A Day in the City

With Your Journalism Staff

Brooke Lee of Davis High School’s Blue Devil Hub offers advice for journalism students and advisers planning a day in San Francisco. In her video, Lee takes a cable car from Powell Street BART Station — near the convention hotel — to Fisherman’s Wharf and beyond. Check out her video below.

Got a few hours extra to spend with your student journalists in San Francisco? If that’s the case, we — the local committee — have you covered with the following suggestions about where to take your group for a little sightseeing and perhaps some street reporting on San Francisco life. Here is the link to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to help you get around the city.

Many of our students spend their weekends in the San Francisco and have pretty strong opinions about what makes a good day in The City. What follows is a collection of their aggregated wisdom, with a few touches of advice from advisers who know the city well.


Summer campers from Newsroom by the Bay interview a busker on Haight Street. Best known its role in the Summer of Love, the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood offers no end of personal stories for reporters.


1. HAIGHT-ASHBURY — One of the most popular day trip destinations for many students is the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which 50 years ago was ground zero for the Summer of Love, and still carries a counterculture vibe (as well as some of the city’s best cafes, tie-dye boutiques and thrift shops — here’s a student-produced guide to where to buy your threads. There is no glamour in the Haight, but a heady mix of gentrification and grunge. Students can explore stop by the Grateful Dead house, a Victorian-style home that was one of the many that helped house the thousands of young people that came here to take part in hippie culture, or visit Amoeba Music, with its vast supply of vinyl records and other musical paraphernalia. Student reporters might ask locals how they arrived in The Haight and what made them stay. More than 30 percent of San Francisco households do not include a car. How do they get around?


How to get there: Enter a MUNI subway station on Market Street and take an N-Judah streetcar toward Ocean Beach. Over the course of 12 minutes, the train starts in a subway, emerges as into sunlight, then goes through a tunnel and emerges again into what has a good chance of being sweatshirt weather. Get off at Carl and Cole streets and walk east to Haight Ashbury. Looking for some fresh air? Walk a few blocks to the Panhandle, the entrance to the vast (three miles long!) expanse of Golden Gate Park (including De Young Museum, Strybing Arboretum, the California Academy of Sciences, and the Conservatory of Flowers), or uphill to Buena Vista Park for spectacular views of the city.


Student journalists from the Newsroom by the Bay summer camp interview locals at an outdoor cafe on the corner of 17th and Market streets. A 10-minute walk uphill from Mission Dolores Park — or a 10-minute streetcar ride (or an even quicker subway ride to Castro Street Station) from the convention hotel — takes you to The Castro, one of the nation’s first openly gay neighborhoods and an enduring symbol of LBGTQ pride.


From atop Mission Dolores Park, you can take in a wide swath of San Francisco life, including the iconic Mission High School tower. Take in a friendly pick-up soccer game, or throw a frisbee, or grab an ice cream at the nearby Bi-Rite Creamery. If you’re lucky, you might get to see — well, you’ll probably hear them first — a flock of parrots who often visit the park’s palm trees.


2. THE MISSION DISTRICT — The Mission District, particularly the blocks just east of Mission Dolores Park, also has been popular with our students. Long recognized for its Latino and Central American community — including, yes, the best burritos in the city — the Mission is also home to lively cafes (including the first Philz Coffee shop!), the Alta California Mission itself (the oldest building in the city), and a culture of social activism. Student reporters armed with notebooks might ask people on the street how it feels to live/work in such a diverse neighborhood. What impact has resulted from the busing of tech workers from this neighborhood to Silicon Valley? Here’s what one student journalist had to say about the Mission; and another.

How to get there: From Market, catch an outbound J-Church street car (going the opposite direction of the Ferry Building clock tower) and take a 15-minute ride gets you to Mission Dolores Park, the heart of the Mission and a great place to hang out. Bi-Rite Creamery, just on the other side of the historic Mission High School, is a popular ice cream stop, but just the start of what you’ll find in the Mission.


This Woodside International School in the Inner Sunset neighborhood mural artfully blends many of students’ favorite San Francisco destinations, from AT&T Park to Golden Gate Park, from Chinatown to the San Francisco Zoo.


3. CHINATOWNChinatown can be as touristy as a cruise ship port — more tourists visit here than visit the Golden Gate Bridge — and while some come for the endless collections of California T-shirts and souvenir cable cars, there’s much more going on here. The oldest and largest community of its kind outside of Asia, Chinatown is one of most dense neighborhoods in North America, with only Manhattan packing in more people per square foot. Once you’ve had enough of the gift shops, mooncake bakeries and restaurants, move into the cross streets and alleys to get another flavor of the neighborhood. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory at 56 Ross Alley is worthy if only for the journey to get there, but expect feeling an obliged to purchase a bag of cookies. On the other side of Grant, across from the TransAmerica Pyramid, is Portsmouth Square Plaza, where you’ll find a replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue used in the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, as well as people practicing Tai Chi and playing Chinese chess and card games.

