Shrouded in misty fog with the majestic Golden Gate Bridge as its backdrop, San Francisco is the fourth-largest city in California. It is surrounded by the San Francisco Bay and located at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula.
- In the 1700s, Spanish settlers migrated to the San Francisco Peninsula and founded a city named after St. Francis of Assisi.
- In 1906, a devastating earthquake and fire wreaked destruction on the city. San Francisco subsequently embarked on an impressive recovery campaign, and the city was quickly rebuilt.
- San Francisco is now one of the second-most-populated cities in the United States. According to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, there were an estimated 744,000 residents living within the city limits in the year 2006. The city is known as one of the most densely-populated urban centers in the United States.
San Francisco is known for world-class museums, fine restaurants, lively bars and nightclubs, and cozy sidewalk cafes. National and international tourists are drawn to San Francisco's famous tourist attractions year-round:
- Fisherman's Wharf/Pier 39Ferry Market Building: Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 are San Francisco's most popular destinations. These tourist spots feature live street entertainment, outdoor crab and chowder vendors, restaurants, and souvenir shops. The Ferry Market Building has become very popular with gourmet food providers and popular eateries
- Alcatraz Island: Visitors can step back in time and tour the infamous penitentiary, which housed such notorious criminals as Al Capone.
- Golden Gate Bridge: The famous red suspension bridge connects San Francisco to Marin County. When construction was completed in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was considered to be the largest suspension bridge in the world.
- Lombard Street: With its sharp hairpin turns across a steep winding hill, Lombard Street is called the world's most crooked street.
- Coit Tower: Located at the top of Telegraph Hill, Coit Tower is an Art Deco design and resembles a fire hose. Coit Tower was funded by Lillie Hitchcock Coit's generous donation.
- Chinatown: Chinatown draws thousands of visitors each year to its bustling, crowded streets. Chinese markets, produce and flower stands, and hole-in-the-wall restaurants make Chinatown an exciting, energetic neighborhood to visit.
- Cable Cars: Cable-car stops are located throughout the city, and visitors can take historical cable-car tours of the city.
- Museums: San Francisco is home to many world class museums including the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), The De Young, The California Academy of Sciences, The Exploratorium, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Famous for its hilly streets, San Francisco is divided into distinct neighborhoods and districts, giving the city a diverse, yet also integrated, atmosphere.
Famous neighborhoods include:
- Financial (Downtown): Large national and international corporations and businesses are based in San Francisco's Financial District. Some notable spots include the Ferry Building and Justin Hermann Plaza.
- Marina/Cow Hollow: The Marina/Cow Hollow District showcases some of the most elaborate, luxurious homes in San Francisco. Some famous landmarks in this district include the Palace of Fine Arts and Exploratorium, Fort Mason, and Crissy Field.
- Mission: The Mission District is steeped in rich Latin culture. Colorful murals, shops, and restaurants are showcased on 24th Street. Sites to check out include the Brava Theater Center and the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts.
- Nob Hill: Located between California and Powell Streets, Nob Hill is the traditional home of San Francisco's wealthy elite. Large mansions were constructed in the nineteenth century by business magnate Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University. The stunning Fairmont Hotel and Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel sit perched on Nob Hill. Union Square's retail district is located west of Nob Hill and features major department stores.
- North Beach: A busy neighborhood with Italian roots, North Beach teems with Old World charm. Visitors will stumble upon pizzerias, delis, and Italian restaurants including the world-famous Stinking Rose (which features garlic in every dish).
- Pacific Heights: Beautiful Victorian homes are the signature landmark of Pacific Heights. Fillmore Street is the main shopping hub, filled with sidewalk cafes and high-end boutiques.
Off-the-beaten-path San Francisco neighborhoods include:
- Haight (Haight-Ashbury): Flower children flocked to this famous district during the Summer of Love, and a visit to the Haight district can still feel like a flashback to the 1960s. Incense wafts from numerous shops, and organic-food restaurants line the streets. The Haight is divided into Upper Haight and Lower Haight.
- Castro: Most visitors don't realize that this colorful community once consisted of farms and dirt roads. The area is currently renowned as an active, tight-knit, gay community. The best time to experience the Castro is during Halloween when they have the Castro Street Fair.
- Noe Valley: Noe Valley is home to a unique mix of working-class families, dot-com executives, and political activists. Nannies push strollers down streets lined with posh clothing boutiques and upscale bistros. Movies and TV shows have been filmed on location here.
- Potrero Hill: This funky neighborhood is great for people and dog watching. Visitors can check out San Francisco's local brewery, Anchor Brewing Company, or the many shops and coffeehouses found within the neighborhood.
- Richmond: Primarily a residential neighborhood, Richmond features diverse cultural venues, including Mexican produce markets, a Russian Orthodox cathedral and Chinese dim sum restaurants.
- SOMA (South of Market): The neighborhood is an eclectic blend of warehouses, technology companies, bars, restaurants and loft apartments.
