop pull over a Mercedes after they finished the windy route, we couldn’t figure out why, but we didn’t see any skateboarders try their luck on this steep, spaghetti-noodle of a road!
Easily one of the most beautiful skylines in the world, with the distinctive Transamerica Tower and the Bay Bridge spanning the Bay. Slightly disappointing was that we didn’t see any apes clambering over the buildings, didn’t spy Karl Malden getting airborne in his car and didn’t see a single radio controlled car with a bomb attached chasing Clint Eastwood across the city. Maybe next time.
Another place I’d never heard of until someone mentioned it on Twitter: Golden Gate Fortune Cookies. In a tiny storefront that’s not much more than a long closet tucked away in an alley, a group of older Chinese women made the creation of fortune cookies — an American invention, btw, not one that hails from China — look ridiculously easy. With their custom mechanical devices to make it fast (you can see the fortune cookie oven with its convey assembly on the right, delivering up cookie pancakes and the metal rod that the woman uses to quickly fold the pancake into the distinctive fortune cookie shape) it’s also a tiny education in entrepreneurship and how devices can represent the “necessity being the mother of invention” dictum.
And don’t forget to pay the requested $0.50 for taking pictures. It’s a living.
Graffiti art in an alley near Union Square. I love it!
The view down Pier 43 with an unidentified US Navy vessel in the background. Back in the day, pre Golden Gate Bridge, this pier was how railcars would transfer onto a ship for the sail across the Bay to Sausalito.
Now it’s just one heck of a framing device for a warship.
It’s definitely worth keeping your eyes open in a historic city like San Francisco. The “Barbary Coast Trail” medallion was inset into concrete on a busy sidewalk. While everyone flowed around me, I captured this wonderful reminder of the gold rush and colorful history of San Francisco.
Turns out there’s a walking tour of the Barbary Coast you can follow with your smartphone too. Next time I’ll check it out!
The end of our first walking tour, a long, long haul from Market Street, but well worth it, the Palace of Fine Arts rises up like a forgotten relic of the ancient history. In fact, it’s the only remaining structure from the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exposition.
The story behind it is fantastic: After the devastating 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire, San Francisco was eager to show the rest of the world that it was rebuilding better and safer. To commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal, the 1915 World’s Fair was dubbed the Pan-Pacific Expo and the city raised $4 million to build out all the structures needed. In two hours! That’s better than a Kickstarter campaign and adjusted for inflation, it’s mind-boggling.
The original architect of the Palace of Fine Arts was Bernard Maybeck, who created it to show “the mortality of grandeur and the vanity of human wishes.” It is only ironic then that while we were there we watched a couple walk around and take innumerable selfies. The vanity of human wishes indeed.
The Fort Mason Center, a hub of art and home of the famous Greens restaurant, marks the foreground of this shot that also features the Golden Gate bridge in the background, shortly to be enveloped in a typical late afternoon fog.
Chinatown. Even on a dull day it’s colorful and wonderful, and we were there during the Chinese New Year. It’s the Year of the Lamb. Just so you know.
At the Cable Car Museum (thanks, Darrell!) where we got to see the very steampunk-esque machinery that keeps the continuous steel cable loops moving so that the individual cable cars can clamp on and release as needed to travel up and down the hills of San Francisco.
This satisfied my ceaseless curiosity about “how does it work?”, and while small, this free museum is well worth a visit and doubly-so if you have children.
At the Musée Mécanique on Fisherman’s Wharf, a motley but quite interesting collection of antique mechanical attractions and games of chance, including some splendid old pinball machines. And then there was this entertainment. Because if you have a quarter to spare, you want to see a tiny metal guy meet his fate with a traditional English execution, right?
In a great coup, the LEGO team arranged for us to visit Lucasfilm for a LEGO Star Wars event (that I can’t talk about, sorry!). While there I bumped into a few familiar guys and one ankle biter. Fortunately they didn’t toss me into the trash compacting room with Leia and Solo! You can read a lot more about it in another post I wrote: My Visit to Lucasfilm.
It was awesome. 🙂
Finally, there I am, balanced on the front of the Powell and Market cable car, just before we departed Fisherman’s Wharf back to Market Street. Here, I made a movie of the journey:
All in all, a truly delightful long weekend in a city that I love even more now that I had a chance to explore it with new friends. And did I mention the weather was gorgeous, even as a huge snowstorm dumped 18″ on my neighborhood back in Colorado? Yeah, that was great timing too.