Sitting on 43 hills, and surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco is ideally located so that almost every one of its streets ends or begins with a panoramic sea view. Some call it The City By the Bay, but to most of its residents, it is known simply as The City. Seldom has there been such a passion for preserving the past with its colorful legends and architecture as there is in San Francisco. Seven times, it has been rebuilt after fires and earthquakes; and seven times, it has been carefully and lovingly restored.
The city varies in altitude from sea level to 929 feet because of its configuration. The combined effect of the many hills, the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge is stunning in its beauty and scope.
Established in 1835 as a resting place along the trail and called Yerba Buena, the village had fewer than 100 inhabitants for 13 years. The discovery of gold rapidly raised that population figure to over 10,000. Only a handful made a fortune from gold, but many stayed on to develop the city that became San Francisco.
Today San Francisco is an important industrial, tourist and financial center. Its financial district is often called “Wall Street West.” The city port handles huge amounts of cargo annually and ranks among the top ten ports in the world for passenger traffic. George R. Moscone Convention Center occupies a city block between third and Fourth Streets and Howard and Folsom Streets and is almost entirely built underground. Across the street, is the Center for the Arts at the Yerba Buena Gardens, a visual and performing arts complex.
San Francisco has a world-class symphony orchestra, opera, and ballet. Other not to be missed attractions are the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the California Academy of Science, the Natural History Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. Restaurants and nightspots span the entire spectrum of fine cuisine and the best in live music and dance. Sports are at the top of the charts with everything from golf, surfing, fishing, skiing, basketball and swimming to the unforgettable San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants.
In recent years, San Francisco has consistently received the highest score of any city in the United States in Conde Nast Traveler Magazine's Readers' Choice Awards. San Francisco also scored highest in the world in the Restaurant category and highest in the United States in the Environment Ambiance. The year 2000 marked the twelfth of thirteen years that San Francisco has been designated Best City in the United States and the third year as the leader in the Restaurants category.
The Bay Area, extending from the suburban communities north of Oakland and Berkeley south through the peninsula and the San Jose area, is really one continuous mega city, with San Francisco as its heart.
A prominent feature of San Francisco is that beautifully fluffy, chilly, wet, heavy, material called “fog” which makes the city's weather so mysterious, exciting, and unpredictable. A rare combination of water, wind, and topography creates Northern California's summer fog bank. It lies off the coast, and rising air currents pull it in when the land heats up. Held back by coastal mountains along a 600-mile front, the low clouds seek out any passage they can find. The easiest access happens to be the slot where the Pacific Ocean penetrates the continental wall: otherwise known as the Golden Gate!
While in San Francisco, be sure to save time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. The wharf once bustled with Sicilian and Genoese fishermen unloading their catches to sell. There is still a fishing fleet, but the wharf is lined with more than a hundred seafood restaurants and steaming crab pots as well as marine gear suppliers, and sidewalk performers. From there it’s a short walk to Chinatown with its pagoda roofs; colorful lampposts, and fascinating shops. The 853-foot Transamerica pyramid marks the heart of the Financial District, as does Embarcadero Center. Nearby is the home of the new San Francisco Giants baseball stadium, Pac Bell Park.
The main shopping, hotel, and theater district is at Union Square. A few blocks farther on, the formerly run down factory district has been reborn as a cultural center with the Museum of Modern Art as its centerpiece. Major galleries, museums and restaurants have opened there, as well as Sony’s Metreon theater complex. Yerba Buena Gardens provides constant family entertainment year round with its ice rinks, parks and children’s play areas.
It is wise to plan to spend a day of relaxation in Golden Gate Park and to save another day for a quiet stroll along Ocean Beach. A leisurely pace leaves time to enjoy exploring the city and opens space for the unexpected, such as that park that looked to be five minutes away on the map, but is actually at the top of a steep hill!
San Francisco is a city of beauty and dignity. It presents to the visitor a banquet of sights, sounds, tastes and aromas to sample, to savor, and to remember forever.
Population: 740,000 in the city and 6.5 million if the surrounding Bay area is included.
Location: at the northern end of a hilly peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay in northern California.
Elevation: Built on 43 hills; so elevation varies from close to sea level to 929 feet
Area: 46 square miles
Languages: Less than half the population was born in the US, and over 100 languages are spoken. Newspapers and magazines are published in 31 different languages.
Time Zone San Francisco is in the Pacific standard time zone, which is 8 hours behind Greenwich mean time and 3 hours behind eastern time. For accurate time. 415-767-8900.
