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San Francisco's pretty other half

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San Francisco's Chinatown is crowded and sometimes uncomfortable. The wharf is more carnival that real city, and Coit Tower … well, skip Coit Tower (it's no Willis Tower). But the city has so much to offer tourists and much of the best of it is not that touristy.

Everything south of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is the northern entrance to the city, and then heading west is low-key, natural, and California. And these smaller, neighborhood areas of the city don't lack for anything in terms of food and culture.

One of the comedy clubs where Robin Williams cut his teeth many years ago is still open there, under a different name. Take in a show, or if you are brave, stop in for it's weekly open mic and get up on stage.

Pacific Catch offers some of the freshest sushi, asian bowls and old-fashioned fish and chips anywhere. In fact the kids meals are a revelation.

Head southwest from Golden Gate Bridge and you'll get to Lands End, which is a wooded area featuring a hiking trail converted from an old railroad line. It offer spectacular views of the ocean, a lush green trail, and at it's south terminus it offers entrance to North Beach, a massive beach along the west flank of the city (you may not have realized that San Fran even had a beach ... it's huge).

Also not to be missed is Golden Gate Park, which isn't terribly near Golden Gate Bridge (but we can forgive that). It is a beautiful, vast city park that it's easy to get lost in but well served, like everywhere in northern San Fran, by public transportation. You'll find some of the city's finest museums and attractions, including the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the Golden Gate Park Aquarium and the Japanese Tea Garden.

With so much going on in the northwest side of San Francisco, it's a little confusing how the congested, tourist-trap northeast side of the city became the hub of all tourist attention in the city. If you haven't had an introduction to the foggy, ocean side of the city, make a plan to head west.

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