San Francisco, officially known as the City and County of San Francisco, is the financial and transportation centre of the San Francisco Bay Area, a region of 7.6 million people which also includes San Jose and Oakland.
It is the fourth most populous city in California and the 13th most populous city in the United States, and was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for St. Francis of Assisi a few miles away. This is where the city got its name, because it is literally, “Saint Francis” in Spanish.
After having three-quarters of the city destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, and became the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
Today, San Francisco is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, so much so that tourists are leaving behind their Santa Monica hotels and heading up north for cooler weather and cheaper prices.
Here are our top five suggestions of things to do in San Francisco:
Coit Tower at San Francisco
Standing at 210 feet in the Telegraph Hill neighbourhood of San Francisco, the Coit Tower, also known as the Lillian Coit Memorial Tower, is the civic phallus of the city.
It was built in 1933 using Lillie Hitchcock Coit’s bequest to beautify the city of San Francisco. She was a well-known volunteer fire-fighter, and holds historic significance for her contributions to the city.
At her death in 1929, Coit left one-third of her estate to the city for civic beautification, so to honour her, the Coit Tower was proposed in 1931 as an appropriate use of Coit’s gift.
The tower is built on the site of the first west coast telegraph, a semaphore line that was completed in 1849. Coit also commissioned another neighbourhood landmark, a statue of three fire-fighters at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park.
The Coit Tower gives great views of the city, as it is perched atop Telegraph Hill in North Beach. The views aside, you also should visit the murals that were inspired by the social-realism style of the great Diego Rivera.
California Palace of the Legion of Honour
Legion of Honour at San Francisco
The California Palace of the Legion of Honour, which is often abbreviated as the “Legion of Honour”, is a part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The name is used both for the museum’s collection and for the building in which it is housed.
It was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, wife of the sugar magnate and thoroughbred racehorse owner and breeder, Adolph B. Spreckels.
The museum displays a collection spanning more than 6,000 years of ancient and European art, and houses the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts in a neoclassical building overlooking Lincoln Park and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Among the collection highlights is the St. Francis venerating the Crucifix, St. John the Baptist and The Tribute Money by Peter Paul Rubens.
There is also a statue of El Cid in front of the Legion, which gives you a great backdrop for photos.
Haight Ashbury Housing
The birthplace of America’s counter-culture, the Haight was Ground Zero during the summer of 1967, otherwise known as “The Summer of Love”, which was the rise of a drug culture and rock-and-roll lifestyle.
Hippies and affluent yuppies used to live here, buying up all the colourful Victorian homes throughout Haight-Ashbury and replacing its head shops with high-end boutiques, chic restaurants and hip cafés.
The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages drawn by their peers and the allure of joining a cultural utopia. The Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighbourhood scene quickly deteriorated and overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighbourhood.
The best spot in the Haight is Amoeba Music, which is in a former bowling alley and boasts one of the biggest collections of CDs in the world, but do be warned by the panhandlers who occupy the streets there, as they can get a bit rowdy.
Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park
The Golden Gate Park is a large urban park consisting of 1,017 acres of public grounds. It was created in the 1870s, when San Franciscans began to feel the need for a spacious public park similar to Central Park that was taking shape in New York.
So, the Golden Gate Park was carved out of unpromising sand and shore dunes in an unincorporated area west of then-San Francisco’s border. It was conceptualized by field engineer William Hammond Hall, who prepared a survey and topographic map of the park site in 1870.
There are other attractions in the park besides its beautiful landscape such as the Kezar Stadium, Conservatory of Flowers, the AIDS Memorial Grove, the Music Concourse Area, De Young Museum, Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden, which is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.
With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate Park is the third most visited city park in the United States. Marvel and enjoy this huge, scenic place.
Exploratorium San Francisco
The Exploratorium is a museum that has over 475 participatory exhibits, where all of them were made onsite and mixes both science and art, which aims to promote museums as informal education centres.
Founded in 1969 by physicist and educator Frank Oppenheimer, the Exploratorium offers visitors a variety of ways to explore and understand the world around them, which includes exhibits, webcasts, websites and events.
Among the many weird and wonderful things you can experience here is blowing the world’s biggest soap bubble, dissecting a cow’s eye and visiting the tactile dome, a pitch-black maze that you have to navigate by touch.