San Francisco/Twin Peaks-Lake Merced

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States California San Francisco San Francisco/Twin Peaks-Lake Merced



Southwestern San Francisco is made up of several hilly neighborhoods that include some of the city's highest peaks, beautiful parkland, and tranquil neighborhoods tucked in the hillsides, where you'll find spectacular views and quiet parks. Running from the Twin Peaks to Lake Merced at the very southwestern corner of the city, the area includes the Twin Peaks neighborhoods, West Portal, and Miraloma Park before stretching southwest to Ingleside, SFSU and Lake Merced. It is bordered by the Sunset neighborhood on the northwest, the Castro-Noe Valley district to the northeast, and I-280 to the southeast.

The name Twin Peaks stems from the fact that it consists of two almost identical peaks. It is practically at the geographical center of the city, and at an elevation of over 900 feet it offers spectacular 360 degree panoramic views of the city and the bay. Although the peaks remain undeveloped, the foot of the hillside is peppered with residential houses, taking advantage of the spectacular vistas.

The weather in Twin Peaks is always markedly windier and chillier than in neighborhoods at lower altitudes, so bring along appropriate cool-weather dress and err on the side of excess.

Miraloma Park is a quiet, pleasant residential district of single-family homes on the east side of Mt. Davidson. Homes were first built in the neighborhood in the late 1920s and construction continued in waves through the 1950s. The neighborhood therefore offers a variety of architectural styles: from 1920s classic to mid-century modern.

West Portal is a small business district on the western side of San Francisco's largest hills. The name refers to the western end of the Twin Peaks Tunnel, a subway tunnel which runs under the Twin Peaks and connects to the Market Street subway tunnel to Downtown.

Forest Hill is an often overlooked neighborhood atop the Twin Peaks Tunnel, with a subway station on the way out to West Portal. One of the first neighborhood developments on the west side of the city, Forest Hill's first houses were built in the 1910s with the opening of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. The neighborhood is beautifully landscaped, with wide, curving streets, terraces, parks, and elegant stairways with ornamental touches.

Lake Merced is a freshwater lake which now serves mainly as a recreational spot, surrounded by much parkland. It was the last area of San Francisco to develop, making it the best place to put the large San Francisco Zoo and the campus for San Francisco State University, which is the heart of another small business district.

Ingleside is a mostly residential neighborhood tucked between San Francisco State University on the west and City College of San Francisco on the east. Ocean Avenue is the main commercial corridor of this neighborhood. A new shopping district on Alemany Boulevard in the southern section of this neighborhood promises several restaurants as well as shopping.



Sights and Activities

San Francisco Zoo, Sloat Boulevard (at 47th Avenue), ☏ +1-415-753-7080. 10AM-5PM daily. A large zoo with all the animals you'd expect, and then some. Some of the highlight exhibits are the African area (where you'll see many African animals living together in the same exhibit), a primate center, a children's zoo, and a family farm (a large petting zoo), but there's plenty more, along with events like wildlife shows. Adults $15 ($12 for SF residents), seniors $12 ($7.50 for SF residents), Children $9 ($5.50 for SF residents), Children 3 and under are free.
Sutro Tower, 1 La Avanzada St (limited parking is available on the streets surrounding the tower; Muni bus #36 from Forest Hill Muni station gets you the closest to the tower, get off at Marview Way & Panorama Dr stop). Though not a typical architectural attraction, this tower is nevertheless a well-known landmark among locals. Built in the 1970s to provide television reception to the city's hilly neighborhoods, this three-pronged antenna tower reaches 977 feet into the air atop one of San Francisco's tallest hills and is visible from just about anywhere in the city when it's not shrouded in fog. While the tower itself is off-limits to the public, there are walking trails that get very close to the base of the tower and offer great views of the surrounding neighborhoods.
Twin Peaks, accessible by car or on foot via Twin Peaks Boulevard (north of Portola Drive, just east of Laguna Honda; Muni bus #37 to the Castro offers the closest public transit service to Twin Peaks, letting off a short climb up the east face of the peaks). The small parking area at the northern tip of Twin Peaks Boulevard (875' above sea level) is near the physical center of the city, and one of its highest points, providing spectacular views in all directions. Tour buses can get backed up here during the day, but it's a great place to really appreciate the city from above, especially at and after sunset. Temperatures up there can be quite a bit lower than in the rest of the city, so bring a jacket. Muni bus #37, a scenic ride from the Haight-Ashbury or Castro and Market streets, gets you close, so you only have to climb the last 120' up.



Events and Festivals


  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.


  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.



