San Francisco, California is a city with deep historical roots embedded at the core. After the Great Earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906, and the fires had raged like a fury afterward, the landscape of San Francisco had been forever changed. Nearly three quarters of the city had laid in ruins, but for the original parts of San Francisco that still remain, the nostalgia and charm of the “old” San Francisco remains a part of the heart and soul of the city today.
If you are a fan of European cities, San Francisco is the closest city in the United States with a European feel. Nestled on hills overlooking waterscapes, San Fran gives you a unique Mediterranean feel without leaving the States. Let us not forget the wine regions which lay just North of the city and the spectacularly rugged Pacific Coast highway to the South. All of this combined with food, art, architecture, diversity and culture makes San Francisco the #1 city destination for the true traveler.
The Allure of San Francisco
While taking a basic tour of San Francisco, you can experience the original architecture that makes San Francisco so alluring, from its stately old buildings, to its flamboyant structures. The Trans-America Pyramid in the downtown district, is just one of the architectural marvels that greet the misty skyline or one of the 50 hilly knobs that dot across the 47.9 square mile Peninsula.
You will be welcomed by a large Crab statue, as you make your way into the Pier 39 district. The smells of fresh fish and chips, or hot dogs and sausages waft from the food vendor trucks as you walk along the brick walkways. You take in everything around you as you breathe in the salty sea air coming from the harbor. The sounds of people mingling together on the wooden benches and the barking of the hundreds of sea lions near the Pier only add to the atmosphere and heightens your senses. You pass by the popular restaurants such as the Hard Rock Cafe’, Bubba Gumps, and the Eagle Cafe’, they each offer a selection of popular seafood dishes like Clam Chowder, Shrimp and Crab. After choosing any one of the more than 100 restaurants on the Pier, then you see Dreyers Grand Ice Cream Shop, the Cup and Cake Cafe’, Chocolate Heaven,The Fudgery, and Mrs. Fields Cookies. Even after a full meal, the delightful smells and sights of the cakes, cookies, and chocolates in the window, can begin to make your mouth water. If you desire some after dinner coffee, Biscoff Coffee Corner has a nice selection of aromatic ground gourmet coffees, or you can visit the Candy Baron in order to fill up a bag of candy from any of the wooden barrels in order to fill your sweet tooth craving.
After a bite to eat, you can stop in to visit the Aquarium of the bay, where you can enjoy the thrill of seeing the sharks swim in the glass tunnel all around you, or any of the more than 20,000 kinds of other marine life for a completely immersive experience. Pier 39 is one of the most exciting places of San Francisco, where you can enjoy a complete 7D experience, warding off werewolves to save London, on this action packed virtual ride, or wander around in circles trying to escape Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, or play one of 85 arcade games inside Players Sports Arcade Bar and Grill.
You can also take a casual stroll down to the Fisherman’s wharf and visit the Musée Mécanique to enjoy the old style mechanical machines, and just pop in a few coins into the machines to hear the self-playing multiple instrument pianos, which vividly remind you of a carousel, and a circus at the same time. You can pass the time watching old time peep shows, play simple games, view old-time animatronics and watch as the owner zips around energetically on his roller skates.
In addition to Pier 39, and Fisherman’s wharf, there are many quaint and scenic neighborhoods that make up San Francisco. Chinatown is one district that is often a favorite of visitors for its ethnic rich Chinese cultural identity that is reminiscent of Hong Kong. The open-air markets of produce, sea food, and mini malls are scattered throughout the 24 city blocks that make up Chinatown. In Portsmouth Square, you are likely to see people in the parks playing checkers or practice martial arts. Chinatown district has a rich history on its own, with the early history of Chinese Immigration, the Hidden City of the forbidden night-time arts during the prohibition days, and the San Francisco earthquake. If you are a visitor to the Chinatown district, make sure you visit during the Chinese New Year Celebration, so you can observe the fabulous fireworks displays, and Chinese lanterns that illuminate the entire district.
Notable Districts and Neighborhoods
There are other notable districts and neighborhoods that make up San Francisco, such as the Alamo. The Alamo is a well-known tourism location, where you will find the “Painted Ladies”, the picturesque Victorian Style houses, which are painted in beautiful ice-cream colors. As you venture into Bernal Heights very narrow streets, you may happen to smell the fresh aroma of fresh bread coming from the bakery. You can stop along the way at the health food store to buy fresh organic produce, and herbs or visit the Yoga studio for some relaxation therapy. Butchertown district is home to the active freight railroad, so if you are visiting here, you might hear the trains on the tracks. Nob Hill is also an interesting tourist attraction, known for upscale architectural design and affluent neighborhoods. Nob hill is home to three four-star hotels: Fairmont San Francisco, which is on the national register of historic places; the Mark Hopkins Hotel, which is the member of the Historic Hotels of America, and the Standford Court. If you require more affordable lodgings, there are many other charming Hotels, just within view of the Golden Gate Bridge, at about half the cost.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit San Francisco, make sure to visit any of the ever changing exhibitions, that are hosted seasonally, such as the Ice Cream Museum, which runs until the third week of October this year. Too bad you can’t eat the gigantic neon colored popsicles, colorful sprinkles, and enormous scoops of ice-cream, but at least you can touch everything and take some interesting photographs to show your friends.
You may never get to see everything that you want to see when you first visit San Francisco, so you may want to come back again. San Francisco is an unwrapped present on Christmas morning, always new and surprising, and waiting to be opened again and again.