San Francisco is a lovely place. Entire city is like a popular theme park. “49-Mile Scenic Drive” is the best method to enjoy all of good places in this city. This driving course is highly enjoyable for anybody with driving license. Great things about San Francisco 49-Mile Scenic Drive are that one can start from anywhere in the city. A visitor finds the signs with seagull and start to follow. Also if he does not have time anymore and want to stop following the scenic drive sign, he can leave it any time. The official starting point is, however, the front of San Francisco City Hall. 49-Miles Drive ends by returning back to the starting point.
The starting point area of 49-Miles Drive is San Francisco’s cultural center. East side of the City Hall, there is Asian Culture Center whereas various Asian Cultural Exhibitions and Theatrical Art Performance are held. They were showing Japanese Traditional Kabuki Play last year. In the museum, there is Chinese Arts Exhibition permanently set. It also shows history of Asian Americans. City Hall conducts wedding ceremony. There are couples that marry in the City Hall and take pictures in the park front every weekend.
Now let us follow the sign “49-Mile Scenic Drive” with seagull illustration to drive to Japan Town as next interest area. San Francisco city area is full of one-way road as others. Geary Street in down town goes to west. Turn left at Geary Street and drive several minutes, the follower of 49-Mile Drive will begin to see Japan Town’s Main Buildings, namely Kinokuniya Building, Miyako-mall, Kabuki Theater Buildings. First he will see to his right from Geary Street is Japanese Style Pagoda with 5 layer roofs.
The Japanese-Americans lived here were brought into camps in World War II, and most of them did not come back. Now not so many Japanese-American families are living here. This place is for historical monument, Japanese restaurant and souvenir shops. For Japanese and Japanese-Americans, this area is still convenient place to eat Sushi and to buy Japanese books. There are several historical monuments in this area. 2 Japanese, Chinese Characters engraved on the wall in the Pagoda square shows all the Japanese and Japanese-Americans’ hope for Love and Peace. There are some shops and groups who are providing training for Japanese Dance, language, Origami, Drams, or Music. Occasionally, these groups hold a booth in Japan Town Buildings and serve tea and talk with people visiting here. They are extremely friendly. It is an excellent place to hear Japanese Accent English explaining Japanese traditions and histories.
Let us leave Japan Town, turning right at Post Street. 49-Mile Scenic Drive is now taking the follower to one of the most famous and popular place for visitors. That is Union Square. Union Square is shopping center for visitors and residents. There is Macy’s on South of Square, Neiman Marcus on South West corner, and Bloomingdale on Market Street. Also, there are shops such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, or Gucci. There are world-class hotels nearby. They include Westin St. Francis, Grand Hyatt, Clift Hotel, Villa Florence, Marriott and so forth.
The history of Union Square is deeply related to Civil War. This park name is “Union Square” because the pro-Union Army campaigns were held here, and people noticed this square as Union Army supporting movement. In 1903, the square constructed statue of Victory commemorating Admiral George Dewey’s victory of the battle of Manila Bay. This Victory monument “Victory”, was modeled from the likeness of a local heiress, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. Union Square is precisely “heart” of San Francisco. Every weekend, there are some ceremonies and events are held including Art Shows. This Square is famous for Macy’s sponsored Christmas tree and Christmas Decoration. Please revisit here when Christmas time comes.
Turning the corner of Union Square, the 49-Mile Scenic Drive leads the follower to China Town. China Town in San Francisco is one of the worlds biggest in size and population. Chinese people living in China Town, San Francisco is predominantly Cantonese. Despite of Japan Town, China Town has a smell of living. Visitors can hear a baby crying, in the upstairs in souvenir shops, or fighting voices, shouting out loud, in the second floor of a restaurant. China Town makes one feel more energy than Japan Town.
In addition to sightseers, there are always Chinese people selling and buying meats, vegetables, fruits, or daily goods. A visitor can feel the power of Chinese people who spread around the world and build their own cities. Whichever city in the world one visits, he will find Chinese restaurants. There are always Chinese people living there.
