San Francisco’s Presidio
Part of the U.S. National Park Service, the Presidio of San Francisco is a national park unlike any other. What started in the late 1700s as a Spanish military outpost and evolved into an American Army post from 1846 to 1994 is now a public park with plenty of natural beauty (it sits on the northwest corner of San Francisco, bordered by the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and dense forest) but also historic sites, commercial businesses, residential districts, and restaurants by James Beard Award-winning chef Traci Des Jardins. Many things to do in the park are free, making it a budget-friendly place to spend a day in the city.
Presidio Officers’ Club
Start your day in the Presidio at its oldest building, the revamped Presidio Officers’ Club, which reopened last October as a small museum, event space, and cultural center. Once a gathering spot for Army bigwigs and their families, the Spanish-style building dates back to 1776 and houses permanent exhibits about the Presidio’s military history and a temporary exhibit called “Operation Babylift: Perspectives and Legacies.” This multimedia exhibit runs through the end of 2015 and details the adoption of Vietnamese children at the end of the Vietnam War, an initiative based at the Presidio in 1975.
Also inside the Officers’ Club, you can see a piece of the building’s original adobe walls; have a drink or meal at Arguello, a Mexican restaurant by Traci Des Jardins; see Earth Wall, an art installation by British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy; and stop by the front desk to grab a map of the park and a calendar of events. Admission to the building and exhibits is free.
Image via Google Maps