Volunteer Note: All Around the Thumb - in San Francisco

By Amy Ladd, MD


Dr. Ladd employs hand anatomy to guide us around San Francisco and the surrounding area, providing thorough insight on things to do and see in San Fran when you're not at the Moscone West Convention Center. 

September in San Francisco is divine. Despite the claim of Mark Twain, “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” it certainly does not apply to the month of September! To complement Ed Diao’s Insider notes from last week, here are a few more things to do in and around San Francisco when you have an hour, an afternoon, or an overnight.

The way I best like to explain the Bay Area and the Peninsula is, predictably, in the shape of a hand - the right thumb and first web, to be exact, from the dorsal side. (I know, it’s a feeble West Coast effort compared to someone fond of explaining Wisconsin or Michigan). The San Francisco Bay is the first web space. The following suggestions are progressively further away from city center - imagine a vortex emanating in a counter-clockwise fashion starting from the ulnar base of the thumbnail, at SF Giants stadium.

Although the Giants are not in town during the Annual Meeting, twice daily tours will give you a feel of why it’s family friendly, and has the best food of all the 30 MLB stadiums. The massive Charlie Brown mitt – 3 fingers and a thumb – is a vintage 1927 glove which masquerades as a play structure. Waterbar Restaurant is a short distance away, with superb views of the Bay Bridge – a lightshow every night – with a great seafood and oyster bar. Heading toward the thumb tip (to continue the lame hand analogy), Alcatraz is a short ferry ride away. Although some may think of Clint Eastwood in Escape from Alcatraz, my favorite San Francisco comedy has Phil Hartman’s park service persona scaring the wits out of Mike Myers in So I Married an Axe Murderer - something to consider downloading before your flight. Taking a bike across the Golden Gate and returning by ferry is also an excellent option. Your last stop at the proverbial thumb tip is the Cliff House, which has variably served as speakeasy, mob house, and essential tourist stop overlooking Seal Rock and the Pacific Ocean. Order a Ramos Fizz if you want the classic beverage.

Heading south on the Peninsula, breathtaking views of Highway 1 will take you 25 miles down to Half Moon Bay – roughly at the IP joint on our thumb journey of northern California. The perfect lunch (or brunch, or sipping wine to bagpipers at dusk) can be had at the Ocean Terrace at the Ritz Carlton, with a view that rivals Pebble Beach and Big Sur - and so much closer! Keep going south on CA Highway 280, and stop at Stanford University in Palo Alto to see the Rodin Collection (2nd only to Paris) or anything related to Stanford Athletics (the football team is away that week). And if you are an Apple fan, visit the Apple Store at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, at the main Apple headquarters. It’s the only store you can buy Apple memorabilia, attire, and backpacks, and you are literally right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Cupertino and San Jose are just south of the cul de sac of the Bay (the fleshy part of the first web space on our hand map).

A big leap north through the East Bay (East of the SF Bay) along the radial side of our mapped index finger will take you beyond the San Pablo Bay into wine country, both Sonoma and Napa. So many wineries, so little time! A special one is Ovid Vineyard, a mom-and-pop estate created by the husband-wife duo who gave us Ovid search engine. If you can get a tour, one of them will probably come around and say hi, serve you nibbles, or share a glass.

Lastly, a trip to California needs at least mention of the magical, enchanting Yosemite, 4 hours away due East. The images of Half Dome, El Capitán, and Cathedral Rock - at one time or another they may have graced your computer’s screensaver - are no comparison to these stunning beauties in real life. Sipping cocktails on the lawn of the Ahwahnee Hotel after a day’s hike up Yosemite Falls, contemplating Half Dome (along perhaps with a bear strolling by) will stay with you forever. Even if you don’t make it to Yosemite this visit, think about the next.