Finding Your Heart in San Francisco

Author: Alecia Pirulis  

San Francisco

Spectacular San Francisco Downtown Cityscape (Photo credit: davidyuweb)

Yes, they beat the Falcons, but I can’t hold it against the 49ers – they played a great game and came out on top. Besides, San Francisco is one of my favorite cities. I have fond memories of the steep hills, the cable cars, the “Painted Ladies,” the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf (where I had the most amazing fish sandwich) and the comical, lovable seals that covered Pier 39.

San Francisco was founded in 1776 by Spanish colonists, but it wasn’t until the 1849 Gold Rush that the population skyrocketed. Before long, it was the West Coast’s largest city. The San Francisco 49ers are named for those ambitious gold prospectors and the year they descended upon the city. It is the only name the 49ers have ever had and they’ve never (as of yet) been moved from San Francisco, making it the oldest professional sports team in California. The team has enjoyed great success, especially during the 1980s and early 1990s, when they won five Super Bowl Championships.

Watching a football game at Candlestick Park is one reason to visit the City by the Bay, but there so many more. In fact, San Francisco is one of the world’s top tourist destinations – whether it is the world-famous landmarks, the funky neighborhoods, great food, or spectacularly cool summers, there’s plenty to see and do. Of course, there are the must-dos – no trip to SF is complete without a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, a stroll through Fisherman’s Wharf, and a boat trip to Alcatraz.

The foggy days may not surprise you, but the amount of people might – San Francisco is a heavily populated city – second only to New York City. And since San Francisco is equally pedestrian-friendly, those people are out walking, jogging, catching a cable car, and generally enjoying the amazing weather.

If you are considering renting an apartment in San Francisco, you may have trouble deciding on a neighborhood. The neighborhoods are so famous, you may already be familiar with many of them – Haight-Ashbury, Embarcadero, Chinatown, Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, Union Square, Presidio, North Beach – they all have very distinct characteristics.

For example, North Beach is heavily influenced by its Italian heritage and consists of jazz clubs, art galleries, and amazing restaurants. SOMA is sleek, fashionable, and artsy. For the most amazing views of the city, head to Nob Hill. Want to see San Francisco’s famous Victorian architecture? Then head to Haight-Ashbury. For those who love history, the Mission District is the oldest neighborhood in the city, named for Mission Dolores, built in 1776.

There’s so much to see and do in San Francisco, it would take a lifetime to do it all. For art lovers, there’s the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Asian Art Museum, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

For those who love the outdoors, visit the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, charter a boat or even a yacht, take a walking tour, visit a winery, stroll thorough the San Francisco Zoo, spend the day at the beach, and even go kayaking.

Foodies can eat their way across San Francisco with the driving food tour, a trip that lasts two days and begins in San Francisco’s famous culinary neighborhood, South of Market, and ends in Pacific Heights. Enjoy some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants, hidden gems, and trendy treats. If a two-day excursion is too long, the San Francisco Bay Lands Discovery Day Trip is a one-day tour of super-fresh seafood, walks on beaches, antique shopping, and more on a coastal cruise.

San Francisco is a shopping-lover’s playground. Union Square is a jaw-dropping collection of shops with everything from high-end boutiques to funky art stores to retail chains. Stroll along Chestnut Street for shopping with a distinct artsy, funky edge or head to Chinatown for shopping with an exotic flair, or find your inner Flower Child while shopping the Haight. For opulence and high-end couture, head to Westfield San Francisco Centre, a fantastically over-the-top shopping mall decorated in gold and marble.

As the country’s greenest city – it recycles 80 percent of its waste — San Francisco is also quite “green” – it is home to more than 200 parks, including the spectacular Golden Gate Park, which extends to the Pacific Ocean. This park contains the San Francisco Botanical Garden and the Japanese Tea Garden – two destinations that should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting San Francisco. Also, be sure to visit the Maritime National Historical Park and the Aquatic Park Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark.

Finally, back to Candlestick Point – while the San Francisco 49ers may not play here much longer (they are slated to enter a new stadium in Santa Clara in 2014 and will be located outside of San Francisco for the first time in the team’s history), it is a great place to visit. The Point is considered the country’s largest artist colony, and it is also home to the city’s first opera house, the Bayview. Guided tours of the stadium are also available.

Beloved, iconic, historic – San Francisco is a top travel destination for many reasons. And when the 49ers face the Ravens next Sunday, it won’t just be the residents of the City by the Bay cheering them on, but everyone who ever left their heart in San Francisco.