It wasn’t until I pulled out my handy-dandy 2014 guidebook that I discovered Sutro Baths was a thing. I then took to Twitter to ask what I should do in for my three-day stint in SF and again, I heard about Sutro Baths. I met up with Victoria, a blogger friend of mine, and again, was told about Sutro Baths. So to Sutro Baths, I went.
The Sutro Baths were once a popular swimming mega-complex back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, boasting the world’s largest indoor pool, and some of the only pools of its time to use the power of the Pacific Ocean high-tide to fill the pools. You can see what the old Sutro Baths used to look like here (Sutro Baths: Then & Now), here (Sutro Bath Old Photos), and here (So Many Sutro Bath Photos).
After a period of unpopularity near the Great Depression, Sutro Baths was ordered to be demolished and to be replaced by luxury condos. When the demolition crew arrived, they arrived to an already burned to the ground Sutro Baths. #CouldBeANetflixDrama
Nowadays, all that’s left are ruins that you and the thousands of other tourists can go visit to get a feel for a more abandoned side of San Francisco. Even if the Sutro Baths don’t interest you, go for the breath of fresh air and oceanside views.
The bus ride out on the 38R (38R is the rapid, 38 is the local) is pretty boring in terms of the route itself, but the seedy characters who come on and off the bus, especially throughout the stretch of the Tenderloin, are what really make the trip entertaining. It’s what really keeps you on the edge of the seat. #Punny?
Making the voyage out to Sutro Heights feels worth it. You arrive in the quiet beachside neighborhood of San Francisco called Sutro Heights which is the outer part of Outer Richmond. The beach was loaded with frisbee golf players, couples with their dogs, and tourists taking photos of the roaring white waves and auburn cliffs.
From the bus, you’re about a five-minute walk from the beach, and five-minute walk from Sutro Baths. Again, if you’re not interested in this little piece of mysterious San Francisco history, let it be a pretense for getting out West and getting a peak at the picturesque vistas. Your Instagram followers will like it.
The thought of spending the day at a ruin, especially one that’s so specific to San Francisco’s history, I agree, is a bit boring, but as with all museums, ruins, parks, churches, and monuments – which tend to be the top things to do in every big city – if you don’t take a second to take it all in and let your imagination run free about the stories and happenings at these places, you’ll start succumbing to the idea that the travel games is just a formula, and that it’s just a repetitive plug-and-chug of museum, ruin, parks, church, monument, repeat.
It was when I did a quick Google Image search and saw what was once standing where I’m standing that the place became more real and the trip more worthwhile to me. Or after learning that it was once the world’s largest indoor swimming pool. Or that the San Franciscans started to lose interest around the Great Depression and throughout the years, it declined in popularity, and with high operating costs, the Sutro Baths was forced to close. I kind of feel that way about rollerskating rinks. It’s so fun, and yet so unpopular now? I don’t get it.
This trip to the Sutro Baths was something I had no plan on doing when I arrived, yes mainly because I had no idea it was even a thing, but with that being said, you now are aware that it exists and I highly recommend you go visit.