Fort Mason, a former Army post dating from the Civil War era, is divided into Upper and Lower Fort Mason with the Great Meadow sandwiched between. The main draw to the 50-acre upper section is the expansive lawns of the Great Meadow where on most days you will see picnickers (no picnic tables), people throwing Frisbees, dog walkers, and even sunbathers on rare warm days. Its location on a bluff top provides some nice views of the bay, including Golden Gate Bridge, but it also means that it can be windy here. There is level access onto the lawn throughout however, less so at its eastern end. Wide, paved, gently sloping paths circumnavigate the meadow winding past a few statues. Inside the fort complex you can visit a community garden, stay at the accessible Fisherman's Wharf Hostel, and take a self-guided history tour
. Lovely views of the Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the municipal pier are at the backside of the complex and from the Bay Trail (aka MacDowell Rd.).
Lower Fort Mason, on the waterfront, is home to the Fort Mason Center, a thriving cultural and educational complex with theaters, galleries, museums, a gourmet vegetarian restaurant, classrooms, exhibition spaces, and nonprofit organization offices including Environmental Traveling Companions
that offers guided whitewater rafting, kayaking and ski programs to people with disabilities and disadvantaged youth. A farmers market
takes place every Sunday, 9:30 am-1:30 pm.
After exploring Fort Mason, you can extend your trip to the west by taking the Golden Gate Promenade along the Marina Green, through Crissy Field
, and still further to Fort Point
. Be sure to check out the Wave Organ, a wave-activated sound sculpture on a jetty jutting into the bay at the marina.
To the east you can explore San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
, but to reach it from Upper Fort Mason requires negotiating some very steep hills and while it’s doable in a motorized wheelchair, it’s advisable to drive or take public transit.
• The Visitor Center is located at 499 Jefferson Street (at Hyde), (415-447-5000)
• The Hyde Street Pier and the historic ships are across the street from the Visitor Center
• The Maritime Museum is in the Bathhouse Building at 900 Beach Street (at Polk).
Still further east is Fisherman’s Wharf, one of San Francisco’s most popular visitor destinations with many restaurants, souvenir stores and shopping plus it is the launching point for a wide range of land and sea activities.
Upper Fort Mason: Accessible spaces are at the west end of MacArthur Avenue by the Great Meadow; in front of and behind the GGNRA offices; on Franklin Street across from the church; by General’s Residence; and within the quad. One is on Funston Road by the hostel and several are in the lot off Bay Street at Octavia Street. While the only designated van accessible space is on MacArthur Avenue in front of the GGNRA headquarters, others because of their wide size, may work for some vans with lifts or ramps. Lower Fort Mason: Numerous accessible spaces are in the fee lot.
In upper Fort Mason on the south side of the Great Meadow; in lower Fort Mason, while not considered public restrooms, there are accessible restrooms throughout, in particular within pier 2, lower level of building C, and at the Conference Room at 308.
Two exemplary accessible tables in upper Fort Mason are by the hostel with nice views of the Great Meadow. There is space for multiple wheelchair users. Others are in the community garden.
Other Things of Interest
The Fisherman's Wharf Hostel
is situated on the bluffs in Upper Fort Mason, in Building 240. Operated by Hosteling International, it's a great place to meet travelers. The upper floor is fully accessible and has great bay views; accessible accommodations, including a roll-in shower and roll-under kitchen sink and stove, are available.
Generals Residence is a popular rental for weddings, meetings and other events. It is accessible throughout including, level entry, elevator, Braille room signage, fully accessible restrooms, and nearby accessible parking spaces; there’s a gentle slope from the parking area to the building but one can be dropped off in front of the building. To reserve: (415) 345-7557, email@example.com
The fully accessible chapel can be rented. There is an accessible parking space and ramp entrance. Inside there is an accessible restroom, accessible access to the stage, and companion seating at the pews. Call to reserve (415) 345-7557.
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, December 24, 2015