What’s New and Fun in San Francisco?
This bus tour circles San Francisco revealing secrets and surprises! In 2010, we see what’s new at the Presidio including Inspiration and Immigrant viewpoints (all different from the standard Presidio tour), the newest public art and structures in San Francisco, the most beautiful, colorful tiled stairway in San Francisco, floral displays at Golden Gate Park and a restroom stop where there is a free art exhibit. This tour can be done as all bus riding with several optional stops or a short, level walk can be included to see more new and fun points of interest.
Accessible Neighborhoods and Parks in San Francisco
Walking tours are available in 20 different areas of the City – all without hills or steps. Each route is one mile long or less and includes rest stops and bathrooms stops as well as a variety of points of interest. All tours can be customized for your group depending on walking ability. Pacific Heights East , one of the most popular tours, features Victorians, historical buildings, and consulates as well as amazing views and flower gardens as we explore along the crest of one of San Francisco's 42 hills. Fort Mason is a preserved Army base, combining history with views, sculptures, and a community garden. Golden Gate Park's Arboretum has 8,000 varieties of plants; we see 11 of the 25 unique garden plantings on our one mile loop walk. The Cow Hollow neighborhood with its variety of architecture can be combined with a tour of the Octagon House (houses an historic collection of Colonial and Federal period artifacts) right on the tour route. Follow any of these tours with lunch at a neighborhood restaurant or give tour participants the option of picking their own restaurant near the end of the tour. Most of these walks are accessible via public transportation. [2 hour tour]
Option: include a full-color self-guided tour booklet as a souvenir for $4/person.
Explore South San Francisco and San Mateo Coastline
Did you know that the San Francisco Bay Trail is now complete with many sections of accessible trails? The coastal trail from Candlestick State Recreation Area to Foster City is a gem. We will see it all from planes landing at SFO to parks, marinas and kite surfing. We will explore the coastline route with stops at Oyster Point, Bayfront Park, Burlingame Lagoon, Coyote Point, and some surprises. All stops include optional short walks.
[3 hour tour]
San Francisco’s Presidio and Lucasfilm Empire
First we explore the historic Presidio (via bus) with a stop at the Officer's Club, now the Park Visitor's Center. We circle the Presidio to see the old Army buildings that have been renovated as homes, offices and conference centers. Then, we drive (or walk) to Letterman Digital Arts Center. We will view the Main Lobby museum and the grounds and learn Lucas' plans for his "new empire". There are unparalleled views of the Palace of Fine Arts as we are surrounded by brick and stucco military-like buildings, big granite boulders, streams, and rolling green knolls. Come and experience the ambience Lawrence Halprin created for the common areas of this giant 23-acre office complex. We will walk through the gardens and end with coffee at Starbuck's (in one of the new office buildings.) Or follow the tour with an optional lunch at one of the Presidio's ten restaurants. [2 hour tour]
*WINTER tour, can be done via bus with all walking indoors
tour can be done via bus with all walking indoors
Waterfalls and Public Roof Gardens in Downtown
Waterfalls in Downtown San Francisco? Rooftop gardens open to the public? Yes, to both questions! 1% of the funds spent on any private building in San Francisco must go toward public spaces. Sometimes this is an art exhibit in the lobby BUT sometimes it’s a waterfall (there are 12 along our route) or a rooftop garden (with a great view). Many are unknown to the general public. Join your guide, “On The Level” Marilyn Straka, for a mile-long walking tour of downtown San Francisco to see these hidden treasures. The bus will drop us at the start and pick us up at the end following a coffee stop. Optional: pickup points will be available for those preferring a shorter walk.
[2 hour tour]
Holiday Lights in San Francisco (December only) - Bus or Walking Tour
Join your “On The Level” guide for a tour to see downtown San Francisco and all that glitters at the Holiday Season! This fun-filled program provides insights into San Francisco history as well as current city trivia. Highlights include a lighted garden, uniquely decorated and festive hotels, office lobbies, and retail locations. Don't miss the huge Union Square tree and the live animals in Macy's windows!
Options for Holiday Lights Tour:
- Daytime (2:30 to 4:45pm) – mostly bus riding with three optional stops, end at Union Square to see the lights come on.
- Evening (4:30 to 7pm) – most bus riding; stops and/or walking can be customized to meet the needs of the participants.
- Evening (4:30 to 7pm) – all walking (10 blocks) with multiple stops to rest and see the sights.
The Mission District, the first neighborhood in San Francisco's modern history, was founded in 1776 by a 240-member expedition who set out from Mexico to establish a mission and adjacent pueblo on behalf of the Spanish government. In the wake of the Gold Rush, the neighborhood's population swelled with influxes of immigrants from Germany, Italy, Ireland and Russia, followed by those from Mexico and Latin America beginning in the mid-20th century. During the 90s tech boom, young entrepreneurs fresh out of colleges purred a wave of gentrification. As such, the Mission district serves as a cultural microcosm of the evolution of San Francisco as well as California.
