Mediterranean-inspired houses are popular in the Marina area and will catch your eye with their amazing architecture. Beyond the beautiful houses, there are endless opportunities for outdoor recreational activities. Wether it's jogging along the coastline at Cirssy Field, enjoying the day at Marina Green Park, or browsing the Farmer's markets at For Mason Center, there is always something to do. Chestnut Street is a popular shopping destination that is packed with all kinds of shops, restaurants, and other forms of entertainment. The Marina has a very vibrant nightlife full of bars and eateries that is sure to satisfy any night owl looking for a good time.
The story of San Francisco's Marina District is the story of land and water repeatedly and dramatically altered by nature and by human development. Eight thousand years ago, American Indians lived on the dunes and near the tidal marshlands that today are the sites of apartment buildings, luxurious homes and some of the city's trendiest shops and restaurants. When the Spanish arrived here in 1776 and established the Presidio, on the Marina's western border, the marshlands looked pretty much the same as they would over a century later, in 1906, when the city of San Francisco was shaken and then burned by its first devastating earthquake and the resulting fire.
It wasn't until the aftermath of the big quake that major development began in the Marina. Tons of brick and rock rubble from destroyed downtown buildings were brought over and dumped into the Marina's marshlands, forming an initial (and unstable) foundation for development. A few years later, when the site was chosen as the location of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco had the impetus it needed to turn what began as a haphazard dumping ground into a breathtaking exhibit of architectural beauty.
The Panama-Pacific, and its iconic surviving building the Palace of Fine Arts, introduced the city to the commercial and residential development possibilities of the recently formed prime waterfront real estate. In the decades following the exposition, apartment buildings, homes and businesses sprouted up quickly in great numbers until the Marina had become one of San Francisco's most desirable places to live, work and visit.Marina had been rebuilt and revamped with a shiny new face and s stronger bone structure.
Today the apartment buildings, shops and restaurants seem to be bursting at their seams with beautiful, young and fit 20- and 30-somethings. The singles scene is hopping on Friday and Saturday nights, with lots of fresh-faced postgrads with cocktails in one hand and cell phones in the other. Union is arguably the best street in the city to window-shop the hours away on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and, a few blocks down, Chestnut has an incredible variety of high-quality restaurants catering to every palate.
Marina hosts a bounty of cultural museums and nonprofits. Overall, this is the land of SUVs, chic fashion and killer spa treatments.
Best Time To Go To the Marina
Sunny weekend days are truly dreamy in the Marina, especially down by the water. As far as Chestnut and Union are concerned, just follow this motto: Any day is a good day for shopping; any night, a good night for dining. If you're looking for a mellow or sophisticated night out, stay away from the infamous "Triangle" (Fillmore at Greenwich) bar scene on Friday and Saturday nights.
Sights & Culture in the Marina
Crissy Field: Crissy Field has been transformed from one of the country's most important and active military airstrips into a crowning achievement of the Golden Gate National Parks Association. With over $34 million in grants and donations, the GGNPA fulfilled its vision of creating a space that synthesizes recreational public space with environmental restoration. Walkers and joggers embrace the field's shoreline path, known as the Golden Gate Promenade, and on sunny days, kids, picnickers and Frisbee enthusiasts blanket the grassy 28-acre expanse. Cyclists have their own bike-only path, and, world-class sailboarders can be seen skipping and soaring across the water. The Crissy Field Conservation Center is a progressive, multicultural community environmental center providing various programs addressing the wide range of issues and concerns Crissy Field faces as a park straddling urban and environmental boundaries. (GGNPA Web site)
Fort Mason: Fort Mason is a former military enclave now protected under the auspices of the Golden Gate National Parks Association. Visitors will most likely want to focus on the lower buildings and piers, officially know as Fort Mason Center. The center provides a wealth of cultural and educational societies, museums and nonprofits, including but not limited to the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society, and the Museu ItaloAmericano. Fort Mason hosts numerous performances, festivals and exhibits throughout the year, so be sure to check the calendar at www.fortmason.org or call (415) 441-3400 before you go.
Palace of Fine Arts: The Palace of Fine Arts is indisputably the Marina's (if not all of San Francisco's) architectural grand dame. Though the structure was specifically designed to honor the completion of the Panama Canal (and was intended to be temporary), its construction and the exposition itself were symbols to city residents and to the world that San Francisco had overcome and in fact risen above the catastrophe of the 1906 earthquake and its consuming fire. Today the Palace of Fine Arts is home to one of the city's most beloved museums, the Exploratorium, which hosts more than 600 science and art exhibits, including the Tactile Dome, an experiential maze designed to disorient the senses. 3601 Lyon St., (415) 397-5673. (Exploratorium Web site; The Palace of Fine Arts: A Brief History of the Exploratorium's Home)
Hourian Fine Art Galleries: The space is a bit disheveled, but this small gallery has a decent selection of paintings and prints from local artists, including works by owner Mohammad Hourian himself. The gallery also offers custom framing and restoration. 1843 Union St., (415) 346-6400. (Web site)
Images of the North: North in the case of this gallery refers to the Arctic, featuring Inuit sculptures, prints, masks, and jewelry. Sculptures of bears, eagles, and mythological figures fill the space. 2036 Union St., (415) 673-1273.