High temperature (°F)
Low temperature (°F)
You can visit San Francisco comfortably any time of year; the climate is moderate, except for the occasional chill that accompanies the rolling in of the fog. The temperature seldom drops below 40°F, nor rises to 80°F.
It is advisable to pack sweaters, jackets, and clothes for layering because of year round variations in temperature. Include shorts or cool cottons for summer and a bathing suit, as most hotels have a pool. The city can be chilly at any time of the year, especially in summer, when the fog descends and stays for longer periods. Rainfall amount is low year round, but humidity is often high due to the fog.
Although casual dress is the norm in California, men will need a jacket and tie for many good restaurants in the evening, and women will be more comfortable in something somewhat dressy.
Earthquakes: Earthquakes are part of life in California. Most of which cause little tremors too small to notice.
The U.S. electrical standard is 110 volts-60 cycles AC. Foreign visitors traveling with dual-voltage appliances will not need a converter, but they will need a plug adapter. The standard U.S. electrical outlet takes a plug of two flat pins set parallel to one another.
At restaurants, a 15% tip is standard for waiters; up to 20% may be expected at more expensive establishments. The same goes for taxi drivers, bartenders, and hairdressers.
New Year's Day Jan. 1
Martin Luther King, Jr., Day 3rd Mon. in Jan.
President's Day 3rd Mon. in Feb.
Memorial Day last Mon. in May;
Independence Day July 4
Labor Day 1st Mon. in Sept.
Thanksgiving Day 4th Thurs. in Nov.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day Dec. 24 and 25
New Year's Eve Dec. 31.
Area Code: The area code for San Francisco is 415; for Oakland, Berkeley, and much of the East Bay, 510; for the peninsula, 650.
Business Hours Most banks are open Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm. Several stay open until about 5pm at least 1 day a week. Many banks also have ATMs for 24-hour banking
Most stores are open Monday to Saturday from 10 or 11am to at least 6pm, with shorter hours on Sunday. But there are exceptions: Stores in Chinatown, Ghirardelli Square, and Pier 39 stay open much later during the tourist season, and large department stores, including Macy's and Nordstrom, keep late hours.
Most restaurants serve lunch from about 11:30am to 2:30pm and dinner from 5:30 to 10pm. They sometimes serve later on weekends. Nightclubs and bars are usually open daily until 2am.
Emergencies--Dial tel. 911 for police, an ambulance, or the fire department; no coins are needed from a public phone
Post Office--There are many post offices around the city. The closest to Union Square is inside Macy's department store, 170 O'Farrell St. tel. 800-275-8777.
Transit Information--The San Francisco Municipal Railway, orMuni, operates the city's cable cars, buses, and Metro streetcars. For customer service, call 415-673-6864 weekdays 7am to 5pm, weekends 9am to 5pm.
Winter road condition information: 415-557-3755.
San Francisco International Airport : 415-761-0800, just south of the city, off U.S. 101. Several domestic airlines serve the
Oakland Airport tel. 415-577-4000, which is across the bay but not much farther away from downtown San Francisco via I-880 and I-80, although traffic on the Bay Bridge may at times make travel time longer. Flying times: 6 hours from New York, 4 hours from Chicago, and 1 hour from Los Angeles.
SFO International Terminal
The expansion added:
18 new restaurants serving a wide variety of international cuisine.
37 new retail stores.
A $10 million permanent art collection.
An 11,000 square-foot Aviation Library and Museum.
3,200 new parking spaces.
A taxi ride from SFO to downtown is a bit costly. Airport shuttles are inexpensive and efficient.
The SFO Airporter picks up passengers at baggage claim lower level and serves selected downtown hotels. SuperShuttle stops at the upper-level traffic islands and goes from the airport to anywhere within the city limits of San Francisco.
Inexpensive shuttles to the East Bay among them Bayporter Express also depart from SFO's upper-level traffic islands;
To drive to downtown San Francisco from the airport, take U.S. 101 north to the Civic Center 9th Street, 7th Street, or 4th Street exit. If you're headed to the Embarcadero or Fisherman's Wharf, take I-280 north the exit is to the right, just past 3Com Park and get off at the 4th Street-King Street exit. King Street becomes the Embarcadero a few blocks east of the exit. The Embarcadero winds around the waterfront to Fisherman's Wharf.
Amtrak: 800-872-7245 trains-the Zephyr, from Chicago via Denver, and the Coast Starlight, traveling between Los Angeles and Seattle-stop in Emeryville 5885 Landregan St. and Oakland 245 2nd St. in Jack London Sq.. Shuttle buses connect the Emeryville station and San Francisco's Ferry Building 30 Embarcadero at the foot of Market St.
