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Bay Area Road Trip: 49-mile Scenic Drive

The beauty and uniqueness of San Francisco makes it arguably one of the best cities in the world. But back in 1939, before it was the tourist destination it is today, the city created a 49-mile scenic drive to highlight the best of the city – and to show it off to visitors in town for the Golden Gate International Exposition. From Alcatraz to Ghirardelli Square, you’ll see it all! Below is a list from the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau of the 49 places you’ll encounter along the way:

  1. San Francisco Civic Center (includes all government buildings, plus the Asian Art Museum, Main Library, the Performing Arts Center and more.)
  2. Cathedral Hill/St. Mary’s Cathedral 
  3. Japan Center and Japantown 
  4. Haas-Lilienthal House, an 1886 Victorian. 
  5. Union Square (the downtown shopping and hotel district) 
  6. Chinatown. 
  7. Nob Hill (Gothic Grace Cathedral, Huntington Park and the Nob Hill Masonic Center) 
  8. Cable Car Barn 
  9. Portsmouth Square, a historic park in Chinatown 
  10. Jackson Square (antique dealers, art galleries, gift and apparel shops) 
  11. North Beach (nightlife area, just three blocks from Washington Square, the city’s Italian sector) 
  12. Telegraph Hill (Coit Tower, a 210-foot landmark, amazing views) 
  13. PIER 39 (1,000-foot-long pier with dining, entertainment and great views) 
  14. Fisherman's Wharf (This is seafood central. You’ll also find plenty of attractions) 
  15. Alcatraz (infamous former Federal prison, tours available) 
  16. Aquatic Park (includes Hyde Street Pier, Maritime Museum, and the Municipal Pier) 
  17. The Cannery at Del Monte Square (former canning factory, now filled with a shops, galleries and restaurants 
  18. Ghirardelli Square (Chocolate factory, plus dining, shopping and waterfront views) 
  19. Russian Hill (includes Lombard Street, Hyde and amazing views) 
  20. Union Street’s Victorian buildings (galleries, antiques, dining and more) 
  21. Fort Mason Center (includes the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, museums, theaters and galleries) 
  22. Marina Green (waterfront recreational area, yachting activities) 
  23. Palace of Fine Arts (includes the Exploratorium Science Museum and the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre.) 
  24. Presidio of San Francisco (1,500-acres of grassy hills and ocean views) 
  25. Fort Point National Historic Site (under the Golden Gate Bridge) 
  26. The famed Golden Gate Bridge 
  27. China Beach (sandy beach, swimming) 
  28. Legion of Honor (European art from medieval times into the 20th century) 
  29. Ocean Beach (not good for swimming, but great a view Seal Rocks) 
  30. San Francisco Zoo 
  31. Lake Merced (boating and trout fishing) 
  32. Sigmund Stern Grove (musical entertainment) 
  33. Golden Gate Park 
  34. Japanese Tea Garden (includes San Francisco Botanical Garden) 
  35. de Young Museum (American art from the 17th through the 20th centuries) 
  36. California Academy of Sciences 
  37. Twin Peaks (scenic drive, 360 degree panoramic views) 
  38. Mission Dolores (Spanish Mission, historic church) 
  39. San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (one of the world’s longest steel bridges) 
  40. Ferry Building (city's landmark, includes a marketplace and farmers markets) 
  41. Embarcadero Center (shops, dining, Justin Herman Plaza, Vaillancourt Fountain) 
  42. Montgomery Street is (center of the Financial District) 
  43. San Francisco Visitor Information Center (operated by the Convention & Visitors Bureau, offers brochures and tourist information) 
  44. Old Mint (historic building, Federal Greek Revival architecture) 
  45. Moscone Center (exhibit halls, near the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Rooftop children's area) 
  46. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 
  47. AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants) 
  48. Monster Park (San Francisco 49ers) and Cow Palace (hosts major indoor events) 
  49. San Francisco International Airport

While the route has been modified over the past 70 years, it’s still a great way to see some of San Francisco’s most amazing landmarks. The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau suggests that you plan your scenic drive during non-rush hour traffic to avoid major delays.

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