Off the Beaten Tourist Path in San Francisco: Golden Gate Park

Most visitors to San Francisco flock to Union Square, or Fisherman’s Wharf. I get why people spend their first visit to San Francisco riding a cable car or cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge or walking from Ghiradelli Square to Pier 39, or shopping at Union Square. In San Francisco, there is so much to do if you are willing to spend a little more time and go off the crowded tourist path. (And please do not call it “Frisco”; if you must shorten “San Fran” is okay. “The City” is what locals call this beautiful place.)

San Francisco Golden Gate Park Map

One frustration is finding parking. My Plan A to participate with my Brompton on a locally organized “Tweed Ride” was derailed by my inability to find parking. So I rerouted to Golden Gate Park. Over the years I have visited the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the DeYoung Art Museum multiple times and the Japanese Tea Garden and Conservatory of Flowers at least once. I parked my car and unpacked my bike and set out to find some new-to-me areas of the park.

Children's playground at Golden Gate Park

Parking at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday was not easy to find–luckily Ivy is compact. The first place I cycled  to was the Lawn Bowling Club of San Francisco. I turned to investigate and discovered a complex of tennis courts and then a children’s area. There is an extensive playground, a carousel and a hot dog stand with ice cream. Perfect for an outing with your kids or a first date.

Merry-Go-Round

I continued pedaling around and enjoyed the car free streets on Sunday. I especially liked watching the dads teaching their kids to ride bikes. I just gave a grown-up friend a lesson in riding a bike so I watched with curiosity. How is the learning process different for children? The main thing I noticed is that adults feel foolish using training wheels, so we compensate by lowering the seat so the learner can touch the ground easily with their feet and scoot along until their sense of balance allows them to begin pedaling. Both kids and adults need a lot of encouragement.

Youngster learning to ride a bike

Autumn and spring are the best times of year to visit San Francisco. The weather is usually beautiful. On this Sunday, there were many people jogging, and even more people riding their road bikes. Or push your kids in a stroller on the car-free interior streets and spend a day at the playground and carousel.

Taking Napa Valley for Granted

I live just 45 minutes from Napa Valley. Lucky me, right? Yet I rarely take advantage of the amazing food and beautiful landscapes. Mainly because I am not a big drinker, as in hardly ever. When I do enjoy a glass of wine I pay dearly that night or the next day. So when I go wine tasting with friends I am the designated driver.

Wine crusher statue greets visitors to Napa Valley
Wine crusher statue greets visitors to Napa Valley

Over the years I have had many, many great meals in Napa, Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga. Recently I participated in 2014 Global Co-Active Summit at the Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa. I took my Brompton bike to be able to ride everyday. The Meritage is located in an industrial park right on the other side of the hill that the Wine Crusher statue. There is a great walk through a vineyard to a pretty view once the morning fog burns off.

Meritage Resort pool area from hill walk.
Meritage Resort pool area from hill walk.

The cycling opportunities are a little less readily available from the Meritgage. The Summit kept me busy and my riding was limited to the industrial park. I having been thinking about driving back to the Valley to ride some hills.  I found this great blog post on 7X7 SF offering 6 bike routes.

The Meritage is staffed by exceptionally friendly and capable people, but the food service was limited for some mysterious reason, so I jumped on Trip Advisor and Yelp looking for a Mexican restaurant. The first place I looked for did not appear to exist. I drove a few more blocks to an address for another taco place by another name. Instead I found the Hacienda Taqueria at 1851 Old Sonoma Road. It was very authentic and affordable. The freshly made chips are delicious. The hot sauce on the tacos is very spicy and the chicken enchiladas very delicious. Went back two nights later with friends when we needed some quick, filling, tasty food to go.

I will share when I try one of the routes from the 7X7 SF blog post.