Driving a Car in the City: Driving in San Francisco can be a challenge because of the hills, the one-way streets, and the traffic. Remember to curb your wheels when parking on hills.
Exploring the city involves navigating a maze of one-way streets and restricted parking zones. Cable cars, buses, and trolleys can take you to or near most attractions. If you plan to visit distant outlying areas which are not accessible by subway, it is best to ret a car for the length of such trips, and plan to walk or use public transportation in the city of San Francisco and environs.
Muni's buses and trolley buses run all over The City in frequent intervals usually every five to 20 minutes. Each route has a number and a name, i.e. 5-Fulton, 24-Divisadero, 42-Downtown Loop, which are prominently displayed on the front and side of the bus, along with the route's destination. Some routes, such as 38L-Geary Limited or 14L-Mission Limited, make only limited stops along their routes. Others, such as 9X-San Bruno Express or 31AX-Balboa "A" Express, operate nonstop from downtown to the outer regions of The City. For more clarity on Muni service, purchase a Muni map.
Historic Streetcars Trams:
You can travel back in time on the distinctive collection of historic streetcars.. Each car is painted in its original colors designating its origin in Boston, Chicago, Milan, or some other city in the world. These beautiful streetcars run along the center of Market Street from the Transbay Terminal in downtown to the Castro District. They are collectively known as line F-Market.
Beginning downtown at Embarcadero Station, the Muni Metro's five underground streetcar lines J-Church, K-Ingleside, L-Taraval, M-Ocean View and N-Judah take you under Market Street to various points of interest in the western and southwestern regions of The City. The J and N lines branch off after Van Ness station and operate on the surface, and the K, L and M continue underground to West Portal Station before splitting into their own separate surface lines. In the subway section of the system, J and N cars are often coupled together, as are K, L and M cars.
Because of ongoing repairs, the Metro currently closes every evening at 10 pm. Shuttle bus service is available until 12:30 am on the K, L, M and N lines, and the F-Market historic streetcar service is extended during this time to cover the J line. Board F-Market streetcars and shuttle buses at the island stops on Market Street.
Call for current fare schedule.
Please have the exact fare ready when you board; Metro fare gates do not accept any dollar bills.
A two-part transfer slip is provided when you pay your fare on buses, streetcars and Metro lines. This transfer allows you to transfer two more times to any bus, streetcar or Metro line. No transfers are given or accepted on cable cars; single fares must be paid each time you board.
Hours Of Operation:
Monday-Friday 5:30 am-12:30 am
Saturday 6 am-12:30 am
Sunday 7:30 am-12:30 am
Limited late night service is also offered on some lines.
Muni offers three discount transit passes, subject to availability. All can be purchased at the Visitor Information Center at 900 Market Street, downstairs from the Powell-Market cable car terminal
The Muni Passports include the cable cars, Muni buses, Muni Metro and the F-Market streetcars. You can travel anywhere within San Francisco with the Passport. In addition, you will receive savings on your entrance fees at most city museums and many city attractions when you show the Muni Passport. One, three and seven day passports are available.
BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit ( 650-992-2278) provides efficient transportation to Oakland, Berkeley, Concord, Richmond, Fremont, Colma, and Martinez and other points. Trains also travel south from San Francisco as far as Daly City and Colma. Fares are low.
Whenever possible, avoid using taxis. Rates are high, and it is almost impossible to hail a passing cab, especially on weekends. If you must use one, either phone or use the nearest hotel taxi stand.
There are three cable car routes in San Francisco. Two of these routes, the Powell-Hyde and the Powell-Mason, begin at the corner of Powell and Market Streets, and run north-south to and from Nob Hill and Fisherman's Wharf. At Fisherman's Wharf, you can board the Powell-Hyde line at Hyde and Beach Streets and the Powell-Mason line at Bay and Taylor Streets. The third line is the California line running east-west on California Street between Market Street and Van Ness Avenue, serving the Financial District, Chinatown and Nob Hill. This line tends to be the least crowded. The transfer point for all three lines is at Powell and California Streets. Cable cars can be boarded at any designated stop along the route. However, during the busy summer months, it is a good idea to wait at the terminal, as the cable cars usually fill up at the beginning of the line. There may be a 45- to 60-minute wait during the summer.
San Francisco is divided into six zones: Downtown, Midtown, Northeast, Northwest, and Southwest.
