San Francisco’s Treasure Island isn’t anything like the tropical setting of Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckling adventure story, but it is a fun and fascinating urban oasis. The man-made island was originally built as the site of the yearlong 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition World’s Fair and during WWII was transformed into a naval station. By the late 1980s, several of the island’s original airplane hangars were converted into soundstages and film sets, where popular blockbusters like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and The Matrix were shot. Today, Treasure Island remains a bustling cultural hub, and San Franciscans who live in the luxury condos at 181 Fremont are in a prime spot to enjoy weekend visits and explore its history, as well as its culinary and shopping destinations and array of local wineries.
Treasure Island’s impressive landscape of art deco architecture dates from its World’s Fair days, including the impressive “Building One,” which served as the welcome center to the World’s Fair and a strategic command center during WWII. Thanks to the Treasure Island Museum, several of these beautiful buildings and eye-catching sculptures from the late 1930s are open for theme-specific tours, which focus on the World’s Fair, aviation history, or the island’s navy years. Though it has a rich history, the island is also still full of adventure: the nonprofit Treasure Island Sailing Center, which has more than 100 boats in its fleet, offers excursions year-round, as well as classes devoted to sailing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. The center has provided sailing and educational opportunities to over 10,000 kids and adults in the Bay Area, and on a clear day, one of its sails around the Bay offers a spectacular view of the skyscrapers and luxury condos dotting the San Francisco skyline.
Treasure Island is equally well-known as a destination for food and fun, thanks to the growing popularity of the Treasure Island Music Festival, the Treasure Island Flea, and several local boutique wineries. Each October, the music festival brings the likes of Sigur Rós and Ice Cube to San Francisco for two days of live performances that alternate between electronica, hip hop, and indie rock. Since it launched in 2011, the Treasure Island Flea has become a focal point for the Bay Area’s creative minds and shoppers who love all things locally made. Visitors can sample local delicacies from food trucks, listen to local musicians play, and shop for fine jewelry and clothing, organic soaps and fragrances, toys and games for kids, specialty foods, and one-of-a-kind artworks. Nicknamed “the Festival of the Bay,” this beloved gathering of imaginative entrepreneurs is open the last weekend of every month except December.
The ideal way to cap off an afternoon on Treasure Island is a visit to one of the local wineries, many of which offer tours and tastings. Sol Rouge specializes in red wines from grape varietals native to the Bordeaux and southern Rhone regions in the South of France. Located in the old Navy brig, Fat Grape Winery is known for their signature reds (made without added sulfites), which can be sampled at complimentary tastings on Tuesdays through Sundays. And Treasure Island Wines, the first winery to set up shop on the island, offers tastings on the weekends, with a constant rotation of six to eight new wines.
Image courtesy of sftreasureisland.org