The Marina San Francisco – Urban Playground On The Bay

The Marina in San Francisco is one of the city's best urban playgrounds, with a plethora of water activities, acres of parks, cultural centers, and plenty of fabulous shopping, galleries and restaurants. It's hard to imagine that before the 1906 earthquake the Marina area was a tidal marsh. After the earthquake, tons of the city's rubble were deposited as the Marina's first foundation.

We love this lively harbor-side district of San Francisco, home to Marina Green, Crissy Field, the Fort Mason Center, two yacht clubs, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the spectacular and quirky Wave Organ. And when we've had our fill of parks and cultural activities, we head to nearby Chestnut Street for some of the best eateries and shopping in the the city. The Marina hugs the San Francisco waterfront between Pier 29 and The Presidio.

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10 Great Things About The Marina San Francisco

1. Marina Green

Marina Green

Marina Green's 74-acre expanse borders the harbor and stretches from Fort Mason to the Presidio with spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, and even Marin County. No wonder it's a popular place to jog, bike, fly kites, and just rest in the sun — on those rare sunny days in San Francisco! The expansive 350-mile San Francisco Bay Trail also runs through the Marina Green's swath of parkland.

2. Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts

Built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, the palace is now a theater used for plays, concerts, and special events. Architect Bernard Maybeck's building was the piece de la resistance of his career, as well as the Expo itself. Its great setting consists of a classical Roman rotunda with two curved colonnades, a small park, and a peaceful, artificial lagoon.

3. Crissy Field

Crissy Field

What was once a strip of cracked asphalt is now a 100-acre shoreline park perfect for all sorts of leisure activities; — walking, sailboarding, biking and swimming. Follow the footbridge across the 20-acre tidal marsh and admire the groves of native cypress trees among the dunes.

In 2001, Crissy Field was transformed from a military airfield into a park through the generous donations of the Haas family, of the Haas-Lilienthal House lineage, as well as thousands of volunteers and donors. The restored park's extensive trails wind between Marina Green and Fort Point.

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4. Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture

Fort Mason Center

Dating from the mid-1800s, Fort Mason was a command post for the army that "tamed the West". Today the area is part of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area and is home to the Fort Mason Centre for Arts & Culture that includes theaters, workshops, a restaurant, art galleries, special exhibitions. Fort Mason is many things, but first and foremost it's a nonprofit organization dedicated to the arts. The waterfront center also holds a bustling farmer's market on Sunday mornings.

5. Museo Italo-Americano

Museo Italo-Americano

Within the Fort Mason Center is this special museum that's dedicated to researching, preserving and displaying the works of Italian and Italian-American artists. The museum fosters the appreciation of Italian art and culture with the aim of preserving its heritage through language, arts & culture.

6. Greens Restaurant

Greens Restaurant

Its opening in 1979 was a landmark. The legendary San Francisco restaurant elevated vegetarian cuisine into high-end dining. Greens was a project of the San Francisco Zen Center. Executive chef Annie Somerville has kept the standards to a high level since her arrival in 1981. Its refined menu and large windows that overlook the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge make it an ideal spot for your non-carnivorous friends. For you, too!

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7. Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street

Located between Fillmore and Divisadero Streets, Chestnut Street is a lively shopping area for Marina residents and visitors. The shopping street has it all — bookstores, restaurants, banks, shoe stores, ice cream, delis and bars, and it's not overloaded with chain stores. A couple of legendary locations we like are Bechelli's for breakfast lunch, and Lucca Delicatessen. What we love about Chestnut is the old-America feel, with plenty of independent restaurateurs, boutiques, and services in the area.

8. St Francis Yacht Club

St Francis Yacht Club

Since 1927 the prestigious private club has offered a broad range of activities all relating to sailing including cruising, racing and regattas. The Spanish-style building was designed by Willis Polk and overlooks the bay and the Marina yacht harbor. Like many things in San Francisco, the yacht harbor was part of the Panama Pacific Exposition project of 1915

9. The Golden Gate Yacht Club

The Golden Gate Yacht Club

With all the surrounding water, there's no shortage of yacht clubs in the Marina. The Golden Gate Yacht club was founded in 1939, when members built the first clubhouse on the Marina. The 1989 earthquake severely damaged it, but the club rebuilt and were stronger for it. The Golden Gate Yacht Club won America's Cup, the world's most prestigious yachting event, in 2010 in Valencia, Spain.

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10. The Wave Organ

The Wave Organ

Only in San Francisco, folks! The Wave Organ is found in the Marina just past the Golden Gate Yacht Club. The organs are made from PVC pipe that connect to the bottom of the bay, creating sounds when the waves hit the instruments. It's like a free musical concert with sounds from Mother Nature.

The structure was built in 1986 on a strip of man-made land at the tip of the harbor. The project was developed by the Exploratorium when it was still located by the Palace of Fine Arts. It's like a Roman ruin with stacked stones and marble. Most of the materials were salvaged from an abandoned cemetery!

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