Earlier this week I walked along Fisherman’s Wharf and eventually ducked into In-N-Out for lunch. I took my platter outside into the little Anchorage Square courtyard and enjoyed the summer afternoon along with my meal. Visitors from Asia, Latin America, and Europe passed by, speaking to one another in their native tongues, as I sat and ate. That’s one of my favorite things about San Francisco: it’s like an open-air version of New York, a place where the world comes to visit, but you have more of a chance to see and meet some of these folks out and about than you do in the comparatively denser and sometimes more claustrophobic New York streets.

That’s something else, specific to Fisherman’s Wharf, that I thought about. Namely that Fisherman’s Wharf feels like a much more relaxed, more tolerable Times Square. If you want to visit New York and pay for Olive Garden in Times Square, amidst the chaos and noise and gimmickry of Times Square, more power to you. You can do something of the same thing at Fisherman’s Wharf, but it’s an Applebee’s here, and generally most of the natural world worth admiring remains free. Avoid the junk.