Ancient Reptiles in Flight
A new exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences will take you back hundreds of millions of years. “Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs” offers a rare glimpse into the life of ancient flying reptiles called pterosaurs, the first vertebrates to evolve powered flight. Walk beneath a life-size model of the giant creatures, examine pterosaur skulls and ancient fossils, learn about the latest research from leading paleontologists and experience flight for yourself. 55 Music Concourse Dr., 415.379.8000
ATTRACTIONS & SIGHTS ALCATRAZ CRUISES
This is the only way to get to “The Rock,” the famous former federal penitentiary that housed some of the nation’s most notorious criminals from 1934-1963. Now one of San Francisco’s most popular visitor attractions, ferries depart regularly for the island from Pier 33 starting at 8:45 am. The dynamic 45-minute cellhouse audio tour, offered in 11 languages, features the voices of former Alcatraz prison guards and inmates who recount escape attempts, prison riots and solitary confinement. The night tours include a narrated boat ride around the island. Tours sell out quickly, so be sure to make reservations in advance. Pier 33, 415.981.7625.
AQUARIUM OF THE BAY
Visit San Francisco’s only waterfront aquarium to get up close and personal with the bay’s amazing marine life. Walk through crystal- clear tunnels of water filled with more than 20,000 aquatic animals, including sevengill sharks, the bay’s largest predators. You can touch leopard sharks, rays and sea stars. Daily events include animal feedings and naturalist presentations. Don’t miss the permanent river otter exhibit, where you can watch otters playing, swimming and eating. Pier 39, 415.623.5300.
This mile-long beach lies at the base of the rugged cliffs west of the Golden Gate. No swimming here, but bring your camera for great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands and Lands End. 415.561.4323.
Upon her death in 1929, socialite and art patron Lillie Hitchcock Coit bequeathed funds for the “beautification of the city.” Her heirs used the money to build Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. Completed in 1933, the fluted column provides bird’s- eye views from an observation deck near the top. Local artists commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (a New Deal agency employing millions of unskilled workers to carry out public works projects) painted the murals inside in 1934. Admission to the ground-floor gift shop and murals is free. Open daily 10 am- 6:30 pm. Guided mural tours 11 am Sa. 1 Telegraph Hill Blvd., 415.249.0995.
CONSERVATORY OF FLOWERS
The botanical wonderland in Golden Gate Park is the oldest wood and glass conservatory in North America. The striking white exterior is as eye- catching as the inside, which houses nearly 2,000 plant species in five galleries. Closed M. 100 JFK Dr., Golden Gate Park, 415.831.2090.
A nationally protected former U. S. Army airfield, this strikingly scenic waterfront recreation area is now a favorite among active locals and visitors. A wide (stroller and wheelchair-friendly) trail between Marina Green and Fort Point is perfect for an easy walk, jog or bike ride. Offering unparalleled views of the Golden Gate Bridge in one direction and the city in the other, the shoreline is home to sandy beaches, picnic tables, tidal marsh overlooks and a nationally renowned windsurfing site, as well as cafes, bookstores and an environmental education center. 415.561.7690.
FERRY BUILDING MARKETPLACE
The historic, renovated ferry terminal at the foot of Market Street is now a world- class food market with more than 40 shops and restaurants featuring some of the area’s most prized artisanal treats: rich Cowgirl Creamery cheese, buttery Miette Patisserie madeleines and Recchiuti chocolates redolent of lavender and ginger. It is also the spot for one of the nation’s best and biggest farmers markets on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, featuring colorful displays of local produce, meat, cheese, flowers, cooking demos, food trucks and more. 415.983.8030.
You’ll find crab stands along the sidewalks, seafood restaurants and a bevy of souvenir shops in the historic heart of the city’s fishing industry. Several bay charter boats depart from the piers. Nearby is the bustling food and shopping center Ghirardelli Square, scenic Aquatic Park and historic Hyde Street Pier. 415.673.3530.
This powerful fort guarded the Golden Gate Bridge entrance for almost half a century until its original cannons were removed. Visitors can explore its brick casemates, grand arches and spiral stairs and even participate in a cannon drill. Long Ave. and Marine Dr., Bldg. 999, 415.556.1693. Map 2, E1
The renovated former chocolate factory site is now home to boutiques, restaurants and the original Ghirardelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop. Find gifts and souvenirs at Lola Toy Shop, Gigi + Rose,