Find free fun in San Francisco

SF mjAfter the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco took the nickname “The City That Knows How” as it rebuilt itself from the rubble. Today one might call it The City That Knows How To Take Your Money. Some visitors spend thousands of dollars per day and one recent survey named San Francisco the most expensive travel destination in the country. But those in the know can still find free fun with these ten outings in the cultural mecca and world-class tourist draw.

Golden Gate Bridge mj1. Walk or bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Either way provides a better perspective of the engineering marvel than driving and without the $7 toll. Pedestrians can use the east sidewalk during daylight hours, and cyclists can access it 24 hours a day.

2. Beside the Golden Gate Bridge, step back into time at Fort Point. The U.S. Army built the brick military base from 1853-1861 to protect San Francisco and its bay from attack by foreigners or Confederates. More than 150 years later, the invaders haven’t arrived but the Civil War-era base hosts visitors and conducts tours six days a week, Thursdays through Tuesdays.

Giants3. Catch the Giants at 24 Willie Mays Plaza. Although every game has sold out since San Francisco won the 2010 World Series, fans can still see the orange and black from a free viewing area behind the right field fence. Paddle a kayak into McCovey Cove with a radio and fishing net and you may even catch a “splash hit” home run ball. Check the team’s schedule at www.sfgiants.com.

4. “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Naturally, he’s in the park with the rest of the cast. Since 1983, Free Shakespeare in the Park has delivered just what its name promises in Golden Gate Park, Sigmund Stern Grove and most recently the Presidio. The summer weekend shows are also staged in Pleasanton, Redwood City and Cupertino because, after all, “all the world’s a stage.” Visit www.sfshakes.org for details.

5. Golden Gate Park attracts hikers, cyclists and roller skaters, especially on Sundays and holidays when roads close to improve the outdoors experience. Trails, gardens, lakes, playgrounds, monuments and even sand dunes fill more than 1,000 acres.

6. Located within Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum showcases priceless collections of American, African and Oceanic art from the 17th through the 21st centuries. The de Young was established in 1895 and opened its new novel and earthquake-resistant building in 2005. Closed on Mondays, the museum opens its doors for free on the first Tuesday of every month.

Academy of Sciences mj7. Another must-see attraction in Golden Gate Park is the California Academy of Sciences. A few hours here will feel like an around-the-world journey of discovery, featuring a rain forest, coral reef, swamp and planetarium. The academy opens its doors for free one Sunday per quarter. Check the dates at calacademy.org.

8. Dip your toes in the Pacific at Ocean Beach. Miles of white sand and surf make nature lovers feel far removed from city crowds at this beach popular for picnics and hiking (swimming in the cold water, not so much). Visit in fall or spring to avoid chilly summer fog.

9. Twin Peaks provides breathtaking panoramic views of both San Francisco and the Bay Area. Visitors can walk, bike, drive or take a bus to the north peak parking lot. About 925 feet high, the park’s summit is the second-highest point in San Francisco. Those wanting to reach the city’s highest point will have to climb a few extra feet to summit 928-foot Mt. Davidson in another nearby park.

City Hall10. City Hall boasts splendid architecture, art exhibits, no small amount of history and three tours each weekday. Visit sfgsa.org for details.

209 Magazine, 2014