San Francisco offers golden opportunity for members, spouses at NTTC convention

WHETHER it's a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, a cup of java in a coffeehouse, or a visit to Chinatown, National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) members and spouses will have an opportunity to relish San Francisco, California, at at its finest during the annual meeting May 19-21.

The city hub at Union Square, where the convention hotel is located, offers a starting place for just about any destination. Roundtrip tours on the San Francisco Trolley Hop Tour #7 depart from Union Square at Powell and Geary streets and make their way to Pier 39 or 43 at Fisherman's Wharf. In between the destinations, riders can get off and on the trolley at Union Square, Pier 39, Hard Rock Café, Nob Hill, and Ghirardelli Square. The trolley clatters through Nob Hill, Chinatown, and North Beach — all for a $15 ticket for adults and $8 for children.

Union Square has its own attractions of elegant shops with high fashion clothing, antiques, and gourmet restaurants. Not too far from Union Square is North Beach, a neighborhood with ghosts of Beat Generation writers and poets. Don't, however, look for a beach. The area claimed its name from a long-ago area with a shoreline at the time. In North Beach, visitors will discover a busy nightlife of cabarets, jazz clubs, restaurants, and delicatessens.

For a more international flavor, stop off in Chinatown for a look at exotic shops, restaurants, food markets, and temples. Take an eight-block walk along Grant Avenue between Bush Street and Columbus Avenue. At St Mary's Square, a pause will reveal the statue of Sun Yat-sen by sculptor Beniamino Bufano. For more Asian experiences, visit Japantown at Geary, Fillmore, Sutter, and Laguna streets. The Japan Center there is filled with shops, restaurants, shushi bars, art galleries, and Japanese baths.

The Tenderloin, west of Union Square, offers another Asian flavor. Family-style Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian restaurants are in profusion.

To recall silver kings and railroad barons, hop off the trolley at Nob Hill and view the city from the top of the Mark Hopkins Hotel, a San Francisco landmark in place since 1926.

For a maritime feel, Fisherman's Wharf wins the honor with its Pier 39 and restaurants, souvenir shops, museums, and a carousel. A mile across the water from the wharf stands Alcatraz Island, home to the famous federal prison. Guided tours are available for those with a penchant for the bizarre.

San Francisco's South of Market Area (SoMa) is another world with luxury hotels, museums, attractions, and trendy restaurants. Yerba Buena Gardens, considered the town center, has seen many recent developments.

Just seven blocks from Yerba Buena Gardens is Pacific Bell Park, a new major league park with views of the surrounding city and Bay Bridge.

For the art lover, the city has the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. At the top of Telegraph Hill is the Coit Tower where murals fill the tower's rotunda. More murals can be found in the Mission District.

For the Golden Gate experience, visit Golden Gate Park that includes bridle paths, lakes, and flowers. The Golden Gate Bridge, probably the most famous landmark, is the nation's third longest suspension structure. Pedestrians and bicyclists can cross free of charge.

The place with all the information, the San Francisco Visitor Information Center, sits on the lower level of Hallidie Plaza at Powell and Market streets next to the cable car turnaround. The center is open seven days a week. Staff answer questions, give directions, and provide a map of the 49-mile scenic drive, a planned tour throughout San Francisco, designed to be followed in a car.

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