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Things to Do in California - page 4

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Embarcadero
37 Tours and Activities

Technically speaking, the Embarcadero (Spanish for “Wharf”) is the eastern waterfront and roadway of the Port of San Francisco. More to-the-point, the Embarcadero is the glittering waterfront and a cultural center of one of America’s greatest cities. Running from the end of Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf on the northern end down to South Beach Park on the southern end, the Embarcadero is not only a beautiful stretch of some of the most iconic San Franciscan waterfront; it acts as a home to joggers and bicyclists, as well as bustling port tourist attraction and regional icon.

Catch a good time at Pier 39 or the nearby Fisherman’s Wharf for some excellent seafood, trendy spots with local bands, and souvenir hunting. Many festivities begin and culminate with the Embarcadero, so if you happen to be in town don’t forget to stick around for the fireworks and the always photogenic Golden Gate.

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Civic Center
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17 Tours and Activities

In a select few blocks of San Francisco’s bustling downtown lies the beautiful Civic Center. Known for housing some of the city’s main governmental and cultural institutions, the Civic Center is a hub of activity and not just for municipal officials – there’s really a lot to do and see. Take a look and you’ll find the impressive City Hall and War Memorial Opera House built in the beautiful Beaux Arts style. The San Francisco Public Library houses millions(!) of books, and on Sunday mornings the UN Plaza Farmers’ Market has more fine nibbling you could hope to wish for. After touring the buildings, consider the adjacent Hayes Valley for wandering the antique shops, restaurants, art galleries, and book stores.

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Glacier Point
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22 Tours and Activities

An overlook with an incomparable view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Yosemite's high country (stay for stargazing if you have the time), Glacier Point is accessible by car during the summer and by cross-country ski during the winter. Perhaps it's getting to Glacier Point that is half the fun!

During the winter, skiers are rewarded only after a 10.5 cross-country tour; during the summer, hikers can choose from the misleadingly named Four Mile Trail (it's actually closer to five miles long), the nearly nine mile Panorama Trail or, for the truly ambitious, a combination of the two trails, to reach the promontory.

However, if you lack the time, desire or stamina to climb the nearly 3,200 feet (975 meters) above the valley floor, consider the four-hour Glacier Point Tour, which departs daily from Yosemite Lodge.

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San Francisco Treasure Island
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17 Tours and Activities

Lying out in the middle of the San Franciscan Bay is a tiny man-made structure known as Treasure Island. Once made for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, the island is now a California Historical Landmark and burgeoning trendy neighborhood. Development efforts in recent months have spurred local interest, and nowadays you’ll find this one-time naval training ground to be host of a variety of events and markets. A small stop, it’s still a great place to and picnic or take some photographs of the bay. Be sure not to miss the monthly Treasure Island Flea Market, or the annual Treasure Island Music Festival, held every October.

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Petco Park
17 Tours and Activities

Petco Park is an open-air stadium in downtown San Diego located just minutes from the Gaslamp Quarter. In bygone days, you might have heard people refer to this as Qualcomm Stadium, but no more. Since 2004, the San Diego Padres have called Petco Park their home and it’s here you’ll be able to catch a game during baseball season. Known for its comfortable seating, diverse restaurant selection, and even a mini play area for kids before a game, Petco Park is the stadium of choice for anyone visiting the San Diego area.

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Cow Hollow
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8 Tours and Activities

Known for its vibrant culture, often busy by both day and night, Cow Hollow is a central San Francisco neighborhood that attracts many of the city’s young professionals. At the heart of the scene is Union Street, a pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare lined with cafes, antique shops, wellness centers, bars, and restaurants. Before it was a trendy urban area, it was an open valley where cows grazed (hence its name!) Its proximity to the Marina and coastline also made it the place many fishermen resided.

Though now filled with boutique shops and posh apartments, the old Victorian houses lining Cow Hollow streets are reminiscent of this area’s past. If history is what you’re after, you’ll find it in the Octagon House, a 19th century home built to let in natural light from all angles. As for modern city life, a variety of cuisines and an active nightlife make this area a draw for many.

