San Francisco is the largest city in Northern California. It is also the second-densest city in the U.S., next only to New York City. Frisco, as the locals call the city, has come a long way from its Gold Rush days, when miners descended upon the area in search of gold. Now, the steep, rolling hills of the City By The Bay have become home for one of the most eclectic and diverse mixtures of cultures, languages, advocacies, and cuisines in the world. Here are seven things you absolutely have to do when you visit San Francisco.
1. While the city is known for its origins as a mining town, it actually has great view of the Pacific. The seaside community of Fisherman’s Wharf, located in northern central San Francisco, is still the home of the city’s fishing fleet. Thus, you can expect excellent seafood, including the famed Dungeness crab which is native to the area. The area’s appeal also lies in its numerous shopping centers, such as Pier 39. Watch out for the sea lions at the pier.
2. The Golden Gate Bridge will always be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about San Francisco. While it is no longer the longest suspension bridge in the world, no other bridge can claim to be the icon of an entire city, maybe an entire state. The bridge is equipped with a bikeable walkway that is 1.7 miles long. On a clear day, you could take in magnificent views of the city and the bay, while colder weather brings a thick fog that envelopes the bases of the bridge. Either way, no other bridge could come close to the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge.
3. The Golden Gate Bridge can be seen from a variety of sites, including the Golden Gate Park and the Presidio. The latter is a former military base that overlooks the bridge and the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. While there is not much to see in the Presidio itself except for the six-inch gun and the concrete fortifications, Star Trek Fans will recognize the Presidio as the location of Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Headquarters.
4. Alamo Square is a residential neighborhood in central San Francisco. The area stands on a hill that offers grand views of downtown San Francisco, including the Transamerica Pyramid. However, the area is associated more with the Seven Sisters, a row of seven Victorian houses located beside the district park. Victorian houses, also known as “Painted Ladies” are scattered across San Francisco, but the Seven Sisters of Alamo Square are distinct because of their near-identical architecture and the backdrop of downtown San Francisco behind them.
5. There are a variety of ways to get around San Francisco, including the BART Subway or the Muni Metro, but there is nothing quite like the San Francisco Cable Car system. Only three routes remain of the original 23: the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines and the California Street Line.Riding the cable car, the last remaining manually-operated streetcar system in the world, is an experience in itself. Each July, Union Square is the site of a cable car bell-ringing contest between the crews that operate the different cars.
6. The F Market heritage streetcar has its terminus at 17th and Castro. The surrounding area, known as The Castro District, is one of the largest LGBT cultural centers in the world. Pioneering gay activist Harvey Milk opened the Castro Camera store at 575 Castro Street and the store became a rallying point for all sorts of people who were trying to gain acceptance. While the camera store is no more, the district still maintains a distinctive LGBT flavor, with rainbow flags flying from poles and crosswalks painted in rainbow colors.
7. There are four different Chinatowns in San Francisco. However, when you ask for directions to the “Chinatown”, locals will immediately point you in the direction of Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. The area reminds one of Hong Kong and its fish markets, restaurants, and stores, and one could watch ethnic Chinese doing T’ai Chi and playing Chinese chess in Portsmouth Square. It is, without any doubt, the largest and most important Chinese enclave outside of Asia, attracting more visitors to San Francisco than the Golden Gate Bridge.