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Cow Hollow is the neighborhood bordered by Broadway, Lyon, and Lombard streets and Van Ness Avenue. Union Street is its primary attraction - it's where you'll find well-groomed (and often single) young urban professionals who enjoy the many restaurants, bars, cafes, boutiques, and galleries. The demographics of Cow Hollow are not unlike those of the neighborhoods to the north and south of it (Marina and Pacific Heights, respectively) and the atmosphere is trendy, safe, and definitely monied.

Cow Hollow, Then and Now

A rural area, Cow Hollow was home to lots of dairies a rural area back in the 19th century. In the 1880's, the Board of Health believed the cows posed a health risk to the burgeoning city, so the dairies were closed down.

Commerce replaced the dairies. Union Street, especially between Octavia and Steiner Streets, gradually grew to become Cow Hollow's most notable claim to fame. The small boutiques and diverse mix of fine restaurants make this street a spender's paradise. Visit art galleries, antique shops, little furniture stores, and clothing boutiques for men, women, and children. Restaurants range from formal sit-down to take-out, from Japanese to Italian to Indian.

Marina and Pacific Heights

Starting at Pine Street and ending at the Marina Green and Fort Mason roll out three of San Francisco's prettiest neighborhoods. All three are flanked by Van Ness Avenue to the east and Presidio Avenue to the west. Pacific Heights starts at Pine Street and ends at Vallejo Street, Cow Hollow picks up at Vallejo and ends at Lombard Street, and the Marina begins at Lombard and ends at the San Francisco Bay.

Pacific Heights lures both visitor and native with astounding panoramas of the Bay and distant hills. Stately Victorian and Art Deco apartments line the lushly landscaped streets and the general atmosphere is one of abundance, wealth, and comfort perched above the Marina.

Pacific Heights exudes a quiet elegance that it's possessed since the wealthy Nob Hill residents settled here at the turn of the century (looking for better views of the Bay, probably). The upscale boutiques, restaurants, and furniture stores of Upper Fillmore provide plenty of opportunities for well-heeled patrons to spend their cash -- whether newly acquired or inherited.

If all this real estate has you hankering for a peek indoors, tour the Haas-Lilienthal House. This fully furnished and preserved 1886 Queen Anne Victorian, replete with turrets and gables, is sure to satisfy your desires for a taste of elegance. The house, which serves as headquarters for the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage, is open for tours Wednesdays and Sundays. 2007 Franklin St., (415) 441-3000. Spreckels Mansion at 2080 Washington Street is an ornate, pre-WWI home fronting Lafayette Park, where romance novelist Danielle Steel and family currently reside.

For a quintessential Pacific Heights moment, descend the steps at Broadway and Lyon, set between sumptuous houses and the Presidio National Park. The steps end on a lovely hedge garden where you can glimpse the Palace of the Fine Arts and Bay below. Alta Plaza Park, a small park to the west of Fillmore Street, offers tennis courts, a playground, and panoramic city views.

With the exception of the restaurants and two bars in Upper Fillmore, Pacific Heights has a variety of casual or fine dining and some nightlife. If you want a larger selection of nightlife, head down the hill (north) to Cow Hollow. Named after the dairy farms that flourished there during the 19th century, Cow Hollow offers the transition between stately Victorian mansions and homes to smaller, more modern structures. While its nightclubs and bars attract residents from both the Marina and Pacific Heights, only the Union Street slice of Cow Hollow is really abuzz during the day with shoppers and diners.

After Lombard Street, you're in the Marina. Mediterranean-style houses and apartment buildings line the tidy streets and the presence of the Bay pervades the air. Be sure to stroll the mile-long Marina Green, where joggers, bicyclists, walkers and rollerbladers get both exercise and fabulous views of the bay, Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, and Alcatraz Island. At the west end of the Marina Green, explore the Presidio and Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge. At the east end, check out Fort Mason.

Head south at Marina Green, walk one block on Baker Street, and you will come to the Palace of Fine Arts. The Romanesque rotunda sits amid sculptured maidens atop the surrounding colonnades. The structure is San Francisco's last vestige of its most glorious fair - the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. Although the fair officially marked the opening of the Panama Canal, many San Franciscans took the opportunity to show that their fair city had successfully risen from the ashes of the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Behind the rotunda stands the Exploratorium, one of the finest science museums in the country. The Exploratorium offers numerous hands-on exhibits and experiments. Learn how sound waves travel, magnets work and eyes see. For an extra fee, experience a world without light or sound in the Tactile Dome.

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