California is divided into many sections and neighborhoods - each
with their own distinctive style. To get directly to the heart of
San Francisco, head downtown to Market Street on a Muni bus (unless
you want to spend a good part of your day hunting for parking spaces
and parallel parking on steep hills). Union Square is several blocks
away and Chinatown is within walking distance. From there, head
over to North Beach where you'll find the Coit Tower and a fantastic
panorama of the city and bay. North Beach leads into Fisherman's
Wharf, with its colorful San Francisco hotels, seafood restaurants,
entertainers, and shops. Take a ferry to Al Capone's old stomping
grounds at Alcatraz, browse the Maritime Museum, and don't forget
to buy some fresh chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. No matter what,
at some point give your feet a rest and catch a trolley. Spend a
sunny afternoon at Golden Gate Park, with its museums and concerts.
Or go to the Haight Ashbury and take a look at the old haunts of
the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and other icons of the 1960's. Check
out the murals in the Mission District. Go towards Lake Merced,
in the southwest corner of the city, and take your kids to the San
Francisco Zoo. If you do want to drive, take the 49-mile scenic
drive by following the blue-and-white seagull signs that will take
you on a tour of the best-known sights of the city.
History: The San Francisco area was first settled at least 15,000
years ago by the Ohlone Indians, who lived in the coastal area between
San Francisco Bay and Point Sur. The Spanish found the entrance
to the bay in 1769, and by 1776, the first colonizing party arrived
to found the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission Dolores. San
Francisco remained a tiny settlement until the Gold Rush of 1849.
Mercantile establishments, small industries, and shipping to the
Orient brought prosperity to the newcomers. Famous writers such
as Jack London, Ambrose Bierce, and Mark Twain congregated here.
In 1869 the first westbound train arrived in San Francisco and by
1870 San Francisco had become the tenth largest city in the United
States. Irish immigrants settled into the Mission area and French,
Italian, German, Russian, Australian, Jewish and many other nationalities
contributed to the city's international flair. The 1906 Earthquake
and fire devastated the city. But with its characteristic spirit,
the city rebuilt itself--into a grander city than even before.