February 14, 2002
The Cliff House is a popular tourist destination--especially in the summer. It is often foggy over the water, but on days when the weather cooperates, the views are quite lovely. Walks along the beach are pleasant, and most of the visitors on sunny days in the winter are San Fran locals, but be warned. Conditions can be cold and windy.
If you walk down a path on the highest point of the hill, you will find a collection of plain gray concrete foundations. Once upon a time, these were the wonderful Sutro Baths that held a giant indoor swimming pool for visitors' enjoyment. While gone now, these are California's idea of "Roman ruins." The Baths were destroyed by fire in 1966. You may learn more about these and the history of the all the Cliff Houses in a small, public museum next to the Mechanical Museum.
The Mechanical Museum is the most fun for children. When I visited the Cliff House I was in the company of a young cousin about three. Her mother got a roll of quarters and we walked through the museum, plunking them into all the displays that looked interesting. Model farms came to life as little figures begin to move to the sounds of music. Ballerinas danced in front of mirrors. For the more morbid, there was even a mechanical toy that showed an English execution--a hooded man falling from the gallows inside an English house. For children raised on Play Station, this old-timey arcade is a hoot. My little cousin clapped her hands in delight as the machines came to life.
Least crowded in the winter, the advantage of tons of people in the summer is you don't have to plunk in as many coins to watch the clowns laugh or the horses ride around and around on the minature carosel.
Dining facilities are available in the Cliff House as well, though I cannot advise you on their quality. The Cliff House is a nice place to spend a couple of hours near the ocean.
Tip: If you like Thai food, the Narai Restaurant is not far away (see separate entry).
From journal A Couple in the City by the Bay