It was a welcome surprise approximately two decades ago when the Presidio was turned over to the City. The area has some of the most breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more. Before the Presidio was handed over to the City for civilian use, it had been a military base since the late 1700s/early1800s when Spanish invaders set up an observation point for the Bay entrance. After Mexican independence, their troops took over and remained until the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. military took over the base.
So, after the federal government relinquished its ownership/management of the Presidio to the City, the Presidio trust was created to administer pretty much all parts of the former base, including housing rentals, both as apartments and homes that used to house service members; business leasing; recreation; events planning; and so on. Visit their website for more information at www.presidio.gov.
Getting there and around
As in most of the articles on this website, I always recommend bicycling first. It is the most inexpensive, least environmentally impacting, and most adaptable way to explore any part of the City, but the especially large area, such as the Presidio. Also, there are countless ways, including marked bike lanes, which will get you to the Presidio; plus, if you are up for a bit more of a challenge, you can keep going and ride over the Golden Gate Bridge from here. The Presidio is literally the spring-off point to cross the bridge and explore Marin County. Since the Presidio is at the northwestern extreme of San Francisco, it may not be the most convenient nor enjoyable way transportation method from the neighborhoods at the other ends of the City. Therefore, public transit may be the next best option.
If you are using public transit, it is best to plan your trip to obtain the best bus connections, especially if you arrive at one point and decide to leave from another part of the Presidio, which is the best way to see this amazing recreational area. Also, if you end your day in the Presidio near the Marina, you will not only be able to dine out and/or shop, but you will also have many transit options as well.
Should you decide to drive, you will have more opportunities to find parking than in other parts of the City. However, it is best to find a spot to park and then walk from that point instead of driving within the Presidio. You will appreciate nature more on foot than by driving and adding to air and noise pollution. In other words, choose to drive to and around the Presidio only if biking or using public transit is simply ut f the question for you.
Whichever way you decide to get to the Presidio, go to www.sfmta.com for transit information, as well as for route planning by car or on a bicycle.
At 1,500 acres, the Presidio is the largest recreation area within City limits. Golden Gate Park comes in at second place with 1,017 acres; to give you some perspective. And within those 1,500 acres, you will find a network of hiking trails; both marked and unmarked bike lanes; various small beaches along the Pacific and Bay entrance side, including Baker Beach, which is the most popular; a campground at Rob hill; and a great playground and dog run at the southeast corner of Veterans Boulevard and Lake Street, which is known as Mountain Lake Park.
If you truly want to experience the Presidio, spend on attending either a full day or the better part of one, depending on the weather. On sunnier days, you can lay out in a meadow or at Baker Beach for a few hours, then continue exploring. On not-so-sunny days you can visit the museums located in the Presidio, which are described below.
What to see
Besides the hiking trails, beaches, and other nature sites mentioned above, there are also three well-known museums located within the Presidio. They are:
- The National Japanese American Historical Society / Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center. As the names imply, this museum covers Japanese internment during the Second World War and information regarding Japanese-Americans in U.S. history. Visit their website a njahs.org to plan a visit.
- Society of California Pioneers. This museum records the history of the various peoples and waves of first immigrants/new arrivals to the State of California. Their website is californiapioneers.org.
- The Walt Disney Family Museum. This museum includes the life and career of Walt Disney and the Disney legacy, including cartoon characters, films, interactive galleries, and more. It is a great place to you’re your child, but adults can also appreciate it since it covers an era that most of us went through due to the Disney brand’s popularity. Their website is waltdisney.org.
Where to eat
Unless you are close to the southern or eastern perimeters of the presidio, from where you can walk over to California Street or the Marina District, there are not too many options for buying food. Therefore, we recommend packing a lunch and or snacks, plus water or a beverage, while you are exploring the area.
If you are near California Street or the Marina District, you will have more than enough café and restaurant options. In fact, California Street and its environs have many Asian fare options, while the Marina has a bit of everything for everybody. Additionally, there are places to grab a bite to eat at and between the Walt Disney Family Museum and Lyon Street on the Presidio’s eastern perimeter.