San Francisco unmatched as a travel destination

September 15, 2009

San Francisco is nearly synonymous with a high cost of living. The advent and financial success of the early years of the Internet revolution still lures high-income folks to the city by the bay. Property values and household income are among the top in the nation, which enables a profitable restaurant and entertainment scene.

Key Points

San Francisco is nearly synonymous with a high cost of living. The advent and financial success of the early years of the Internet revolution still lures high-income folks to the city by the bay. Property values and household income are among the top in the nation, which enables a profitable restaurant and entertainment scene.

Financials aside, the international flavor of San Francisco-39% of its residents were born overseas-continues to intrigue. A significant number of immigrants came from Asia and Latin America.

The Chinese, in particular, have made an imprint on the city since the 1970s, most notably in Chinatown, where the annual Chinese New Year Parade is recognized as the largest event of its type outside China.

Today, the city boasts at least a dozen unique and simply San Francisco neighborhoods. The city is largely reminiscent of a coffeehouse culture, thanks to the social revolution of the 1960s, which has contributed to today's liberal activism, as Democrats and the Green Party heavily influence city politics.

In addition, the city's large gay and lesbian population helps spark a politically and culturally active community.

Landmarks

When visiting San Francisco, especially for the first time, don't miss these landmarks:

Golden Gate Bridge. This suspension bridge stretches across the Golden Gate, which marks the entrance of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. The bridge is part of U.S. Route 101 and State Route 1.

When the bridge was constructed in 1937, the internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco originally contained the longest suspension bridge span. Now, it is ninth in span worldwide and second to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City.

Alcatraz Island. In the middle of San Francisco Bay, this small island originally was used as a lighthouse, later a military fort, and then a military prison, succeeded by a federal prison until 1963.

Alcatraz now serves as a national recreation area. It is a historic site run by the National Park Service, belonging to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Take a ferry to get to the island from Pier 33, close to Fisherman's Wharf.

Cable cars. The world's only remaining permanently operational, manually operated cable car system is right here in San Francisco. The San Francisco Municipal Railway, or MUNI, runs the transportation network.

Two routes downtown near Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf are operational, as well as another route on California Street.

The cable cars are recognized as one of two moving National Historic Landmarks.

Coit Tower. The Art Deco architecture calls attention to the Coit Tower, a 210-feet structure of unpainted reinforced concrete.

Designed by architects Arthur Brown Jr. and Henry Howard, the tower was built on Telegraph Hill in 1933 through an inheritance gift of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to enhance the city's appearance.

Chinatown. San Francisco is home to the oldest Chinatown in North America. Built up in the 1850s, many films, songs, photographs, and articles of literature have featured San Francisco's Chinatown. This tourist attraction reportedly hosts more visitors than even the Golden Gate Bridge.

Performing arts

If you're looking for some long-lasting performing arts companies, venture no further than San Francisco's War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. The War Memorial Opera House is home to the San Francisco Ballet, as well as San Francisco Opera, which is reportedly the second-largest opera company in North America. Or grab tickets to hear the San Francisco Symphony perform in Davies Symphony Hall.

Perhaps one of the more famous venues, The Fillmore, earned its fame in the 1960s serving as the stage for musicians such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin.

If you'd like to see a West-Coast Broadway number, stop by a slew of vintage 1920s-era venues in the city's theater district, such as the Orpheum or Golden Gate theaters.

Museums

At the Museum of Modern Art in the South of Market neighborhood, peruse 20th-century and contemporary art masterpieces. Or stop by the Palace of Fine Arts, where the Exploratorium, a science museum, draws visitors to participate in hands-on, interactive exhibits. Or plan a trip to the city's natural history museum, the California Academy of Sciences.

Podcast

For more information about the city, listen to the podcast at http://www.ophthalmologytimes.com/aaotravel09.