Getting There

MUNI Metro K , L and M lines serve the area. From Downtown, all three lines travel underground through the Twin Peaks Tunnel, stopping at the Forest Hill station before emerging aboveground at West Portal station. After West Portal, the lines run on the surface. The L line runs west through the Sunset neighborhood to the San Francisco Zoo. The K and M lines split up as they head through Ingelside, with the M -line stopping at the San Francisco State University, before meeting up again at the Balboa Park BART station near the City College. The K and T lines overlap in the Twin Peaks tunnel, so "K" trains inbound to Downtown will be redesignated "T" as they pass through West Portal station.

Muni bus lines which serve the area include the 36-Teresita, 37-Corbett, 43-Masonic, 44-O'Shaughnessy and the 48-Quintara/24th Street lines in the Twin Peaks area, and the 18-46th Avenue, 23-Monterey, 28-19th Avenue, 29-Sunset and 57-Parkmerced lines in the Lake Merced and SFSU area.




Bullshead Restaurant, 840 Ulloa St (next door to the West Portal Muni Station), ☏ +1-415-665-4350. A steakhouse well known for their excellent buffalo burgers.
Bursa, 60 W Portal Ave, ☏ +1-415-564-4006. M-F 5PM-10PM, Sa-Su 3PM-10PM. A glossy Mediterranean and Turkish restaurant with a large menu. $14-20.
Creightons, 673 Portola Dr (between Teresita and Fowler), ☏ +1-415-753-0750. Local coffee shop and bakery.
Fresca, 24 W Portal Ave (near the West Portal Muni Station), ☏ +1-415-759-8087. M-Th 11AM-10PM, F 11AM-11PM, Sa 4PM-11PM, Su 4PM-9PM. A small but popular and great Peruvian restaurant.
Java on Ocean Cafe, 1700 Ocean Ave (at Faxon), ☏ +1-415-333-6075. A locally owned coffee shop with sandwiches and Middle Eastern fare. Get a quick bite to eat or stay and have a cappuccino while surfing the internet. They provide paid terminals or paid wireless access through the ZRNet subscription service. The owners have outfitted this joint with Salvation Army sofas and chairs and play eclectic music on the stereo.
New Tsing Tao Restaurant, 811 Ulloa St, ☏ +1-415-566-9559. Su–M, W-Th 11AM–9:30PM, F-Sa 11AM–10PM. A superb Chinese restaurant with large portions and good take-out service. $6-12.
Squat & Gobble Cafe, 1 W Portal Ave, ☏ +1-415-665-9900. Part of a San Francisco chain, this is a pleasant breakfast place with some excellent crepes. Good place to take the kids.
Taipei Restaurant, 2666 Ocean Ave (at 19th), ☏ +1-415-753-3338. 11:30AM-9:30PM daily. Very delicious Chinese restaurant, with healthy ingredients and no MSG; although it is more expensive than the standard Chinese fare. $5-10.
Taqueria Miraloma, 755 Portola Dr (between Fowler and Evelyn), ☏ +1-415-681-2471. 9AM-9:30PM daily. A hidden gem of a taco stand (and truly a "stand", it's take-out only) in the Miraloma neighborhood, with excellent burritos.
Tower Burger, 729 Portola Dr (at Fowler), ☏ +1-415-504-6340. Burgers made from Niman Ranch beef are a specialty here.
S&E Cafe, 2406 19th Ave (between Taraval St and Ulloa St), ☏ +1-415-665-7868. 11AM-2AM daily. Midwestern American food as seen through Hong Kong eyes: complete meals include soup, roll, coffee or HK milk tea, entree, rice or spaghetti, Jello or Chinese bean soup dessert. Extensive list of unusual beverages from Ovaltine to Ginger Coke to green tea milk shakes; Chinese food available after 10PM only. Coffee shop ambiance with TVs at low volume usually tuned to a Chinese station. $7-14 for complete dinners; $3-7 apps and other dishes; $2-4 for beverages.
Safeway, 730 Taraval St (between 18th Ave and 17th Ave), ☏ +1-415-665-4136. A large chain grocery store with a decent selection.




Dubliner, 328 W Portal Ave, ☏ +1-415-566-9444. M-W 3:30PM-2AM, Th-Su 10AM-2AM. Nice Irish pub. Lots of events, like trivia nights, bingo nights, and $3 drinks from 8-10PM on Su, Th and Sa.
Miraloma Club, 749 Portola Dr (between Fowler and Evelyn), ☏ +1-415-564-1131. Neighborhood watering hole with a pool table.
Philosopher's Club, 824 Ulloa St, ☏ +1-415-753-0599. A friendly neighborhood bar with a pool table, jukebox and a couple of TVs.
Portal's Tavern, 179 W Portal Ave, ☏ +1-415-731-1208. 10AM-2AM daily. An informal local bar with friendly bartenders.



Keep Connected


There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.


See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.


The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 13:08 on Sep 18, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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