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Tourism is the prime driver of the economy of San Francisco. The city attracts the fourth largest number of foreign visitors of any city in the U.S. In addition to the tourism, banking and finance is a major industrial sector in San Francisco. The city became the banking and finance center of the West Coast in the early 20th century. The sector grew so much that the Montgomery Street in the financial district was known as the "Wall Street of the West."
Bank of America was founded in San Francisco and many other large financial institutions, multinational banks and venture capital firms are headquartered in the city. In addition, several large firms dealing in law, public relations, architecture and design have a significant presence in the city. The world's list of cities by GDP ranks San Francisco 15th.
San Francisco is now becoming a biotechnology and biomedical hub and research center. The headquarters of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is located in the Mission Bay area of the city. Eighty-five percent of the city's business establishments are small businesses and self-employed firms.
The companies that are headquartered in San Francisco include Del Monte Foods, McKesson Corporation, Bechtel Corporation, Dolby Laboratories, Chemoil Corporation, Industrial Light and Magic, VISA, and Wells Fargo & Co.
- San Francisco is best known for its professional sports teams: the San Francisco 49ers (football) and the San Francisco Giants (baseball).
- Basketball fans cheer for the Golden State Warriors, who play across the bay in Oakland.
DID YOU KNOW?
- San Francisco claims bragging rights to the fortune cookie. Makoto Hagiwara, who operated the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, may have copied a similar cookie served in Japan.
- Levi Strauss struck gold in San Francisco when he invented denim blue jeans. He arrived in the city with canvas to make tents, but had the fabric made into overalls to sell to miners.
- The charter of the United Nations was drafted at a conference in San Francisco, and then signed at the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center on June 26, 1945.
- Before it held a federal penitentiary, Alcatraz Island was home to a lighthouse, an Army garrison and a jail for Indians and Confederate sympathizers.
- Al Capone was one of Alcatraz Federal Prison's first overnight guests.
- Mission Dolores Church is the oldest intact building in San Francisco. The first Mass was celebrated on June 29, 1776, five days before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
- Tenor Enrico Caruso said his life passed before him during the devastating 1906 San Francisco earthquake. He had appeared in "Carmen" at the Mission Opera House a few hours earlier.
- The 1906 San Francisco earthquake is thought to have been about 7.8 on the Richter scale. The three days of fires that followed leveled 500 blocks-about one-quarter of San Francisco.
- San Francisco residents agree: Don't call it "Frisco"! Residents call their home town "The City" or San Francisco. Doing otherwise earns you the scorn reserved for outsiders.
- President William Taft toasted San Francisco as "the city that knows how" in 1911.
- The late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen once referred to San Francisco as "Baghdad by the Bay."
- The Bay Area is especially dear to "Star Trek" fans. Starfleet Headquarters and Starfleet Academy are located in the Fort Baker area of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
- San Francisco is host to two famously crooked streets: Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd (seven sharp turns) and Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth streets (with eight turns).
- Golden Gate Park covers more than 1,000 acres-bigger than New York's Central Park.
- Golden Gate Park is home to a small herd of buffalo, the California Academy of Science, Queen Wilhelmina's Windmill and the AIDS Memorial Grove.
- San Francisco banned burials in 1901 and evicted cemeteries in 1912. The dead were moved to Colma; the necropolis is the only incorporated city where the dead outnumber the living.
- Angel Island, San Francisco's "Ellis Island of the West," processed about 1 million Asian immigrants between 1910 and 1940. The island is a National Historic Landmark.
- San Francisco's iconic cable cars comprise the only moving National Historic Landmark in the U.S. Residents and visitors take about 10 million cable car rides per year.
- The Golden Gate Bridge has been on a diet. Its original weight was 894,500 tons. Today, thanks to lighter paving materials, it weighs 887,000 tons.
- What do Clint Eastwood, OJ Simpson, Bruce Lee, Jerry Garcia and Courtney Love have in common? They were all born in San Francisco.
- The Presidio of San Francisco, now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, served as a military base under Spain (1776-1822), Mexico (1822-1846) and the United States (1846-1994).
- As well as being home to world-class art museums, San Francisco is home to the American Antique Slot Machine and Pez Memorabilia museums.
- As gold-seekers poured into San Francisco during the Gold Rush, shipwrecks in the bay piled up. In 1850, more than 600 ships were abandoned, many destined to become landfill.
- San Francisco was named Yerba Buena in 1835, perhaps after the wild mint that grew in the cove that was the original site of the city. It was renamed San Francisco in 1848.
- As the crow flies: California's Mount Whitney (14, 495 feet, the highest place in the continental U.S.) and Bad Water (-282 feet, the lowest place) are within 100 miles of each other.
- Geyserville, north of S.F., is home to the largest geothermal region in the world. It produces more than 725 megawatts of electricity -- enough to power a city the size of San Francisco.