The Presidio San Francisco is the perfect place to visit for those who love the outdoors. It's also perfect for anyone interested in military history. If you love both, then you must stop by for a visit.
The Presidio is an old military base on the northwestern side of the city. Three nations used it as their army base between 1776 and 1994.
After the military left, the government designated it as a National Historic Landmark District. At that time, the National Parks department took over its maintenance. They created both residential housing and a welcoming place for people to visit.
I head over here quite a bit for hiking, biking, or just to walk around. It's a peaceful retreat from the city.
Though it's not overly crowded, you will find a surprising amount of things to do here.
This is where you will find one of the largest military cemeteries on the West Coast. You will also find a high-end golf course, miles and miles of hiking and biking trails, and the Walt Disney Museum.
If you prefer to relax a little, you will also find one of the city's few bowling alleys here, as well as access to both Baker Beach and Crissy Field recreational areas.
Below I've included more detailed information to guide you on your visit to the Presidio San Francisco.
Located on the Main Post, the Visitor Center is the "front door" to the Presidio. Start your day at this newly opened facility, where you'll get a proper introduction to the park and find out about all the events and activities there for you to enjoy.
The Visitor Center offers friendly staff, interactive exhibits, maps, and videos. You'll learn about the site's fascinating history, as well as practical information like how to get around using the free PresidiGo Shuttle.
Baker Beach is one of two main beaches in the Presidio San Francisco. On the map above, you will see that Baker Beach is on the northwestern side.
Locals love this beach because it's large and has amazing views in every direction. Since it is rarely 'beach weather' in San Francisco, most residents use this recreational area as a place to hang out with friends or walk their dogs, rather than for sunbathing or swimming.
Learn More: Baker Beach
With real estate at a premium in SF, there are only four places to bowl in the city, and one of them is here. The Presidio Bowling Center and Grill was first created in 1989 to entertain the troops on base. It offers old-school fun with modern touches, like screens for automatic scoring, an internet-connected jukebox, and a selection of video games and pinball machines.
The Grill serves up American classics, including burgers, wings, and corn dogs, as well as a full bar with a large variety of beer, wine, and spirits.
You'll find this bowling alley in the Presidio San Francisco at the corner of Moraga and Montgomery Streets. They do not use formal number addresses, so use these cross streets to guide you to the building.
Crissy Field is another popular destination for both locals and those visiting San Francisco. Located on the northeastern side of the Presidio San Francisco, Crissy Field has a large beach, a running/walking trail, and plenty of green space for picnics, games, and other outdoor gatherings.
This is another place where you can get full views of the Golden Gate Bridge. From Crissy Field, you can also see Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, the dome of the Palace of Fine Arts, and the town of Sausalito across the bay.
On a warm, sunny day, this is one of the best places in San Francisco to hang out. You can also bring along a picnic lunch to sit back, relax, and enjoy the views.
In the 1930s, the engineers of the Golden Gate Bridge thought this building needed to be demolished to erect the bridge. However, after careful consideration—and some outrage from local citizens—the engineers revised their plans and found a way to build the bridge around it in order to preserve this important historical landmark.
Learn More: Fort Point National Historic Site
If you love to hike, then you need to check out the Coastal Trail during your visit. This trail runs along the northern part of the Presidio San Francisco and has some of the most beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
You can pick up the trail at several locations within the park. My favorite place to start is on the eastern side of Baker Beach. From here, you can take the trail all the way to Ocean Beach.
On this trail, you will get some of the most spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge. You walk near the water's edge most of the time and are also able to get some great views of the waters where the San Francisco Bay meets the Pacific Ocean.
The Presidio San Francisco is one of the best places to go biking in the city because the streets are wide and there is very little traffic. Plus, you get great views of the bay.
If you don't have your own bike, you can easily rent one here. With easy access to the Golden Gate Bridge, you may even decide to ride over to Sausalito for an unforgettable San Francisco experience.
Learn More: Day Bike Rentals
One of my favorite stops in the Presidio San Francisco is the chapel near the cemetery. This small chapel is full of history and is a must-see for those visiting this part of town.
The Presidio Chapel dates back to 1931 and boasts beautiful mission revival architecture, a 33-foot fresco, stained-glass windows, and beautiful woodwork. Originally Protestant, it is now non-denominational and welcomes interfaith worship.
The chapel is open on Sundays from 11am to 1:30pm for docent-led tours. Otherwise, the chapel is only open to guests who reserve it for ceremonies and events like weddings.
One of the few golf courses in the city, and one of the oldest on the West Coast, is located on the southern side of the Presidio San Francisco. It contains 18 holes on rolling hills surrounded by beautiful oak, eucalyptus, and cypress trees, as well as a driving range and pro shop.
