My First Visit to the Presidio of San Francisco
Updated: Sep 13, 2021
When I visited San Francisco in the early 80s, I thought I was at the Presidio of San Francisco when I saw the Palace of the Arts and its park. I remembered it perched on the Bay’s edge and a beautiful sight.
Recently, I was invited to stay a couple of days by the Presidio of San Francisco. With research, it became evident that I was wrong about the breath of the Presidio; it is 1500 acres filled with history, activities, and incredible photographic views. (Just for the record, I have taken a survey. I have discovered few people in Palm Springs even know it exists.)
A Little Bit of Presidio of San Francisco History
To be fair, when I was there in the 80s, it was still an Army military base, and access was not open to the public. A millennium woman I met on my journey told me that they often found their way into the base when they were teenagers. It was too tempting not to head to the beaches or the paths with scenic views overlooking San Francisco at night.
The history of this area is intriguing. Including the fact, the very first wall built in California has recently been uncovered. It was part of the fort built by the Spaniards when they claimed the area for Spain in 1776. Currently, archaeologists on the property are watching over 30 historical sites on the 1500 acres.
There is much that happened on this acreage, but let’s fast forward to 1994 when the Army turned the base over to the National Park Service. Some of the magnificent buildings peppered throughout the land were in desperate need of attention.
The Repurposing of Buildings Began
This writer was privileged to stay in the Inn at the Presidio. Just a few steps away from the parade ground, this historic Inn once was the quarters for bachelor officers in the Army. The two-room suite had a working fireplace, replicas of historical photos, and period furniture. The luxurious linens made it hard to leave the tranquil serenity of my room.
It was the perfect location from which to explore the area, for there was a nearby free shuttle that transports people to outlying areas. However, one who likes walking will find it easy to navigate paths to the beach and many places of interest, such as the most perfect ever view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Next to the Inn, you will see the Chapel, a superb Spanish mission revival architecture example. Today, it is a venue for rent and in high demand for weddings.
As you walk past the Chapel, you will see the Archaeology Lab, the Presidio Museum, home of the local Red Cross, and the Lodge at the Presidio, to name a few of the occupants of this scenic and historic location.
Three Beaches Welcome the Public
I know you have driven across the Golden State Bridge. You looked up at the grandeur of the structure and craned your neck to see if you could see Alcatraz in the distance. However, let’s assume you were leaving San Francisco. If you look down and to the right, you will see an expansive, beach pristine sand calling to you. What a wonderful place to swim, breathe in the fresh ocean air, and meet friends for a day of family fun.
The two other beaches require a car or the use of the shuttle. However, they too offer magnificent views and beautiful sandy beaches.
Letterman Quarters (Named after a former General at the Presidio)
George Lucas has taken an interest in the Presidio, and his impact on this area is more than stunning. This section is now revitalized. Due to his investment of millions of dollars and his creative vision of the site is thriving.
Office space abounds; he is housing a portion of his digital organization there. The grounds offer an inviting place to stop, relax and have a picnic with your family and friends. The abundance of trees and flowers will help the most stressed person find a reprieve from outside influences.
If you love Wagyu beef or want to try it, you should head to Sessions at the Presidio. This expansive restaurant with enclosed patio dining overlooking the Letterman large greenway is the perfect place to have a lunch or an exceptional dinner. If you are fortunate fresh beignets will be served for dessert.
The beef and most organic produce used in the chef’s creative menus come from George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch about 20 miles north of the Presidio. The wines served are also from the Lucas ranch. At the manager’s urging, I had the Chardonnay and have to say it is by the far one of the best Chardonnay’s I have ever experienced.
So Much to See and Do at the Presidio
I trust I have aroused your curiosity about the Presidio. This treasure of a place is quietly waiting for people to discover it, literally steps away from the city. If you leave Palm Springs by air, it is a short plane ride to the San Francisco Airport. Once you are there, an Uber or Lyft is easy to find and will transport you the sixteen miles to a world you never expected. You will not need a car once you are there, for the free shuttle takes you to every place you may want to go. If you are a hiker, bring your hiking shoes, there are numerous trails for you to explore.
Yes, this journey was an eye-opener to me, and there is no question I want to go back. There is still so much to explore.
Kathy Condon is a freelance journalist and travel writer. She is the Founder of the Palm Springs Insider Guide. Her book It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask: It’s All About Communication was named Best Book Finalist By USA Book News Kathy@kathycondon.net 760-902-3094 www.PalmSpringInsiderGuide.com