San Francisco

San Francisco by CC user peterhess on Flickr

Introduction

Combining a stunning location between sea and sky, a progressive minded citizenry, and a cultural and food scene that is world class, San Francisco is a city that stands alongside other American cities like Chicago and New York City as must visit destinations for those wanting to experience the best urban environments in the USA.

From an impregnable prison that no criminal ever escaped in its history, to one of the finest art museums in the country, San Fran has attractions that span a wide range of interest areas, making it a place that no traveler can afford to miss.

Legion of Honor by CC user josecamoessilva on Flickr
Cultural Experiences

There are many attractions to check out in San Francisco Bay Area, but none stand out quite as much as the prison island of Alcatraz. While it also contains the remains of a military fortification and the oldest operating lighthouse on the west coast of America, most come here to tour its most notorious maximum security penitentiary.

Operated for thirty years in this capacity from 1933 to 1963, Alcatraz imprisoned some of the USA’s most dangerous criminals from that period, ranging from mafia kingpin Al Capone to Puerto Rican terrorist Rafael Miranda. Reached via ferry from Fisherman’s Wharf, visitors can tour the cellhouse, dining hall, library, as well as the ruins of the Warden’s house.

Being one of leading cultural centers in the Western United States, travelers need to check out the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, which consists of two separate institutions: M. H. de Young Memorial Museum and the Legion of Honor.

Between the two buildings, the value of its art collection exceeds $1 billion dollars. The former museum showcases paintings and sculptures from across the breadth of American history, as well as other works from elsewhere in the world.

The Legion of Honor is dedicated to European art, with its holdings spanning 6,000 years (i.e. through its entire civilized history) from the first signs of organized settlement to the creations made in the modern day.

Back in 1915, a mere nine years after being leveled by a catastrophic earthquake, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, which was an opportunity to show how fast it had bounced back from the devastation wrought upon it a decade earlier.

Palace of Fine Arts by CC user mrfraley on Flickr

Many of the extravagant pavilions constructed at that time have since been dismantled, but the breathtaking Palace of Fine Arts still remains in the Marina District for the enjoyment of locals and visitors. While this Greek-inspired rotunda still hosts art exhibitions from time to time, most come to get wedding and other photos done in its presence, or to simply bask in its magnificence.

The charm of San Francisco extends beyond its tourist attractions, as its many unique neighborhoods lend themselves well to those who to explore and eat their way through the top cities in the world. San Fran has the most amount of restaurants per capita of any city in North America, and they span almost every cuisine conceivable.

As far as neighborhoods go, its Chinatown is the oldest and largest in the world outside of China, Haight Ashbury served as the hippie counterculture in the 60’s, and the Castro is one of the most gay-friendly corners in North America. This is just a small cross-section of what awaits in this corner of the Bay Area, so give yourself a least a week to thoroughly explore everything this city has to offer.

Golden Gate Park by CC user the-o on Flickr

Other Attractions

No photographer can come to San Francisco and not take a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is one of America’s most iconic pieces of civil engineering. Considered a modern wonder of the world by the American Society of Civil Engineers, it earns this designation through its design, vertical prominence (more than 200 feet off the water at its peak), and the way it looks when banks of fog roll in from the Pacific, which is when some of the best photos taken of this bridge have been taken.

Similar in shape to New York’s Central Park but 20% larger, Golden Gate Park is home to museums, gardens, music venues and memorials in addition to the well loved green space and jogging paths that locals take advantage of on a daily basis.

Apart from the formerly mentioned M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, the California Academy of Sciences (the world’s greenest museum), the Conservatory of Flowers (one of the largest in the world made of wood and glass), and the National AIDS Memorial Grove (a garden dedicated to the memory of those that have died of this terrible disease) are all attractions making a visit to Golden Gate Park well worth it.

Finally, those that love science owe it to themselves to make time to visit The Exploratorium. Not like other science museums that are often a dime a dozen, The Exploratorium’s exhibits engage the visitors by inducing them to participate in them in order to unlock their lessons.

Themed sections of the museum focus on human behavior, hands-on learning, and living systems among others to help inspire people to experiment instead of passively memorizing facts when its comes to learning.

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