Many of San Francisco's famous attractions, including North Beach, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, and Union Square, are in its northeast quadrant. Golden Gate Park is in the city's northwestern section.
If you do not want to wait in line for a cable car, you may wish to consider taking a Muni bus. You may board lines 15-Third or 30-Stockton at the corner of Kearny and Market Streets. Lines 15 and 30 travel through Chinatown and North Beach, two of San Francisco's most colorful neighborhoods. Line 15 terminates at Bay and Kearny Streets near PIER 39; line 30 operates on North Point Street from Columbus Avenue west to Van Ness Avenue and serves The Anchorage, The Cannery and Ghirardelli Square.
Alcatraz Island (Northeast)
the notorious former federal prison in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, is accessible to the public through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Blue and Gold Fleet.
To reach Alcatraz Island, you travel by ferry from Pier 41 at Fisherman's Wharf. The ferry ride will take you approximately 20 to 25 minutes. The ferry is easily reached from the Union Square by bus lines 15-Third or 30-Stockton or by cable car Powell-Mason line.
Once you arrive at Alcatraz Island you must walk up a steep hill. There are no elevators. There is an accessible, interactive computer program of the island's history available for those unable to make the walk uphill.
415-705-5555 or visit the ticket booth at Pier 41, Fisherman's Wharf. The ticket booth is open Monday through Sunday, 8:30 am to 5 pm. Call 415-705-5555 for an update on extended summer hours.
Golden Gate Park. (Southwest)
John F. Kennedy Dr. west of Stanyan St.
415-263-0991 for walking tour info. Open 24 hours. Free guided tours: Sat. at 11 and Sun. at 11 and 2.
Muni Buses 5-Fulton and 21-Hayes; N-Judah light-rail car.
Bordered by the Great Highway on the west, Lincoln Way on the south, Stanyan Street on the east, Fulton St. on the north.
The 1, 017 acre park contains a dozen artificial lakes; a world renowned collection of trees and other plants; miles of roads, bridle paths and foot trails. The park extends three miles from Fell and Stanyan Streets to the ocean.
In addition to the Asian Art museum, there is a bison paddock, a restored Dutch style windmill, an equestrian center, a trotting track, tennis courts, archery fields, golf course, a polo field stadium, and an outdoor music concourse which offers concerts all year.
The Visitor Center is located in a Beach Chalet on Great Highway and features murals with scenes of the city during the Great Depression, as well as mosaics and wood carvings. (Daily: 10-dusk).
Palace Of Fine Arts (Northwest)
3601 Lyon Street (Adjacent to the Exploratorium)
San Francisco's rococo Palace of Fine Arts is at the western end of the Marina. The palace is the sole survivor of the many tinted plaster, lath and chicken wire buildings built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the world's fair that celebrated San Francisco's recovery from the 1906 earthquake and fire. The Palace of Fine Arts was recast in concrete and reopened in 1967. The massive columns, great rotunda dedicated to the glory of Greek culture, and swan-filled lagoon have been used in countless fashion layouts and films.
Inside the Palace of Fine Arts is the city's science museum.
Baker and Beach Sts.
415-561-0364 for palace tours; 415-561-0360 for Exploratorium info.
The Exploratorium has a camera on top of their roof that brings live images from the Marina, Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Palace of Fine Arts and many more attractions. Viewers have the ability to control the camera in order to view particular attractions.
For information on upcoming exhibits, call 415 EXP-LORE.
San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art ( Southeast)
151 3rd St.
Admission charged, but free 1st Tues. of each month and 1⁄2-price entry Thurs. 6-9. Memorial Day-Labor Day, Fri.-Tues. 10-6, Thurs. 10-9; Labor Day-Memorial Day, Fri.-Tues. 11-6, Thurs. 11-9
The architect Mario Botta designed the striking facility, completed in early 1995, which consists of a sienna brick facade and a central tower of alternating bands of black and white stone. Inside, natural light from the tower floods the central atrium and some of the museum's galleries. Works by Matisse, Picasso, O'Keeffe, Kahlo, Pollock, Warhol, and other 20th-century artists form the heart of the diverse permanent collection. Programming includes traveling exhibits and multimedia installations.
Yerba Buena Gardens (Southeast)
Between 3rd, 4th, Mission, and Folsom Sts
The two block heart of the South of Market Street redevelopment area includes the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, the Sony Metreonentertainment complex, and the Moscone Center convention facilities.
