Sunday, February 24, 2013

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park...

Possessing a nice balance of scenic beauty amid urban landscape, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park (located within Fisherman's Wharf) is an experiential gem of The City because of its plentiful attractions and entertainment options.

Signage noting the park.
The Hyde Street Pier is where a fleet of historic vessels are on display and serves as eastern boundary of the park. It is also one place where you can watch the Blue Angels air show during Fleet Week which happens annually during the second week of October (but maybe not this year due to looming fiscal cliff budget cuts).

Balclutha, an 1886 square-rigger ship docked at Hyde Street Pier.
Aquatic Park Historic District is located just off Van Ness Avenue on the west side of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and includes a maritime museum that was originally constructed as a Streamline Moderne style bathhouse by the Works Progress Administration in 1936. The exterior of this musuem resembles a large ocean liner and inside you will find interesting underwater-themed murals that were created Sargent Johnson and Hilaire Hiler in the 1930's.

Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building/Maritime Museum (Photo Souce: National Park Service)

Outside to the right of the museum are concrete bleachers that give way to a small beach and man-made lagoon on a site once known as Black Point Cove. This is where you're likely to see swimmers from the Dolphin Club (established in 1877) braving the cold bay waters (temperature is only around 50 degrees Fahrenheit).

To the right of the maritime museum bleachers is Victorian Park. Booths of artist merchants line the southern end of this park which is nearby Ghirardelli Square, an area that once served as the headquarters of famous Ghirardelli Chocolate Company.

Looking east through Victorian Park.

The south-eastern corner of Victoria Park is where the Hyde Street cable car turnaround is located. From here you can board a cable car and travel all the way down to Powell and Market Street in Union Square. Across the street from the cable car turnaround is the iconic Buena Vista Cafe, home to America's very first Irish Coffee!

Corner entrance to Buena Vista Cafe.

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park Visitors Center is inside the historic brick cannery warehouse that was erected in 1908 and located to the right of the cable car turn around.
Beach Street entrance to The Cannery.

Especially on a warm sunny day, Jack's Bar (part of The Cannery) is an excellent place to stop for a drink because of the comfortable outdoor seating and selection of over 85 draft and bottled beers.

Outdoor seating area of Jack's Bar.

But my favorite part of this area is the the Municipal Pier that makes up the western side of Aquatic Park. This is where the 4th of July fireworks are set off each year with Victorian Park serving as an excellent viewing place. What I like the most about Municipal Pier is the fact that although it is eroding and deteriorating pretty badly, you can still walk out over the bay waters on it to see wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island and Alcatraz.

Gated Entrance to the Municipal Pier

Golden Gate Bridge from Municipal Pier.
Maritime Museum and Ghirardelli Square from Municipal Pier.

And if you want to visit Point San Jose in Fort Mason, consider taking a less-traveled shortcut nearby the Municipal Pier. Look to the left side of Van Ness Avenue near the entrance to the Municipal Pier for a little path leading to stairs located below two water tanks that are part of the San Francisco Pumping Station #2.
Stairs from Van Ness Avenue to Point San Jose.

Follow this path along the headland to find a couple benches built into the wall of the cliff as well as more expansive views of the San Francisco Bay Area than you would see from the ground below.

Aquatic Park and bay view from the pathway to Point San Jose.

Flowering dogwood tree on the pathway to Point San Jose.

Angel Island, Alcatraz & the Municipal Pier from pathway to Point San Jose.

This path will lead you right to the picnic tables behind Point San Jose (see last post).

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