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The Marina District

High-end boutiques, waterfront parks and ancient Greek temples.


The Marina District
San Francisco Travel Association photo
The Marina district has long been known as the heart of San Francisco's young urban professional culture and the edgy, bohemian vibe that characterizes many other residential neighborhoods is noticeably absent, even unwanted, here. The Marina has much to offer visitors to the city however, as it not only holds several of the city's key landmarks, museums and parks but it also is a major shopping area, a rewarding culinary destination and has a throbbing nightlife scene, all of which are driven by it's affluent young residents.

Visiting the Marina District

The Marina district is located on San Francisco's northern waterfront, between Fisherman´s Wharf and the Presidio. It is within walking distance from the wharf and easily accessible via the 30 Stockton Muni bus from North Beach and Union Square. Street parking is metered and usually very limited but is somewhat more available than in the city center.

Things to See in the Marina District

  • The Palace of Fine Arts - This replica of a ancient Greek temple was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition and is a major San Francisco landmark. The stunning setting is a favorite locale for weddings, picnics and relaxation on sunny days.

  • The Exploratorium - Children love this cutting-edge museum that integrates art and science as well as play and learning to easily provide a whole day's worth of rapture for the whole family.

  • Crissy Field - This large park and wildlife preserve stretches from the Marina to the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and is immensely popular with bicyclists and joggers.

  • Fort Mason Center - Once a military fort guarding the bay from attack, this waterfront complex now houses the Mexican American Museum and the Museo Italo Americano as well as several theater organizations, environmental non-profits and a sculpture studded park.

  • The Marina Green - This waterfront park lines the neighborhood´s namesake marina, where sailboats and yachts are moored, and is always buzzing with kite-flyers, dog-walkers, and strolling locals and visitors when the weather is clear.

Shopping in the Marina District

Upscale boutique designer clothing and home furnishing stores line Union Street, while Chestnut Street tends to be a bit more casual, eclectic and youth-oriented. Shoes and accessories seem to be a Marina District specialty and cosmetic shops are well represented as well. Due to the prevalence of young families in the area, children´s toy and clothing stores are also abundant in the Marina District.

Dining in the Marina District

Restaurants line Chestnut Street and overflow onto many of its intersecting side streets; Circa is a trendy neighborhood favorite, perfect for sampling the best of the Marina's cuisine and crowd, while Pluto's serves hearty helpings of healthy American cuisine at moderate prices.

Over on Union Street, fine dining restaurants like Cafe Des Amis, a Parisian-style brasserie that reaps rave reviews, are often packed to the gills on weekends. Fillmore, between Union and Chestnut, offers more casual fare like pizza by the slice as well as classic Marina dining and dating at the City Tavern.

Nightlife in the Marina District

Though no North Beach or Mission District, the Marina packs a powerful punch when it comes to nightlife - for a residential neighborhood. The two-block stretch of Fillmore Street between Union and Lombard is ground-zero for partying in the area and the festivities usually spill over into the street on weekend nights.

The MatrixFillmore, which was originally opened in 1965 by Marty Balin; lead singer of Jefferson Airplane, is now one of the area´s hottest lounges and hosts DJs and dancing most nights of the week. For something more low-key, the Comet Club is the most unpretentious option on the strip, but its retro decor and booming sound system still bring in the young and hip by the boatload. Both Chestnut Street and Union also offer a smattering of bars and lounges.

Hotels in the Marina District

Despite the Marina District's upscale status, it is actually where a large number of the city's most unappealing motels and chain accommodations are located. This is due to the fact that Highway 1, as it enters the city from the Golden Gate Bridge, travels down Lombard Street, and many of the lodging options are designed for those who are traveling and simply need to spend a night on the road.

For those that want to take advantage of the well rounded amenities that the Marina District offers as well as its close proximity to major San Francisco sights like Fisherman´s Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge however, these motels are usually a considerably better bargain than those found in the Union Square area or on the wharf.

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