Everything You Need to Know About San Francisco's Historic Sutro Baths
For decades, the Sutro Baths were an iconic part of San Francisco and defined the grand vision that prominent San Franciscans had for their burgeoning city. If you're planning a visit to San Francisco's Richmond District, it's worth visiting the ruins of the Sutro Baths, both for their breathtaking views and rich history. Here's how to make the most out of your trip there.
History of Sutro Baths
The Sutro Baths were the passion project of Adolph Sutro, an entrepreneur who was also a former mayor of San Francisco. Set in the western part of the city on a cliff facing the ocean, the views afforded by the Sutro Baths were (and still are) impressive. The baths themselves were built inside a large and impressive structure and consisted of six saltwater pools and one freshwater pool. The saltwater pools were filled by the incoming high tide, and an underground turbine pump was able to refresh the water every five hours during low tide. Completed in 1890, the Sutro Baths were an impressive feat of engineering in and of themselves, and were a popular destination for citizens of San Francisco and visitors alike. However, by the start of World War I, the popularity of the baths had diminished significantly and attempts to revitalize their popularity — which included converting the baths into an ice skating rink — ultimately failed. The baths were slated for destruction, to be replaced by high-rise condos in 1964. Before that could happen, the remnants of the Sutro Baths were destroyed by fire and the condo plans were abandoned. Today, the ruins are a testament to the vision of one San Franciscan and how he saw the city.
Best Time of Day to Visit Sutro Baths
While the best time to visit the Sutro Baths is debatable, many agree that the view at sunset is best. If possible, visit during the week, as the baths can become fairly crowded on the weekend.
While the baths themselves are no longer available to visitors, there are still a variety of outdoor activities to engage in. Ocean Beach, which is adjacent to the ruins, is a popular surfing spot. Even if you don't surf yourself, simply watching surfers can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon while waiting for the sun to set over the ruins. Nearby Sutro Park is also a great place to spend an afternoon. It offers excellent panoramic views of Ocean Beach, the Cliff House and several San Francisco neighborhoods.
If you are driving, simply take Geary Boulevard west and you'll eventually run into the ruins. There is plenty of parking in the area. If you're taking mass transit, the 38 bus runs close to the ruins. Other bus lines that will get you close include the 5, 18 and 31.
The Cliff House is a historic restaurant that offers breathtaking views of Seal Rocks and the Pacific Ocean. Cliff House is great for a relaxing brunch, or simply to enjoy a drink or two while overlooking one of the best views in San Francisco. www.cliffhouse.com
The Walt Disney Family Museum
From Mickey Mouse to ice princess Elsa, Walt Disney is responsible for some of the most iconic cultural touchstones in the United States. The Walt Disney Family Museum is a 40,000 square foot center with interactive exhibits that feature some of Walt's earliest drawings, as well as an incredible scale model of Disneyland. www.waltdisney.org
Presidio Social Club
Featuring a retro California theme, the Presidio Social Club is an upscale restaurant that offers unique cocktails and a rotating seasonal menu by some of the best chefs in the city. www.presidiosocialclub.com
With its breathtaking views and proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge, the Log Cabin is one of the few venues in San Francisco where you can get panoramic views of both the coast and the city skyline. If you're looking for a place to host a wedding or other reception, the Log Cabin is worth consideration.
Presidio Officers' Club
The Presidio Officers' Club is a community center with a number of activities for both children and adults. In addition to their award-winning restaurant, the club is also host to numerous public programs, including music, dance classes and a wide variety of speakers. www.presidio.gov