Tag Archives: city tours

Landmark Design with a Point

Transamerica building; looking up

One of San Francisco’s most prominent landmarks, the Transamerica building rises to a majestic point 850 feet above the surrounding streets. While the futuristic building is an urban eye-catcher from any angle, the natural beauty of the Pacific impacted its design. In the late 60’s the city planning commission nixed a requested 300 additional feet that might have compromised views of the Bay from Nob Hill.

View of Transamerica building and Coit Tower from Pier 39

The 212 foot spire pyramid shape was also designed with a view towards allowing light and air to reach the streets below in the manner of a towering tree in a city park.

Transam triangles

A prime example of the marriage of design and effective earthquake engineering, its exterior quartz panels are constructed for lateral movement in the event of seismic activity. A 52-foot deep foundation of steel and concrete allowed the building’s upper floor to sway nearly a foot and withstand the World Series Quake of 1989.

transamerica building

It takes all of a thirty-day month to wash its 3,768 windows. Surprisingly, only two elevators reach its 48th floor, but then there’s only so much room at the top  —2,025 cozy feet of space to be exact. The observation deck was closed after 9/11, but four cameras were installed to allow access to a “virtual observation deck” via monitors in the building’s lobby 24 hours a day.

The Transamerica building is both a landmark with a view and a landmark that is a view  —from almost any point in the San Francisco area.

San Francisco Things To Do

The Hotel Vitale-Embarcadero has views of both The Ferry Building and the waterfront and is within walking distance of San Francisco’s most impressive skyscrapers.


GoCar Go!


I guess it’s easier than riding a horse.  It parks compactly within the space of a motorcycle and isn’t likely to kick up its rear and send you spinning up, out and then down to the dirt (I’ve inserted a personal memory there).

GoCar going

The GoCar actually seems like an entertaining way to do a city tour at your own pace.  With built-in GPS navigation and a number of route options, the bright yellow two-seaters were hard to miss on San Francisco’s streets.  Occasionally one of the “talking cars” would approach from behind and broadcast an interesting data bit relevant to where I was currently walking.  They are new and novel enough to catch the attention of passersby, and the tours proceed as fast or slow as you care to go.  The GoCar’s GPS system routes drivers around the steepest hills where a passenger’s additional weight would make it a no-GoCar.

The last time I visited San Francisco we rented audio headsets to tour Alcatraz, a more fluid option than constantly stopping to read through a brochure.  This is the same principle -only you don’t even have to move your feet.

*Also available in Miami, Barcelona and Lisbon with rental rates that vary by location.

and a number of route options,

San Francisco Things To Do


Asian “Island” in America

Lanterns and TransAmerica

Dating back to the 1850’s, Chinatown San Francisco is the oldest such district in North America and the largest outside of Asia. The first Chinese immigrants arrived in 1848, predating the California gold rush.

Where at first the Chinese faced exclusion in California and the rest of America -their children barred from public schools and their employment and housing opportunities diminished by targeted legislation, they persevered and created a thriving haven of inclusion and cultural celebration. The sights, sounds and aromas of present day Chinatown stir the soul, whether drawn in collectively as a sort of cultural potpourri or observed one lively detail at a time.

The Transamerica Pyramid rising a total of 260 meters in the distance is a familiar face of San Francisco and a startling contrast  to “old world” Chinatown when spotted beyond its dangling red lanterns.

San Francisco Things To Do

Find a list of the best San Francisco hotels here at Oyster.com .


View Heather Dugan's profile on LinkedIn Subscribe to me on YouTube
Follow Me on Pinterest