Already have a trip to San Francisco booked for your vacation, yet further destinations beckon? Or perhaps its just less bucks to travel far this summer? Don’t fear! San Francisco has international highlights that can make a trip around the city feel like a micro-trip around the world.
Take a trip to around San Francisco and take a trip around the world. Please note: Touristy Chinatown is not on this list.
Holland: Dutch Windmill at Golden Gate Park
There’s a full size Dutch Windmill at Golden Gate Park? Of course there is! It sits right near Ocean Beach, looking out at the Pacific like a stout Dutch man. Surrounding its base are (what else?) tulips in the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden Built in 1903, this Dutch windmill and garden are a surprise in the city to locals and tourists. The best way to get there? Do like the Dutch and bike it. John F. Kennedy Drive runs through Golden Gate Park and provides a nice downward slope to the Ocean from the Haight Ashbury district.
Russia: Holy Virgin Cathedral, Joy of All Who Sorrow
Visit this richly gold-domed cathedral a half hour before service to hear Russian prayers whispered and vespers spoken. The gold riches continues inside to the massively muraled and reach-to-the-heavens depictions of Biblical scenes. St. John, miracle worker of Shanghai and San Francisco, or at his relics, lie prone on the right side of the building. This Russian Orthodox church is in the Inner Richmond neighborhood, one of San Francisco’s most diverse. Walk down the street for a piroshki at Cinderella Bakery. See more about this Russian treasure of San Francisco.
Japan: New People Post Street Mall
The New York Times describes this five-story, clean white complex as “a five-level, glass-walled, 20,000-square-foot shrine to all things Japanese.” Inside the New People mall one finds much more than the Hello Kitty or origami stores in neighboring Kintetsu Mall. There’s the Baby store dedicated to the little bo peep frocks called Lolita dresses. There’s Black Peace Now where Japanese designers showing cooler-than-you’ll-see-worn-by-local-hipsters gothic t-shirts. Visit the restrooms for a Japanese toilet experience complete with sanitary, headed seats. The entrance is hidden slightly among the busy district, but once found opens to a visit a very modern space in Japantown. Follow up with Shabu Shabu at Mum’s Café a few blocks away.
India: Non-Stop Bhangra Dancing at the Rickshaw Stop
Thrumming Bollywood beats pulsate this nightclub on the third Saturday of each month in San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood. Throngs of Punjabi revelers throw their hands up and twist throughout the night this 500-year old style of Indian dance. Dance lessons for the bolder visitors start at 9 and the house music starts for all at 10. A movie screen of shapes, colors or a random Indian movie illuminates colors onto the sea of faces in the crowd. It’s a sea parted every hour or so by a live drummer who seems to bring the hidden rhythms still left in the ground up through each partiers core and out through their hands. Not ready to party till later? Head to the nearby Fillmore street for South Indian cuisine at Dosa for dinner.
Mexico: Diego Rivera Mural at City College of San Francisco
Image from SF City Guides
San Francisco is painted with murals, specifically in the historically Latino Mission District along Valencia and Guerrero streets. However, to see work by the Mexican maestro of murals one can find the famous Diego Rivera’s Pan American Mural in the very southern Ingleside neighborhood on the City College Campus. Stand in awe at the namesake theater and view large-scale public art that depicts, “… the fusion of the genius of the South (Mexico) with its religious ardor and its gift for plastic expression and the genius of the North (the United States) with its gift for mechanical expression.1” Originally painted for Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1939, the panels of this work of art were held for 20 years in storage because there was not a building big enough to showcase Rivera’s masterpiece. Visiting hours are limited to weekdays. For Mexican eats, try Taqueria La Fortuna nearby for burritos.
Thailand: Relaxing Thai Massage at Suchada
Photo on Flickr by Alaskan Dude
Okay, it’s cheaper in Thailand to get a Thai massage, but the airfare will kill ya. It’s much more cost effective to let the talented Thai masseurs walk all over your back in the SOMA district of San Francisco at Suchada. Outside there’s a strip mall feel, but inside, it’s pure Thai tranquility and relaxation. Staff provide you with cotton outfits to put on before you are led into individual rooms and stretched and pushed into a stress-free zone.
And of course San Francisco has cuisine from every corner of the globe from Szechuan Hot Pot to Peruvian food trucks and local Italian dishes that surpass Rome. (Or head outside the city for the best Indian food in the Bay Area) San Francisco’s cultural diversity and ethnic destinations make an around the world trip easy and affordable within the city.
Photo credit: Photo on Flickr by Alaskan Dude