Travel Guide: San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, which is Spanish for Saint Francis, was founded on June 29, 1776, when colonists from Spain established Presidio of San Francisco at the Golden Gate. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought rapid growth, making it the largest city on the West Coast at the time. After three-quarters of the city was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later.

In World War II, San Francisco was the port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, along with the rise of the "hippie" counterculture, the Sexual Revolution, the Peace Movement growing from opposition to United States involvement in the Vietnam War, and other factors led to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a center of liberal activism in the United States.

San Francisco has since become a popular tourist destination, known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, and its Chinatown district.

PREPARE YOURSELF

SLEEP

Hotels are plentiful in San Francisco, you can find budget hotel rooms ranging from $90-140 per night, while 3 to 4 star hotel rooms can range from $150-250 per night depending on the season, location and popularity. Always try to book a room ahead of time because weekends and special events is when prices tend to sky-rocket; unfortunately, I learned the hard way when I booked a last minute room for New Year's Eve. For those who don't mind sharing a room with strangers then consider booking a hostel, with rooms ranging from $25-70 a night.

EAT

San Francisco is the birthplace of local varieties of sourdough bread, the Mission burrito, and steam beer. Fisherman's Wharf has served local specialty Dungeness crab for decades, and top food companies include Anchor Brewing Company, Boudin Bakery, and the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Famous past and present restaurants include the Tonga Room, Fleur de Lys, Greens, Original Joe's, Stars, Vesuvio Cafe and the Top of the Mark. California Cuisine and fusion cuisine are prominent in the city, with food trucks are the major source of ethnically diverse and gourmet street foods. Fast food from either a food truck or typical fast food restaurant will cost anywhere from $6-10 per meal.

GETTING AROUND

San Francisco's public transportation is ranked first on the West Coast and third overall in the United States, making it incredibly easy to explore when visiting. The San Francisco Municipal Railway, known as Muni, is the primary public transit system of San Francisco.

The system operates both a combined light rail and subway system, the Muni Metro, and a large bus network. Additionally, it runs a historic streetcar line, which runs on Market Street from Castro Street to Fisherman's Wharf and it also operates the famous cable cars, which have been designated as a National Historic Landmark and are a major tourist attraction. Single rides and transfers on a mini bus or railway cost $2.25 and last up to 90 minutes, or $17 for an all day pass. If you plan to hop on the famous cable car then prepare to pay $7 for a single ride. Three day, seven day, and monthly pricing is also available so plan accordingly.

THINGS TO DO IN SAN FRANCISCO

Alcatraz Island | Located in the San Francisco Bay, 1 1/2 miles offshore from San Francisco, California. This small island was developed with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison in 1868, and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. In 1972, Alcatraz became a national recreation area and received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1986.

Golden Gate Bridge | A suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate strait, a 1 mile wide and 3 mile long channel between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The structure links the U.S. city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to Marin County, bridging both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1 across the strait. The bridge is one of the most internationally recognized symbols of San Francisco, California, and the United States. It has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Twin Peaks | Are two hills with an elevation of about 925 feet near the geographic center of San Francisco, California. Except for Mount Davidson, they are the highest points in the city and offer the best views of San Francisco.

Fisherman's Wharf | One of the busiest and well known tourist attractions in the western United States, best known for being the location of Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Not to mention the many seafood restaurants, so make sure to try some clam chowder!