Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coit Tower: Best Views of San Francisco

 The best place for a panoramic view of San Francisco is Coit Tower located in Telegraph Hill. This little gem should be on every visitor and local's must see list. The 210-ft tower is located in Pioneer Park at the top of Telegraph Hill and can be seen from most neighborhoods in the city. The tower was built with money donated by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy and eccentric socialite, after her death 1929. Lillie was a big fan of the city's firefighters (like most ladies) and probably would have become one if she wasn't a woman born in the 1800s. Its rumored that she was a woman born before her times as she often wore pants and smoked cigars. Oh good heavens! After her death, she wanted to honor the city and its firefighters by building a monument to beautify the city. Although Coit Tower looks like a fire hose nozzle, the original designers say this is just a coincidence. Her money was also used to build a monument of three firefighters carrying a woman. To this day, Lillie is the patron saint of San Francisco firefighters.

Coit Tower is easily accessible by bus, car or on foot. The topography of the street up to the tower is only one lane so cars must get very close to the hill's edge in order to allow buses or other cars to pass plus there are only 10 parking spots that fill up fast. Often times the "car line" to Coit can wind all the way down to the bottom of the hill. Also watch out for random joggers, there aren't any sidewalks and they often run out in the middle of the road like they own the place. You can also take the 39 MUNI bus to the top of Coit for only $2, leaving every 20 minutes. To walk up you take the steep Filbert Steps, a hodge-podge of wooden and concrete steps, it's strenuous but only a 20 minute walk. I recommend MUNI or walking, driving makes the trip a headache.

Once you reach Coit Tower, you can enjoy Pioneer Park at the base. The park is teeming on the weekend with tourists but during the week it's quite peaceful. The park is also a popular spot for yoga, meditation and various urban boot camps.

Inside the tower are 26 intricate murals, the most famous being by Diego Rivera (Frida Kahlo's husband). The murals depict scenes from the streets of San Francisco, a car crash, a pickpocket, labor march and some controversial "leftist thinkers" to name a few. Tickets to the top of the tower cost $5. Its a 26-floor elevator ride to the top of the tower and it's completely worth being squished in the old-school elevator for a few minutes.

At the top of the tower you will have some of the most spectacular panoramic views of San Francisco. Some spots you'll see are: Sausalito, the aquatic park, the Bay Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz, Treasure Island, Angel Island, a bunch of San Francisco neighborhoods and their cool rooftop gardens and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Next time you are in San Francisco or want to do something "touristy" on a clear day, take a trek up Coit Tower and enjoy the spectacular views!

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