This tour will be mostly bus riding with 7 blocks of level walking. The tour begins at Mission Dolores, the oldest intact Mission in California. Via bus, we enjoy a leisurely drive through the Mission’s distinctive Victorian neighborhoods, parks & shopping districts. The tour will also include photo stops at the Women’s Building & Bethany Center, the largest and most spectacular of the Mission’s 100 murals. Our tour continues with a short walk down 24th Street, the heart of the Latino burro where will enjoy a sample of traditional Mexican agua dulce (tropical fruit juice) and a Mexican pastry. We will then stroll down Balmy Alley, a block-long outdoor museum of public art. Inspired by Mexican muralists such as Diego Rivera & Orozco, mural artists have covered the walls of this tiny alley with murals reflecting the needs, hopes & dreams of the immigrant community. After our tour, we will eat lunch at an authentic family-owned Mexican restaurant, San Jalisco, corner of Van Ness and 20th St., in the Mission. 3 hour tour + lunch
Barbary Coast and Lunch in Chinatown
We start our adventure in the heart of the Barbary Coast area of San Francisco, on Montgomery St, the old waterline in the 1850’s. We visit the Wells Fargo History Museum for 45 minutes (includes bathroom break) and then walk for an hour from the Financial district to the historic Jackson Square area and end in Chinatown. Here we will have lunch at the Oriental Pearl at 760 Clay St (433-1817). Option after lunch: shopping on Grant St. or visit the only remaining fortune cookie factory (where cookies are folded by hand and you can enclose your own customized message).
This tour can be customized for those who want a shorter walk by having the bus available to pick up people and take them directly to the restaurant. Also, you can start in Chinatown with lunch and end at the Wells Fargo History Museum. A third option is to do the tour without lunch, starting at 10am or 1pm.
The cost of the lunch is additional: $10.75/person including tax and tip. Discounts for groups over 20. I have done this tour multiple times for Elderhostel groups and it is a lot of fun.
[3 - 4 hour tour]
Chinatown - Past and Present
Join Marilyn Straka, your 'On The Level' tour guide, to see the highlights of Chinatown. Learn the history of Chinatown with a stroll through Portsmouth Square. Grant St. is colorful with its curio shops, tea tasting and restaurants but soon we leave this behind to explore quiet alleys with painted balconies, visit a Buddhist Temple (at ground level), an herb shop and finally the only remaining Fortune Cookie factory in San Francisco. Here you can sample freshly baked cookies, buy chocolate fortune cookies or create your own custom cookie (you write the fortune and they enclose it in a hand-folded cookie, hot from the oven). Optionally, we can walk up an incline to Stockton St. where the locals buy their fresh fish, poultry and Chinese veges. This is quite a unique experience! Or shop on your own until lunch. We will have a delicious dim sum meal at the Oriental Pearl. [2 hour tour]
Nob Hill and the Fairmont Hotel
We start our adventure
with a cable car ride from California and Van Ness to the Fairmont
Hotel (optionally ride the bus to the hotel). We will tour the lobby
of the hotel and learn about the hotel’s Centennial celebration and
then explore the garden behind the hotel with a view of the
penthouse suite. We will walk about 6 blocks to explore the Silver Baron homes, Pacific Union Club, Huntington Park and end at the beautiful Gothic showcase, Grace Cathedral. We will go inside to tour and rest. Finally you may walk the labyrinth or catch a cup of java at Peet’s in the basement of the church before the bus pickup.
[2 hour tour]
tour can be done via bus with all walking indoors
'Hidden' Sausalito and Its Floating Suburbs
Join ‘On The Level’ Marilyn Straka for a tour of Sausalito, our West Coast “Mediterranean seaside village”. Sausalito was an artist’s colony in the 1950’s as well as home to Sally Stanford, the great San Francisco madam. Learn more history of the area, other fun facts, and see first-hand how the locals live. Explore the level and picturesque Bridgeway street: shops, art galleries, marinas and your choice of a dozen restaurants for lunch. But getting there is half the fun: approach via the Golden Gate Bridge with a stop at Vista Point (from the south) and a stop to see the “floating suburbs” of Sausalito, a community of 400 houseboats. [3 to 4 hour tour] (includes time for lunch and shopping)
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park at the Port of Oakland
Join your "On The Level" tour guide, Marilyn Straka, for a fascinating "flat" tour of a new Oakland shoreline park. There are views of the San Francisco skyline as well as close-ups of wildlife. But, imagine being able to see a container ship being loaded or unloaded right before your eyes! Our tour begins as we drive along Maritime St. where we are surrounded by thousands of containers, trailer trucks and steel-limbed gantry cranes. We drive around the park to see views, the salvaged mast of the USS Oakland and many historical maritime features including bollards for tying up ships and pier remnants. There are 3 miles of paved paths to choose from as we enjoy a short stroll through this 38-acre green space. There is also an observation tour and scopes. We will time our tour to hopefully view a container ship coming into port and unloading its cargo. Several picnic areas are accessible if you chose to have lunch following the tour.
