Rain-scrubbed winter skies can bring great views for picture taking
or just gazing, especially when you look out over San Francisco’s
cityscape and the bay beyond. But finding a vantage point that’s
protected from the elements is a challenge: there aren’t any public
observations decks in city high-rises. Here are some ideas:
Perhaps the best known and still the most spectacular high-rise
observation place is the Carnelian Room of the Bank of America World
Headquarters Building, at 555 California Street. This 51st-floor
restaurant and bar, open daily from 3 to 1:30 A.M., has three bays where
nonpatrons can sit and enjoy the view pictured above.
If you’re not bothered by vertigo, you might want to
experience the perspective from the glass elevators of two other
The five glass elevators of the St. Francis Hotel, at Post and
Geary, look south and east to the Peninsula and Bay Bridge; they run 24
hours a day, up to the 32nd floor (but there are no free viewing areas
at the restaurant and bars at the top).
At the Fairmont Hotel, on California and Mason atop Nob Hill, you
can ride a glass elevator to the 24th floor from 11 A.M. to 12:30 A.M.
weekdays, to 1:30 A.M. weekends. Nonpatrons are welcome to enjoy
briefly the views east and west from the Crown Room bar at the top.
Of course Coit Tower, rising 180 feet above Telegraph Hill, has
offered a 360[deg.] panorama of city and bay ever since it was built in
1933. It’s easier to park now without the summer logjam of
tourists. In the lobby, note the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP)
frescoes; volunteer tour guides can answer questions. Admission to the
top is $1 for adults (75 cents for city residents), 50 cents for seniors
and ages 6 to 15. Winter hours are 10 to 4:30 daily.