5 SF Vantage Points You’ve (Probably) Never Seen Before

From Fort Point to YBI

November 6, 2018 9:00 am

Twin Peaks, Baker Beach, the Embarcadero, Ocean Beach.

You’ve seen it, shot it, Instagrammed it a million times. And so has everyone else.

In a city famous for its views, it can be hard to find a new vantage point.

But we searched far and wide to find five, all worth the trip and within city limits.

We’re betting there are at least a couple you haven’t already checked out … or even heard of.

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Spot: The Café at the San Francisco Art Institute
View: Wait till the fog clears and you’ll get an epic look at the bay, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the Headlands.
In brief: This small, historic art school — whose alumni include filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and Obama portraitist Kehinde Wiley — has moved many of its facilities to Fort Mason, but the café here remains open to visitors, and has spectacular views and student-friendly prices.
Get there: Go through the school’s main courtyard, with the Diego Rivera Gallery on your left, to the outdoor plaza and café.
Drinks after: Craft beers at Church Key in North Beach

Image: Cord Rodefel/Flickr

Spot: The parking lot at Fort Point, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area
View: You can not get more underneath the Golden Gate and still be on land. Also, the bay and the northern rim of the city
In brief: Hit this place on the right day and your car (unbelievably, there’s often ample parking here) can get soaked with water from the crashing surf. You’re almost literally under the bridge — look almost straight up and you’ll see it. As the name suggests, Fort Point is a legit Civil War-era fort. (See here for a photo of how it looked in 1869.)
Get there: Driving’s easiest, but you can get there on foot if you need to.
Drinks after: Sessions, on the edge of the Presidio

Image: Marcin Wichary/Flickr

Spot: Corona Heights Park
View: 360-degree views of the city
In brief: For some, this is just the neighborhood park — for others, a spectacular and less-crowded alternative to nearby Twin Peaks. Get to the top, with wildflowers in season and some dramatic rock outcroppings, and you’ll have views of … everything (uh, including Twin Peaks).
Get there: Walk up, stop at the top. (It’s steep but short.)
Drinks after: You’ve got your choice of basically every bar in the myriad adjoining neighborhoods. Maybe give the Lower Haight classic Toronado a look, or the French wines at l’Ardoise.

Image: Patrick W./Foursquare

Spot: The roof garden at 343 Sansome
View: Midway up FiDi’s skyscrapers (plus some slivers of the water)
In brief: Is this the best of downtown’s POPOS (privately owned public open spaces)? Here’s a list so you can compare, but for our money, it is. This is not a towering view, but it is a mid-level vantage point you don’t often get unless you work in one of these buildings. Plus, it’s a five-star spot for an outdoor workday lunch.
Get there: Elevator to the 15th floor; security will just wave you up.
Drinks after: Nothing says downtown debauchery like Pagan Idol. (Bonus: It opens at 4.)

Image: vhines200/Flickr

Spot: Blue Park, Yerba Buena Island
View: The Bay Bridge, the Golden Gate, the bay, the city, etc., etc.
In brief: There are terabytes of conversation online about how to get the best view of the city from Treasure Island, but the more rarefied experience may be from the adjoined Yerba Buena, at Blue Park. Note that half of this island (conservative estimate) is run by the Coast Guard, and idlers have reported being asked for proof of ID and of benign intentions.
Get there: Car or by Muni, on the 25-Treasure Island bus
Drinks after: If you’re feeling lazy, you could just bag on the whole Blue Park thing, settle into a seat at MerSea with chowder and a burger, and take all your photos there — with a 2018 rec from no less than Michael Bauer: “The place to go now on the island is MerSea, a new casual restaurant.”

Main image: Jitze Couperus/Flickr


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