San Francisco tourist traps

coit towerThat’s the title of this page at Virtual Tourist. All I can say is, take it with a grain of salt. Some people are so keen on proving that they’re cool and they’re insiders that they won’t be happy until they take the fun out of everything. One of the privileges of being a tourist is that you can go to all the tacky places where a lot of locals don’t want to be seen. Let’s look at some of the items on the list:

  • Fisherman’s Wharf. Okay, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time here. But tell me this — how do the locals all know that it’s tacky and touristy? You know how? They’ve all been there! If you haven’t at least scooted through FW you don’t really know SF.
  • Pier 39. “It’s not a real pier,” is the complaint. Well, here’s a news flash. Almost all the Bay Area shipping has been going through Oakland for decades. Face it, San Franciscans, you’re living in a little wind-up doll of a city. At Pier 39 you can get clam chowder in a sourdough bowl and watch the sea lions. Those are things you can’t do in Iowa. Nothing wrong with them.
  • The Exploratorium. Excuse me? This is just inexplicable. The Exploratorium is one of the best museum-like experiences in the city. I’m still mad at Willie Brown for trying to kick it out of the Palace of Fine Arts.
  • Alcatraz. I have to admit I lived here for, let’s see, about twenty-five years before I visited Alcatraz. The lines. All the –you know (gasp!) — tourists. But finally I did go, and you know what — it was fun! I would recommend it.
  • Chinatown. Oh, come on. This is an essential part of San Francisco’s history. You can’t turn your back on that. If you think our history started with the founding of Yahoo, okay, then skip it. Otherwise, have lunch at the Potsticker, watch the old guys playing their board and card games at Portsmouth Square, and buy a Buddha’s-hand citron or two.
  • Coit Tower. Sure, skip it. It’s only one of the most distinctive and appealing parts of our skyline. How can you object to an erection commissioned by a lady who just really dug firemen? And by no means do you want to expose yourself to its leftist political murals from the thirties — how would you enjoy shopping at Nordstrom’s afterwards?

Bottom line: some folks get a little snooty about being locals in a popular place like San Francisco. These are the same people who complain about the Vallaincourt Fountain. And that’s the downside of insider recommendations. My advice is to ignore these folks and just go have a good time.

After all, you’re on vacation, right?

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Image of Coit Tower modified from one at Wikipedia.