Eighty-seven percent of San Francisco's visitors include Fisherman's
Wharf on their itinerary. With good reason. Waterfront marketplaces include
The Anchorage, The Cannery, Ghirardelli Square and PIER 39. The Wharf's
working hub, "Fish Alley," sells thousands of tons of sole,
shrimp, salmon, sea bass, squid and other deep sea delicacies annually.
During the crab season (mid-November through June) devotees line up for
the best of the catch. For an impromptu picnic, order some cracked crab
and pick up a loaf of sourdough French bread from a nearby bakery.
A fleet of historic ships berths at Hyde Street Pier, a component of the
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, which also includes the
Maritime Museum. The USS Pampanito, a WWII fleet submarine, may be boarded
at Pier 45.
The entrance to Chinatown at Grant Avenue and Bush Street is called
the "Dragon's Gate." Inside are 24 blocks of hustle and bustle,
most of it taking place along Grant Avenue, the oldest street in San Francisco.
This city within a city is best explored on foot; exotic shops, renowned
restaurants, food markets, temples and small museums comprise its boundaries.
Visitors can buy ancient potions from herb shops, relax and enjoy a "dim
sum" lunch or witness the making of fortune cookies.
Golden Gate Bridge
Crossing the strait of the Golden Gate from San Francisco to the Marin
headlands for 1.7 miles is the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge, easily
identified by its International Orange color. Opened in 1937, the bridge
was built at a cost of $33 million and 10 workers' lives. The single-suspension
span is anchored off the shores of the bay by twin towers that reach skyward
750 feet, and was once taller than any building in San Francisco. To support
the suspended roadway, two cables more than 7,000 feet in length, containing
70,000 miles of wire stretch over the top of the towers and are rooted
in concrete piers on shore. Ten years in planning due to formidable opposition,
but only four years in actual construction, the Golden Gate Bridge brought
the communities of San Francisco and Marin county closer together.
Bird watchers, beachcombers, hikers, cyclists, surfers, surf fishers,
picnickers and nature lovers flock to both sides of the Golden Gate and
the coastal range to The City's south. This phenomenon is the result of
a stunning environmental breakthrough. Congress, in October, 1972 enacted
legislation creating the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA)
and mandated the National Park Service to develop and administer it. Today,
the GGNRA is the largest urban park in the world and the most popular
in the national system.
The Park Service discovered that it's difficult to separate fact from
fiction in researching the history of la Isla de los Alcatraces (Isle
of the Pelicans). Under the Federal Prisons Bureau (1933-62), legend of
the Devil's Island and "Hellcatraz" genre was allowed to flourish
to perpetuate The Rock's image as a dreaded, escape-proof citadel.
Since 1858 Alcatraz has been successively a fortification, a U.S. military
prison, an army disciplinary barracks, a federal penitentiary and an American
On March 21, 1963, the last of The Rock's inmates--27 pale men in wrist
and leg shackles--were transferred to other federal penal institutions.
The last of the Native Americans who subsequently claimed the island as
their birthright were evacuated June 11, 1971.
Alcatraz is now a component of the Bay Area's 74,000-acre Golden Gate
National Recreation Area created by Congress and signed into law by President
Nixon Oct. 27, 1972. Many of its buildings were gutted by fires set by
the Native American occupiers or razed by the General Services Administration
when The Rock's future was in limbo.
But the main prison block with its steel bars, claustrophobic (9 x 5-foot)
cells, mess hall, library and "dark holes," where recalcitrants
languished in inky blackness, is structurally intact. So is the windswept
exercise yard with its concrete bleachers and towering walls topped by
guard towers and catwalks.
Steep streets and brightly painted Victorian houses give this upper
Market "Gay Mecca" neighborhood that distinct San Francisco
look. The Castro is a series of imaginative boutiques, bookstores and
bars. Novelty items abound in shops at the end of Market Street between
16th and 17th Streets.
One of the most photographed locations in San Francisco, Alamo Square's
famous "postcard row" at Hayes and Steiner Streets is indeed
a visual treat. A tight, escalating formation of Victorian houses is back-dropped
by downtown skyscrapers, providing a stunning contrast.
San Francisco' s widest street, Van Ness Avenue, runs straight down
the middle of Civic Center, a Beaux Arts architectural wonder where The
City's symphony, opera and ballet dazzle audiences. One of the area's
crown jewels, the War Memorial Opera House, is one of the world's greatest
Near Pacific Heights on Fillmore Street south of Broadway are a number
of intimate cafes and restaurants as well as a concentration of upscale
clothing, kitchenware and home furnishings stores. Foreign films fascinate
at the import film house on Fillmore near Clay. The 2000 to 2200 blocks
offer a smorgasbord of shops dealing in vintage clothing, costumes and
the "next-to-new." The Juneteenth Celebration is an outdoor
event held each June to celebrate African American culture. Jazz and All
that Art on Fillmore, a lively street fair held during the July 4 weekend,
celebrates the area's deep jazz roots.
The "Summer of Love" lives on mainly in stores throughout
this charming Victorian sector; vintage clothing, books and records are
abundant along Haight Street, the neighborhood's busiest stretch.
Places of interest include 710 Ashbury Street, once home to the legendary
musical group, the Grateful Dead; 112 Lyon Street, where famous singer
Janis Joplin lived; Buena Vista Park, with its delightful views of The
City; and, for architectural highlights, Masonic, Piedmont and Delmar
The heart of Japantown is Japan Center, a five-acre complex of hotels,
shops, theaters, sushi bars and restaurants at Post and Buchanan Streets.
