Where is the best place to have a drink and watch the fog roll in and out of San Francisco?
What a great question! My top three spots also qualify as generally excellent vistas:
1. Hawk Hill, Conzelman Rd, Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This is old army battery site is just west of the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are spectacular views of San Francisco, the Bay and some of the nearby Marin Headlands. There is limited street parking (especially on weekends and at sunset), and it can be very windy, so plan a visit accordingly. It's about a 15-20 minute uphill hike on a gravel road to the hill summit. The view from the road and parking area is almost as good, but it's nice to get away from the crowds and traffic and enjoy exploring the abandoned historic battery, wildflowers, birds, and other wildlife in the headland scrub.
2. Hamon Observation tower at De Young Museum, Golden Gate Park. The 9th floor observation room offers 360 degree views of San Francisco through ceiling-to-floor glass windows. Since it's only about 1 mile from the ocean, it's a great place to see fog crawl in over the surrounding urban neighborhoods and park landscapes. Although there is an admission fee to the rest of the fine art museum, admission to the Hamon Tower is free. Go in the main entrance and go to the far right to the elevator.
3. Treasure Island (San Francisco). The flat man-made island between San Francisco and Oakland off the Bay Bridge offers a great view west toward San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. From here, you can see fog dramatically descending into the Financial District and Embarcadero Center, and oozing through the Golden Gate Bridge. There's ample free parking at the water's edge.
Keep in mind that fog typically comes onshore in warmer months and in the afternoon when heat in distant the Sacramento-San Joaquin valley makes airmass rise there. This draws inland (to fill the void) a mass of cool coastal air and the fog lurking offshore.
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You'll have to bring the drink with you, but I vote for Marin Headlands. To get there from the city, just cross the bridge and take the first exit on the right. Follow down a bit and make the first left, passing under the freeway. Continue on up, up and up! :)
(If you're headed south, take the last exit on your right before crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.)
I love Twin Peaks - it's one of the highest points in the city. You'll be right in the middle of the fog and can watch it creep over downtown. Bring layers because it can get cold/windy!
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