San Francisco Marina

Marina Green and Presidio

Where do those Chestnut Street people go to run? The Marina Green of course! A long flat strip along the bay with a view of Alcatraz teems with joggers, rollerbladers, and bikers. A sunny area at the end of Marina Green also features volleyball and sun bathing area. Chestnut Street has tons of cheap, trendy, fun restaurants to pick up some food.

The Marina District is the area just off of the north slope of Pacific Heights along the bay. From east to west the area is bordered by Van Ness Avenue and Lyon Street. From the southern end the district is bordered by Vallejo and extends all the way down with the bay being it’s northern border.

Prior to the 1906 earthquake, the Marina was mostly marshland and dunes making it impossible to build on. After the earthquake, the area was used as a dumping ground for a good portion of the ruins and rubble that was left in the aftermath of the quake. When San Francisco was granted of honor of hosting the world’s fair in 1915, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the rock and rubble were transformed into an unstable foundation for the event. After the fair ended, the area was cleared out leaving only one of the main exposition buildings, the Palace of Fine Arts, as a sign that the fair had been there.

With the foundation already laid from the world’s fair, the city started to realize the potential for the waterfront area and began building, transforming the former marshland into an upscale and affluent neighborhood. Because the area had been built on such an unstable foundation, the earthquake in 1989 had a devastating effect. However, being that the area still boasted prime real estate, developers began rebuilding, and the yuppies flooded in. Now, while it’s the ultra-trendy and super-chic that mostly inhabit the Marina, it’s still a fun place to shop and enjoy some good food.

For those of you that are done with the shopping and eating around town, the Marina does have some other things to offer.

Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts - By M. Mehrdad Tavakkolian

The Palace of Fine Arts – Renovated in the 60’s, the only remaining building from the 1915 world’s fair. The grounds are beautiful with grass lawns and a pond that is home to various wildlife. 3601 Lyon Street

The Exploratorium – Housed inside the former exposition building at the Palace of Fine Arts, it is the science lover’s dream and houses various science exhibits, including many hands on experiments including an experiential maze called the Tactile Dome. 3601 Lyon Street (415) 397-5673

San Francisco Marina

Fort Mason – Formerly a military base, Fort Mason is now part of the Golden Gate National Parks Association. The lower portion along the piers, is know as Fort Mason Center, and houses many educational and cultural facilities such as, the San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art. There is also a beautiful park overlooking the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge where locals go the picnic, lay in the sun and walk their dogs. Call to check and see what events they are holding, as there is always something going on from art festivals, to wine tasting onto musical performances. (415) 441-3400

Marina Green/Crissy Field – This is the area right along the bay and is great for the outdoorsy types. The Marina Green is a lined on one side by spectacular houses and on the other by the bay and the marinas. The green hosts many events on the weekends and is always full of bike riders and runners. As you follow the Marina Green west, you’ll hit Crissy Field which runs along the bay on the north side of the Presidio. What was once a military airstrip, it now under the hands of the Golden Gate National Parks Association as has been undergoing restoration to house native wildlife. Fro those of you that want to be active, there are running trails and bike lanes that all lead to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. There is also a nice beach, which is a good place to sit and watch the windsurfers and sailboarders glide across the bay.


For the shopper in you, the main places to go are Union and Chestnut Streets. Both are lined with countless amounts of shops that could keep you busy for days. If you’re spending the day in the Marina, the best route for seeing both streets would be to start out on Union, at Gough Street, and stroll west down to Fillmore. On Fillmore take a right and walk down the four blocks to Chestnut. Take a left on Chestnut and follow it down to the end.

There are endless boutiques and clothing stores to choose from, but be sure to bring your credit card if you plan to buy anything. While Union Square is predominately revered as the main shopping district in San Francisco, the Marian offers smaller boutiques that house many local designers. But beware, these privately owned boutiques will make you pay for shopping in the high rent district.

For clothing boutiques you won’t want to miss places like Ambiance, The Blue Jeans Bar, Mingle, Rabat, Bryan Lee and Dreamy Angels. To accessorize there is Nine-West, Smash Shoes and the very popular Excessorize.

Beauty needs will be met in the Marina as well, as all the well knowns are represented such as, Benefit Cosmetics, MAC, Sephora, Lush and L’Occitane.

