San Francisco is one of the most exotic cities in the United States.  The name alone conjures thoughts of the freewheeling ethos that once was so prominent.  That element still exists, but it is tempered somewhat by the gentrification that has transformed it into one of the more upscale and expensive areas in the country.  The fact that it resides in a geographically fragile area has not deterred folks from coming there to live and see its unique sites.   And, much like disaster-prone New Orleans, the very threat of calamity lends an unpredictable quality that is like a magnet for fun-loving, bohemian spirits.

 San Francisco attracts over 15 million tourists each year, and it is easy to see why it is so popular.  There is such an abundance of sites and activities to experience that you could spend years there and not see all it has to offer.  There are over 200 parks scattered throughout the city to allow you an escape from the hubbub of the city streets.  The most famous of these oases is certainly Golden Gate Park, which is also the largest, beginning at the center of the city and extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean.  The Golden Gate Bridge, an engineering marvel with a storied history, is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.  For those whose sightseeing urges are of the darker persuasion, a tour of the Alcatraz Island and prison may be in order.  Some of the country's most notorious villains made their residence there, including the infamous Al Capone.

 The city was founded in 1776, making it one the country's older cities, and its age coupled with the periodic disasters visited upon it are visible in the worn facade.  But those scars are part of the charm.  Like most interesting urban centers, it is essentially a collection of intriguing neighborhoods, from the freewheeling Haight-Ashbury, to the Asian cultural centers of Chinatown and Japantown, to the Latin-tinged Mission District with its incredible murals.  San Francisco's unique blend of cultural diversity gives it a palpable vibrancy that is intoxicating and exciting.

 The city is rightfully proud of its cultural scene and has a renowned reputation for excellence in the arts.  The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the de Young Museum are just two of the many museums worth visiting.  Fans of rock music will want to visit The Fillmore, a legendary club where Led Zeppelin, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix and so many others played.  It is still an active music venue and hosts some of the most interesting contemporary musical acts performing today.  The city also boasts a thriving Jazz scene.  The performing arts are well represented as well, and The American Conservatory Theatre regularly hosts renowned performances in a number of beautiful venues.

 Because of the sheer number of eating establishments, San Francisco enjoys a surprising reputation for moderately priced dining options.  It is well known for its adventurous chefs and enticing array of food styles and presentations.

 Sports fans will be right at home as well, since the city is host to some fine professional teams.  The San Francisco 49'ers NFL team is once again on the ascendance, and Giants baseball squad is the current World Series champion.



Golden Gate Bridge(127006)
Credit: David Kendall