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Sports & Recreation

  • Best Gym for Real People

    YMCA, Embarcadero

    The Embarcadero YMCA is located in a fancy part of Downtown, and the surrounding area swarms with uniformly groomed thirtysomethings sucking down specialty cocktails at 6:30 on a Wednesday evening. The building itself is also grand — huge, with heavy glass double doors. But inside, members say, are the People. You know, the ones who deserve the Power. All ages, races, and socioeconomic strata gather here to work out at the well-appointed facilities. Indeed, the feeling here is one of... More >>

  • Best Pool With a View

    UCSF Bakar Fitness Center at Mission Bay

    It's almost dizzying to keep up with the new development in the southeastern part of San Francisco, from high-rises in progress to the recently opened UCSF Mission Bay campus. But the school's Bakar Fitness & Recreation Center is worth paying attention to: This lovely modern facility features north-facing windows overlooking Downtown from every floor. Nowhere is the view better than from the six-lane, 25-yard pool on the rooftop (and its adjacent patio), a vista that takes in all the new... More >>

  • Best 49er

    Joe Nedney

    When a team wins the Super Bowl, it's difficult to pick the squad's best player — the roster bulges with talent. When a team finishes 4-12, the task is a whole lot easier, even more so when the place-kicker has a season like Joe Nedney's. The Niners' most potent (some might say sole) offensive weapon missed only two of 28 field-goal attempts last year, single-handedly — or single-footedly, as it were — preventing Mike Nolan's boys from further debasing themselves.... More >>

  • Best Place to Play Darts

    Eagles Drift In Lounge

    When you feel the need to throw a small feathered javelin at a circle of cork, propel yourself to this Inner Sunset darts hangout. Every Monday night at 8:30 there's a darts tournament ($5 entry fee) complete with handicapping and trash talking. Single players take on random "shooters" in a best-of-three competition; the top eight winners advance to the semi-playoffs, then the top four battle their way to bull's-eye glory. Eagles also has a pool table, free food on Fridays,... More >>

  • Best Workout Group

    Get in Shape, Bitch!

    What with everything '80s in full revival, there's no better time than the present to bring back the workout jams of yore. Hence, Get in Shape, Bitch!, a collection of kooks willing to don fluorescent one-piece bathing suits and headbands and sweat to classics like Olivia Newton-John's "Let's Get Physical." The group's manifesto, according to its leader, Unitard (aka local singer Uni of Uni & Her Ukulele), is, "It's our duty to be America's choice for fitness. ... We just... More >>

  • Best Place to Score a Bull's-Eye

    Golden Gate Park

    Just this side of the Dutch windmill at the western end of Golden Gate Park is a lovely, misty glade just perfect for making believe you're in Sherwood Forest, where joints of mutton trump shiitake risotto and an unwavering skill with quiver and bow is a matter of life and death. At one end of this tree-enclosed, daisy-dappled lawn, backed by a gentle slope and a low forest, are nine bales of hay reinforced with wooden slats and metal tubing.... More >>

  • Best Long Hike (That Ends With a Beer)

    Ocean Beach to Pompei's Grotto

    Starting at the Beach Chalet, walk north along Ocean Beach. Bask in that Pacific Ocean blue before climbing halfway up Point Lobos Avenue, crossing an unpaved parking lot just above the ruins of Sutro Baths and hopping onto the Lands End trail. This rollercoaster path contains breathtaking views of our steep, jagged coastline, the Marin Headlands, and the Golden Gate Bridge. When it ends, follow El Camino Del Mar through ritzy Seacliff and into the Presidio, where, just past the... More >>

  • Best Baseball Team

    The Oakland A's

    We hate to say we told you so, but we did. Last year we awarded Best Baseball Team to the 2006 Oakland A's, and by golly if the team that General Manager Billy Beane assembled isn't the odds-on favorite to win its division and perhaps even go all the way. And the best part? This team is easy to love. Unlike some other Bay Area squads who long ago put all their eggs in one oversized, high-priced basket — only... More >>