There are also many specialty shops such as, Williams Sonoma for house wares, Gity Joon and Z Gallerie for décor, the Enchanted Crystal for trinkets and Bella & Daisy’s for the pets.


For your day in the Marina it is assured that you will not go hungry wandering down Union and the surrounding area. There is virtually every type of cuisine and style you are looking for in this area. Here are just a few of the many mentionables:

On Union:

Ottimista Enoteca-Café – Small Italian wine bar with front patio overlooking Union Street. Offers wine tasting and has a continuously changing buy the glass list as well as an impressive by the bottle list. For food, Ottimista has joined the endless line of “small-plate” restaurants, but the food offered is good and pairs well while you’re tasting wine. 1838 Union St. (415) 674-8400

Ristorante Capannina – Great Italian food served in a cozy atmosphere. A little pricier than some of the other Italian restaurants, but well worth the price. 1809 Union Street (415) 409-8001

Bayside Sports Bar and Grill – Typical sports bar with lots of TV’s for the sports enthusiasts. Good if you’re in the mood for chicken wings and beer. 1787 Union St. (415) 673-1565

Perry’s – Union Street haunt since 1969, offers good food in a very casual setting. Mostly comfort food like burgers, salads and fried chicken. 1944 Union St. (415) 922-9022

Betelnut – Ultra-trendy and ultra-yuppie, Betelnut is probably one of the most popular restaurants in the Marina. It offers pan-asian food in a usually packed atmosphere so plan on making a reservation. The food there lives up to it’s extremely popular reputation though, and is a great place for plate sharing. 2030 Union St. (415) 929-8855

Other Notable Restaurants in the Marina:

A-16 – Like Betelnut, this is one of the more trendy places in the Marina, and people like to go there to be seen. The fare is casual Italian food, and is good, particularly if you go on “Meatball Mondays”, where housemade meatballs change flavor from week to week. 2355 Chestnut St. (415) 771-2216

Brazen Head – One of the Marina’s hidden gems named after the oldest bar in Dublin. The food is good, but it’s the atmosphere you’ll want to go for. It’s a dark cozy steakhouse and bar, that is perfect for those cold San Francisco evenings. 3166 Buchanan St. (415) 921-7600

Isa – Yes, it’s another small plate restaurant, but the French inspired menu does offer great food in a nice atmosphere. 3324 Steiner St. (415) 567-9588

PlumpJack Café – For the fine diners, this is the choice. Small but elegant atmosphere offering expensive, but very good food. Also walk a few doors down to their wine shop for great deals on fine wines. 3127 Fillmore St. (415) 563-4755

While staying in the Marina may be a little expensive, the area really is beautiful and is walking distance to Fisherman’s Wharf, Russian Hill, and if you don’t mind the hills, North Beach and Pacific Heights.

Public transportation is a must for getting to the Marina if you are going to be shopping. Street parking is borderline impossible most days, and the garages know it and will make you pay for their services. For buses, the 45 and th 41 both run directly down Union Street, while the 30 and the 22 run down Chesnut. If your going to the Marina to enjoy the outdoor areas, there is more parking offered and if you are there mid-week your chances of finding parking are good, but the weekends can be more problematic.

Start your tour near Marina Boulevard @ Divisadero Street. Note free long term parking at Fort Mason or short term parking at Safeway. Fort Mason has some near art and theater also. Pick up beers and/or sandwiches at Safeway. Close to Chestnut Street also with tons of takeout food.

Best Marina breakfasts?

At the end of the Green is a domed cathedral. This architectural wonder, The Palace of Fine Arts, is great for a shady picnic or some romance. The Palace also houses the Exploratorium science museum. Great hands-on fun, especially for kids.

Presidio Restoration

Restored Presidio Parkland

Finally, the Presidio former Army base is at the end of Marina Boulevard. Historic sights, nature walks, a nude beach (Baker Beach) are all included in this recently converted to civilian use area. The Presidio connects the Marina to the west side of the city where Golden Gate Park is located. You can drive through the Presidio to Golden Gate Park using Lincoln Boulevard. The Presidio also includes Fort Point, which is a Civil War era fort with barracks, swords, and gunpowder storage. Pretty cool to walk through.

By: Colleen Kelly, Copyright SFTRAVEL LLC

And for you partiers... Marina Nightclubs