(credit: Randy Yagi)
Are you interested in seeing the Bay Area in a completely different light? Why not visit a place that has an observation deck to enjoy panoramic views of San Francisco and beyond? While many local hotels like the Mark Hopkins, San Francisco Marriott and Loews Regency offer rooms with a view and observation decks, there are many other spots that provide equally spectacular views. Here are just five of the best observation decks in the Bay Area.
Coit Tower (credit: Randy Yagi)
1 Telegraph Hill Blvd.
San Francisco, CA 94133
Finding a parking spot can be a challenge here, but Coit Tower's observation deck offers a spectacular 360-degree view of San Francisco and its outer reaches. One of the most familiar landmarks in the city, Coit Tower was built in 1933 and funded by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, a wealthy socialite who's known as the patron saint of San Francisco firefighters. Although there is free access into the lobby of the 210-foot tower, visitors must pay an admission free to access the observation deck.
Hamon Observation Tower (credit: Randy Yagi)
Hamon Observation Tower
De Young Museum
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr.
San Francisco, CA 94118
At just 144 feet high, the Hamon Observation Tower is far from being the tallest observation deck in the Bay Area. However, it's certainly one of the most spacious with a seating capacity of up to 45 and up to 150 in a reception setting. The most distinctive structure of the otherwise flat-roofed, copper facade of the renowned De Young Museum, the observation tower features a glass walled space with 360 degree views of Golden Gate Park and other sections of the city, the San Francisco Bay and the Marin Headlands. Although visitors are required to pay an entrance fee to the De Young Museum, there is no fee to access this gorgeous, state-of-the-art observation tower.
Hoover Tower, Stanford University (credit: Randy Yagi)
550 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305
Easily the tallest and most visible structure at Stanford University, Hoover Tower was built in 1941 as part of the university's 50th anniversary. On the 14th floor of the landmark 285-foot tower is an observation deck that provides visitors with sweeping views of the campus of one of the world's leading teaching and research universities. Accessible by elevator, the observation deck is open daily to the public unless otherwise noted. Visitors to Hoover Tower should also make note of its world-renowned carillon of 48 bells, with the original 35 cast of bronze in Belgium.
Sather Tower (credit: Randy Yagi)
S. Hall Road
Berkeley, CA 94704
Rising 307 feet above the UC Berkeley campus, Sather Tower is the third tallest bell-clock tower in the world. Completed in 1917, the iconic structure features an observation platform on the eighth floor, which provides visitors with spectacular views of the Berkeley campus and a significant portion of the Bay Area. The platform is open daily unless otherwise noted and can be reached with an elevator although it is not wheelchair accessible. Also known as the Campanile due to its remarkable resemblance to world famous bell tower in Venice, Sather Tower houses a full concert carillon of 61 bells.
Mt. Tamalpais State Park (credit: Randy Yagi)
Verna Dunshee Trail
East Peak Visitor Center
Mount Tamalpais State Park
Mill Valley, CA 94941
It takes about 45 minutes by car to reach the East Peak Visitor Center at Mount Tamalpais State Park. But despite having to travel the narrow, mountainous road, visitors can be treated to a viewing platform that provides for some of the most breathtaking views of the Bay Area. At just .7 miles, the Verna Dunshee Trail is a looped pathway that leads to an observation deck where, on a clear day, allows visitors to see prominent faraway spots like the Farallon Islands to the west and Mount Diablo or even the Sierra Nevadas to the east. The family-friendly and wheelchair accessible pathway has a few benches along the way and is protected with fencing or a railing most of the way. Following the path in a counterclockwise direction, visitors are urged to stop by the Gravity Car Barn, at the former site of the historic Mt. Tamalpais Railway line.
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com
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