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About San Francisco
Known for its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, foggy mornings, cable cars and a laidback vibe, San Francisco is the hub of northern California and the 13th largest city in the U.S. Spanish colonists founded the city in June 1776, even before the U.S. became a nation, and it grew quickly during the Gold Rush that kicked off in 1849. Much of San Francisco was rebuilt in 1906, following an enormous earthquake; the city has endured its share of shaking since. Today, the "City By the Bay" is known for its high-tech industry, rich culture and music history, tourism and financial services.
The Community of San Francisco
San Francisco is both a city and a county, the only such arrangement in California. The city sits on a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay with Highway 101 and Interstate 80/280 running through. There are 119 distinct neighborhoods in SF, with the most popular including Embarcadero along the eastern waterfront and Fisherman's Wharf along the northern waterfront; the Financial District and the luxurious Nob Hill to the northeast; centrally located Haight-Ashbury that was the center of the 1960s counterculture movement and The Castro that's a popular gay area; and the Mission District to the east. Other areas were first settled by and reflect different ethnicities, such as Chinatown, Little Russia and Little Saigon.
What to Do in San Francisco
One of the most popular sightseeing stops in the Bay is Alcatraz, once a military installation and then an infamous prison on an island in the Bay. Ferries will get you there and back while self-guided tours managed by the National Park Service share detailed information about the institution and those it housed. You'll even get to see the inside of a cell.
Considered a national historic landmark, San Francisco's cable cars have been rolling through the city since the 1870s. Three routes run along California Street, and from Powell and Market to Fisherman's Wharf. You can jump on at any stop - be sure to hold on tight if you don't get a seat. The Cable Car Museum on Mason will give you an overview of the history of these long-serving modes of transportation.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is one of the top-rated art museums in the world and regularly exhibits well-known works of abstract, figurative and pop art, including those by Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Don't miss the outdoor sculpture garden or the largest living wall in the U.S. with more than 19,000 plants.
One Place You Shouldn't Miss in San Francisco
Lands End is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and sits above the ocean at the northwest corner of the city. With sweeping views of the sea and access to historic spots like the ruins of the Sutro Baths, there's a lot to see. Look for the labyrinth created by San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera.
Dining in San Francisco
With its vast collection of more than 4,500 eateries, it's nearly impossible to narrow down the best restaurant in San Francisco, but Quince is certainly in the running. A special occasion dining experience that specializes in Italian/French dishes made with fresh, local ingredients, Quince has been awarded three Michelin stars. Each evening features a new tasting menu with 8 to 10 items, starting at $295 per person; menus with accompanying wine will add to your total. Try the 5-course Salon Menu served in the bar for an abbreviated version of dining perfection.
Want the city's best seafood in a no-frills setting? Then Swan Oyster Depot is for you. A walk down Franklin Street from Fisherman's Wharf, this lunch counter-style restaurant has served fresh fish and seafood for more than 100 years. Just try to choose between the clam chowder, oysters on the half shell or salad with shrimp and crab. Come for lunch as the place closes by 5:30.