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Mission District
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23 Tours and Activities

A lively hub of vibrant activity, thrift shopping, and some fantastic Mexican eateries, San Francisco’s Mission District is also home to some of the best weather and artwork San Francisco has to offer. Multicultural and honest, a stroll through Balmy Alley and Clarion Alley will have you pointing and snapping photos, while the sun breaking through the clouds will make a picnic in popular Dolores Park a treat. For as pleasurable a walk as you’re likely to find in San Francisco, consider Mission Street on a sunny day and watch out for roving mariachi bands playing in local restaurants. This oldest of San Francisco neighborhoods completes the image of San Francisco as a truly great multicultural American city.

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Ferry Building
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47 Tours and Activities

If ever there was a heaven for foodies, the San Francisco Ferry Building is surely it. Since 1898, it has been a transit terminal, the second-busiest in the world until the Bay and Golden Gate bridges were completed in the 30s. For well-heeled gourmet food lovers however, it began serving a different purpose when it opened as an upscale food market in 2003. The beautiful building houses small shops that sell fancy mushrooms, olive oil, sourdough bread, wine, cheese, produce and cupcakes, as well as well-known Bay Area restaurants the Slanted Door, Gott’s Roadside and Hog Island Oyster Company. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the outdoor plaza fills with farmer’s selling local, organic and seasonal produce, plus food merchants selling specialty cheeseburgers, tacos, pizzas and more. In other words, it’s mecca for the Bay Area’s sustainable food craze. The back wharf is a great spot to watch the boats passing under the Bay Bridge.

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More Things to Do in California

Hollywood Hills

Hollywood Hills

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27 Tours and Activities

Whether it’s hiking or horseback riding, biking or busing, there are plenty of ways to explore the well-heeled neighborhood of Hollywood Hills. Its famous bright white Hollywood sign has become an iconic California image and its panoramic views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley have made it worth venturing outside the city for tourists hoping to capture the perfect sunset picture.

Travelers can climb to the top of Mt. Hollywood or wander through scenic Griffith Park. John Anson Ford Theater, the Hollywood Bowl, the Hollywood Reservoir and Forest Lawn Memorial Park are also popular sites on a visit to this famed high-rent neighborhood, but visitors would do just as well to drive around the quiet streets taking in some of the most classic (and impressive) residential architecture in California.
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Oracle Park

Oracle Park

17 Tours and Activities

The best reason to go to a San Francisco Giants baseball game used to be to sit in AT&T Park, known for its ideal setting on the San Francisco Bay, with views of the water from the higher seats. But now, the best reason is to watch the 2010 World Series champions in action. There are few better ways to spend a summer evening in San Francisco than cheering on fan favorites like Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson and Cody Ross in one of the finest ballparks in the country, although “summer” is a misleading term – temperatures on a typical night at AT&T Park are not what you find at most baseball games, so bring jackets, scarves and other layers because you will need them. Welcome to San Francisco.

If you can’t get tickets to a game, you can stand at the archways along the waterfront promenade and watch a few innings for free.

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Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies

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The finest restaurants in town can't provide views as spectacular as the picnic tables atop Alamo Square Park facing Steiner Street's Postcard Row, a row of pastel Victorian houses, known as the Painted Ladies. In fact, the lavish gingerbread detailing, look-at-me bay windows, and frosting flourishes that adorn the houses may leave you craving dessert.

This collection of candy-jar colored Victorian houses is one of San Francisco's most famous assets. Though many exist throughout the city, this is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of these restored gems. At the corner of Fulton and Steiner streets, in Alamo Square, you can see the crisp edges of the Financial District skyscrapers behind a row of Victorians - it's one of the most famous views of San Francisco. You can even see City Hall.