  • Best Pool Hall

    Family Billiards

    Despite its cuddly moniker, Family Billiards delivers its share of that neo-noir Minnesota Fats ambience you crave when you're in the mood to shoot a little stick. There's the long, low-slung room, hidden away in a subterranean grotto off Geary Boulevard; the pools of lamplit green felt flanked by shadowy figures with cuesticks; the retro stools and raised benches for kibitzers, talent scouts, and other random spectators. In many other ways, however, the joint's positively dapper. The 18 tables are... More >>

  • Best Triathalon

    Accenture Escape From Alcatraz

    Triathalons sound difficult enough without having to contend with the waters of San Francisco Bay, which average around 55 degrees in summer. The temperature outside usually isn't more than 10-15 degrees higher, either. But the sheer excitement of a nationally televised race that begins on Alcatraz Island, continues on to an 18-mile bike ride through Golden Gate Park out to the Great Highway, proceeds to an eight-mile run through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and ends at the Marina... More >>

  • Best Place to Swashbuckle

    Golden Gate Fencing Center

    Before you storm the parapets or raid your next Spanish galleon, drop by the Golden Gate Fencing Center and pick up a few (literal) pointers. The staff of former Olympic coaches and national team fencers trains both novice and experienced swordspersons in the art of the foil (a thin, blunted sword for thrusting) and epee (a heavier, stiffer sword) through tactical drills, footwork, directed bouting, and physical fitness. Men's and women's epee classes are held Monday nights, foil classes Thursday... More >>

  • Best Sports Radio Host

    Tom Tolbert, KNBR

    The realm of sports talk radio has long been dominated by an execrable creature we'll call the ranter-sycophant, the guy who spews invective at listeners but turns toady when interviewing athletes. Tolbert is the antidote, a laid-back host who grasps that it's called talk radio, not shriek radio, and who dares to ask uncomfortable questions of sports figures, without getting all Bill O'Reilly about it. Less arch than Rick Barry, another former pro hoops player in KNBR's stable of hosts,... More >>

  • Best Dance/Exercise Class

    ODC Dance Commons

    In March, Rhythm & Motion Dance Center decamped from its SOMA base to join forces with ODC Dance Commons in the Mission District. Whatever positives and negatives might have resulted from the merger, R&M's longstanding and beloved Fusion Rhythms class continues to provide those who like to shake their booties of a morning, afternoon, or evening with the same special buzz it always has. The class is the perfect way to combine all your favorite cheesy dance moves with a... More >>

  • Best Place to Learn to Fly

    Motivity Aerial Dance Classes

    Have you ever wanted to learn how to fly? Studio 12's Motivity classes prove that you don't necessarily need wings or to become a human cannonball to do it. Taught by husband-and-wife team Kate and Phil Weglarz, the beginner and intermediate level courses combine dance with trapeze techniques into an unusual art form that's a cross between contemporary ballet, gymnastics, and circus. Over a typical six-week series, budding flyers learn how to balance on and swing from a variety of... More >>

  • Best Low-Budget Boating

    Spreckels Lake and Stow Lake

    Yacht clubs are terribly overrated, and all of that keeping up with the Joneses is quite a bore. We prefer to indulge in a much more, um, refined activity, a luxurious sojourn away from the predictable Marina masses. We're talking about a bundled-up afternoon watching the motorized sailboats at Spreckles Lake in Golden Gate Park, a tradition that goes back generations. Heck, some of the boats on the water have probably been handed down at least a few times. And... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Swing Class

    Lindy in the Park

    Every Sunday the park provides an aesthetic backdrop for all kinds of physical endeavors, from jogging and tai chi to in-line skating and — perhaps most unusually — swing classes. This local swing dance group has been offering free sessions in the middle of the city's longest stretch of greenery every Sunday since 1996. Running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with a beginners' class at 12:30 that teaches the basic steps, Lindy is the place to go to polish... More >>

  • Best Coach

    Mario Elie, Warriors assistant coach

    It's not a question of if; it's a matter of when: Elie will be an NBA head coach within the next two years. Mark our words. And whoever hires him — whether someone from the Warriors or another team — will end up looking like a genius. Elie, who won three NBA titles during his playing career, brings brains, intensity, and an unstinting work ethic to his job as one of Mike Montgomery's assistants. During the long slog that was... More >>