Rooftop at Yerba Buena Gardens contains a Looff carousel, a high-tech, interactive arts and technology center for children, gardens, a playground, an ice-skating rink, and a bowling alley.
The waterfall memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. is the focal point of the East Garden in the block between Mission and Howard streets. Water surges over large, jagged stone columns, mirroring the force of King's words that are carved on the stone walls and on glass blocks behind the waterfall. Above the memorial are two restaurants and an overhead walkway to the rooftop area.
Asian Art Museum (Southwest)
Tea Garden Dr. off John F. Kennedy Dr., near 10th Ave. and Fulton St.,
415-668-8921 or 415-379-8801.
$s off with Muni transfer, good also for same-day admission to the M. H. de Young Museum and the Legion of Honor Museum in Lincoln Park; free 1st Wed. of month. Tues.-Sun. 9:30-4:45, 1st Wed. of month until 8:45.
The museum's collection includes more than 12,000 sculptures, paintings, and ceramics from 40 countries, illustrating major periods of Asian art. On the first floor are special exhibitions as well as galleries dedicated to works from Korea and China. On the second floor are treasures from Iran, Turkey, Syria, India, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, India, Japan, Afghanistan, and Southeast Asia.
California Palace Of The Legion Of Honor (Northwest)
34th Ave. at Clement St.
415-863-3330 for 24-hr information.
$s off with Muni transfer, good also for same-day admission to Asian Art and M. H. de Young museums. Free 2nd Wed. of month. Tues.-Sun. 9:30-5.
Spectacularly situated on cliffs overlooking the ocean and the Marin Headlands, this landmark building is a fine repository of European art. The lower-level galleries exhibit prints and drawings, English and European porcelain, and ancient Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian art. The 20-plus galleries on the upper level are devoted to European art from the 14th century to the present. Two galleries are devoted to the Rodin collection, and a third with works by him and other 19th-century sculptors. An original cast of Rodin's The Thinkerwelcomes the visitor in the courtyard.
Chinatown (covers about 16 square blocks)
Delicious smells waft out of restaurants, fish markets, and produce stands. Good-luck banners of crimson and gold hang beside dragon-entwined lampposts, pagoda roofs, and street signs with Chinese calligraphy.
Grant Avenue and Stockton Street are the main thoroughfares and are lined with tearooms, shops and temples, Christian missions, Chinese schools, theaters, and grocery stores. Be sure to visit the district's narrow side streets also. At No. 56 Ross Alley west of and parallel to Grant Avenue between Washington and Jackson Streets visitors are welcome to watch fortune-cookie bakers in action. Three flights of stairs lead up to Tin How Temple, at No. 125 Waverly Place, where elderly ladies can often be seen preparing "money" to be burned as offerings to various Buddhist gods or as funds for ancestors to use in the afterlife. Visit Chinatown as you would like people to visit your home neighborhood. Be open to learning from those who welcome your presence, and leave an impression of warmth and good will behind.
Chinese Historical Society of America (Midtown)
644 Broadway, Suite 401
Mon 1-4 Tues-Fri 10:30-4 Sat hours vary.
Documents the role of the Chinese in the settlement of San Francisco and the West through a series of exhibits.
East side of the block bordered by Jefferson, Leavenworth, Beach and Hyde Streets
Formerly a Del Monte fruit cannery; it houses specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants, linked by arcades, bridges and balconies.
Ghiardelli Square (Northeast)
Between Beach, Polk, Northpoint and Larkin Streets within walking distance of the Cannery and Fisherman’s Wharf, this 2.5 acre site houses the former Ghiardelli Chocolate factory, a woolen mill, apartments, and other buildings that have been refurbished to house specialty shops, bakeries and international restaurants. Many mimes and “human statues” perform next to the square.
The Metreon ( Southeast)
SONY entertainment center at Fourth and Mission Streets in Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The center features an interactive play space called: “Where the Wild Things Are”; an Adventure zone called Airtight Garage; and “The Way things Work in Mammoth 3-D”.
Coit Tower (Northeast)
Telegraph Hill Blvd., at Greenwich St. or Lombard St.,
Admission charged. Daily 10-6:30.
Among San Francisco's most distinctive skyline sights, the 210-ft-tall Coit Tower stands as a monument to the city's volunteer firefighters. From the Tower there is a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge, the East Bay, and surrounding areas.
Inside the tower, Depression era murals depict economic and political life in California. The government commissioned the murals and paid 25 artists $38 a week each to paint them. The radical Mexican painter, Diego Rivera inspired the theme of the murals: the exploitation of workers. At the time they were painted, there was widespread friction between management and labor along the waterfront and elsewhere in San Francisco.
