Throughout 2012 San Francisco is celebrating the Golden Gate Bridge's 75th anniversary, and on May 27th locals and visitors alike will assemble at Fort Point, Crissy Field, The Presidio, and Marina Green to take in fireworks and festivities. If you're coming to the Bay Area to salute this beloved landmark, why not extend the historic tribute? Citywide San Francisco is going through a revival, embracing industries, buildings, even restaurants that were established when the Golden Gate Bridge was in its International Orange infancy. Everything old is new again, and in this city, 75 is the new grand opening.
Where to Eat: A North Beach institution, Original Joe's opened the same year the Golden Gate Bridge was unveiled. Now, 75 years later, some criticize that there isn't much original about Original Joe's—the previous location was destroyed in a fire in 2007. But just like the city itself after the 1906 fire, Original Joe's was rebuilt to be better than ever. Black-bow-tied waiters, red leather booths, and a menu with no fewer than five veal dishes all contribute to the time warp feel. And while the clubby setting is photogenic and fun, the food—full of retro treats like butterscotch pudding—fully lives up to it.
Where to Shop: Opened by a fourth-generation San Franciscan, Bluxome Street Winery may be less than a year old, but it's reviving a very old industry—SoMa wine production. At the beginning of the twentieth century, wine production was centered "south of the slot" (aka Market Street) in the city center, but all of that was replaced by Napa and Sonoma. Now a century later, this small winery is resurrecting the production. While grapes come from Russian River Valley, everything is crushed and bottled onsite. Come for a tasting and you may cancel your side trip to the Wine Country (or at least leave with several bottles in arm).
What to Tour: San Francisco has always been a food town, and that becomes even more evident on the Local Tastes of the City Tour with guide Tom Medin. On this tour, you'll taste bread made from starters that date back when the bridge was first up. Stops include North Beach mainstays like Caffe Roma or Liguria Bakery for bites of their specialties, but the real treat is walking around the counter and into the kitchens to see the old brick ovens or bean roasters and understand how old techniques yield the best results.
Where to Stay: With a grand opening in April 2012, the Inn at the Presidio is days old, but the building has a rich history starting in 1903. The surrounding area was formerly a military post, and this hotel was once the swinging bachelor officers' quarters. Now a stunning hotel, its interiors embrace the past fully, with dark leather chairs, decorative bugles, and army-green tiles in the bathrooms. Best of all, the Golden Gate Bridge is a short hike away, and you can catch peekaboo glimpses of the bridge from certain spots on the second floor.
Where to Drink: Secret passwords and unmarked entrances add to the cloak-and-dagger appeal of Bourbon & Branch. If that sounds a bit theatrical consider that this spot was once a prohibition era bar. In the 1920's and 30's, this locale masqueraded as a cigar shop, but really served up bootlegged booze. The owners do their best to uphold the speakeasy ambiance even going so far as to include on the house rules: "Don't even think of asking for a Cosmo." With so many throwback drinks like the Hemingway (made with excellent rum), you'd never dream of it.
Hit the Bridge: Finally, you wouldn't come to Bay Area and miss your moment to get up close and personal with the Golden Gate Bridge. Since the bridge is a two-mile stretch, the best way to cover it is on bike tour. Bike and Roll tour guides take you on a great cycling path, but they also stop repeatedly for photo ops and fill you in on the city's political scandals, real estate prices, and fascinating history touching on everything from the Fisherman's Wharf to the Palace of Fine Arts. But the centerpiece of the tour is the bridge itself. You may have to huff and puff up a few hills to get there, but the stunning view on both sides, and the glory of being on the bridge itself gazing over the water 200 feet below, is the ultimate San Francisco experience.
All photos courtesy of Maria Hart