  • Best Night Kayaking

    City Kayak

    If you're a baseball fan, City Kayak provides one of the most unusual views of the game. Join one of the company's Full Moon kayaking trips and you'll end up bobbing about outside PacBell Park just as the post-game fireworks go off. You'll literally feel the vibrations from the explosions in the base of your boat. And the colors look very pretty reflected in the inky water. The fireworks display isn't the only marvel you experience on this two-hour nighttime... More >>

  • Best Place to Golf Alone

    Golden Gate Park Golf Course

    Golfing alone on Golden Gate Park's nine-hole course, which the San Francisco Recreation & Park Department opened in 1951 as a "pitch and putt," offers two options. One is almost ideal for reclusive folks, and one is geared toward social butterflies who feel comfortable in any setting. If you come down for a game on a weekday afternoon early in the week, you face the possibility of being truly alone out there, with only the wind as companionship. Alternatively, if... More >>

  • Best Outdoor Escapades

    Bay Area Outdoor Adventure Club

    When these folks say "adventure," they mean it. The Bay Area Outdoor Adventure Club celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, still packing its calendar with an incredible range of activities — from full moon kayaking, flying trapeze lessons, and cave crawling to mountain biking, hiking, and surfing. All events are open to the public with no membership required, which is a perfect way to dip a few toes into some new sport without too much commitment. But super-duper advanced journeymen... More >>

  • Best Ping-Pong Table

    Finnegans Wake

    Keep your dart boards and liar's dice and pool and pinball; Ping-Pong is the pastime that separates the posers from the players and builds up a thirst for strong drink — the game every bar should have as its centerpiece. Among its many charms (pool and pinball among them), Finnegans Wake features an honest-to-God Ping-Pong table out on its rustic back patio. Ask the barkeep for a couple of paddles and balls and you're in business. The table itself is... More >>

  • Best Summer Bike Ride

    San Francisco-Pescadero-San Francisco

    Now that the days are long enough to be out bike riding at 8 p.m., take off work early — say, at 3 — and ride down Skyline Boulevard, over the hill to Half Moon Bay, and south on Highway 1 to Pigeon Point Lighthouse, just past Pescadero. There's a youth hostel there (650-879-0633,, and if you've brought a satchel and made reservations, you can change, eat, chat with German tourists until you're sleepy, then bed down for the... More >>

  • Best Sportscaster

    Gary Radnich

    The ever-popular Radnich, 56, who earned his playing chops as a UNLV basketball player during his college days (he was also a young play-by-play announcer for the Ohio State Buckeyes for a time during the Woody Hayes era), is the dean of Bay Area sports broadcasters, having been at KRON-TV (Channel 4) for 21 years. Famous for intentionally showing up on the news set at the last moment (to help keep his largely ad-libbed daily sports shows spontaneous), Radnich has... More >>

  • Best City Tour for Locals

    Mundane Journeys

    This occasional bus tour (check the Web site or call for information about scheduling and cost) wasn't created for Aunt Jane from Omaha, although she'd probably enjoy it. The brainstorm of owner-operator Kate Pocrass, Mundane Journeys is specifically crafted for those of us who live here. The idea is to see the city in ways that we may not have seen it before, and make discoveries along the way. There's no driving to Coit Tower, no pointing to the Golden... More >>

  • Best Dance Classes

    Cheryl Burke Dance

    Tucked away in Potrero Hill (but easily accessible by bus), Metronome offers pretty much anything you could want in the way of rug-cutting. It'll set you up with lessons ranging from beginning group Argentine tango to one-on-one ballet instruction, from massage for dancers to lessons on becoming a dance instructor. Some classes are focused on fitness; others (like the ballroom dancing program) can prepare you for serious competition. Metronome offers a men-only beginning hip hop class for boys who'd like... More >>

  • Best Sports Book

    Game of Shadows, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams

    OK, it's an obvious choice. But then again, what other book compelled Major League Baseball to finally — finally! — launch an investigation into steroid use among its players? Drawing on thousands of court records and hundreds of interviews, Fainaru-Wada and Williams untangle the knotty story of the BALCO scandal, constructing a damning indictment of baseball in general and Barry Bonds in particular. The two Chronicle reporters set out to show that a doping regimen of human-growth hormone, testosterone, and... More >>

