Archives for May 2010

From Quirky to Cosmopolitan, San Francisco Has it All

From the cool breezes at a Giants night game at AT&T Park, to delicious sourdough bread from vendors at Fisherman’s Wharf, to the majestic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco delights sports fans, culture buffs, foodies, and more. The City by the Bay offers a mosaic of travel experiences, and San Francisco CityPASS lets travelers hit all the must-see attractions at nearly half off the regular admission price.

Palace of fine arts, San Francisco, California, USA

Customers will find a booklet of discount tickets to SFMoMA, the Aquarium by the Bay, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise. The CityPASS is also good for a 7-day unlimited passport for Muni busses, street cars, and San Francisco’s famous cable cars. Plus you can choose from one bonus admission, either the hand-on Exploratorium or the de Young Museum and Legion of Honor.  Plus, CityPASS holders can jump the admission line at most venues, so you’ll save time as well as money.

A great way to take in all of the city’s sights at once is on the Blue & Gold Fleet’s hour-long Bay Cruise Adventure. This is a great way to get your bearings at the beginning of a trip, or relax and take in the view when you want a break from being on your feet. You’ll sail past the waterfront, catch a glimpse of the famous sea lions at Pier 39, cruise underneath the famous Golden Gate Bridge, and circle the infamous Alcatraz prison.

The California Academy of Sciences packs an aquarium, natural history museum, four-floor rain forest, and planetarium into one eco-friendly building. Visit animals like piranhas, penguins, and albino alligators, or see what Earth looks like when viewed from space. The building boast eco-friendly design elements, too, like walls that are insulated using recycled blue jeans.


The Aquarium of the Bay lets visitors get up close to local marine life as they walk through tunnels where sevengill sharks swim overhead. More than 20,000 sea creatures call the tanks at Aquarium by the Bay home, and visitors can even touch some of the animals, including bat rays, sharks, and sea stars.

For a different slice of San Francisco life, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is the most comprehensive collection of contemporary art on the west coast. Programs and special exhibitions are always changing, and their museum shop is a great place to look for unique souvenirs. Take a break in SFMoMA’s Caffé Museo and enjoy upscale cuisine and special cocktails with museum visitors and locals alike

Round out your San Francisco visit with one of two very different experiences offered by the CityPASS option ticket. The family-friendly Exploratorium is a hands-on exploration of art, science, and human perception. The de Young Museum and Legion of Honor span the spectrum of art with works from ancient times through the 21st century.

The Exploratorium, in the Palace of Fine Arts, has been a leader in interactive museum experiences for decades. Exhibits include the Tactile Dome—a pitch dark maze that can only be navigated by touch (reservations required). The Shadow Wall lets visitors freeze their shadow in place and explore light and movement. And a 10-foot-tall indoor tornado lets you get up close to nature’s fury.

In Golden Gate Park, the de Young Museum presents American art from the colonial era through today, contemporary art from around the world, costumes and textiles, and art from Central America, South America, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. This summer they present Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay, a rare opportunity to explore the roots of one of the modern era’s most popular artistic movements, featuring works from a famed Paris museum.

The Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park is much more than a military museum. Built to honor California servicemen and women who died in France during World War II, the building is a scale replica of Paris’s Palais de la Légion d’Honneur. Inside is a collection spanning 4,000 years: a world-renowned collection of sculptures by Rodin, ancient Greek and Egyptian art, English porcelain, and more.

San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay Poised for Success

The Aquarium of the Bay is bouncing back from an inauspicious start as a failing tourist destination. The nonprofit Bay Institute Aquarium Foundation today announced the successful purchase of the institution from Darius Anderson and Kenwood Bay Aquarium, LLC. The acquisition had been in the works for four years, says a spokesperson. The goal is to transform the aquarium into a self-supporting nonprofit that will serve as a center for science, education, and conservation of the San Francisco Bay and its surrounding waters. Christina Swanson, the Bay Institute’s executive director, touted the acquisition as “a new model of social entrepreneurship that partners a leading science-based nonprofit with a successful, public aquarium.”

SF Aquarium

The Bay Institute had attempted a capital campaign to buy the failing aquarium in 2006, but fell short of its fundraising goals. Political strategist and fundraiser Darius Anderson stepped in and bought the aquarium, enabling the Bay Institute to buy more time. Anderson was able to transform the aquarium into the city’s third-largest ticketed attraction. He helped the Aquarium of the Bay get Green certification, launched a sevengill shark research initiative, and instituted an educational program that brought free classes and tours to 15,000 San Francisco public school students in all grades. “As a fourth-generation San Franciscan, I wanted to ensure that the city had a waterfront aquarium where people would both have fun and leave with a sense of purpose to protect the San Francisco Bay,” Anderson said.

Anderson’s work in making the aquarium profitable helped the Bat Institute Aquarium Foundation reach their fundraising goals.  Steven N. Machtinger, president of the foundation’s board of trustees said, “Raising the capital to acquire Aquarium of the Bay through traditional fundraising during the most serious economic downturn in our country’s recent history was an uphill battle.” But local corporations and foundations like David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Marin Community Foundation, and the Dean Witter Foundation joined individual donors including Ruth and Ben Hammett and the Bay Institute’s entire board joined to finally put the capital campaign on track for the acquisition. Fundraising efforts continue, and are earmarked for further expansion of science and conservation programs and partnerships with other environmental organizations.

Executive director Swanson feels that the outlook is positive for the Aquarium of the Bay. “The Bay Institute’s work to protect the largest estuary on the west coast of the Americas will reach a larger audience, “ she says. And the aquarium itself can now offer school programs to a broader audience while undertaking more aggressive research and conservation projects. “The Aquarium of the Bay will crossroad for collaboration among the scientific, educational, interpretive, and conservation communities.”

The Aquarium of the Bay is included in the San Francisco CityPassPier 39 Attraction Pass and Go San Francisco Card.