As a wildly popular tourist hotspot, San Francisco’s major highlights and attractions are largely well known.
Though trips to check out the city’s icons – like the Golden Gate Bridge and Fisherman’s Wharf – are all but mandatory, skipping the selfie-snapping crowds in favour of the city’s lesser-known, hidden gems can really enhance your San Francisco adventures.
1. Lands End Labyrinth
Perched atop a rocky outcrop, off the beautiful Coastal Trail within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is the Lands End Labyrinth.
Offering visitors not only an opportunity for introspection and meditation, the labyrinth also provides unrivalled and spectacular views of both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. Be sure to bring your camera along.
2. Wave Organ
One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the wave organ: an acoustic sculpture that utilises the constant ebbing and flowing of the ocean tides to create hauntingly beautiful sounds.
Situated on a jetty near the St Francis Yacht Club, this is a perfect place to sit back and enjoy not only the varied sounds produced by the unusual instrument, but also the panoramic vistas of the surrounding bay and famous hills.
3. Farallon Islands
If you travel about 30 miles off the coast you’ll find the Farallon Islands, a cluster of craggy islands that lie well off the proverbial beaten track.
As a marine sanctuary that is home to abundant wildlife, a tour around the islands is a must for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the area’s magnificent fauna, including a number of species of marine birds, seals, whales and even the infamous great white shark.
There are several tour operators that take trips to the Farallon Islands, including San Francisco Whale Tours, who offer a full-day Farallon Island whale watching excursion from US$99.
4. Cayuga Park
Cayuga Park is a magical playground tucked away just off Naglee and Cayuga Avenues, filled with whimsical sculptures, themed gardens and totem poles.
A formerly grimy neighbourhood park, Filipino immigrant Demetrio Braceros uplifted the area over the course of more than two decades.
5. Tank Hill Park
Tank Hill is a park favoured by locals, particularly as a prime spot for watching the annual 4th of July fireworks display.
Because this hill is not as frequented by tourists, you’re likely to enjoy a far more private and intimate experience than if you visit one of the city’s more popular spots.
Don’t worry though, Tank Hill’s views of the city, bay and Golden Gate Bridge are just as gorgeous as those from more prominent San Francisco hilltops, such as its famous neighbour, Twin Peaks.
6. Camera Obscura
Another local favourite in Lands End, the Camera Obscura is a somewhat bizarre looking camera-shaped building on the edge of the rocks. The spot offers spectacular views of the surrounds and is best visited and appreciated when there’s not much fog about.
7. Ingleside Terraces Sundial
Though residential suburbs hardly ever top travellers’ must-visit lists, there’s a fascinating structure in the centre of the Ingleside Terraces neighbourhood that’s worth a look at. Standing on Entrada Court is a massive 28-foot sundial sculpture that actually works and makes a Dali-esque background for some fun holiday snapshots.
8. Street Slides
San Francisco is known for its steep hills, steps and crazy driveways with sharp and precipitous twists and turns. And while you’ve no doubt included in your itinerary a visit to some of these famous landmarks, such as the Filbert Steps and Lombard Street, have a go on the lesser-known street slides, particularly the ones at Seward Street and Bernal Heights. It’s a great way to relive those childhood playground memories.
– TEXT BY SAUL LIPCHIK
PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM, 123RF.COM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.