[2 hour tour]
Historic Churches in San Francisco
Join your "On The Level" tour guide, Marilyn Straka, for a driving and walking tour of 15 churches in the northern and central part of San Francisco. We will see varied and unusual architecture as we explore a route that shows how San Francisco grew from a small settlement in 1848 to a population of 750,000 today. As the population grew, so did the numbers and variety of churches and synagogues. We will tour the inside of three churches along the route. Come and see the oldest church in San Francisco (Old St. Mary’s in Chinatown, where the Moonies got their start (a Victorian House in Pacific Heights) and a modern landmark on the skyline (new St. Mary’s Cathedral).
[2 hour tour]
*NOTE: Winter tour can be done via bus with all walking indoors
Scenic Overlooks at the Presidio in San Francisco
New, details soon. Let me know if you want to book this. [2 hour tour]
UCSF - New Medical Campus at Mission Bay
Join your "On The Level" tour guide, Marilyn Straka, for a driving and walking tour of the new 57.5-acre UCSF Mission Bay campus. It is well worth a visit to see and experience the energy of this world-class bio-medical research facility. It is just ½ mile south of busy downtown San Francisco but you feel you are in a different world. It is inspirational as you are surrounded by gigantic modern buildings, housing state-of-the-art research into cancer, heart disease and HIV. Genentech Hall looks like an amphitheater with huge strands of DNA in its lobby. There is a park with ample seating and tables for a picnic lunch or enjoy the indoor Pub with healthy, sustainable cuisine as well as traditional “pub faire”. The building lobbies are open to the public or book a private docent-led tour (call Marilyn for more information). [2 hour tour]
Mellow Walking Series
This series of ten walks works well for seniors with limited walking ability (1/2 block to three blocks). Every walk is level (no inclines), has a bathroom at the start, and benches are available for resting along the way. There is a Marin series and a San Francisco series or you can get a combination. These walks can be purchased individually or as a series. They can be purchased with or without a guide. A bus is needed to get to the start of each walk.
Call Marilyn to discuss pricing for the series.
Walking the Labyrinth
The Bay Area has captured the ancient tradition of walking the labyrinth. On this driving and “Walking the Labyrinth” tour, you will pass five locations (optional stops) open to the public where we have the opportunity to try your hand (actually feet) at ‘walking the path' with the goal of gaining renewed vision, inspiration and insight. Each person will have their own unique experience. One of the “secret” labyrinths is high on a hill overlooking a castle in Marin County. If this is the labyrinth you choose to walk, a picnic area adjoins the site. Or you may choose to lunch in Sausalito or nearby on your return trip. [4 hour tour] (includes time for lunch)
Stanford Campus and Art from Around the Globe
Leland Stanford Jr. University, dedicated to the Stanford's only son, is the 2nd largest campus in the world and, of course, one of the most prestigious. Did you know it is 40 times the size of Harvard? Learn about the Stanford's stock farm and little Leland's miniature railroad around the property. Today it is still lovingly called “The Farm”. We will tour via bus to get an overview of the campus and visit the 14th floor of the Hoover Tower for an awesome view. We walk to enjoy up close the Spanish-style architecture and the more than 50 sculptures set around the campus. The Rodin sculpture garden is a gem. Can be followed by lunch at Stanford Shopping Center or other venue. [4 hour tour] (includes time for lunch)
Secrets of the San Jose Library
Explore the Dr. Martin Luther King Library as a treasure hunt (clues provided by On The Level) or as a guided tour. There are 33 works of art/surprises by Mel Chin that are “tucked like Easter eggs” throughout the 8-story building. These are built into the architecture (a supporting beam is a tree trunk instead of a column) or hidden in the stacks of books (the books are fake and open to expose a treasure). Even the bathrooms are not exempt from the surprises. It is sure to be a fun day of exploring and conversation solving the sometimes-whimsical, sometimes-obscure art installations. Follow the tour with lunch in the adjoining park and a look at the new San Jose City Hall. [4 hour tour] (includes time for lunch)
Explore, Dine and Culture Packages
This series of walks/driving tours offers options to explore a neighborhood or park, see a low-cost or free art museum and have a lunch or brunch at a nearby restaurant. The amount of walking can be customized for the abilities of the group.
Some venues to consider:
- Yerba Buena Gardens (Mission and 3 rd ) with several small museums and/or galleries nearby or a free concert in the park
- Presidio with its free changing art exhibit at the Visitor's Center
- Cow Hollow neighborhood with the Octagon House tour
- Chinatown tour followed by a free concert at St. Mary's Church.
4 hour tour (includes time for lunch)
Cost: $10 to 15/person with a 10-person minimum
What are participants saying about these programs?
“We will go anywhere, anytime with Marilyn. When is our next trip?”
“I didn't know that all of this was so close by as well as accessible.”
“Flat out fun!”
JOIN THE FUN – Call Marilyn to book your event (415) 921-1382.
Visit my website at www.OnTheLevelSF.com