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Free Ride

Blaze your own trails through San Francisco and beyond with this guide for all ages and abilities.
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Difficulty: Unknown
Length: 165 miles
Duration: Unknown
Family Friendly

Overview :  Explore the region at your own pace with the Free Ride guide, safe in the knowledge that you're riding on 165 miles of the best bike... more »

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Points of Interest

One of the most iconic images of San Francisco, Lombard Street is also one of the crookedest streets in the world. The quarter-mile long switchback road was designed this way in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was considered too steep for cars and pedestrians alike.

2. SF Maritime National Park

Travel back in time to see how 19th Century sailors fared on the Pacific Ocean at the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, which includes tours of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility.

(415) 447-5000
Free admission to Hyde Street Pier.
Paid admission required to board vessels.
... More

Formerly the headquarters of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company this preserved block of historic brick buildings is now home to a selection of stores and restaurants.

(415) 775-5500
Free admission.
http://ghirardellisq.com

4. Wave Organ

Listen to the music of the waves at the Wave Organ, an art installation that includes 25 organ pipes that rumbles, gurgles and sloshes when the waves move in and out of the pipes.

This piece of environmental art was created by Peter Richards and George Gonzales in 1986 for the Exploratorium, including pieces of masonry salvaged from a demolished... More

A huge warehouse of science experiments, the Exploratorium has hundreds of hands-on exhibits for a child or an adult to explore, discover and play.

Touch magnetic black sand, watch a giant ring of mist rise 30 feet in the air, perform some math on a calculator powered by gravity, or crawl and feel your way through a dark obstacle course in the ... More

The Panama Pacific Exposition of 1915 was an event dedicated to progress, the celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal and the rebirth of San Francisco following the disastrous 1906 earthquake.

Considered by many the most romantic feature of the fair, the Palace of Fine Arts was the only building to remain in place after the demolition... More

7. Yoda Statue

Today's Presidio has as much in common with Star Wars as it does wars past. The revitalized former military base is now home to many companies including famed movie special effects artists Industrial Light and Magic and LucasArts. This modest Jedi statue is a welcome nod to the current tenants. Impressive, it is.

In 1846 the U.S. Army took control of this once windswept dune area from Mexico and transformed it into a large military base called The Presidio. In 1994 the National Park Service took over the area and it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Today, the military buildings still stand, although non-profits, businesses and ... More

Celebrating the life and achievements of the father of Mickey Mouse, the Walt Disney Family Museum is a relatively new addition to San Francisco having opened in 2009. The museum is a great attraction for both children and adults alike, as it presents the story of the man's rise to great things, as told by himself and those who knew him well.

... More

10. Inspiration Point

A great place to take a rest and catch some fantastic views, Inspiration Point is a vista point that provides panoramic vistas of San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and the verdant Presidio forest.

(415) 561-5418
Free admission.
http://www.presidio.gov/experiences/trails

Once the military’s first Air Coast Defense Station on the Pacific Coast, Crissy Field is now a great place to take a break at one of the cafes or picnic tables that sit along a promenade trail. After a quick break you can head to the beach and watch the kiteboarders and windsurfers weave and bob under the Golden Gate bridge or check out the... More

Want to catch some air? House of Air is an indoor trampoline park that lets the kid in you jump and twist on a floor covered with 42 trampolines!

The trampoline floor is also surrounded on all sides by full-sized trampoline walls set at angles to the floor, allowing flyers maximum uninterrupted bounce.

(415) 345-9675
Paid admission.
... More

13. Fort Point

The once grand military fortress guarding the entrance to San Francisco Bay is now dwarfed by the bridge stretching above it. Fort Point National Historic Site has been well preserved for its architectural and historical appeal and can be explored for free by the public.

(415) 556-1693
Free admission.
http://nps.gov/fopo/index.htm

The World Records that the Golden Gate Bridge held back in 1937 may have now been surpassed, but the jewel in San Francisco's crown remains proud as an icon of engineering and art-deco design and possibly the most recognizable bridge in the world.

Held in place by cables supported by the two 750ft tall towers, the 1.7 mile span connects the San... More

15. Rich and Famous

In a city where you need to be a millionaire to own the house the size of a shoebox, the dwellings in this neighborhood are notable by their size and equal parts elegance and garishness. To live around here you need to be particularly wealthy, or perhaps a famous comedian and celebrated actor ..

