Arts & Culture

Learn About Presidential And American History Around San Francisco

February 18, 2013 5:00 AM

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Aerial view of The Presidio and the San Francisco Bay (Presidio Trust)

Aerial view of The Presidio and the San Francisco Bay (Presidio Trust)

Presidents Day is February 18. In honor of the holiday, here are ways you can get in touch with your patriotic side. Experience the glorious San Francisco Bay simultaneously with sails, kayaking, hikes, bike rides and more at these living museums and free park sites. Celebrate your freedom on the water and with some fresh air.
Aerial of The Presidio (Presidio Trust)

Aerial of The Presidio (Presidio Trust)

San Francisco Presidio
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Southwest corner of San Francisco
San Francisco, CA
Presidio Visitor Center
(415) 561-4323

The San Francisco Presidio spans 1,500 acres of glorious coastline and living US history. If you are curious about famous San Francisco names such as Crissy, Briones, Funston and Arguello, Presidio visitors learn historic tales of when the US became a super power. Learn about American values, dreams and fears through historic changes such as those at Fort Point underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and Crissy Field, once a grass airfield made from a car racetrack. Pay your respects at the majestic San Francisco National Cemetery sheltered with cypress trees, and also at the burial site of buffalo soldiers. Marvel at the pet cemetery as well as the World War II memorial. Presidio visitors can learn more about the 1906 earthquake and the 1915 International Exposition memorialized by the Palace of Fine Arts. The fair showcased the new world-class city with displays of technological accomplishments, especially motion pictures, planes, cars and telephones. The exposition attracted famous guests such as Henry Ford while Laura Ingalls Wilder marveled at the cow milking machine.

Related: Best Holiday Escapes Near the East Bay

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Catch a boat over to Angel Island (Credit, Cindy Warner)

Angel Island
San Francisco Bay
San Francisco, CA
(415) 435-5390
www.angelisland.com

Angel Island Park, an island with 60 acres of trees and hills, offers not only Chinese immigration history but also Miwok Native American history at the museum. Visitors enjoy boating, picnicking, hiking, biking, camping and even weddings. Check out the Segway tours for $65 and scooter rentals or tram tours. Relax during the ferry trip and refresh yourself at the Cove Café at the docks of Ayala Cove. Tour the historic detention center where Chinese immigrants (then WWII POWs) were detained, ruins of former military barracks and the Nike missile site from the Cold War. Or hike to the pinnacle of Mt. Livermore for a 360-degree panorama of the bay.

ssjeremiahobriencindywarner cindywarner Learn About Presidential And American History Around San Francisco

(Credit, Cindy Warner)

SS Jeremiah O’Brien
Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf
166 Jefferson Street
San Francisco, CA
(415) 544-0100
www.ssjeremiahobrien.org

The SS Jeremiah O’Brien docks at the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf and serves as living history with tours, overnights and other events on board this last ship of its kind from World War II. A national historic landmark, it’s one of two remaining Liberty ships still functional. O’Brien crossed the English Channel many times, helping with the D-Day invasion. Voyages went to South Africa, India and Australia. Although film director James Cameron filmed “Titanic” interiors in the engine room, O’Brien remains fully seaworthy with a working original radio and compass. Visitors can take a seat manning the anti-aircraft guns. Youth groups enjoy overnights and the O’Brien takes visitors on cruises, although most of the time she docks as a museum and hosts private events.

Conservatory of Flowers

The Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. (James Irwin/CBS)

Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA
www.golden-gate-park.com

Golden Gate Park dates back to the 1860s and serves as an oasis of natural beauty at Ocean Beach, fragrant with Monterey Pines and eucalyptus groves. Roll through the park on skates, a bicycle or a horse and take a spin on the carousel. Reminisce at the Beach Chalet over a beer named for the amusement park that used to operate on Ocean Beach, “Playland at the Beach.” Picnic at Spreckels Lake or rent a little boat on Stow Lake. Check out the fine art at the deYoung Museum, meander through the roof garden at the Academy of Sciences or immerse yourself in the flowers at the elegant Conservatory. Relax at the bucolic Japanese tea garden and its café or experience the many other gardens.

Related: Best Ways To Celebrate Native American History And Culture In The Bay Area

Fort Funston National Park
Fort Funston Road
San Francisco, CA 94101
(415) 561-4323
www.parksconservancy.orgFort Funston is doggie heaven. The cliff trails descend steeply to the beach and the park offers 200-feet-high sandy bluffs. It’s accessible to all with well maintained, paved trails. Unleash and watch the hang gliders, horseback riders, hikers and bird watchers as well as romping dogs celebrate the freedom. The Fort used to house Nike missiles.

Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for Examiner.com via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on Examiner.com.

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