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Top 5 Reasons to Visit San Francisco's Historic Presidio District

Top 5 Reasons to Visit San Francisco's Historic Presidio District

Picture of Gladys Um
Updated: 9 February 2017
Occupying the corner of San Francisco where the Bay and the Pacific Ocean meet, the Presidio is a beautiful park, historic landmark, and residential area all contained in 1,500 acres. This scenic area offers a plethora of exciting cultural and outdoor activities, most of which are free and open to the public. We bring you the top 5 reasons to make this unique destination a priority on your bucket list.

The Presidio Heritage Gallery

If you’re curious about the Presidio’s history, check out the Presidio Heritage Gallery, housed in the magnificent Presidio Officers’ Club. Multimedia exhibits and artifacts take you on a tour of the complex history of the Presidio, which was settled by the indigenous Ohlone people until the arrival of the Spaniards in the eighteenth century. The land passed from Spanish to Mexican and eventually American rule. The Presidio had been built as a fort by the Spaniards, and its military function continued under subsequent regimes. It wasn’t until 1994 that the Presidio was converted for civilian use as a major park, residential area and historical landmark. While at the gallery, be sure to see the Mesa Room, which exhibits adobe walls from the original building that was built by the Spanish army in the late 1790s.

50 Moraga Avenue, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA, USA

Historic Buildings and Landmarks

The Presidio is home to 433 historic buildings. The variation in architectural style reflects the Presidio’s diverse history. Walk around the Main Post and see how two hundred years of history left its indelible mark on the architecture and the landscape of the place. You’ll view Spanish mission-style buildings as well as Victorian gables, dormers and bay windows. Some of the homes were occupied by soldiers during the Civil War. The forest of eucalyptus, cypress and pine is also a historic landmark. The US army planted the trees to beautify the barren area, which had consisted of sand and marsh in the nineteenth century.

Scenic Hiking Trails and Outdoor Fun

With 991 acres of open space, 24 miles of trails, eight scenic overlooks, five creeks, a tidal marsh, and San Francisco’s last natural lake, the Presidio is a delight for outdoor enthusiasts. You can take scenic walks along the Golden Gate Promenade or go on rugged hikes along the bluffs facing the Pacific Ocean. The woods and wetlands are excellent places to observe birds and other wildlife. If you enjoy wildflowers, go for a hike on the Lobos Creek Valley. If you want to combine nature and culture, you may go on a guided art hike, where a docent takes you on a tour of outdoor art by Andy Goldsworthy along the park’s major trails.

Free Arts, Culture and Science Events

The Presidio Officers’ Club hosts an enticing program of talks, lectures and other cultural and educational events. You can hear notable authors and historians speak on fascinating topics from film to current events to San Francisco’s multicultural history. For science buffs, there are talks by biologists and astrophysicists. If you love reading and discussing books, try the Presidio Book Club that meets monthly. Another superb attraction is the concert series, which features accomplished jazz, contemporary and classical musicians performing in an intimate setting. All events are free and open to everyone.

Registration for events is here.

The Walt Disney Family Museum

Whether you’re a fan of classic animation or curious to learn more about the artist, entrepreneur and visionary who became a world-renowned cultural legend, the Walt Disney Family Museum is not to be missed. Interactive displays, videos, artwork and other artifacts take you on a journey through Disney’s life, work and legacy. Multimedia exhibits chronicle his rise from humble beginnings to the creation of classic films including Bambi, Peter Pan, Cinderella and Mary Poppins. In addition, the museum hosts talks by animators, filmmakers and historians who give their unique perspectives on the magical world of Disney. Intensive workshops offer the chance to learn about animation, art and creativity from experienced professionals in these fields.

104 Montgomery Street, The Presidio, San Francisco, CA, USA

By Gladys Um

Gladys is a San Francisco-based writer.