The Legion of Honor contains over seventy sculptures by Auguste Rodin, including a bronze caste of one of his more famous sculptures, The Thinker.

The Legion of Honor also has a collection of European painting from the 14th through 20th centuries including works by Fra Angelico, El Greco, Rubens, Rembrandt, Watteau, Gainsborough, Monet,... More

This dramatic clifftop location is a great place to enjoy a leisurely lunch or dinner whilst enjoying the Pacific Ocean views.

(415) 386-3330
http://www.cliffhouse.com

Two restaurants, one building. Choose the upstairs Beach Chalet for views facing Ocean Beach and some spectacular sunsets, or decide on the slightly less formal Park Chalet at ground level which opens up onto lawns and patios. Both venues are highly recommended.

(415) 386-8439
http://www.beachchalet.com
http://www.parkchalet.com

19. SF Zoo

At the San Francisco Zoo you can check out more than 250 species of animals and e
as well as view the daily penguin, grizzly, or American white pelican feedings.

(415) 753-7080
Paid admission.
http://www.sfzoo.org

20. Dutch Windmill

One of two windmills located within the park, the restored Dutch Windmill is an impressive landmark. Commissioned in 1902 the windmills were built to pump water to the park, but became relics once more effective electric pumps took over pumping duties.

21. Bison Field

A legacy of a century old commitment to conservation, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has been home to a small herd of bison since 1891 back when their numbers where dangerously low. Today’s animals still call the park home.

When you fancy a break from pedaling around the park, why not pedal around a Stow Lake instead? Or if you prefer to give your legs a rest, try renting a rowing boat instead to explore the lake, the waterfall and the pagoda. And try and spot some turtles, too.

Paid boat rental.
(415) 752-0347

USA's oldest public Japanese tea garden was originally built as the Japanese Village for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894, which pre-dates the more modern Worlds Fair festivals.

Wander through the garden and enjoy the decorative foilage, koi ponds, wooden bridges and artistic pagodas chased with a refreshing cup of tea... More

24. SF Botanical Gardens

The San Francisco Botanical Garden contains over 8,000 varieties of plants from around the world spread out over 55 landscaped acres. You can see plants from New Zealand, South Africa, East Asia, Chile, Australia, as well as California natives. There are also some special gardens including a Meso-American Cloud Forest, a Redwood Trail, and a... More

The De Young Museum not only has world class art, but also has one of the best views of Golden Gate Park and San Francisco at its observation tower, a glass enclosed structure that provides 360 degree views.

The museum’s general collection includes American Painting, American Decorative Art, African Art, Art of the Americas, Oceanic Art, and... More

The California Academy of Sciences is the only museum in the world that can boast an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum and a four-story rainforest dome all under the same roof. Speaking of the roof, the open-air observation deck on the museum roof features the densest concentration of native wildflowers in San Francisco.

(415) 379... More

The oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America, the Conservatory of Flowers is not only wonderful example of Victorian architecture, but it also houses exotic plants, tropical flowers, and special exhibits.

(415) 831-2090
Paid admission.
http://conservatoryofflowers.org

28. Children's Playground and Carousel

One of the oldest playgrounds in the United States is still a great place to take the kids - whether their preference is for the sand pit, climbing frames or concrete slides.

The area even includes a 1914 era classic wooden carousel complete with a menagerie of animals to ride from horses and camels, to frogs and ostriches!

At over three miles long and nine city blocks wide, a bicycle is possibly the best way you could explore this enormous urban park. Within its boundaries you’ll find two museums, a botanical garden, a large conservatory, Japanese tea gardens, nine lakes, a field for grazing bison, a baseball field, a huge polo field, tennis courts, soccer fields,... More

If you’re going to San Francisco, you might want to be sure to wear flowers in your hair when you’re visiting Haight Ashbury, a neighborhood forever immortalized by the era of the Summer of Love.

Back in 1967 a perfect storm of counter-culture, psychedelic rock music and drug subculture all came together here. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson... More

Surviving the twin threats of earthquakes and redevelopment, many fine examples of Victorian homes still exist today scattered throughout the city, but none are so well-known as the Painted Ladies on Alamo Square. You’ll have seen them in every guidebook and on every postcard rack (which is why this viewpoint is also known as 'Postcard Row') and... More

Rebuilt after being destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, the City Hall and surrounding landscape is an impressive sight to behold. Head inside the building and you’ll remain impressed, and you can even sign up for a free 45 minute tour.

