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San Francisco, California - Overview and Essential Travel Information
On the surface San Francisco is all the cliché tourist icons that we know: the Golden Gate bridge, Alcatraz, Chinatown, etc. But also keep in mind, San Francisco itself is fairly small geographically – not to mention that excluding the residential areas – the city is the home of the SF Giants. During the summertime, a great family-friendly place to catch a ballgame. Sit in the upper deck to see the Bay and the real obvious tourist area of SF. Most residents of the Bay Area do not go down there except to bring friends and relatives. There are restaurants and lots of shopping directed towards tourists. Of course, at Fisherman’s Wharf, you can get the famous crab. (Crab season is September/October to about April). You can eat crab all year round but they’re best in season. And while it’s not really a SF tradition (really an L.A. tradition), the only In ‘N Out Burger joint in SF is at the Fisherman’s Wharf area so if you haven’t had one – get it there! The Pier area (Pier 40 and further south at the Ferry Building) is where the ferries arrive from around the rest of the Bay Area. The mile between the Ferry Building and Pier 39 is an uncluttered waterfront view of underneath the Bay Bridge, Oakland, Berkeley and further east.
Across the Golden Gate North is Marin County (aka – The North Bay). You can hop on a ferry at Pier 40 to visit the artisan cove - Sausalito for the day (or, of course, drive across). Further north (by car) along the coast are Stinson Beach and Point Reyes – both beautiful and romantic whether you travel up Highway 1 or through the forest via St. Francis Drake Road off Highway 101. There are also other fun, romantic and charming towns in the South Marin area such as Tiburon, Mill Valley and San Anselmo. All of these are within 30-45 minutes of SF. Mt. Tamalpais State Park is another recreational area encompassing biking, hiking, water sports and so forth. You can continue along (another hour or so) to the quaint quasi-resort-rustic village of Mendocino – or choose from dozens of coastal rustic-fishing-resort communities such as Tamales Bay, Inverness, Bodega Bay and Olema along the way – each with its unique charms! You can even take a regional bus to various Marin County parks and overnight camping at Samuel Taylor State Park.
To the NorthEast is the Napa Valley (wine country). Many of your favorite vineyards are located along these highways and backroads. Calistoga is famous for the spa treatments, mudbaths, massages and body wraps.
Start your tour with the 49-Mile Drive marked with blue-and-white seagull signs. These birds mark the route connecting all important sights in San Francisco (at least, when they're still there. Many visitors think they function better as a souvenir in their living room rather than as a signpost in San Francisco). Stroll down Fishermans Wharf and have a look at the harbor and the fishermen’s boats. Pier 39 offers many shops, street performers and the San Francisco Aquarium. Take a climb to the top of Telegraph Hill and continue in the elevator to the top of the Coit-tower and enjoy some stunning views of San Francisco’s skyline. Don't forget to cross the famous Golden Gate Bridge or to take the ferry to Alcatraz Island. The Alcatraz Island with its federal prison is one of the many interesting sites of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Alcatraz is a small island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, California, USA. It was formerly used as a maximum security prison. Today the island is a historic site supervised by the National Park Service.
It is home to the now-abandoned prison, the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast of the United States, early military fortifications, and natural features such as rock pools, a seabird colony, and unique views of the coastline.
Alcatraz was a military fort from 1850 to 1933. The island became a federal prison on January 1, 1934. During the 29 years it was in use, the jail held such notable criminals as Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud, the Birdman of Alcatraz. The penitentary was closed for good on March 21, 1963.
The island is also known as 'The Rock', and it featured in a movie of the same name.
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge, built between the city of San Francisco on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula and Sausalito? on the Marin County headlands. The construction of the bridge began on January 5, 1933 under the aegis of the Works Projects Administration (WPA), a program instigated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt to create public works through federal funds and alleviate the effects of the Great Depression. It was completed in April 1937 and opened to pedestrians on May 27 of that year. Vehicular travel started the following day.
The bridge spans the Golden Gate, the opening into the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. It is 1.22 miles (1970 m) long, the distance between the towers is 4200 ft (1280 m) and their height is 750 feet (230 m) above the water.
The bridge has six total lanes of traffic and walkways on both sides of the bridge. During the evening and the night it is not accessible for pedestrians.
Usually, the eastern walkway is for pedestrians only, and the western walkway is for bicycists only, although this can change during times of construction.
On September 1, 2002, the toll for southbound motor vehicles was raised from $3.00 to $5.00. Northbound, cycling, and pedestrian traffic remain toll free. It has been declared one of the modern Seven Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was for many years the longest suspension bridge in the world, but has been superseded by the 1377m long Tsing Ma Bridge, Hong Kong in 1997.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
The GGNRA is an enormous national park that comprises many sites. The most-well known site is probably the island of Alcatraz with its federal prison. Besides that, there are several interesting forts, such as Fort Mason and Fuston and national monuments and sites, such as the Fort Point National Historic Site, the Presido San Francisco and the Muir Woods National Monument.
Union Square/Financial District
Welcome to shopper's heaven. The major department stores around Union Square and scores of specialty shops along Post Street and in the Embarcadero Center will tempt you. For fun plus good views, catch a cable car up Powell Street or California Street to Nob Hill, Chinatown, or Fisherman's Wharf. Or, zoom to the top of the Bank of America Building to see the fog come in beneath you.
One of the biggest, most diverse, awe-inspiring stores for music lovers. A mecca of sorts, Amoeba has built it's reputation of carrying the best selection fo vinyl, CD's, Tapes, DVD's, Posters, etc etc, by simply providing the kind of quality that can only be experienced by walking into one of their bowling-alley-turned-stores and getting lost in the sea of aisles for hours.
San Francisco Shopping Centre
Located between Union Square and the South of Market entertainment district, you'll find premier shopping at San Francisco Shopping Centre. Featuring Nordstrom, J. Crew, Vertigo, and more.
Information provided by cctraveler2 at Travelpost.com