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Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium of the Bay

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Located at the base of San Francisco’s bustling and touristy Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay takes you below the surface of San Francisco Bay. With 300 feet of clear acrylic tunnels holding 700,000 gallons of bay water, the view is as unique as the critters themselves. Aquarium of the Bay is home to approximately 20,000 animals, from sea stars to octopuses to native sharks.

There are three main exhibit areas to explore in the aquarium. Discover the Bay focuses on ecosystems. Touch the Bay puts critters like leopard sharks, big skates and juvenile bat rays at your fingertips. But what makes this city-sized aquarium truly unique is the Under the Bay tunnels exhibit. As you walk through the first tunnel you’ll see animals that live near shore including anchovies, sea bass and sea stars. Explore deeper water as you make your way through the second tunnel. Stop and stare as five species of local sharks and skates glides over top of your head.

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Ahwahnee Hotel

Ahwahnee Hotel

4 Tours and Activities

Of all Yosemite’s lodging options, Ahwahnee Hotel stands out - not only for its location, set amidst the park’s most recognizable features (you can see Yosemite Falls from the legendary dining room), but also for its interior, redolent of the dawn of Yosemite as a national park.

A National Historic Landmark, the Ahwahnee Hotel was the product of a need for “luxury” in the park. Completed and opened to the public in 1927, the hotel has 123 guest rooms comprised of 99 hotel rooms, four suites and 24 cottage rooms on the grounds surrounding the main building. It costs a pretty penny to stay in the Ahwahnee and rooms fill up quickly; to learn the story behind the architecture and interior design of one of the most recognized "Great Lodges of the West," sign up for a free tour. If you’re not up for spending the time—or money—in the dining room, enjoy a cocktail at the Ahwahnee Bar and still experience the flavor of the hotel.

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Madame Tussauds San Francisco

Madame Tussauds San Francisco

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Madame Tussauds around the world are famously home to wax recreations of famous figures, including celebrities, politicians, and athletes. Modeled after the original Madame Tussauds in London, the San Francisco Wax Museum was converted in the 17th Madame Tussauds worldwide in 2014. Life-size wax versions of Tiger Woods, Muhammed Ali, Abraham Lincoln, Michael Jackson, and Marilyn Monroe can be found here, among many others. Contemporary figures such as Barack Obama and Lady Gaga are also brought to life.

Madame Tussauds San Francisco is home in particular to an area called “The Spirit of San Francisco,” which celebrates local artists, politicians, and activists that have played a role in the city’s history. It is a chance to specifically see icons of the Bay Area in one place. The figures are set against realistic backdrops, making them all the more lifelike!

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San Francisco Dungeon

San Francisco Dungeon

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Welcome to Fisherman’s Wharf newest and spookiest attraction! Located in what formerly was the Wax Museum, the San Francisco Dungeon takes visitors on a frightening journey through the city’s gruesome past, from the Gold Rush era to Alcatraz. The experience consists of 36 enthusiastic and terrifying actors, 200 years of history, one dark boat ride and nine live shows—not to mention the screams! The Dungeon focuses on terror and ghastly stories, yet somehow manages to provoke genuine belly laughs even from those having just screamed bloody murder. Dark and claustrophobia-inducing spaces, working girls, murders, questionable surgical abilities and hair-raising stories await in company of San Francisco’s most sinister characters, like Miss Piggott, the Wild West saloon owner, and the infamous crimper, Shanghai Kelly.

The Dungeon features several attractions, including Gold Rush Greed, Lost Mines of Sutter’s Mill, the Court of San Francisco.

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SS Jeremiah O'Brien

SS Jeremiah O'Brien

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San Francisco has one of the only remaining historic World War II Liberty ships docked in its bay, and it is open to visitors. Named for American Revolutionary War ship captain, the SS Jeremiah O’Brien is one of only two currently operational World War II Liberty ships afloat of the 2,700 built during the war. The ship survived the storming of Normandy on D-Day in 1944, and is now a National Historic Landmark visitors can tour near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

The preserved Liberty ship is completely unaltered, allowing for an authentic and accurate historical experience of exploring the ship just as it was made. Walking through the hallways and on deck, one can truly experience a time and place of being on the ocean in wartime decades ago. Everything from the engine room to the flying bridge is accessible to visitors, allowing a rare glimpse into life at sea and at war at that time.