Movie buffs may recognize the building from some prominent San Francisco films including Milk, Bedazzled, The... More

If you're looking to shop until you drop, then look no further than Union Square. The Union Square area of San Francisco includes hotels, department stores, upscale boutiques, theaters, etc.

Union Square was also the principal exterior location for the famous 1974 movie ‘The Conversation’, directed by San Francisco resident Francis Ford Coppola... More

34. Westfield Shopping Center

Two blocks from Union Square, Westfield Shopping Center contains a Century Theatres multiplex and over 170 stores including the west coast flagship Bloomingdale's and the second largest Nordstrom store in the U.S.

(415) 512-6776
Free admission.
http://westfield.com/sanfrancisco

35. SF Museum of Modern Art

SFMOMA includes 26,000 works of modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on photography, painting and sculpture, architecture and design, and media arts. The museum’s painting and sculpture collections include Abstract Expressionism, Conceptualism, German Expressionism, and the art of California. The photograph collection also comprises... More

Situated at the end of Market Street, there’s much more to the Ferry Building that merely catching a boat across the bay. Inside you’ll find many stores and cafes and restaurants vying for your attention including artisan foods, ice-cream and the immensely popular Slanted Door restaurant. Outside you’ll find farmer’s market stalls in front of the ... More

Run by the non-profit organization that’s also responsible keeping the history of San Francisco public transit alive in the shape of the historic streetcars and the famed cable cars, this small museum is a goldmine of artifacts and exhibits for anyone with an interest in history or railway transportation.

(415) 974-1948
Free admission.
... More

The 214ft towering landmark which sits atop Telegraph Hill has been gracing the San Francisco landscape since 1933. Often admired from afar, Coit tower is also worthy of a visit on a clear day. Views from the top of the hill are mightily impressive, plus you can continue to the top of the tower by elevator and enjoy the 360-degree views across the... More

39. SF-Oakland Bay Bridge

Older brother to the Golden Gate Bridge by a mere six months, the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge also boasts bigger statistics. Carrying twice the load with its double-deck span the structure carries vehicles 4½ miles from shore to shore, although the eastern spans of the bridge are difficult to see from a San Francisco vantage point as... More

40. AT&T Ballpark

Home of the San Francisco Giants, this 42,000 seater ballpark has been packing in the fans only since 2000. The park has seen many exciting baseball moments, but none more than in 2010 when the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series. Sports trivia fans will probably try and point out here that the team has won the title before, but not ... More

Sailing from Pier 33, Alcatraz cruises is the only way to get on and off the The Rock, but that’s at least one more option than the prisoners of this island penitentiary had. In peak season be sure to purchase your tickets in advance.

(415) 981-7625
Paid admission includes both ferry and island.
http://www.alcatrazcruises.com
... More

Great but relatively small aquarium located by the entrance to Pier 39. Though not a world-class attraction, its a great location to while away a couple of hours entranced by a good selection of aquatic animals. Includes two tunnels and a touch pool where you can get up close and personal with leopard sharks and rays.

(415) 623-5300
Paid... More

The wildly popular large pier on the eastern side of Fisherman's wharf is a great place to come for a short stroll, a little shopping, or dining at one of more than a dozen restaurants.

Attractions even include a carousel, a 4D ride experience, a mirror maze and aquarium. And don't leave San Francisco without saying 'hi' to the sea lions who hang... More

44. Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry

The Blue and Gold Fleet ferries serve the routes listed below. The company additionally operates a RocketBoat during summer season and cruises around the bay.
• Pier 39/41 to Angel Island, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo
• Ferry Building to Vallejo, Alameda/Oakland

(415) 705-8200
Paid admission.
Blue & Gold Fleet website.

Red and White Fleet's cruises sail from Pier 43½ at the heart of Fisherman's Wharf. They feature cruises of varying lengths to match your needs and offer the chance of romantic sunset and twilight cruises also.

(415) 673-2900
Paid admission.
http://www.redandwhite.com/

The Fisherman's Wharf is usually at the top of most visitors lists of places to visit in San Francisco. It may be for the many restaurants or crab stands, for the street performers, for the sea lions at the end of pier 39, for the bay views or just somewhere to while away the time waiting for a ferry, but this place sure draws the crowds.

Be sure... More

Home of one of the world's largest collections of antique mechanical arcade machines. Discover out how your great-grandparents were entertained before Playstation, Pacman and Pong.