Coming out of China Town, the route leads the follower up the hill and brings him to Coit Tower in Telegraph Hill. There was history when some broadcasting was made from top of this Hill. Coit Tower was built as city planning, adding another attractive architect to the city. Mural in the Tower is something a visitor must see. The mural, partly showing European living, shows lives of Native Americans. Coit Tower is not in the official 49-Mile route. This place, however, is a popular spot having an aerial view over the city. The problems are traffic jam en route to the top and difficulty in parking.
The route leads the follower to Lombard Street, the world most crooked street. The slope here was too steep to build straight road and made a road crooked like this. The road next to Lombard is so steep that it looks like a cliff diving when one tries to drive down. The visitor can make his passenger scream for fear.
Now the route is taking Leavenworth Street toward north. When the follower reached the top of the hill, he starts to see San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Island. Fisherman’s Wharf is close from here. This place is always full of sightseers. Whenever visitors come to this place, they can always find something to be interesting, funny, and new. Visitors cannot visit this place without bringing a camera.
Keep going west passing Fisherman’s Wharf, the follower will pass Fort Mason and reach Entrance of Presidio. Fort Mason is the city in the park, whereas Beijing Olympic Torch runner was running, instead of scheduled and announced road, due to protesting movement. Presidio Park is Navy Base historically, like the movie. Presideo Park is a forest with old but elegant looking houses. The other reason visitors like this area of Fort Mason and Presidio Park is the spectacular view of Golden Gate Bridge. There is the entrance for walkers and bicycle riders to the Golden Gate Bridge in north center of Presideo Park.
The follower will see Greek or Roman Style buildings in the foot of Golden Gate Bridge. This is Marina District. Visitors will find hands-on style science museum here called “Exploratorium”. Inside of the museum, there are science projects that visitors can try themselves, and see what happens, how it happens, and why. This is an excellent place for children.
The Drive Route finally takes the follower to the beach of Pacific Ocean. In the beach, there are families to play kite, walk dog, running with small children. The visitor can take a lunch break in “Cliff House”. This “Cliff House” was guesthouse for the President of US and other famous VIP’s. Original Cliff House was burned down twice, and now it is a restaurant and a souvenir shop.
Now the drive takes the follower to the south part of the city. The visitor drives along the ocean side “Great America Parkway”, enjoying Pacific Ocean view to his right. Passing San Francisco Zoo to his left, he drives down to Lake Merced. He may be amazed to learn that San Francisco has a lot of places to relax. This lake has amusement of boating, fishing, and rifle shooting. He can just relax his eyes as local people do.
After driving to the south side of the Lake Merced, the Scenic Drive now turns to North in Sunset Boulevard. Sunset Boulevard runs North-South and one of the main roads of West San Francisco. In South Part of the Boulevard, there is the campus of UC San Francisco. San Francisco – Bay Area residents are undoubtedly much education oriented surrounded by famous universities such as Stanford, Barkley, UCSF, UCSJ, and UC East Bay.
Now the drive brings the follower back to North part of the city. Taking Sunset Boulevard North, the visitor will drive back into the northern part of San Francisco. Sunset Boulevard will go across Lincoln and enter into Golden Gate Park. This Park may be similar to Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London. The park is full of green trees and beautiful flowers. Golden Gate Park is residents’ favorite relaxing and recreational area. There are museums, Japanese Garden, Outdoor Theater. People can enjoy events here. In the weekend, a visitor will be able to meet to the jogging people or people ride on bicycles. Driving in the park surrounded by green makes the driver feel happy. One can feel better releasing him from fears, anxieties, or angers from everyday life.
After coming out of the east gate of Golden Gate Park, the drive heads toward south again. Driving up the hill, the follower of the drive will reach residential area on the top of the hill. This is Twin Peaks. One can pull up the car at the top of the hill and enjoy the view of the central San Francisco. Driving south-east of the city along Castro Street, drive on Interstate Highway 280, the drive will take him to Business District and finally to the starting point, San Francisco Civic Center.