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San Francisco, California Travel Guide

San Francisco
San Francisco Bay

INTRODUCTION

San Francisco, or the “City by the Bay”, is one of the greatest tourist cities in the United States. Its economy is largely based on tourism because there are so many attractions, activities, and interesting neighborhoods to explore, making “San Fran” truly a treat for residents and visitors alike.

Located on the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, the city is surrounded on three sides by the waters of San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Due to its location, San Francisco has year-round weather conditions of fog and mild climates - not typical in the sunny state of California. However, the fog usually dissipates before noon. Beach life is therefore less than ideal, but with attractions like Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Pier 39, Alcatraz, San Francisco Shopping Center, Chinatown, Lombard Street, and the Castro District to name but a few, it seems a moot point.

HISTORY

Habitation of the San Francisco area can be traced back to 3000 B.C. In 1776, the Spanish set up the Mission San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores). In 1821, San Francisco became part of the newly independent Mexico and in 1846 the Americans gained control of the city during the Mexican-American War. The city remained a small port town until the Gold Rush turned San Francisco, nearly overnight, into a major city. With the Gold Rush came the banking industry and banks like Wells Fargo were formed, turning San Francisco into one of the most important financial centers in the west. The Gold Rush also led to massive immigration and the foundation of neighborhoods like Chinatown.

In 1906 an earthquake led to a fire that destroyed nearly three-quarters of the city and took thousands of lives. San Franciscans responded by economy charging rapid building, returning the city to its original splendor in only a few years. The Great Depression hit San Francisco like everywhere else in 1929, but the city managed to stay strong with not a single bank failing. The building projects of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge warded off the disaster that much of the rest of the world faced.

During WWII, San Francisco was the most important port for American missions in Japan. The war in the Pacific officially ended with The Treaty of San Francisco in 1951. During the 1950s, '60s, and '70s San Francisco became the center of the American counterculture with the Beats, Hippie, and Gay communities making San Francisco their home. The 1990s saw the San Francisco Bay Area becoming one of the centers of the dot-com boom, and although that balloon has largely deflated, the San Francisco region is still an important city in the innovative technology industry.

San Francisco
San Fran's Business District

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

With the dot-com boom, the gentrification of San Francisco’s downtown areas began turning once poor neighborhoods into hotspots and shopping centers, displacing many of its inhabitants. This has inadvertently led to many of the downtown areas becoming magnets for panhandlers.

ATTRACTIONS

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Park

Fisherman's Wharf

Pier 39

Ghirardelli Square

Wax Museum

San Francisco Shopping Center

Union Square

Alcatraz

Chinatown

Lombard Street

Castro District

RESTAURANTS

Tartine Bakery & Cafe - For a sweet bite take a walk to Tartine Bakery & Cafe. All of the pastries are freshly baked in the morning, with delicacies including éclairs and lemon cream tarts. In the evening, warm bread with a crispy exterior and a soft interior can be bought fresh from the oven.

Mamacita - This restaurant in the Marina District of San Francisco stays true to its roots. In an attempt to revive Mexican cuisine, Mamacita serves up authentic dishes complete with the complexity of flavors so common in Mexican fare.

Restaurant Gary Danko - This inviting restaurant showcases classical culinary knowledge, an appreciation for local ingredients, and a flair for the creative. It boasts an impressive wine list and impeccable service.

Fleur de Lys – Serving traditional French cuisine and succulent desserts, Fleur de Lys is one of the city’s most distinguished restaurants. Famous for its extravagant décor, the luxurious drapes and gorgeous floral arrangements produce a romantic and intimate atmosphere.

Mama’s on Washington Square – This popular café in North Beach serves the best breakfasts in town, from delicious stacks of hotcakes to healthy egg white creations. Arrive early to beat the crowds.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill – Offering an array of juicy sausages with unique toppings, this small and friendly eatery is perfect for something quick and filling on-the-go.

LODGING

St. Francis Hotel - A landmark hotel on the south end of Union Square, this iconic building combines history with modern luxury and design. Built just before the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906, the hotel is now one of the largest in the city, and boasts exterior glass elevators for amazing cityscape views.

Hotel Vitale, San Francisco - Hotel Vitale is an exceptional, upscale boutique hotel with a prime San Francisco address. Most rooms have views over the bay, with some lucky enough to overlook Bay Bridge and Alcatraz.

Hotel Tomo - Whilst many hotel chains scream conformity and standardization, this Best Western property is anything but. Hotel Tomo features funky decor with geometric furniture, bold-colored accents, and creative anime murals. Residing in Japantown, the hotel represents Japanese pop-culture that somehow ends up feeling classy and contemporary, rather than childish, as one might assume. There is no denying however, that this newly renovated hotel will bring out the kid in its guests. Gaming suites are available with a Playstation 3 and Wii consoles, bean bag chairs, and a 6 foot LCD screen.

The Phoenix – In the heart of the appealing skuzzy Tenderloin district, the Phoenix has cemented its reputation as San Francisco’s rock ‘n’ roll hotel. The 1950s motel style rooms surround a central swimming pool, which is guarded by a giant guitar-wielding frog.

The Parker House – Marketed mainly, but not exclusively, to gay visitors, the Parker House is a perfectly rendered Edwardian conversion, with a piano in the communal lounge, stained glass windows, and a resident pug called Porter.

The Green Tortoise – This welcoming hostel boasts a huge communal area and an onsite laundry, and throws in attractive freebies like daily breakfast and dinner three times a week.

PERSONAL STORIES

My favorite free ride in the city is the glass elevators on the outside of the St. Francis Hotel on the south end of Union Square where a dazzling 32-story ride takes you to a well-appointed restaurant, OZ.


 
 
 
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