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Taking the Kids: San Francisco's Presidio transform from a historic Army post to a 21st-century destination

By Eileen Ogintz, Tribune Content Agency on

The kids will have even more fun with "Discovery Back Packs" that they can borrow at the Visitors Center. The packs come complete with binoculars, magnifying glasses, games and adventures maps that encourage adventures around the park. Did you touch serpentinite, which is the state rock, climb the spiral staircase at Fort Point or spy a gliding brown pelican?

More than 3,000 people and 200 businesses, including Lucasfilm and the George Lucas Educational Foundation, call the Presidio home. Their rent helps support the Presidio's many programs.

Many locals are looking forward to the Sunday "Off the Grid" Picnics with food trucks, family-friendly games and more, starting again in early April. The Thursday night Presidio Twilight returns in May with fire pits, live music and, best of all, views of the sun setting over San Francisco Bay.

See all four of British Artist Andy Goldsworthy's famous sculptures on a three-mile hike.

The U.S. Army left the Presidio in 1994, and the success of this park's transformation since is thanks in part to public-private partnerships overseen by The Presidio Trust, the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.

The evolution continues: Presidio Tunnel Tops, being designed by James Corner Field Operations, the same team that created NYC's Hi Line, will be a 14-acre park with paths, gardens, a community plaza, picnic grounds and an interactive "playscape" where kids can explore nature. The project is expected to be finished in two years.

Is it time to eat? You'll certainly be hungry after your hike or bike ride (you can rent bikes at Roaring Mouse Cycles at Crissy Field and there are now e-bikes available).

Take your pick of cuisine. Arguello, in the historic Presidio Officer's Club, is particularly popular with families who enjoy Mexican food, including first-rate posole and freshly made chips with guacamole, enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas and many other offerings.


"We encourage the restaurant to be family friendly," said Chef Traci Des Jardins, who also oversees The Commissary in the Presidio, which specializes in, Spanish-influenced California dishes crafted with locally sourced ingredients. On sunny days, she adds, kids are happily exploring the outdoor patio.

Sessions is a popular gastropub with plenty of good eats, everything from roasted cauliflower and ricotta fritters to salads, burgers (beef and vegan, among the offerings. All a family has to do is ask, said owner Evin Gelleri, for a grilled cheese or plain pasta.

The fact that the restaurants are so family friendly while dishing up adult favorites and artisanal cocktails certainly helps de-stress any family trip. At the Social Club, buzzing on a recent Friday night, we polished off eggplant fries with wild honey, roasted chicken and artichokes with butternut squash. We finished dinner with freshly-made beignets topped by chocolate sauce.

When we made it back to The Lodge afterward, the front desk clerk asked, "How was dinner?" We gave him a thumbs-up as we headed to bed, taking one last look at the Golden Gate from our window.


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