Introduction to San Francisco, California
San Francisco, located in northern California between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, is the state's fourth-largest city and the world's largest land-locked harbor. The gold rush of 1849 jump-started San Francisco's development. An influx of immigrants from China and the arrival of railroads connecting the city to the eastern US triggered further growth, making San Francisco the west coast's first cosmopolitan city. The earthquake of 1906 and the resulting fires devastated the city; the Panama Canal in 1915 improved the distribution of goods to the city, enabling rapid rebuilding. During World War II, San Francisco was an important supply center to the Pacific.
Today, San Francisco remains a top commercial hub, with a diverse population of around 800,000, with one of the nation's largest Asian communities and a significant gay/lesbian community. Along with Oakland, San Jose and other communities in the Bay Area, San Francisco is part of the country's fourth-largest metro area. It has a strong economy, home to thousands of high-tech businesses, primarily in the biotech and silicon industries. Known as Silicon Valley for its prominence in the development of semiconductors and computer-related technology, the area claims the headquarters of industry giants Adobe Systems, Apple, Applied Materials, eBay, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, National Semiconductor, Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.
The area is also home to many postsecondary institutions, from community colleges to 4-year universities. Some of these include San Francisco State University, the University of California at Berkeley, San Jose State University, College of San Mateo, and Stanford University. There are also a number of online schools that serve the San Francisco area for people who are interested in learning how to become a registered nurse, earn a degree in English, business, or other fields, but may not have the free time to enroll in an on-campus program.
San Francisco Culture
In October and November, the 4-week San Francisco Jazz Festival is a highlight of the city's cultural scene. Throughout the summer, the San Francisco Shakespeare Festival offers outdoor performances throughout the area. The city prides itself on its funky art galleries and a host of museums, including San Francisco Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the M. H. De Young Memorial Museum, the Asian Art Museum and the Museum of Craft & Folk Art. The SOMA (South of Market St) area is a particularly good area to see or buy art. The city is also home to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Opera, the New Century Chamber Orchestra and the American Conservatory Theater.
For lovers of food and wine, San Francisco is an epicurean paradise. The city is home to some of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world, such as French Laundry. San Francisco's Chinatown is one of the nation's largest, with hundreds of restaurants to choose from. San Francisco's historic ferry building has been remodeled and is now the home of the Farmer's Market and some permanent market shops, cafes, and restaurants. This farmer's market was named one of the top 25 in the world by Food and Wine magazine. Vineyards in Napa and Sonoma to the north supply the country's finest wines, while offering tours, tastings and events to the Bay area's avid wine-geeks.
San Francisco Sports and Leisure
The Bay area is loaded with pro sports teams. Baseball's San Francisco Giants play at 41,000-seat SBC Park, near the Bay Bridge. The NFL's San Francisco 49ers play south of downtown at 69,400-seat Candlestick Park. Across the bay, Network Associates Coliseum is home to both baseball's Oakland Athletics and the NFL's Oakland Raiders. Right next door is the Arena in Oakland, which hosts the NBA's Golden State Warriors. The NHL's San Jose Sharks play at HP Pavilion, affectionately known as "the Shark tank." Twenty miles south in San Matteo is Bay Meadows, which has horse racing throughout the year.
San Francisco Outdoors
While not as warm as southern California, the Bay area has an agreeable climate and a boatload of recreational opportunities. The city's steep hills and walkable Golden Gate Bridge make it one of America's great walking cities. For more variety, dozens of parks are easily accessible. Golden Gate Park, the largest urban park in San Francisco (and larger than New York's Central Park) has lakes, waterfalls, the de Young Museum, the Strybing Arboretum and the Conservatory of Flowers. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area, with 75,000 acres on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge, is loaded with beaches, islands, walking trails and forests with 300-foot redwoods.
Along the Pacific Coast, Pacifica State Beach and Montara State Beach are draws; about 70 miles south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is a surfer's mecca. The birthplace of surfing on the American mainland has the first surfing museum and more than 60 surf breaks (including Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point) along a 45-mile, S-shaped coastline. San Francisco is also within a short drive of some of the best golfing in the country. Harding Park within the city is a top-rated course; legendary Pebble Beach is just over an hour away.
San Francisco at Night
As one would expect of a cosmopolitan city, San Francisco has a vibrant nightlife, with many options within and around the city. The SOMA area (South of Market Street) is loaded with bars, restaurants and places to enjoy live music. North Beach, between Chinatown and Fisherman's Wharf, is another area known for its niteries. In Oakland, Jack London Square on the waterfront is a popular hotspot, with plenty of bars and restaurants. A half-hour north of the city, Casino San Pablo offers poker, blackjack and live entertainment. As one of the nation's safest (ranked #8 by Morgan Quitno) and most sophisticated cities, San Francisco is a great place to be.