For those remember Rubik's cubes and legwarmers and want a blast from their own past, the museum also features a selection of 1980s and 90s arcade machines in... More

Only two of the 2,710 Liberty Ships built during the second world war, only two fully functional vessels remain. The SS Jeremiah O'Brien survived the war intact, even after making several wartime voyages including eleven trips across the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies to Normandy in support of the D-Day landings.

You can take a... More

Tour the depths of the US Pampanito submarine and learn about this World War II veteran which sank six enemy ships and damaged four others. Located behind the Musee Mechanique building.

(415) 775-1943
Paid admission.
http://maritime.org/tour/index.php

50. Point Bonita Lighthouse Trailhead

Built in 1855 and relocated in 1877, the Point Bonita Lighthouse was built to guide ships coming entering the San Francisco Bay during the gold rush era. Now operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse is still guiding ships into the Bay.

To visit Point Bonita and the lighthouse you'll have to lock up your bike at the trailhead and... More

Housed within a converted church, the Marin Headlands Visitor Center is worthy of a visit to learn more about the people who lived in these hills. From coastal Miwok native Americans to the men and women who manned the military bases and defenses of this area, the excellent interpretive facilities explain all in detail.

(415) 331-1540
Free... More

52. Rodeo Beach

Popular with surfers and sunbathers alike, this sheltered Marin Headlands beach is a great location to hang out and enjoy the ocean shore.

This non-profit organization opens its doors to the public at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands to share in an understanding of the animals it cares for.

In addition to research and education programs, the center is directly responsible for caring for up to two thousand sick marine mammals each year, many of which are cared for at... More

54. Bunker Road Tunnel

Keep to the cycle lane on this single-track section of the road and there'll be plenty of space for both you and the cars. Head for the light at the end of the tunnel, and consider the 500ft of hill above you that this short-cut saves you the trouble of scaling!

55. Pulpit Rock Viewpoint

The diversionary route via Fort Baker is a great chance not only to freewheel under Golden Gate Bridge all the way to the water’s edge but also a perfect place for a photo opportunity and a classic, yet less well known picture-postcard view of the bridge with Pulpit Rock in the foreground. The jetty at this location is also a great spot from which... More

This isn’t just a museum, it’s a wonderful play area for your 6 month to 8 year old to be curious, creative and adventurous. Indoor and outdoor exhibits include an art studio, a simulation of the San Francisco and Oakland ports, and an outdoor play area featuring natural, cultural and built icons of the Bay Area.

Not only is this a great place ... More

At the former fishing village of Sausalito you’ll find a perfect place to browse the little boutique stores that line the bay-side road. Follow this up with refreshments or a meal at one of the many well regarded restaurants near the center of the town where you can also enjoy views of the San Francisco skyline across the water.

(415) 332-0505
... More

58. Sausalito Ferry Dock

Blue & Gold Fleet sails back to San Francisco's Pier 39 (Fisherman's Wharf) whilst the Golden Gate Ferry service returns to the San Francisco Ferry Building.

(415) 705-8200 | Blue & Gold Ferry website
(415) 455-2000 | Golden Gate Ferry website

59. Bay Model Visitor Center

Want to visit the entire bay area in less than an hour? The Bay Model is a giant hydraulic model of the San Francisco Bay, Sacramento River and San Joaquin Delta.

About the size of two football fields, the model was built in 1957 by the US Army Corps of Engineers to study the water flow, tides and current of the bay and humans’ affect on this ... More

60. Waldo Point Houseboats

The lucky few who own a houseboat at Waldo Point have the San Francisco Bay as their backyard. This part of Sausalito was used to construct the Liberty Ships during WWII. After the war, beat-generation folks and hippies called these houseboats home.

Today 245 houseboats are privately owned and have a lease with the harbor for their berth. ... More

Seated in the shadow of Mount Tamalpais, the modern town of Mill Valley grew out of the lumber business which supplied wood for San Francisco's Presidio.

Today Mill Valley is very popular residential neighborhood, in part due to the town's setting and the great weather the area has compared with San Francisco. Many popular restaurants serve the... More

Named for the old wood mill which gave Mill Valley its name, its with some irony that the park contains some of the few remaining large redwood trees in the area. The timber-framed structure by the river is a faithful recreation of the shell of the former mill building.