Golden Gate Bridge (Northwest)
Lincoln Blvd. near Doyle Dr. and Fort Point
Daily, 24 hrs for cars and bikes, 5 AM-9 PM for pedestrians.
Muni Buses 28 and 29 to San Francisco side.
The suspension bridge that connects San Francisco with Marin County impresses visitors and locals alike with its 750-ft towers, and simple but powerful Art Deco design. Nearly 2 mi, long, the Golden Gate was completed in 1937 after four years of construction, and was built to withstand winds of more than 100 mph.
This landmark is a symbol of San Francisco and the Bay Area. The Bridge is an architectural marvel, and is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. The two towers are purposely out of alignment in order to compensate for the curvature of the earth.
Because it is frequently gusty and misty , walkers should wear warm clothing. The bridge offers unparalleled views of the Bay Area.
Bay Area Discovery Museum (Northwest)
Off US101 at 557 McReynolds Road
(In Golden Gate National Recreation Area at the north end of Golden Gate bridge.)
Tues-Sun. 10-5 (6/15-9/15) Tues-Thurs 9-4; Fri-Sun 110-5, (rest of the year) Call for holiday schedule.
Admission charged. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
This museum features hands-on exhibits for children. Children can climb on a fishing boat and fish; learn to ride a unicycle; create clay animation movies; crawl through an underwater tunnel; decorate a doll house, to name a few of the choices. There is a Tot Spot storybook environment for children 1-3.
Cable Car Barn & Museum (Downtown)
1201 Mason St. at Washington St.
Daily 10-6 Apr-Sept. 10-5 rest of year
Contains models, photographs and memorabilia chronicling the history of San Francisco’s early transit system, including the first cable car built in 1873.
Underground viewing room shows mechanics of the system.
California Academy of Sciences (Southeast)
in Golden Gate Park
Daily 9-6 (Memorial Day weekend - Labor Day) 10-5 rest of the year.
Admission charged. Free to all first Wed. of the month.
1) Morrison Planetarium
Houses a 5,000 pound star projector, built specially for the planetarium. Under a 65 foot dome star shows are given Sat, Sun. first Wed. of the month and holidays on the hour 11-4. Mon-Fri. at 2:00. Call for program titles and to confirm hours. The Planetarium also features Laserium, a laser light and music show.
2) Natural History Museum
Includes Wild California Hall; Simson African Hall; Hall of Gems and Minerals. There are also Far Side of Science Gallery and Earth and Space Hall in which visitors can safely experience a simulated California earthquake on a “shake table.” Life Through Time and the Age of the Dinosaurs are also popular exhibits.
3) Steinhart Aquarium
Houses some 14,000 aquatic animals including octopuses, alligators, turtles, reptiles, sharks, sea anemones and sea horses. Sharks of the Tropics are housed in a re-created tropical reef habitat. Sharks are fed daily every two hours 10:30-4:30. Penguins are fed at 11:30 and 4:00.
Embarcadero Center (Downtown)
between Clay & Sacramento Sts. on Drum Street
The Embarcadero Center is one of the most vital urban centers in San Francisco. It is a city in itself with five high rise towers and the Old Federal Reserve Bank building connected by elevated walks, escalators and stairways. More than 140 shops and restaurants are available to residents and office workers and to the numerous visitors. A five screen movie theater, luxury hotels, and the observation SkyDeck complete the picture. Live music and festivals are frequently found at the Center. In late November, 17,000 white lights are turned on to outline the towers.
Nob Hill (Downtown)
between Clay, California, Jones and Powell Streets
A century ago the railroad erected mansions, and today the wealthy live there in penthouses. Among the famous landmarks are the Fairmont and Mark Hopkins Hotels and the newer Renaissance Stanford Court: three of the most luxurious hotels in the world. Nearby Grace Cathedral is modeled after Notre Dame in Paris and Huntington Park contains a replica of the Tartarughe Fountain in Rome. Classical and art nouveau apartment buildings line the downtown side of the steep hill.
Pier 39 (Northeast)
The Embarcadero at Jefferson Street
Cable car transport to Union Square every 20 minutes.
San Francisco's version of the old-fashioned boardwalk, this two level marketplace designed to look like a village by the sea, features over 100 specialty shops and restaurants. Children enjoy the Venetian Carousel. Teens hang out at the Cyber Station Family Games Arcade. The Bungee Trampoline and the big screen multimedia Turbo Ride in hydraulic seats are other prime attractions. A giant screen with surround sound shows two films: The Great San Francisco Adventure and the Living Sea. The famous California 1000 pound sea lions perform on K Dock. Musicians, mimes, actors, and jugglers entertain on outdoor stages.
