The northern end of the beach used to be the go to place for fun. You had Playland, the Cliffhouse, an Oriental Tea Garden [which the owners later moved to Golden Gate Park for the 1894 midwinter exposition] and Sutro Baths. All except the Cliffhouse are gone now and when the Cliffhouse was remodeled the visitor’s center down below it left for good. Luckily though the new Lands End Lookout has done a very good job of taking it’s place.
Expect to see a lot of things for sale there. They do need to make money to keep the doors open for free, but all the proceeds go towards the park service which is a good thing. The best part is that they stuff they have to sell is stuff you actually would want to buy. I thought the reproduction signs from the old Sutro Baths were pretty cool and if I had extra money laying around I would have bought one. There are also products that focus on the area such as locally produced foods and by locally I mean really locally. Many of the books and DVD’s that they have to sell will give you some good insight into the history of the area. I was always bothered by the fact that I was born just a little to late to ever see the Sutro Baths, but the other part of the Lands End Lookout is a museum. A small museum, but a very well done small museum. They have twin screens with a slideshow on the left of Sutro Park, the Bath’s and Playland and on the right is short footage of activities from around that area. From the hour I stayed there I saw that most of it seemed to be about the Sutro Baths.
They also have extensive information about the Ramaytush tribe of the Ohlone Indians who lived in and around the area. It’s really quite fascinating to see how a windy, foggy, rainy, but occasionally sunny place could be so loved by these people who called it home because of the easy amount of food and water and shelter they could find there. There are also stations in the room covering Sutro Baths, Playland as well as Adolph Sutro and his Mansion in Sutro Park just up the hill.
If you’re in need of a little refreshment there is a cafe next door which made me smile when they had a prominent sign that proclaimed Playland at the Beach It’s-Its. They also offer another San Francisco staple, the bay shrimp cocktail. They also offer a number of soups and sandwiches as well all from local produce and livestock. Don’t worry, my vegan friends, they’ve got a few things for you as well. I’d have to price the food on the inexpensive side, but for me I still think a coke and a hot-dog should run you $2.50 tops.
From the outside the architecture is modern, but with a very Sam Francisco Ocean Beach feel to it. They’ve planted native grasses all around which obviously need some time to get settled and grow up a bit and of course, except to find some sand blowing around. After all you are right up from the beach. On a side note the parking lot for the Lands End Lookout was formerly used for many years on the weekends by teenagers to come and watch the submarine races and if you don’t know what that really means then you aren’t from around these parts.
This is a great place to visit and I enjoyed it so much that I made a little gallery of all the pictures I took so you can see more about it. Now I’d like to see more places move into the area to give more people a reason to go there.
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