San Francisco Two Ways

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Millions of visitors leave their hearts in San Francisco every year. Sadly, many of them are abandoned in the cheesy souvenir shops and tourist traps along Fisherman's Wharf. Sure, you can visit the famous sites Aunt Mildred swears are must-sees. (Heck, slug down a few Irish coffees at the Buena Vista Cafe, just like Auntie M.) But check out the alternatives, too. For every teeming tourist zone, there's a piece of San Francisco the locals claim as their own. Here are 14 nominations for the Tourist Trap Hall of Fame, paired up with 14 lesser-known spots the natives like to keep to themselves. So rent some wheels. Bravely venture outside the tourist ghetto. See the real San Francisco. Your heart will thank you. -- Gayle Keck

" Drive up Telegraph Hill via Lombard Street and Telegraph Hill Boulevard.

Cars idle on the slope of Telegraph Hill, stuck in long lines to reach limited parking at the top, where vehicular hostages can finally emerge to ogle Coit Tower and sweep their eyes over a sweet slice of the bay.


" Climb up Telegraph Hill via the Filbert Street steps.

Insiders know the coolest way to reach the top of Telegraph Hill is by scaling the Filbert steps. Instead of inhaling exhaust fumes, ditch your car, then huff and puff your way past hideaway houses and secret gardens on San Francisco's own stairway to heaven. Keep an eye out for the flock of wild parrots, descended from jail-breaking pets. Smell the flowers. Nibble wild blackberries. It's all so bucolic, you'll think you've entered Bambi's domain. At the top you'll still get that swell view of the tower and the bay. If the tourists ask why you're breathing hard, just smile mysteriously.

Catch the Filbert Street steps (more than 300 of 'em) on Sansome Street between Greenwich and Union, at the eastern base of Telegraph Hill.

" Pier 39.

A whole bunch of sea lions invaded the Pier 39 docks a few years back -- maybe to stare at the crowds. Flippered friends aside, the pier is just another collection of shops and restaurants where locals seldom tread.


" Crissy Field.

To spot abundant bird life, native plants, crazy windsurfers and frolicking canines, nature observers should head to Crissy Field, which fronts the bay not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. Recently reclaimed from a World War I airstrip, the area boasts a 20-acre tidal marsh with interpretive trails, sand beaches and a 1.3-mile waterfront promenade. If you want to get down by the water and get close to nature, this is your spot. Stop by the Warming Hut for snacks and gifts.

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