Underwater World ( Northeast)
Pier 39 at the Embacadero and Beach Street.
415 623-5300. Daily 9-8.
Admission charged. Discount for public transit riders.
Clear acrylic tunnels give visitors the same close look a diver would have at such marine life as sharks, jellyfish, rays and eels. Guided tours last an hour.
USS Pampanito (Northeast)
at the end of Taylor Street and Pier 45
Daily 9-8 (mid-May-mid Oct.) Sun-Thurs 9-6 rest of the year). Admission charged.
A World War II submarine that saw action in the Pacific theater. Self guided tours. Stooping through low bulkheads is required to tour the sub.
San Francisco Maritime Park (Northeast)
Hyde Street Pier
America's only floating national park features the world's largest collection of historic ships from the annals of San Francisco's history. Programs, exhibits and events focus on living history at this floating museum. For more information, call 561-6662.
Fisherman's Wharf (Northeast)
At the end of Taylor Street
Ripley’s Believe it or Not; and the Wax Museum are two attractions in this area.
Millions visit this part of San Francisco each year to gaze across the piers, take in the local scene, and enjoy the numerous fine restaurants.
San Francisco Zoo (Southeast)
This world-renowned zoo is home to over 1,000 exotic, wild and domestic animals housed on dozens of acres. Be sure to visit the primate center, penguin island and the children's petting zoo.
Golden Gate Railroad Museum (Southwest)
Hunters Point Shipyard
has one of the most extensive collections of historic, operating, railroad equipment in the west. Famous trains such as the Daylights, Overland Limited, Cascade, Sunset, Lark, Del Monte, California Zephyr and City of San Francisco are on display, as well as the museum's "star," steam engine SP 2472. The GGRM now offers Rent-A-Locomotive and special events programs allowing guests to actually operate a full sized locomotive.
Japan’s Center (Southwest)
Boundaries are: Post, Fillmore, Geary and Laguna Streets
Underground parking is available.
A five acre complex containing Miyako Hotel; the offices of the Japanese consulate; and the Peace Pagoda which stands in the central plaza. Music, dance, tea ceremonies, and martial arts presentations are given on many weekends. Call for schedule of events and times. The area has restaurants, shops, art galleries, movie theaters, and Japanese baths.
Japanese Tea Garden (Southwest)
8th Avenue and Kennedy Drive
Daily 9-6:30 (Mar-Sept) 9-5 (rest of the year).
Landscaped with bridges, walks, ponds, miniature waterfalls, statues, and pagodas. The garden is spectacular when the cherry blossoms bloom in the Spring.
Strybing Arboretum (Southwest)
9th Avenue and Lincoln Way
Mon-Fri. 8:30-4:30 Sat, Sun 10-5 Free guided tours daily at 1:30 Sat, Sun. 10:30.
More than 7,000 species of plants from around the world are displayed. With
Bay Area Discovery Museum
This museum features hands-on exhibits for children. Kids can climb on a fishing boat, learn to ride a unicycle, create clay animation movies.
Cable Car Barn & Museum
1201 Mason/Washington (M,5) (415) 474-1887
Visitors come here to learn about one of San Francisco's most enduring icons, the cable car. Displays on the history of San Francisco's cable cars include information on how they work, how they developed, and how they are built.
Hershey Factory & Visitor Center
120 South Sierra Ave., Oakdale. (209) 848-8126
Visitors enjoy free tours showing the process of making Hershey chocolate from cocoa beans to candy bars. The world of Hershey is vast, and guests get to see it all. Free samples of the end product are available.
Located at the Academy, Golden Gate Park/8th Ave. (C, 10) (415) 750-7141
Part of Golden Gate Park, this attraction is renowned for its star and sky shows. Bringing the universe to guests, the Planetarium also features a Laserium, a laser light and music show.
Beach/Embarcadero (M, 2) (415) 981-PIER
San Francisco's version of the old-fashioned boardwalk, this site features over 100 specialty shops, 10 restaurants and family attractions including Turbo Ride, the Venetian Carousel and the famous California sea lions.
San Francisco Zoo
Sloat/Great Hwy. (A, 13) (415) 753-7061
This world-renowned zoo is home to over 1,000 exotic, wild and domestic animals housed on dozens of acres. Guest should make a note to visit the primate center, penguin island and the children's petting zoo.