How to get there: From the convention hotel, walk to Market Street and make a right; turn left on Grant. Four increasingly steep blocks (consider a short detour left after two blocks to reach the shopping and theater around Union Square) will take you to Dragon Gate, and beyond that is Chinatown for a half mile on Grant and a few blocks left and right.


Student reporters at Newsroom by the Bay take a break from interviewing tourists in Fisherman’s Wharf, to take in some sunshine on the San Francisco waterfront. Beyond, the Bay Bridge reaches out to Treasure Island and ultimately to Berkeley and Oakland.


One of the most popular attractions at Pier 39 is the colony of sea lions that calls the place its home. You’ll hear them barking from hundreds of yards away, and once you get close they’re likely to give you quite a show. Just be mindful that you don’t try to be part of the show, too — federal law prohibits feeding, harming or harassing marine mammals.


Brooke Lee of Davis High School’s Blue Devil Hub stops by the chocolate store at Ghirardelli Square as part of video tour of Fisherman’s Wharf and the surrounding area. “You can get free samples,” she says.


4. PIER 39 and FISHERMAN’S WHARF — If you are looking for tourism zones, you will probably get an eyeful at Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.  You’ll find street performers, shops, food and much more, but the real stars are often the pack of sea lions that occupy docks off the western edge of the pier. Be sure to check out the Musee Mecanique at the base of Pier 41 for a collection of 200 working, playable classic arcade games. Yes, there are favorites from the 1980s, but the real finds are turn-of-the-century — and by this we mean from the 1800s to the 1900s — coin-operated mechanical instruments, hand-cranked music boxes and and vintage arcade games. The Maritime Museum in the old Aquatic Park Bathhouse Building is also worth checking out, as is Ghirardelli Square. (Just don’t expect to be able to tour the chocolate factory there — it’s long gone.)  If you want to go all out, consider taking a ferry out to Alcatraz Island, windblown home of the city’s infamous former prison — and all-around great tourism destination.

How to get there: Grab an inbound (toward the bayside Ferry Building clock tower visible the full length of Market) F streetcar from near the hotel and stay on as it turns left (but only after a weird wiggle to the right) to go north along the waterfront. If you want to navigate old-school, count the numbers on the piers as they rise 39. Alternately, if you have all day, consider getting to the Wharf by moving through Chinatown to North Beach (known as Little Italy in part for its pizzerias and cafes) and then up over the hills to the Wharf far below. This path is not for the meek, but you’ll have a great sense of accomplishment. Consider taking the cable car back, but be prepared for long lines. Indeed, the lines for the F street cars can be long, too, so build in a lot of extra time or, if you are a small group, consider a ride-sharing option to get back to the hotel.


Aquatic Park offers fresh air, cooold water and — at the end of the pier — a seemingly magical “Wave Organ,” an acoustic sculpture that amplifies the sounds of the Bay.


Among the many things to see in the City’s vast Presidio is the San Francisco National Cemetery, where some 30,000 American soldiers are buried here including Civil War Generals, Buffalo Soldiers, and over 30 Medal of Honor recipients.




5. The Presidio – If your group is looking for greenery and space, you could do a lot worse than visiting the Presidio, on the north-east edge of San Francisco. San Francisco’s largest park, the Presidio, was home to native peoples for thousands of years until Spain established a military fort here in 1776. Mexico took over in 1821, and by 1846, the Presidio had become a U.S. Army post. Now in civilian hands, it offers acres of hiking trails as well as the Walt Disney Family Museum, a bowling alley, and the headquarters for Lucasfilms, where you can find a patio guarded by a 26-foot-tall Yoda and a life-size Darth Vader. Walk along the water in the Marina District, past the Palace of Fine Arts to Crissy Fields and beyond to Fort Point at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. A path leads you up to the bridge itself, but beware, if you take this route you’ll likely be exhausted by the time you reach the bridge. For more information, go to presidio.gov/visit.

How to get there: The PresidiGo Downtown Shuttle provides roundtrip service to the Presidio. Pick up the shuttle at the Transbay Terminal or Embarcadero BART. Service is free and runs seven days a week, but check the schedule for times when it is available to the general public. Several SF MUNI routes provide service to or near the Presidio (1, 28, 29, 41, 43, and 45), but none give you direct service from the convention hotel, so if you want to go to the Presidio, prepare for a journey. On the upside, your route will likely take you past spectacular sights through San Francisco. Once in the park, transfer to the free PresidiGo Around the Park Shuttle to reach your final destination. The Around the Park Shuttle is free and available to all seven days a week.

