Located on the USA’s Pacific Coast, the city of San Francisco is one great big melting pot full of people from all walks of life. As a result, the city has developed and nurtured its own unique and highly colourful cultural identity. This hugely influential city has been largely responsible for changing attitudes and cultures throughout the world; and where San Francisco leads, the rest of the world follows – eventually!
Being sited on the San Andreas Fault, one of Earth’s most active tectonic plates, means that the residents of San Francisco continually live with the threat of earthquakes and this has certainly affected their attitude to risk. Almost entirely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1906, a large tremor devastated the city most recently in 1989, although with minimal fatalities. As a result the residents of San Francisco have developed a uniquely different approach to life, living under the daily threat of obliteration by earthquake but ensuring that, in the meantime, their days are lived to the full.
Each year the people of San Francisco enjoy hosting many street carnivals and festivals, the most famous being the world’s largest Gay Pride parade, which takes place each September. Others include the Chinese New Year parade in February and the LoveFest held in late summer. The former has developed as a result of San Francisco’s Chinese community, and the city is home to one of North America’s largest and oldest Chinatowns. Established in the 1850s, it continues to be a massive tourist draw and has also featured in many popular TV series and films.
As well as unique culture, the city also boasts equally unique landmarks. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge that joins the city to the rest of Northern California is a true engineering marvel that overlooks the infamous island of Alcatraz, once considered the USA’s most secure prison. The Coit Tower sits proudly atop Telegraph Hill and is one of the city’s more noticeable landmarks, alongside the Tranamerica Pyramid – the tallest skyscraper in the city.
Other San Francisco tourist hot-spots include Fisherman’s Wharf, looking out to the Island of Alcatraz. Fisherman’s Wharf features a fantastic selection of restaurants and shops and is the departure point for the tour of Alcatraz prison, which now serves as a tourist attraction devoid of any dangerous criminals! And one hot-spot is totally unique: Lombard Street is a street like no other in the world, bedecked in flowers and winding its way up the side of a hill in a series of hairpins that slows the traffic to a complete crawl.
To make sure you get the best out of a trip to San Francisco aim to book into a hotel in the Union Square district, as it is very central for all the city attractions and a hub for the legendary Street Cars. And remember to book your hotel in San Francisco early if you’re going during any of the major festivals or parades, as they soon fill up!