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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Gems of San Francisco

A few of the best SF destinations, from a local expert


By MAYA KORNYEYEVA — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu


Growing up 30 minutes south of San Francisco — a city of skyscrapers, innovation and diversity — meant lots and lots of visits to “The City.” Below are my top cost-conscious picks for a weekend trip, with both local gems and popular tourist attractions that allow you to enjoy SF safely and to the fullest.


Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park is my personal favorite location in all of San Francisco. With 1,017 acres of breathtaking scenery, including the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Japanese Tea Garden and The California Academy of Sciences, there’s always something to do and see. There’s also a rose garden, rentable paddle boats and several fairy houses hidden all around the park. Mornings and weekdays are the best times to visit, as parking fills up quickly.



The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) is a massive, multi-level museum filled with constantly changing exhibits and interactive modern art. Featuring pieces from Paul Klee and Barbara Stauffacher Solomon, Julian Charrière, statement furniture pieces and historical installations from the past century, you will likely end up getting lost (in a good way). SFMOMA is also located near one of my favorite eateries in the city — Sushirrito — which offers Japanese cuisine with a Latin twist.


Legion of Honor, Golden Gate Bridge

The Legion of Honor is a beautiful museum situated at the very corner of San Francisco, right before the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s free every Saturday for Bay Area residents and proudly displays Roman and Greek statues, several of Claude Monet’s waterlily paintings and a wide range of exhibitions from the Renaissance onward. After a visit to the museum, I would recommend a walk or drive along the Golden Gate Bridge, especially if you have never visited San Francisco before. The views are truly spectacular — you get a clear view of Alcatraz Island and the dozens of boats entering and exiting the peninsula into the Pacific Ocean. 


Marin Headlands

This nature preserve is located on the other side of the Golden Gate and offers one of the best views of the bridge and surrounding San Francisco area. Catch it on a sunny day and you’ll find hiking trails, lookout spots, a historical military facility and a gorgeous beach to explore. This is a prime area for wildlife, and I have, on occasion, seen coyotes, cottontail bunnies, red-tailed hawks and even whales. This is a great option if you want to escape the busy city and get reconnected with native Californian flora and fauna. 


Japantown (Nihonmachi) and Chinatown

Visiting these two cultural areas of San Francisco are a perfect way to immerse yourself in the vibrancy of East Asian communities. Chinatown has shops and restaurants selling dumplings and rolls, statues, art, ceramics, engraved stamps and more. While significantly less famous and smaller than Chinatown, Japantown is also a great place to walk around and explore, and it features an assortment of delicious ramen and sushi places, as well as tea shops and anime-inspired merchandise. I would definitely recommend grabbing some friends and taking a few hours to simply wander.


Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39

Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the top tourist destinations in San Francisco, with merchandise pop-up stores on practically every corner. It is often busy and parking can be difficult, but the Boudin Bakery, Ghirardelli Square and views of the harbor make it well worth it. There are pirate ships and tour boats floating in the water, and Boudin’s clam chowder is particularly delicious.


Twin Peaks

Is this the best view in San Francisco? It may very well be, depending on what time of day you decide to hike up and if you receive a special visit from Karl the Fog. The Twin Peaks north overlook offers visitors a 180-degree view of SF and the surrounding cityscape, as well as a rare glimpse into the natural grasslands of the Bay Area that have long been covered and destroyed by industrialization. A 360-degree view is also possible if you decide to hike along the network of trails ascending the two peaks.  


There’s so much more to San Francisco than just my top picks listed here (like Union Square and Oracle Stadium), but, that being said, these are a great place to start and guaranteed to be worth the two-hour drive from Davis. Good luck with your travels!


Written by: Maya Kornyeyeva — mkornyeyeva@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.