6. The Exploratorium – A hands-on science museum, The Exploratorium includes exhibits where visitors can  “step inside a tornado, turn upside down in a curved mirror, walk on a fog bridge, and explore more” at more than 650 exhibits. With a café, restaurant and two stores (one with an Art-O-Mat machine), The Exploratorium is a multi-hour destination. Just don’t be surprised at the ticket prices — short of a trip out to Alcatraz, this is likely to be one of your most expensive daytrip options.

How to get there: This one is pretty easy. Head toward the Embarcadero on one of MUNI’s F Market street cars. Stay on as the car turns left (but only after a weird wiggle to the right) to head north on the Embarcadero and get off at Embarcadero and Green Street. Alternately, if you can get to the Embarcadero BART or Embarcadero MUNI stop you will be just a 10- to 15-minute walk away.

7. Cable Car Museum – If you don’t have a lot of time, the Cable Car Museum might be a good stop to make. It’s small, but full of fascinating information and it’s FREE. From the first run in 1873 to the present. Learn about the inventor, technologies, builders, rapid expansion, near loss and the ongoing efforts to save and rebuild the cable cars of San Francisco.

How to get there: The Cable Museum is located at 1201 Mason Street & Washington. Get there by cable car using the Powell-Hyde line, the Powell-Mason line and the California line. Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines stop at the museum.  On the California line get off at Mason Street (by the Fairmont Hotel), the museum is 3 blocks north. Cost: $7 each way.

8. Golden Gate Park – On Sundays, John F. Kennedy Drive is closed to cars so people are free to bike, skate or walk through the park. While there are many lovely sights to see in Golden Gate, walking through the park from the east side on JFK drive will allow you to take in the complete SF vibe. Check out the swing dancing that takes place at Tea Garden Drive & JFK drive. There is also a group of roller-skaters who enjoy skating to disco music. You can also check out the Conservatory of Flowers (cost) or just bring lunch and hang out in the grass. There are plenty of things to do in Golden Gate Park. Check them out here.

How to get there: Enter a MUNI subway station on Market Street and take an N-Judah streetcar toward Ocean Beach, as you would if you were going to the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, which as the south end of Golden Gate Park. As with the other trip, the train starts in a subway, emerges as into sunlight, then goes through a tunnel and emerges again into what has a good chance of being sweatshirt weather. You’ll want to consult a map to figure out how far to take it — remember, Golden Gate Park is three miles long! Can you find the buffalo paddock? The Polo Fields? The ride ends around the corner from Ocean Beach, at 48th Avenue. A short walk from there will take you to the sand, which is great for shell hunting. Just don’t go into the surf, which is frigid and dangerous. If you have time and energy, take a grand walk north past the windmills up to the Cliff House for lunch and great views.



Registration book available for download

JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention Spring 2018 Registration Booklet – San Francisco (PDF)

Download a PDF of the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention registration booklet, which outlines everything you need to know about registering for and attending the convention in Indianapolis.

Printed versions of the registration booklet should be hitting mailboxes of JEA and NSPA members within a few weeks.

This year’s features an 11×17″ poster you can pull out and hang up in your class room. That poster is also available for download here.

Keynote speakers announced

Kevin Fagan and Brant Ward

7 p.m. Thursday, April 12

Kevin Fagan

Kevin Fagan is a long-time reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle. He specializes in enterprise news-feature writing and breaking news, taking particular pleasure in ferreting out stories others might not find — from profiling the desperate lives of homeless drug addicts to riding the rails with hobos, finding people who sleep in coffins and detailing the intricacies of hunting down serial killers.

From 2003 to 2006, Kevin was the only beat reporter in the United States covering homelessness full time. He has witnessed seven prison executions and has covered many of the biggest breaking stories of our time, from the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the Columbine High School massacre to the 2008 presidential election, the Jaycee Lee Dugard kidnapping case and the Occupy movement.

Fagan has won more than 80 national and regional awards, including the national
James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism as well as a Knight Fellowship
to Stanford University.

Brant Ward

Brant Ward was a photographer for the San Francisco Chronicle for over thirty years. He retired in 2015 and continues to document our times.

In 2003, Ward and writer Kevin Fagan were assigned to cover the homeless predicament in San Francisco on the eve of a major mayoral election. The series, Shame of the City, included scenes from a traffic island, a family living out of their van, and a look inside a city shelter and the various SRO hotels that cover the Tenderloin area.

For the next decade, Ward and Fagan continued to tell the saga of the nation’s homeless population from New York to California.