Sightseeing For Introverts: San Francisco
In addition to having a well-deserved reputation for being mind-blowingly expensive, San Francisco is also known as a hip and happening place. Being one of the largest tech capitals in the world, San Francisco also boasts an inclusive energy, rich history, and stunning art and architecture.
As many incredible things as there are to see in the world, travel can be a bit taxing for the introvert. Going somewhere new not only disrupts established and comfortable routines, but also brims with high-stress situations and hectic environments in which decisions have to be made about what to eat, where to go, and what to do. It can be pretty overwhelming for a person who grows easily anxious and uncomfortable in crowds and new environments.
If you love to travel but also need some time to rest and recharge your creative batteries, seeking out some quieter places in your destination of choice may be just what you need. If you find yourself traveling to San Francisco anytime soon, visiting these less hectic places can give you a chance to power-up and be ready for more adventuring.
1. Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park spans 1,017 acres and is overflowing with gardens and museums, including the De Young Museum, Academy of Sciences, and the Japanese Tea Garden. While the museums and gardens can attract a lot of visitors, the park also has a plethora of empty space to sit or walk or contemplate. During my visit, I found a lovely patch of sunlit grass and just lay there for the better part of an hour. It was the most restful and peaceful part of my entire stay in San Francisco and helped prepare my mind and body for the hectic flight home later that day.
2. Presidio of San Francisco
The Presidio was originally built as a military base by Spain in 1776. It continued to be a military stronghold for 219 years, eventually changing hands to the United States after the Mexican/American War. Since it was transferred to the National Park Service in 1994, it has been used for both commercial and public interests.
In addition to its wooded hills and scenic vantage points overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, the Presidio also houses private residences and entertainment powerhouses such as the Lucasfilm digital headquarters, Letterman Digital Arts Center (LDAC), and the Walt Disney Family Museum.
The vibe in the Presidio instantly changes from hectic city hubbub to quiet country life as soon as you pass through the gates. It is peaceful, much less crowded, and runs on an entirely different pace than the rest of the city. There is a lot of open space and a ton to see and do. Definitely a good stop if you are craving some peace and quiet.
3. City Lights Bookstore
Located in the North Beach district, City Lights was founded by the poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin in 1953. City Lights became the hub of much controversy when Ferlinghetti published the influential collection of poetry, Howl, by Allen Ginsberg.
Though you can’t tell from the outside, City Lights contains three stories. The top floor consists entirely of poetry books. When I was there, no one else was in the room, and sunlight was streaming through the window over an armchair conveniently placed for reading. It was simply a lovely haven away from the bustle and chaos of the street.
4. Palace of Fine Arts
This splendid structure was originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exhibition. Designed to mirror the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome, the Palace of Fine Arts remained after the exhibit closed, though most other structures erected for it were demolished.
Surrounded by an artificial lagoon and a 1,100 ft pergola, the Palace of Fine Arts is beautiful to behold and a relaxing place to sit in the grass and imagine the things that happened there many years ago.
5. Grace Cathedral
Grace Cathedral is located on Nob Hill in the heart of San Francisco. This stunning feat of architecture is made of concrete and was designed in the French Gothic style by Lewis P. Hobart.
In addition to its own gorgeous architecture, the cathedral also houses a collection of fine art and artifacts, including 7,290 square feet of stained glass windows and sculptures and paintings dating from the middle ages.
Visitors are welcome to walk right in to take in the beauty and reverence of the Cathedral, and private tours are also available for those who want to see more behind the scenes. When you’ve finished your tour, you can head downstairs for a cup of coffee and browse the gift shop. Visiting Grace Cathedral is soul-satisfying, creatively inspiring, and a very pleasant way to spend a rainy morning in San Francisco.