Feeling grounded in the city? Take the Magical Mystery Muni Tour
April 3, 2008 12:41 PM
Get out much? If you're an out-of-town student living near campus, chances are you haven't seen as much of San Francisco as you know you should have—and if you're from here, perhaps the only time you explore the city nowadays is when family is in town and wants to see the sights.
It's time to venture out and see what this city is all about. The best way to do it? Riding the San Francisco Municipal Railway—or Muni, to you and me.
Sure, with its dirty and often-overcrowded buses and the sketchy-at-best scheduling, Muni hardly sounds like the most inspiring way to tour. But with more than 80 routes covering 90 percent of all the city's residences, Muni is the best option for seeing the underbelly of San Francisco.
The tour detailed here requires some patience—it consists of at least eight buses, two light rail trains and a cable car, and covers almost 30 miles—but if you're willing to give up an afternoon following the entire route, you'll be rewarded with a unique perspective of the city. Beginning and ending at SF State, it will take you as far north, east, south and west as the city will allow.
You can complete the tour in around four hours, but you may want to plan a whole day off to give you time to explore. Be sure to pick up a Muni map at the SF State bookstore before heading off.
M Ocean View
48 Quintara-24th Street
37 Corbett (Part I)
As the electric-powered bus winds its way around Twin Peaks, you’ll be wowed by the stunning views to the east: you’ll see the downtown skyline, the docks and shipyards at China Basin, and the Mission with its surrounding neighborhoods. Further east is the skyline of Oakland, set in front of the silhouetted Mount Diablo.
Hop off at 14th Street and Church, and explore the gay-centric vibe of the Castro district.
37 Corbett (Part II)
71 Haight-Noriega/7 Haight/66 Quintara
Notice the gentrification of Potrero Hill’s warehouse district—lofts and high-end grocery stores are everywhere.
At 3rd Street, you’ll see San Francisco’s dwindling blue-collar past, with cement factories, warehouses and dockyards set among the brand-new UCSF research center. The Ramp restaurant at 17th and Mariposa has an outdoor patio on the water’s edge, and features live music on weekends.
California Street Cable Car
Exit the Metro station and mosey over to where Drumm, California and Market intersect. From here you’ll ride a cable car up California Street. If you have a Fast Pass, the ride is free. If not, it’ll cost you a near-extortionate $5.
San Francisco has been operating these classic cars since 1873. The 1906 earthquake forced most of the routes to switch to streetcars, and now there are only three working cable car routes. The California route is San Francisco’s best-kept secret: while throngs of tourists line up for hours to ride the Powell-Mason line, this one is comparatively underused.
Catch glimpses of the bay through the buildings as the car hikes its way up the hill past Chinatown, Union Square, Grace Cathedral and the Fairmont Hotel, and then down to Van Ness Avenue, where it terminates.
47 Van Ness/49 Van Ness-Mission
28 19th Avenue
At the western edge of the fort, find the bus stop opposite the main entrance and take the 28 bus to the Golden Gate Bridge. Be sure to sit on the right side of the bus.
Once past the dreary motel-lined Lombard Street, you’ll be cruising along the ridge of the Presidio, where you’ll see the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, Alcatraz, Angel Island and plenty of sail boats bobbing about in the frisky bay waters. Look the other way, toward the Presidio, and the view is more sobering: the 28-acre San Francisco National Cemetery and its 30,000 military graves.
Disembark at the Golden Gate Bridge and take a stroll across the iconic “international orange”-colored structure.
Once past the wooded eucalyptus thickets, you’ll get a good view of the Pacific Ocean. Sometimes you can see the Farallon Islands, which are 27 miles off the coast and teeming with elephant seals and Great White Sharks.
Hop off at 25th Avenue and Fulton Street and explore Golden Gate Park—at over 1,000 acres, it’s one of the largest urban parks in the country.
Here you’ll find the recently renovated Cliff House restaurant, originally built in 1858 and overlooking the Sutro Baths, or the more contemporary Beach Chalet, which features an outdoor beer garden during the summer months.
18 46th Avenue
The tour finishes with a loop around the ever-shrinking Lake Merced—a freshwater lake fed by an underground spring, and surrounded by shooting ranges and three golf courses—before terminating at State Blvd.
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