September 20, 2017

San Francisco Travel Guide

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the United States. It sits at the tip of a peninsula surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the West and the San Francisco Bay to the East. Much of the central area can be explored on foot, but the city’s 43 hills can make for a strenuous walk. To save both time and energy, take advantage of the cable cars when the streets are too steep. Just as the song says, “you’re sure to meet some gentle people there.” You are also bound to run into many other interesting people. Once crowded with hippies, San Francisco’s diverse population adds to both its culture and atmosphere. The city itself can be divided into six areas of interest. These areas include Downtown, Pacific Heights, Haight-Ashbury, Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the northwestern half containing the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.

 

Downtown and its many skyscrapers make up the center of San Francisco’s financial life. Its streets are lined with banks, including the famous Bank of America. The Financial District, as it’s referred to by locals, has often been called “the Wall Street of the West.” Of all the buildings here, there is one that literally sticks out and that is the Transamerica Pyramid. Built in 1972 and reaching a height of 853 feet, it is the tallest and most widely recognized building in the city. Just down the street on Colombus Avenue is the San Francisco Brewing Company. The 1907 paddle fans and mahogany bar make this a perfect stopover for a burger and a beer.

 

If you take Montgomery Street down to Post, you’ll be making your way to the huge shopping district of Union Square. Many of the city’s largest department stores can be found here. Outlined with tall palm trees and benches, it’s also an ideal place to take a break and people watch. If you’re able to catch a Giants game, swing by AT&T Park. I find it to be one of the coolest baseball stadiums in the United States.

 

Aside from the Transamerica building, the two most recognizable figures in San Francisco are the cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge. Launched in 1873 by inventor Andrew Hallidie, the cable car was used to transport people up the city’s steep slopes. The invention of the internal combustion engine rendered the cable car obsolete, but after a public outcry the city managed to keep three lines open. The Golden Gate Bridge was opened in 1937. It connects the city with Marin County and its twin towers rise to a height of 746 feet above the water. The bridge spans 1.7 miles and its bright red color makes it one of the most beautiful and recognizable bridges in the world.

 

Pacific Heights is an upscale neighborhood sitting 300 feet above the city. Victorian style houses are abundant, and the most popular are found on the eastern side of Alamo Square. The “Six Sisters” or “Painted Ladies,” as they are nicknamed, were built in 1895. They also appear on numerous pictures and postcards of San Francisco. Be sure to walk down to the Civic Center to see the beautiful architecture of City Hall.

 

Haight-Ashbury takes its name from the two major streets of Haight and Ashbury, and is a district containing rows of Victorian houses mostly occupied by the wealthy middle class. Long known as a place to escape to from the city center, it was once home to thousands of hippies in the late 1960s. The city’s gay community is centered around the Castro district to the East. Just past this area is the Mission District, which was founded by Spanish monks and is now home to many Latin Americans. With its broad mix of people, book stores, and cafes, Haight-Ashbury is one of the liveliest places in San Francisco.

 

 

Once you step through the jade green gate on Grant Street, it’s like entering a whole new world. You are now in Chinatown, the largest Chinese community on the West coast. It is the second largest in the US – falling just behind New York City’s settlement. It’s a densely populated neighborhood profuse with colorful buildings and bustling shops. You can find deals here on everything from kites to cooking utensils, as well as many small family-run Chinese restaurants.

 

The San Francisco fishing industry was founded in the late 19th century when fisherman from Genoa and Sicily first arrived in the area currently known as Fisherman’s Wharf. Any tourist visiting the city cannot leave without spending some time here. The atmosphere alone is enough to brighten your day – its many shops and street performers are bound to keep you entertained for hours. Look for the World Famous Bushman who trys to scare tourists while hiding behind his green bushes. Situated on and around Pier 39, the Wharf consists of excellent seafood restaurants and memorabilia stores.  On the West side of the Pier, you can watch a colony of sea lions piled on top of one another on the many docks, basking in the afternoon sun. Be sure to make your way down to Lombard Street, currently known as “the crookedest street in the world.” Banked at a natural incline, it is simply too steep for vehicles to climb. Cars can only travel downhill on its eight curves at a speed of 5 mph while pedestrians use the steps. The Wharf is also a great vantage point to see “The Rock,” or Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz, meaning “Pelican” in Spanish refers to the island’s first inhabitants to dwell here. For many years, Alcatraz served as a maximum-security federal penitentiary that held some of the biggest names in crime – including Al Capone and George “Machine Gun” Kelly.

 

 

The Northwestern half of San Francisco is made up of Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. Created in the 1890’s, Golden Gate Park is one of the world’s largest urban parks. Three miles wide and nearly one mile across, it caters to a number of sporting activities and allows people to escape from the bustle of city life. The Presidio just North of the park was an area chosen by Spain to contain its military base. Here, you’ll find many hiking trails and some magnificent views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

San Francisco is a wonderful city to visit. It has many attractions to keep you busy and its vibrant atmosphere and culture will leave you fascinated and inspired. So if you ever find yourself in California, be sure to stop at the city by the bay and don’t forget to throw a flower in your hair….

 

 

 

——————–San Francisco Travel Tips——————-

 

When to Go
Surrounded as it is by water, San Francisco can often have strong winds sweeping across the peninsula and making a sweater or jacket a necessity. The daily temperature drops below 55 F and can drop dramatically at night. The summer months are the warmest, but also the most crowded. Good times to visit are in late May & June or October & November.

 

What to See
– Golden Gate Bridge
– Fisherman’s Wharf
– Transamerica Building
– Cable Cars
– Painted Ladies
– Chinatown
– Alcatraz
– Lombard Street
– Coit Tower
– Union Square

 

What to Eat
San Francisco has so many restaurants, trying to choose one will certainly build up your appetite. Like most harbor cities, the fresh seafood is excellent and with its large community, Chinese food is frequently available. You can find all types of tasty cusine to satisfy those taste buds. Be sure to try the Sourdough bread. Often hollowed out as a “bread bowl” and filled with steaming clam chowder, this dish is as synonymous with San Francisco as cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge.

 

What to Drink

Being so close to Napa Valley, you can’t go wrong with wine. You can also find some excellent local beer breweries.

 

Getting Around
San Francisco is a city where you can see practically everything without the luxury of a car. In fact, its lack of downtown parking and horrific traffic make it best to avoid driving period. The public transportation system is relatively inexpensive and covers every neighborhood in the form of trains, cable cars, buses, and trolleys. Exploring on foot is still your best bet. The hills can be a struggle but the views from the top make them well worth the climb.

 

What to Buy
Much can be found when shopping here, but some of the best buys are seafood, blue jeans, vintage clothing, ethnic art, books, and records. Great gifts include wine from the Napa Valley and Ghirardelli chocolate.

 

Language
English

 

Currency
Dollar

 

Tipping
Between 15 and 20 percent.

 

 

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