The View from the Hamon Observation Tower, San Francisco

Posted on
Aug 16, 2012

For once, they don’t charge you for the view.

I’m a bargain-hunter. I’d like to think of this as one of my better qualities, instead of, as my husband puts it, “an acute kind of madness.” And granted, sometimes I do strange things to avoid spending money. Not unethical things, mind you. I’ve never shoplifted or stolen anything (okay, FINE, there was that one time), but I will go to ridiculous lengths to save a buck.

For example, for many years, I would buy this fruit salad from the grocery store that had melon chunks in it. There were other variations with berries, but I always went for the one with huge portions of melon. One day Rand told me that he didn’t really like the melon-chunked fruit salad.

“Oh, me neither,” I said.

“Wait, you don’t like it, either? Then why do you keep buying it?”

“It’s always on sale.”

“But you don’t like it.”


Yeah. I’m well aware of the fact that if I didn’t buy the fruit salad in the first place, I’d have saved more money overall. But the point was to have fruit salad and save money, too. Even if I didn’t like the damn fruit salad.

This sort of rationale leads to all sorts of problems when we travel. I will go to museums that I don’t really want to see, just because they are free. Or I’ll intentionally get off at the wrong bus stop because the Ride Free Zone is about to end, and I don’t want to pay the increased fare.

I am a gal who finds getting lost preferable to spending $2.25. Obviously, my judgement isn’t great. But believe me when I tell you that this next tip is a good one. And it makes the bargain hunter that I am at heart glow with pride.

If you visit San Francisco (which is already a pretty darn expensive city on its own), and you manage to get down to Golden Gate Park, I suggest you visit the DeYoung Museum.

The museum itself is fairly nice, and general admission is only $10, which is far better than a lot of museums in major U.S. cities. But what really won me over was the Hamon Observation Tower, which is accessible from inside the DeYoung. You don’t need a museum ticket to visit the tower. It’s free.

Yup, free.

And don’t worry – this isn’t some melon-chunked fruit salad. This is actually something you’d want to see. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy some amazing views of the city.

Check it out:

Okay, fine. That’s a photo of mostly trees, which probably isn’t very convincing. But wait – it gets better.

Waaaaay in the distance, on the right, you can even see the top of the pillars of the Golden Gate Bridge.

You can get a great lay of the land from up there – and get a view of the grass-covered top of the California Academy of Sciences, which is just across the street.

There are 360 degree views, even though some of them are, as I noted, simply of trees.

And maybe a few houses, too.

Still, it’s pretty fantastic. There are even little benches to sit on. It’s the sort of thing that could bring even a huge bargain-hunter and her financially-reckless husband together in happiness.

“OMG. Squirrel!”

And did I mention it’s free? It totally is.

Leave a Comment

  • How the heck have I never seen that???

    I am so horrible that I only go to the DeYoung, MoMA, and other museums in SF ’cause I have a girlfriend that works for them, and gets me free passes. I’m a bad arts supporter. Really, really bad.

  • San Francisco’s best kept secret:)

  • Sharon

    I discovered your blog just a few days ago and I just can’t imagine my life before. It’s like my former goodnight song which I can’t sleep without. Your writing is amazing 🙂 a goodnight hug from Holland

  • ROFL, too funny. I’m all for finding the free stuff when traveling. When we were in Hawaii, my youngest was whiny “Why do we have to go to a Farmer’s Market?” The oldest quipped, “Duh, because it’s free.”

  • cosmoHallitan

    The hill that Coit Tower is on also provides some stunning free views. You have to pay to go in the tower itself, but the views from the park outside are actually better because you’re not looking through dirty plexiglass.

  • Kristina Cline

    “financially reckless” ahhahaha, you don’t even need to link we know what you are talking about.
    You rock.

  • Jen

    I’m a bargain hunter too! Or a penny-pincher, or miser…you know, whatever! It’s widely acknowledged among my friends & family that I won’t buy anything unless it’s on sale. I rarely go out to eat with out some sort of coupon either! Cheapos unite!

  • Sarah

    You are my sale shopping / discount hunting kindred spirit. I’ve bought snow pants in the middle of summer just because they we’re 90% off (did I mention I was living in the south and hadn’t seen snow for years?). You may already know this tip but one of the major banks (not sure if you want me to mention names) has a program that gets you free entry to museums on the first weekend of every month if you have any of the cards they issue. It’s a great deal if it aligns with your travel.

  • Jennifer

    Thanks for posting this! I live so close (over by the synagogue dome in your second-to-last picture) and walk by the de Young all the time. I had NO IDEA. Planning to go this weekend 🙂

  • My Milennial kids think we’re cheap. I prefer to think of myself as frugal. Really, if you’re frugal, you get to see more stuff—although admittedly, some of it is fruit salad with a disturbing number of melon chunks.

  • I used to be a member here and I had no idea the tower was free, that’s awesome! I am now a member across the street, but on a rare sunny day I always want to go to the top of this tower (but am way too cheap to spend the $10 just for a quick view). Great tip! Thanks

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