The best activity to engage in while visiting America’s newest and best attraction is people watching. There’s an instant connection among all of those who find it on a cool, sunny afternoon, which is describing most of them here. Strangers look at each other and smile, greet, and comment on some aspect of what you’re seeing together. The underlying message is, “Aren’t we lucky to have found the Presidio and isn’t it wonderful?”
In 1776 the East Coast was creating a new nation while on the West Coast another country was establishing El Presidio, Spain’s most northerly outpost in the Americas. In 1862 San Francisco’s 1st street, Funston Avenue, happened when wood-framed houses were built for U.S. Army officers atop El Presidio’s remains. The Civil War was raging on the East Coast. During World War II the Army recruited & trained Japanese-American soldiers to become military linguists here. In 1994 the Army passed the Presidio to the National Park Service to become a new type of National Park under a self-sustaining trust.
National Geographic Traveler‘s 2014 year-end issue contains its annual guide to the best attractions in THE WORLD. It lists the 20 places travelers should see in 2015. The Presidio is #1. On New Year’s Day 2015 Ruth & I were in the Bay Area when we got very, very lucky. Our plans fell through. We headed to The Presidio to see what NGT was raving about.
Changes are well underway toward making The Presidio the top new attraction in the United States. What’s already there includes 24+ miles of well-used hiking and biking trails, 8 inspiring scenic overlooks, The Walt Disney Family Museum, etc. The Society of California Pioneers just closed its first exhibit in Pioneer Hall. The Main Post at Pershing Hall has become the elegant Inn at the Presidio. Ruth & I were twice lucky to find and dine in one of the new restaurants, The Commissary, that have sprung up all over this vast 1, 491 acre site. The Golden Gate Bridge’s western approach is being completely redone. The world’s most famous bridge will soon be reached via the Highway 101 Presidio Parkway that soars over what was once this nation’s premier army post.
The Presidio is one of San Francisco’s best addresses. There are already 21 residential neighborhoods and 3,000 lucky people living there. The waiting list makes everyone sigh with frustration, especially those who work in the Presidio and get a break on the price. You can’t own but must lease. Historic Army buildings are becoming businesses, museums, headquarters for organizations, etc. Lucasfilms has an office and Yoda here.
Because it was a National Holiday, the Visitor Center at the end of the Main Parade Ground was closed. It’s only opened from 10 am to 4 pm, Thursday through Sunday. For now. Ruth & I were three-times lucky to park near the Presidio Officers’ Club at 50 Moraga Avenue. Its Welcome Desk turned out to be the perfect place for us to get info and begin a tour on a major holiday.
In the cult film This is Spinal Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel demonstrates an amplifier that goes, not to the usual 10, but to 11. This number has come to represent anything that exceeds any possible limit of expectation. The Presidio is an 11.