You'll feel as if you're out to sea when you step aboard, er, inside this sturdy, round, ship-shape structure dubbed the Bathhouse Building. The first floor of the recently renovated museum, part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, has stunningly restored undersea dreamscape murals and some of the museum's intricate ship models. Also on view is a piece of the Niantic, a whaling ship abandoned by its crew during the gold rush near the present-day
site of the Transamerica Pyramid; an old-time diorama shows the Niantic serving as a hotel along the wharf where it docked. Upstairs and across the balcony, exhibit spaces feature rotating exhibitions on nautical topics. The first-floor balcony overlooks the beach and has lovely WPA-era tile designs. If you've got young kids in tow, the museum makes a great quick, free stop. Then pick up ice cream at Ghirardelli Square across the street and enjoy it on the beach or next door in Victorian Park, where you can watch the cable cars turn around.
Aquatic Park, foot of Polk St., San Francisco, California, 94109, United States