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San Francisco

he city of San Francisco, which sits atop a hilly peninsula known as the San Francisco Peninsula, has some of the most unique and easily characterized neighborhoods such as the Mission District, Chinatown, Soma and Castro. It lies on a landmass of just over two hundred and thirty square miles with the Pacific Ocean to its west and the San Francisco Bay to the northeast. The population of this city is just over three million people.

The area upon which San Francisco sits was first discovered by Gaspar de Porto in 1769, who was scouting a location for Spain to colonize. But, it wouldn’t be until 1776 that the area was actually claimed by the Spanish as a Presidio for the western coast. The fortified city would remain in Spainish hands for forty five years until California became a part of Mexico following its independence from Spain in 1821. But, it would once again change hands as Commodore John D. Sloat claimed California for the United States during the Mexican American War in 1846. The following year the settlements name was changed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco. Another pivotal event happened in 1849 with the California Gold Rush. This period of time brought so many visitors looking to find gold that the city population exploded from one thousand residents the previous year to over twenty five thousand residents in late 1849. By virtue of the third bill of the Compromise of 1850, California was granted statehood and became the thirty first state of the United States.

Today, this city is a very popular tourist destination and is known for its cool summer mornings, very steep hills and a unique mix of modern and Victorian architecture. Its also know for its famous landmarks, one of which is extremely popular the world over, The Golden Gate Bridge. This bridge was built in 1937 and connects Marin County to the city of San Francisco. The bridge consist of two art deco towers that rise over seven hundred and forty feet above sea level. Attaching the towers to the road are suspension cables, each of which are three feet thick. The bridge spans nearly nine thousand feet and is a great location to see spectacular views of the city. Also in the area is Golden Gate Park. Founded in 1870, Golden Gate Park is a one thousand acre park was originally an area of sand dunes. Today, its a beautiful park that is planted with thousands of trees and has a whole host of attractions. These include the Japanese Tea Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, the Buffalo Paddock, Steinhart Aquarium and Strybing Arboretum.

Another part of San Francisco that is heavily visited is the Fisherman’s Wharf. This wharf is always busy with fisherman bringing in their latest catches. But, the area is more than a fishing destination. All around the wharf are shops and restaurants. There are also a number of other attractions in the area. These include the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, Hyde Street Pier and the Aquarium of the Bay. Tourist can also take a tour of the USS Pampanito. There are also various boat tours that you take book in this area that will give you a tour of the Bay or Alcatraz Island.

Alcatraz Island, also known colloquially as “The Rock”, is the site of the world famous penitentiary. This island spans an area of twenty two acres and the prison was built in 1907. It operated as a federal prison up until 1963 when it was shut down to to the high maintenance cost. During this time it was home to some of the most infamous criminals of the time such as Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelly and Alvin Karpis. Today, the island is a very popular location to tour.

Around 1856, the mayor of San Francisco James Van Ness put aside thirteen acres on top of the scenic area known as Alamo Hill. The area would later be called Alamo Square. This area has some of the most fantastic views of the city and is well known for its miles and miles of quaint Victorian houses. From this location you can view many spectacular sites of the city including Golden Gate Bridge, the Transamerica Pyramid, Oakland Bay Bridge and city hall.

One of the architectural higlights of San Francisco is St. Mary’s Cathedral. This Roman Catholic cathedral was built in 1971 and rises over one hundred and ninety feet. At its peak is a fifty five foot tall cross. This interesting church was done in the Expressionist Modern style and is the mother church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The major features of this modern cathedral include large windows and a one ton kinetic sculpture that rises fifteen stories high and is placed over the altar.

For those looking for the shopping mecca of their time, than San Francisco offers visitors Union Square. Union Square is the third largest shopping area in the United States and many upscale hotels and stores call it home. Stores such as Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom’s and Macy’s can be found here. It also boast a thriving theater area. In the center of this district is the Victoria Monument.

No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to Fort Mason. This fort was built during the Civil War and covers approximately thirteen acres. Today it houses some of the cities best museums. This fort has an indoor theater and nine mission style buildings. Events are offered here all year long dedicated to the arts, culture and the humanities. Also several not for profit organizations offer seminars and workshops here.

San Francisco also offers visitors a whole host of other tourist attractions. These include the Palace of Fine Arts, Pier 39 and Yerba Buena Gardens. Neighborhoods in the city include Nob Hill, Japantown, Sutro Heights and Haight-Ashbury. In these neighborhoods visitors are sure to find restaurants and cafes that range from the trendy to the esoteric and everything in between.