It is crowned by a five-tiered pagoda, a symbol of eternal peace. Locals
call this sector "J-Town." More than 12,000 residents of Japanese
descent call it home. There is much to learn from this small slice of
* The shop-lined Nihonmachi Mall was designed to imitate a traditional
* Food and flowers are often placed on the fine wood altar of The Konko
Kyo Temple on Bush Street.
* The Webster Bridge midway in the Japan Center evokes the Ponte Vecchio
Visitors wishing to take a little piece of Japantown home can purchase
Japanese vegetable seeds for planting, silk-embroidered kimonos, books
on Japanese arts and crafts, silk calligraphy scrolls, tea ceremony utensils
and many other traditional items. Each April, Japantown celebrates its
Cherry Blossom Festival. Taiko drumming, martial arts, doll-making and
calligraphy demonstrations lead to a colorful parade.
The Marina was developed on the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International
Exposition. Marina Green, a grassy playground with stunning views of the
Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, attracts joggers, sunbathers
and kite fliers. The terracotta Palace of Fine Arts is home to the hands-on
science museum, Exploratorium. Off Marina Boulevard, streets are dominated
by grand stucco houses and flats. Chestnut Street brims with inviting
stores, restaurants and watering holes.
The heart of San Francisco's predominantly Hispanic neighborhood is
24th Street, a colorful collection of restaurants, taquerias, Mexican
bakeries, fresh produce markets and specialty shops. Mission Dolores at
16th and Dolores Streets is the oldest structure in San Francisco. Many
of The City's pioneers are buried in an adjacent cemetery. The largest
concentration of murals in The City, each reflecting the pleasures, passions
and pitfalls of their respective creators, adorn buildings, fences and
garage walls throughout the neighborhood. May is an especially high-spirited
month in the Mission District. That's when San Francisco celebrates Cinco
de Mayo and Carnaval, each culminating with exciting parades. Carnaval
is considered The City's version of Mardi Gras.
Of The City's many hills, Nob Hill boasts perhaps the best view of
San Francisco Bay, especially when observed from a California Street cable
car, running from the foot of Market Street, over the hill and down to
Van Ness Avenue. Nob Hill's noble tenants include Grace Cathedral, a replica
of Notre Dame in Paris; Huntington Park, site of many arts shows and graced
by a replica of a 16th century Roman fountain; Nob Hill Masonic Center,
an architectural dazzler hosting various musical events; the Cable Car
Museum; and grand hotels.
North Beach, rich in Italian heritage compresses cabarets, jazz clubs,
galleries, inns, family style restaurants and gelato parlors into less
than a square mile. Bakeries and delicatessens serve up such traditional
Italian delicacies as prosciutto, provolone, mozarella, St. Honore cake
and sacripantina. A perfect spot for cappuccino and espresso, North Beach
is transformed into one of San Francisco's most electric playgrounds by
night; live music and dancing keep the streets swinging.
Stately Victorians crown hills blessed with glorious views in San
Francisco's most prestigious neighborhood. Consulates, finishing schools
and condominiums share this tree-lined perch with The City's wealthiest
families. Jackson Street near the northwest corner of Alta Plaza Park
is a good place to begin a tour of the neighborhood's mighty mansions.
The house tour reaches its apex along the Broadway bluff between Webster
and Lyon Streets. Of historical and architectural interest are the Spreckels
Mansion, 2080 Washington Street; the Whittier Mansion, 2090 Jackson Street
and the Bourn Mansion at 2550 Webster Street The area also boasts magnificent
views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
In the Richmond District it is possible to shop in a Russian grocery,
sip a beer in an Irish pub and have dinner in a Chinese restaurant, all
within short walking distance of one another. A myriad of cultures inhabit
the Clement Street shopping sector and Geary Boulevard. Russian bakeries
offering piroshki and kulich bread adjoin Greek delis and kosher meat
markets. With an estimated 35 percent of The City's Chinese-Americans
residing in the area, Chinese food markets, restaurants and dim sum parlors
so abundant that the area is known as The City's second Chinatown.
South of Market, also known as "SoMa," is two square miles
of hot nightclubs, fashionable restaurants, experimental theaters, discount
shopping outlets and art galleries, plus the nations most beautiful
ballpark. Bordering SoMa to the east is another emerging area known as
the City Front District, encompassing the Steuart Street area north of
Justin Herman Plaza and the Ferry Building.
Thousands originally from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam have given this
20-square-block district west of Union Square new life. Sermons on social
justice blend with rockin' choir music on Sundays at Glide Memorial Church
on Ellis Street, symbolizing the neighborhood's resurgence. An experimental
theatre house, jazz and blues clubs, 200 restaurants and cafes, bookstores
and billiards point to an upbeat feeling.
The landmark park in the heart of the City, San Francisco's Union
Square re-opened on July 25, 2002 after an 18-month renovation. Sporting
new granite plazas, a new terraced stage on Post Street, light sculptures
designed by artist R.M. Fischer, a new café and four grand entrance
corner plazas bordered by the park's signature palms, the remodeled square
pays tribute to the Square's distinctive history and captures the unique
flavor and beauty of San Francisco.
The first neighborhood in San Francisco to convert its gingerbread
Victorians into popular boutiques, art galleries and restaurants, Union
Street's distinct turn-of-the-century atmosphere makes a walk along its
streets a delightful journey back in time, at least from an architectural
perspective. The attitude along modern day Union Street, however, is anything
but old-fashioned. This is where some of The City's most fashionable and
upscale citizens live and play.