October 05, 2012

#42: Six Amazing Sights to See at BBB!

The Golden Gate Bridge
As you may have already read, dancers are setting their sights on the actual cities surrounding events, rather than settling for their hotel rooms and "bed hopping," as one dancer put it, all weekend long in between the hours and hours of competition followed by... hours of competition.

Now that Boogie by the Bay has arrived, I've realized you might like my tips on where to visit, since Nick and I did actually live up there for a good long while, not to mention being a board member for the event. So I know a thing or two about what's near you and what you might like to see- some are for everyone, and some, well, aren't!

I've selected a variety of sights, for a variety of tastes. I'm including some traditional sights and some very non-traditional sights as well. Sift through and see what you like, take my "insider tips" to hear and try and win that FREE BOOK contest! if you can... or just send a postcard instead.


This probably sounds like an obvious choice. 
But it really isn't. 

First, Nick and I took this bridge hundred of times during out Bay Area days, and, quite frankly, we never, ever, EVER became bored with it. It always stunned us. Why? Because we were driving across it.

If you're going to do the Golden Gate Bridge, don't just go to the park and stare at it. Puh-lease! At least catch a cab, rent a car, take a bus or borrow a car from a local (you will find A TON of locals at BBB... for many of them, it's the only event they attend all year!) and drive across the darn thing!

I'm not kidding. There's actually an exit right after you cross the bridge (heading North on the 101 fwy, of course) and that exit takes you into a beautiful (and free) little round-a-bout plaza that features a breath-taking view of the bridge. We highly recommend it. (Nick also recommends going underneath the freeway and visiting the old battle station (fort) to the left of the bridge, up the hill from the look-out I just mentioned. If you can't handle heights, don't follow the road all the way up, but stop at one of the many viewpoints up the hill and get other amazing views of the bridge.)

It just can't be beat. We never ever tired of the Golden Gate Bridge- I don't think I've crossed it once without taking pictures... just couldn't help myself! Be aware though... going south on the bridge does cost $6. We all have to pay it, international visitors and locals alike. But it's only per vehicle, so a bus (tour bus or city bus) is free!


If you're up for lunch or dinner, I highly recommend you hit up the Cheesecake Factory in San Francisco. Why? Not only do you get to visit and see Union Square, but you also get to ride to the top of the Macy's building, for a stunning and unusual view of San Francisco... all for the normal price of dinner!

The Lobby of the Cheesecake Factory
The Door to the Right Opens onto the Balcony in the first picture.
I've celebrated birthdays here, I've taken friends and family here, and it's always been special. Grab a slice of  their famous cheesecake, or go with the Filet Minion, but one thing is for sure... it's amazing. Plus it's probably one of the largest and most varied menu I've ever seen at a restaurant.  

Union Square
Be prepared in the evenings though... the wait can be up to an hour long on their busy nights. Just call ahead and see how things are going to be sure... but no matter what, it's a sure bet you'll remember!


Somewhat kitty-corner to the infamous Pier 39 (which is a huge tourist attraction, complete with Alcatraz Island departures, freshly baked sourdough bread and really, really loud sea life... oh, and let's not forget the wax museums and Ripley's Believe it or Not... none of which I ever visited, but Nick most certainly did!) Ghirardelli is a famous, famous chocolatier and the square has been a part of San Fran's history for decades.

Ghirardelli Square is situated just across from the Golden Gate park, looks over a junction for the famous trolley cars, and is home to some of the most delectable treats around. Everyone who enters gets a free chocolate sample, but really... there's one thing Nick and I go for:

The Drinking Chocolate.

Not to be compared or un-rightly confused with hot chocolate or hot cocoa, Drinking Chocolate is something only Ghirardelli does, and does so well. And here is my challenge for you!

I am offering a FREE book, hot off the presses, to anyone who is able to provide video proof of you or a friend drinking, on their own, a full and entire cup of Drinking Chocolate.

I do not offer this lightly!!! Neither Nick (the human trash compactor), nor his father, nor our friends nor I have EVER, EVER been able to consume more than a third of a cup of Drinking Chocolate.  You can try to chug it, you can try to sip it... but if you have video proof with NO cheating... I hereby declare I will send you a FREE book, signed and everything, for completing such an amazing feat. I can't wait to see if anyone will succeed!!!

(Oh, and they do have ice cream sundae's and other fun stuff too, by the way...)


This is DEFINITELY for the weird and wacky adventurer. Nick and I didn't discover Treasure Island until our very last year in the Bay Area, and I can't believe we'd never even heard of it before. To us, it was simply the only exit that existed on the Bay Bridge (80 fwy) going East. 

I'm so glad we finally exited. I'll save the long, weird and totally off-the-wall story of Treasure Island for your trek onto this somewhat... okay, very forgotten but magical piece of history. You can Google it, yes, but you might like to see for yourself. 

The absolute best parts, for Nick and I, were the first large building with large structures and sculptures, which you are free to explore and walk around, no matter how vacant you may find it. It's like walking into a piece of history, complete with a massive building-long mural that tells its story.

We also loved driving the little streets along the residential hill. So green and luxurious and... weird. It's definitely the kind of trek a non-traditional tourist would love. Oh, and yes, there are parts of the island that are somewhat inner-city like. They'll look scary, but they aren't, and you have to go to the very edges to ever make your way into those parts. And even then it's weird... like the winery? 

But we love stuff like this. LOVE it. So if you're like us, check it out. It's quite the unusual stop!


If you haven't done it, just do it already. Everyone else has and it's featured in so many movies and referenced so many times that you might as well try it. It doesn't cost anything, and you can do it as many times as you like, but at least take the time to go down the world famous Lombard street at least once.

I did it years ago on a family vacation, and then did it again when Nick and I moved to the area. And I haven't done it since. But boy, do I ever remember it well!!! I've been so many places and have seen so many things... and there's just nothing like it anywhere else.

It's a perfect example of the kind of street you'll only find in San Francisco: steep, narrow, a little scary and... fun!


Pacifica is a city in California. It's actually right over the hill from Burlingame, where you're staying for BBB. DO NOT go at night!!! Pacifica is a city to visit during the day, because the views it offers of the sea and of our precious golden coast are nearly unmatched for the area.

It's a quick drive from the hotel and the scenery is amazing. It also boasts some magnificient parks with some magnifiicent views and hikes. If you are a lover of the sea and of nature's grandeur, this might be more your style than the shut-in and tight craziness of the city. 

If you go just a little further south, to McNee Ranch State Park, you'll find there's a nice big open trail that takes you to the most impressive 360 degree view of the entire Bay Area I have ever encountered. It's not a rough trail. Smooth, actually. But steep in parts. Very steep. And for you geocachers out there, one of those caches is at the very top of the mountains there and most don't ever reach it. Just look at the pictures on Google Maps. Even better than Mount Diablo. If you can handle heights (I can't and nearly had a breakdown heading downhill) then I highly highly recommend it. I'm so glad I didn't know better at the time. The payoff kinda counterbalances my "heights" trauma... I think. But no matter what, I'll remember that view for a lifetime.  Go for it!

And there you have it!!! Something for everyone...
Have and amazing time!


From Weekly Note #42: Six Amazing Sights to See at BBB! released on October 5th 2012.