Scroll To Top

Exclusive | San Francisco: What to See & Do Part Seven

Exclusive | San Francisco: What to See & Do Part Seven

When the founding fathers laid out San Francisco, its famous hills called for some novel street planning, in the form of stairways. The Filbert Steps are among the city's most famous, though dozens of others anchored to the steep slopes offer a dose of sylvan ambiance and some delightful climbs. Greenwich Steps (down from Coit Tower, cross Montgomery, to Sansome Street) consists of 147 steps, which lead past the famous Julius Castle restaurant, and lovely magnolia, purple princess, pepper, deodar, and redwood specimens. Raccoons, red foxes, and squirrels live in the hillsides. (The lane at 356 Greenwich runs into Filbert Stairway.)

Filbert (also known as Napier Lane) is a swath of green wedged between high-rise apartments that used to be a garbage dump. Now fragrant tea roses, fuchsia, heavy with blossoms, irises blooming in profusion, and basking cats vie for attention. Built in the 1860s, when Bay waters lapped the base of Telegraph Hill, the winsome, tilted Victorian cottages clinging to the steep slope have weathered earthquakes, fires, and progress. Bring lunch, bask in the sun, with a view of the Bay Bridge.

Vulcan and Saturn Steps (17 Street & Ord) are truly special. Many of the eclectic, wooden cottages are remodeled into miniature Shangri-las. Bamboo, azaleas, rhododendrons, and Scotch broom, cypress and lemon trees thrive here. Walk up Saturn and then down Vulcan, and be sure to bring a water bottle or cold soda for the bench at the end. Iron Alley (near Upper Market & Clayton) is characterized by wooden stairs. They are an unusual sight when viewed from below and provide grand views of the San Francisco Bay and downtown.

Harry Stairway (where Noe Street dead ends into Laidley) is constructed from cement, planks, and cobblestones. The long and steep Harry steps lead past a variety of homes and vegetation, while accompanied by the scent of pine. Pemberton Stairway (top, 98 Crown Terr; bottom, Clayton & Corbett) feels like a grand stairway surrounded by beautiful gardens and trees.

For a more extensive guide, buy Stairway Walks in San Francisco by Adah Bakalinsky.

Crissy Field (at the north end of the city, just east of the Golden Gate Bridge and just west of the Marina Green) has benefited from a major restoration. It was previously a 20-acre tidal marsh. There are also dedicated paths for walkers and joggers, inline skaters, and bicyclists. This is a great alternative to Golden Gate Park for getting a little outdoor exercise with spectacular views.

One of the coolest spots in SF in winter is the outdoor ice-skating rink set up at Justin Herman Plaza at the eastern end of the Embarcadero buildings, where Market Street meets the Embarcadero. Each winter, this rink magically appears around Thanksgiving and remains in place until the end of February (The rink usually offers a 2-for-1 special on Valentine's Day). During the day, the rink fills with the local work force having a bit of fun on their lunch hour, with a few serious skaters in the morning and afternoon. By night, it turns into a rockin' hot spot with plenty of cute boys attempting the triple camel. The holiday decorations of the nearby office buildings, shops, and the Bay Bridge form the glittery backdrop. It's San Francisco's version of ice-skating at Rockefeller Center.

Gold's Gym (1001 Brannan St; 415-552-4653; $20) is the gym of choice for San Francisco's hot gay circuit and muscle boys. It's mostly male although there is a sizable contingent of hard-core women bodybuilders. The facility covers a huge one city-block area, and offers the best workout equipment in town.

The other Gold's Gym (2301 Market St; 415-626-4488; $20) is not as big as the Brannan Street facility, but extensive renovations have completely updated the formerly frumpy gym, adding a second floor, expanding their weight and cardio equipment, and adding an aerobics studio.

Crunch San Francisco (1000 Van Ness St; 415-931-1100; $26) boasts a good selection of cardio and weight equipment plus the usual array of innovative and cutting-edge Crunch fitness classes.

The Gym SF (2275 Market St; 415-863-4700; $15) is very, very male. In Potrero Hill is World Gym (260 De Haro St; 415-703-9650; $15), has a good mix of men and women (still mostly male); it's a bit cruisy, though designed for the serious gym rat.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six

Part Seven | Part Eight

San Francisco: Introduction
San Francisco: Where to Stay
San Francisco: Where to Eat
San Francisco: Where to Play/Meet
San Francisco: Where to Shop
San Francisco: Resources

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Joe Okonkwo