  • Best Lady Gym

    Curves, North

    Yes, we know, Curves' CEO, Gary Heavin, donates some of his personal wealth to right-wing causes. Individual Curves franchises, however, are free to donate their proceeds to charities of their choosing, so chances are if you join a Bay Area Curves your karma will stay intact. Politics aside, these gyms are a wonderful thing for busy women. Show up wearing whatever you want to (there are no mirrors and no dudes), hop into the circuit of exercise machines, dance around... More >>

  • Best Run

    Mount Sutro & Twin Peaks

    Any local with an outdoorsy bent will tell you San Francisco is mounds of fun, but out-of-towners sometimes have a different view. If you'd like to prove our superiority to a sporty visitor, take her on this run. Begin at the Panhandle and go south on Cole Street to Parnassus Avenue, then head west three blocks to Willard Street. There, turn left, go 15 paces, and head rightward up the block-long staircase that connects Willard to Edgewood Avenue. Keep going... More >>

  • Best Gay Softball League

    San Francisco Gay Softball League

    No matter which team you play for, which side you bat on, or which trite sexual-orientation sports metaphor you prefer, you're welcome to join San Francisco's premier gay softball league. It's got some quotas in place to keep the league true to its fruity roots, but anyone who's pretty serious about the game and about having some sporty fun should check it out. The league is rigorous about tracking players' individual stats (in order to ensure teams are fairly matched... More >>

  • Best Warrior

    Jason Richardson

    Much of the talk in Warriors Land entering the 2005-'06 NBA season concerned Baron Davis, the gifted, erratic point guard whom fans hoped would lift Golden State from its rut of mediocrity. By season's end, with Davis bench-ridden by injury and the team missing the playoffs yet again, Jason Richardson was the guy who kept the faithful believing in a brighter future. Long known for his exploits above the rim, the former All-Star slam-dunk champ emerged as a complete player,... More >>

  • Best Eccentric Walks

    Foot Tours

    As we are with those supposed comedy traffic schools, we tend to be suspicious of walking tours that advertise having comedians as guides. Foot Tours has proven itself worthy of exception, attracting a roster of reputable Bay Area comedy talents with an impressive collective résumé, from writing for major late-night network programs to touring with household names. A sampling of tour titles reflects that creativity: Liz Grant's "Where's the F'ing Beach in North Beach?" asks a really good question; Mark... More >>

  • Best Eccentric Walks

    Stairways Across San Francisco

    Buns of steel await those able to conquer the physically demanding routes offered by Stairways Across San Francisco. More than a fleeting tourist fancy, these tours require a bit of commitment, ranging from several hours to all day, and involve climbing the most treacherous steps the city has to offer. Some stairs feel as close to 90 degrees as possible, which isn't exactly conducive to the well-being of those with vertigo. But the views — whether of land, water, or... More >>

  • Best Eccentric Walks

    The Vampire Tour

    Gathering every Friday and Saturday night just outside Nob Hill's Huntington Park (across the street from Grace Cathedral), the Vampire Tour is the antidote for those who think the occult can't be fun or irreverent. Tour creator Kitty Burns stars as the 100-plus-year-old Mina Harker. Surely there has never been a more entertaining, comedic version of the legendary vampiress of the dark — certainly not one so friendly with the staff of the Fairmont Hotel (one of the last stops).... More >>

  • Readers' Poll Winners

    Best Race Bay to Breakers Best Hike Mount Tamalpais Best Place to Skateboard Embarcadero Best Gym 24 Hour Fitness Best Bike Shop Valencia Cyclery Best Outdoors Shop REI Best Surf Shop Aqua Best Ski/Snowboard Shop SFO Snowboarding Best Place to Walk the Dog Golden Gate Park Best Swim Aquatic Park Best Jog Golden Gate Park Best Beach Baker Beach Best Yoga Studio Yoga Tree Best Walking Tours Chinatown Best Giant Barry Bonds Best 49er Joe Montana Best Warrior Jason Richardson... More >>

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