This was a private golf course for more than 100 years before it was finally opened up to the public. Click the link below to discover more details, including information about the course, how to reserve a tee time, rates, and more.
Learn More: Presidio Golf Course
The Presidio Social Club is a hidden gem inside of the Presidio San Francisco. It is one of the best restaurants inside the park gates, and one of my favorite restaurants in the city.
The Social Club serves fresh California cuisine, including a hearty brunch on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Some of my favorites include their salmon pizza, Dungeness crab louis sandwich, and the gourmet mac and cheese.
Most of the seating is inside, but make sure you ask for a seat outside if it's sunny. The patio is small, but a lovely place for lunch or dinner.
Learn More: Presidio Social Club
The National Cemetery is a large military cemetery where 30,000 soldiers and family members are buried. It is one of the only cemeteries that still remain within the San Francisco city limits.
The army began using the cemetery in 1854, and in 1884, the government officially designated it the first national cemetery on the West Coast. It's a beautiful, green 29-acre site overlooking the San Francisco Bay.
Learn More: National Cemetery
A newer addition to the Presidio San Francisco is the Walt Disney Family Museum. This is not an amusement park, but rather a fascinating look at Walt Disney, the man, and his business behind-the-scenes. You will learn more about his life, view photos of his family that you will only find here, and examine how he created such a successful company.
Longtime Disney fans will enjoy artifacts like the 13-foot model of the original vision of Disneyland and the first-known drawing of Mickey Mouse. The museum also has speakers and shows a classic Disney movie each month.
Learn More: Walt Disney Museum
In the spring of 2012, the first and only hotel opened within the park gates. It's managed by the Presidio Trust, the agency in charge of the Presidio San Francisco.
Inn at the Presidio
42 Moraga Avenue
The Inn at the Presidio is not your normal hotel. It's located at Pershing Hall, once an elegant home for bachelor officers when the Presidio was a military post. It was remodeled to include 22 spacious rooms, 17 of which are suites with gas fireplaces.
Staying at the Inn at the Presidio is a unique experience. It's a peaceful and quite retreat that is just steps from a major, thriving city.
Here are just a few of the features of this bed and breakfast:
Rooms here start at around $325 a night. If you are looking for a quiet, serene getaway within the city, there is no better option than the Inn at the Presidio.
Hop On/Hop Off: The Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour stops near the Walt Disney Museum in the heart of the Presidio (H on the map). From here, you can walk to many of the sites listed above or take the PresidiGo (see below for more information on this free shuttle around the Presidio San Francisco). Find out more about all of the stops for the Hop On/Hop Off Bus Tour of San Francisco.
Bus: Muni bus is another option, although only a few buses have stops inside the Presidio San Francisco. From Union Square, you can take the 1 California to the Arguello & California stop and then transfer to the 43 Masonic. The 43 Masonic has three stops right in the Presidio, so you can easily get to the heart of the action (shown as B43 on the map).
You can also take the Union 45 bus, which drops off outside the Lombard Gate at Lyon and Greenwich (shown as B45 on the map). You can then either walk around or take the PresidiGo to get to your destination.
Car: This is one of the few places in San Francisco where it is easy to park. However, make sure you read the signs carefully before you leave your car. There is a large parking lot on Montgomery Street near the Main Post, close to the Walt Disney Museum and the bowling alley. Other spots are dedicated to those with permits during the week, but are usually open for others on the weekend. You can also sometimes grab a spot on the street outside the Lombard Gate. The three lots marked on the map above (P) are full time visitor parking lots.
PresidiGo: The best way to get around the Presidio San Francisco once you arrive is by taking the PresidiGo. This is a free shuttle service with designated stops throughout the park. There are two routes, the Crissy Field route (the best one for most attractions) and the Presidio Hills route (takes you out to Baker Beach and past the golf course).
Each stop is well marked with a map of all of the shuttle stops. You will need to be a little careful with this option if you're on a time crunch, though, as the shuttle does not run frequently and sometimes gets behind schedule.
Each route has more than 20 stops and takes about 45 minutes or more to complete the full circuit. Below you will find some of the major stops on each route. The Crissy Field route is in blue and the Presidio Hills route is in light red.
Walking: My favorite way to explore the Presidio is on foot. You can walk up the hills to get some great views of the bay, Alcatraz, and the city of San Francisco. The streets here can be a bit confusing, so this is one of the easiest ways to get around.
Day Tour: Another option for getting a look at the Presidio San Francisco is by taking a day tour. One of the most popular tours is the combined Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour. This all-day tour includes tickets to Alcatraz as well as tour of San Francisco's most popular attractions—the Presidio San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square, and more. Check the availability of the Alcatraz and San Francisco City Tour during your visit.
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