SFMOMA Artists Gallery: Inside Fort Mason, this non-profit art gallery features modern art exhibitions from artists all around the Bay Area in all stages of their careers. As a non-profit, most of the proceeds from the exhibit go to the artists themselves. Building A, Fort Mason Center, (415) 441-4777
Ace Wasabi: Hip, loud, young and hot: This is either the casting-call note for "Melrose Place" or the description of Ace Wasabi's Rock and Roll Sushi. 3339 Steiner St. (near Lombard), (415) 567-4903.
Alegrias: Tapas like tortilla espanola, sauteed spinach and baked goat cheese are fabulous. Wonderful flan. 2018 Lombard St. (near Webster Street), (415) 929-8888.
Atelier Crenn: Marina restaurant ,meticulously crafted dishes resemble a forest or the sea floor. Served on plates of slate tiles and river rocks. Diners have three ways to enjoy the food: on a nine-course tasting menu ($115, $20 more than when I visited), three savory courses ($62) or four courses ($72). 3127 Fillmore St. (415) 440-0460
Baker Street Bistro: Excellently prepared, classically inspired French fare. Good service, cozy dining room. 2953 Baker St. (near Lombard), (415) 931-1475.
Barney's Gourmet Hamburgers: Best Burger awards from a variety of sources. Barney's sets the mood with a comfortable wood decor, or there is an outdoor garden. Vegetarians can delight in an extensive list of garden and tofu burgers as well as several salad specialties. 3344 Steiner St., (415) 563-6921.
Bin 38: Marina wine bar boasts an exotic and unusual beer and wine list, and stands out from other similar spots for its ambitious and interesting menu. Try the hot crock of baked feta, the spareribs and the kobe-style flank steak. 3232 Scott St. (415) 567-3838
Bistro Aix: Local Marina calming bistro with fresh food and list of 150 wines, mostly French and Spanish. The menu takes on several international flavors, including a thin-crust pizza, several pastas, and duck confit. 3340 Steiner St., (415) 202-0100.
Circa: Popular restaurant by day and chic lounge by night, Circa has become something of a staple for young professionals in the Marina. Classic American fare goes upscale in this lounge setting. 2001 Chestnut St. (415) 351-0175
Delarosa Killer cocktails and Roman style pizza pack in a lively and young crowd into this Marina bar and restaurant. The vibe is energetic and youthful at the bar's communal tables at night, and brunch service on the weekends attracts quite the crowd as well. 2175 Chestnut St (415) 673-7100
Dragon Well: This tiny, airy pan-Asian food joint offers a small selection of healthy, flavorful dishes at moderate prices. 2142 Chestnut St., (415) 474-6888.
Yukol's Place Thai Cuisine: Thai eatery. Yukol offers more than a dozen starters, as well as the usual array of soups and curries. Seafood is a mainstay in many dishes, including the Kung Phrik Pao, sauteed prawn with garlic, homemade chili paste, onions, and pepper. 2380 Lombard St., (415) 922-1599.
Balboa Cafe: The Balboa is owned by the family that operates the PlumpJack Women beware: There's lots of action here, whether you're looking for it or not. 3199 Fillmore St., (415) 921-3944.
Bar None: Known as the Jaegermeister bar. This late-night hook up can get a bit sloppy, but is always full of energy. Aside from Jaeger shots, patrons can shoot pool, make use of the dartboards, or just people watch. 1980 Union St., (415) 409-4469.
City Tavern: At the Marina Triangle, the Tavern might be the ultimate see-and-be-seen joint in the neighborhood. The restaurant-bar serves dinner daily and brunch on weekends. 3200 Fillmore St., (415) 567-0918.
The Comet Club: This retro spot hearkens the '70s and '80s with its old school music. A bit on the dark side, the club still attracts the post cocktail Marina crowds who want to shake it up to the old sounds. The club can get packed at times. 311 Fillmore St., (415) 567-5589.
Mas Sake: Mas Sake is one of the more rambunctious weekend hangs in the area. The sushi gets mixed reviews, some calling it downright awful, but the bar is a bit more dependable. Try the sake bomb, a shot of hot sake dropped into a glass of alcoholic raspberry cider together. 2030 Lombard St., (415) 440-1505.
Mauna Loa Club: The Mauna Loa is a low-key semi-divey nightspot that brings a bit of aloha flavor to the area. Wear your best drinking shoes, and bring some quarters for the pool table. 3009 Fillmore St., (415) 563-5137.