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Snapshot: News-Sentinel readers rate their vacations Learn a little of San Francisco history between Fort Point and Ghirardelli Square

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Posted: Friday, June 15, 2012 7:29 am

Who: Lap and Cecilia Wong, of Lodi.

The trip: Ghirardelli Square, Exploratorium, Crissy Field and Fort Point.

Highlights: After lingering over the aggressively commercial Fisherman’s Wharf, go to the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, which is now the charming Ghirardelli Square, teaming with various retail establishments and restaurants. The Square is as much a part of San Francisco as the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars, and was aptly declared an official city landmark in 1965, and also listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The smell of chocolate is absolutely tantalizing! Opt for our favorite premium double scoops chocolate waffle ice cream cone and famous hot fudge sundae.

Pause to admire the eye-catching 1969 Exploratorium Palace of Fine Arts. It is more like an experimental laboratory than a traditional museum, combining art, science and human perception into hundreds of interactive and entertaining exhibits. Immerse yourself in a vibrant, sprawling landscape of sight, sounds and curiosities about the world around us.

Popping into Crissy Field of Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the Marina District transforms the flat terrain into the landscape painting of a native plant-lined oasis. This waterfront park has an extensive tidal marsh along the Bay Shore, and is abounded with seagulls and pelicans. It is a great place to see moms with strollers, picnickers, dog walkers and cyclists. Soak up the spell of the sweeping ocean. Watch surfers glide on waves. Cherish knock-out views of the Golden Gate Bridge and behold Alcatraz in a distance.

Tucked under the Golden Gate Bridge’s south anchorage, Fort Point (constructed by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1861) is a hidden gem in the Presidio. The formerly heavily armed fortification was mounted with vulnerable rifled cannons and guns around the bastion to fend off any Confederate or foreign attackers from scaling the Bay Area Harbor.

Then, the fort became obsolete and troops were withdrawn in 1886. The next five decades, the fort was used for barracks, training and storage purposes. From 1933 to 1937, the post became the base of operation for Golden Gate Bridge. During World War II, it housed soldiers who manned searchlights and rapid-fire cannons atop the fort to protect a submarine net strung across the Bay.

On Oct. 16, 1970, President Nixon signed the bill creating Fort Point National Historic Site. No wonder — Fort Point conjures up U.S. Army most sophisticated coastal defense garrison. Feel pride that it remains a prime example of beautifully arched three-tiered casemates, excellent design and superb masonry construction of more than ordinary artistic skill from Civil War period.

For the slightly less opulent, seek out, like all visitors, the great photo shots of a cannon or two.

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