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Los Angeles Original Farmers Market

Los Angeles Original Farmers Market

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A historic Los Angeles landmark, the Los Angeles Farmers Market is a bustling market of food stalls, eateries, prepared food vendors, produce markets, and much more. You can easily spend a morning or afternoon here browsing the more than 100 restaurants, grocers and tourist shops.

Opened in 1934, the Farmers Market is a popular destination for foodies in search of the market’s wide assortment of flavors and cuisines. The market started when a dozen nearby farmers would park their trucks on a field to sell their fresh produce to local residents. It quickly grew in popularity, especially when CBS Television City opened next door and began providing those working or visiting that television studio a convenient place to shop or eat.

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Twin Peaks

Twin Peaks

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Always boasted as one of the best views in the city, Twin Peaks refers to two hills smack dab in the center of San Francisco. Twin Peaks gives visitors an easily accessible and completely free way to get your bearings on the best of downtown San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and the bay. Great for sunrises, sunsets, picnics, or simply a walk to see all that moves and shakes down below; Twin Peaks is one of San Francisco’s natural delights. On a clear day you can see for miles. Off to the west lies the bird sanctuary called Fallaron Islands and to the north, the illustrious Golden Gate. Look downtown and spot the bay Bridge and Oakland off in the distance beyond that. Walk to the North Peak (Eureka Peak) and find a tourist vista point named Christmas Tree Point for the trees the early settlers felled there.
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Dolby Theatre

Dolby Theatre

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80 Tours and Activities

Renamed in 2012 when sponsor Eastman Kodak filed for bankruptcy, this 180,000-square-foot, 3,400-seat theater now showcases Dolby Laboratories' state-of-the-art sound technologies. Situated in the popular Hollywood & Highland mall complex, the elegant Dolby Theatre hosts both the Academy Awards and Cirque du Soleil's Iris, a resident stage show which celebrates the history of film.

Periodically, the Dolby also plays host to charity benefits, movie premieres, special events and other televised award shows. The theater's soaring stage, one of the largest in the United States, has featured the national premiere of Pixar's Brave, the American Idol finals, the Daytime Emmys, the American Ballet Theatre and even President Barack Obama, while out on the campaign trail.

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Conservatory of Flowers

Conservatory of Flowers

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Imagine a botanical garden filled with the lush greenery of rare and exotic plants…in the middle of a major U.S. city. The Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is exactly that, housed in a Victorian greenhouse that is oldest public wood-and-glass conservatory in North America. It was originally commissioned by a wealthy businessman in the 19th century for his estate, though later bought by a group and presented to the public. After sustaining devastating damage from years of natural disasters it has since been strengthened and restored, becoming a central spot for San Franciscans seeking a place of beauty in the city.

Educational tours are given to connect people to the hundreds of rare plants. The conservatory is organized into sections based on plant type, including aquatic plants, highland tropics, lowland tropics, and potted plants — making the collection of brightly colored flowers and buds easy to navigate.

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Coit Tower

Coit Tower

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Perched on the top of Telegraph Hill in San Francisco's Pioneer Park, Coit Tower is one of the best panoramic views of the city. From the top of the art deco tower, you can spot the colorful flocks of parrots, which paint the treetops red and blue; further out, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, Angel Island, and Lombard Street.

Before heading to the top, enter the lobby to admire the 1930s murals inside the tower's ground floor. The 26 murals tell the story of California history, with frescoes depicting the rise of the state's industry. Indeed, some of these left-leaning murals, many of which were painted by artists who studied under Diego Rivera, were considered controversial when the tower first opened.

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Transamerica Pyramid

Transamerica Pyramid

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