Visiting this small park is a worthwhile excursion if you're already in the... More

Tiburon in Spanish means 'shark' and is named for the many leopard sharks that frequent the San Francisco Bay. You're unlikely to see many sharks in Tiburon, you will see great views of the San Francisco skyline, Angel Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tiburon is a small, usually sunny town which sports boutique stores and a whole host of... More

Take a break and have a snack or play some horseshoes at the West Point Inn - a 1904 historic inn that has views of the East Bay, parts of San Francisco, the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Pacific Ocean.

The inn was once a stopover for passengers who rode the 'Crookedest Railroad in the World' up from Mill Valley to the top of the ... More

65. Tiburon Ferry Dock

Blue and Gold Fleet provide a ferry service between San Francisco Pier 39 boarding from the left of the restaurants. A service to Angel Island is also available from here - proceed to the Angel Island-Tiburon Ferry Company, who sail from a dock to the right of the Blue & Gold service.

(415) 705-8200 | Blue & Gold Fleet (to SF Pier 39)
(415)... More

66. Mt. Tamalpais East Peak

Known to locals simply as Mt Tam, a visit to Mt. Tamalpais State Park is the perfect day-trip and once you're here it's hard to believe you're just a stone's throw away from the second biggest city on the West Coast.

From the parking lot, visitor center and restroom area there's a short half-mile journey to the 2,572 ft summit which is accessible... More

Muir Woods National Monument protects one of the few remaining patches of old-growth redwood forest which used to blanket the western coast. Spared from the axe of the lumberjack initially by the location’s inaccessibility, and then by preservationists, Muir Woods became a National Monument in 1908.

Though the park doesn’t host either the largest... More

A faithfully recreated seventeenth century English country pub nestled in the valley between Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Beach. This is a great location for cyclists, hikers, motorists and beach-goers alike and attracts folk who enjoy a shepherds pie by the fireplace or a pint of ale on the lawn.

(415) 383-6000
http://www.pelicaninn.com

Tucked away into the hills of the Marin Headlands, this rarely crowded beach offers tranquility to nature-lovers and a great place to simply be. Though the beach is semi-sheltered, its not known for it sun-baked sand and on some days the breeze can chill you to the bone if you’re not suitably wrapped up!

Free admission.
... More

70. Stinson Beach

California is known for its beaches and Stinson Beach is one of Northern California’s gems. This 3½ mile sandy beach has a 52-acre park with 100 picnic tables and grills, lifeguards on duty from May through October, and a snack bar from April through September.

(415) 868-1922
Free admission.
http://www.nps.gov/goga/stbe.htm

71. Ayala Cove

Welcome to Angel Island! A great place to enjoy the San Francisco Bay and get away from the bustle of the city. Separated from the mainland since the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the island was used almost exclusively for grazing livestock until the military established a base here during the American Civil War in 1863.

Virtually every part of... More

72. Angel Island Visitor Center

Many of the Angel Island park rangers live here on the island, and are possibly the best possible source of advice and information about the State Park. Be sure to make good use of their knowledge.

(415) 435-5390
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=468

73. Battery Drew

Built at the turn of the 20th century, Battery Drew remained in service until 1917 and like all coastal defenses in this area, it saw no action (which has to be a good thing!). Records show that the 8-inch gun only ever fired a total of 26 practice rounds.

You'll find evidence of decommissioned coastal defenses all over the island and throughout ... More

74. Fort McDowell

Our side trip is the best way to explore Fort McDowell, from the enormous barracks and the buildings by the former boat dock all the way back up to the former hospital.

Decommissioned in 1946 some of these buildings are in a poor state of repair and shouldn't be entered, while others you are free to explore.

... More

75. Quarry Beach

Beneath an army barracks isn't the place you'd normally expect to see stretches of golden sands, but this tranquil little spot is a great way to enjoy views of the bay and the San Francisco city skyline as the water gently laps by your feet.

76. Immigration Station

Angel Island was the first American soil to greet almost one million immigrants between 1910 and 1940. New arrivals were usually processed within three days, but thanks to a long-repealed Chinese exclusion law, a different treatment awaited the 175,000 Chinese immigrants who were confined here for months in prison-like conditions.

Operations... More

77. Cove Cafe And Cantina

Serving anything from a breakfast croissant to an afternoon beer or ice-cream, the Cove Cafe is a welcome sight for a weary cyclist!

One word of warning however - they close rather early. So when heading back to the ferry, check in here first or you might have to wait in refreshment limbo until the ferry arrives.

(415) 435-3392
Hours vary... More

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