At the Academy, GG Park/8th Ave. (C, 10) (415) 750-7145
Another part of the science offerings of Golden Gate Park, the Steinhart Aquarium holds more than 1,000 species of salt and fresh water fishes, reptiles, amphibians, marine mammals and even penguins. Visitors should look out for feeding times!
PIER 39 (M, 2) (415) 546-2700
This World takes you right to the fish in a very unique way! UnderWater World is America's first "under the sea" aquarium experience. Visitors walk through the all-new 707,000-gallon aquarium in sea-through tunnels. Guests get to get much closer to marine life than conventional aquariums allow.
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to America's most famous prison. No one has ever escaped from "the Rock" to tell the tale. This prison housed some of America's most feared criminals in the middle of San Francisco bay. Closed for over several decades, Alcatraz is one of San Francisco's most visited attractions. Visitors tour the island and get a taste of life "on the inside."
Golden Gate Bridge
This landmark is a symbol of San Francisco and the Bay Area. The Bridge is an architectural marvel, and is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. The two towers are purposely out of alignment in order to compensate for the curvature of the earth. It's orange shape is beautiful to behold, whether it is on a clear day, or peaking above the rolling fog of the bay. Visitors should drive across it, take photographs of it, and enjoy this national landmark.
Theater and the Arts:
The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Herbst Theater, Van Ness Avenue and McAllister Street.
For more information and to purchase tickets, call 392-4400
San Francisco Ballet
455 Franklin Street, 861-5600
The San Francisco Opera
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Avenue.
For more information and to purchase tickets, call 864-3330
The San Francisco Symphony
Davies Symphony Hall, Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.
features a varied program of performances, ranging from Beethoven to the San Francisco premiere of El Nino, A Nativity Oratorio. For information, and to purchase tickets, call the SFS Box Office at 415 864-6000 or visit
The Smuin Ballet
710 Mission Street.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
For tickets, call 978-ARTS
710 Mission Street. For information, call 978-2700
Grand National Roadster Show
San Mateo County Exposition Center, 503 236-0632.
The show contains one of the biggest gatherings of roadsters anywhere, complemented by a NASCAR virtual reality ride and vintage hot rods.
Berlin and Beyond Festival
Castro Theater, 263-8760.
This unique German language film festival provides highlights of recent European cinema.
Chinese New Year Festival & Parade
San Francisco's largest festival, highlighted by the New Year Flower Market on January 20 and 21, a fantastic parade on February 3, at 5:30 p.m. from Market and Second Streets to Columbus Avenue and a community street fair on February 3 and 4.
The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
Yerba Buena Center For The Arts, 923-0222.
A film festival representing personal points of view on threats against political and
Whale-watching can be enjoyed throughout the winter, when hundreds of gray whales migrate along the Pacific coast. Contact the California Office of Tourism 801 K St., Suite 1600, Sacramento 95814, tel. 800-862-2543.
San Francisco Tribal, Folk & Textile Arts Show
Fort Mason, 310 455-2886.
Over 80 folk and ethnic art dealers sell North American pottery, basketry, textiles and jewelry.
Pacific Orchid Exposition
Fort Mason Center, 546-9608.
The annual edition of the San Francisco Orchid Society's show dazzles with dozens of breathtaking floral collections.
PIER 39, 705-5500, www.pier39.com
More than 39,000 brilliantly colored tulips from all over the world coupled with
free guided tours.
San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival
AMC Kabuki Theaters, 863-0814.
The biggest event in North America dedicated to the exhibition of Asian American and Asian cinema.
St. Patrick's Day Parade
Second and Market to the Civic Center, 731-0924.
One of San Francisco's largest annual parades and one of the longest-running parades in the U.S. Begins at 12:45 p.m. at Second and Market Streets and concludes at City Hall.
San Francisco Flower and Garden Show
Cow Palace, 800 829-9751, www.gardenshow.com
Cutting-edge landscape design and high-quality exhibits of plants and superior
Opening Day - San Francisco Giants
Pacific Bell Ball Park, 800 5GIANTS 800-544-2687,
Street Performers Festival
PIER 39, 705-5500, www.pier39.com.
Comedians, jugglers, unicyclists, slack ropewalkers and many more perform on two stages.
Cherry Blossom Festival
Contact the Japan Center 1520 Webster St., 94115, tel. 415-922-6776.
an elaborate presentation of Japanese culture and customs, winds up with a colorful parade through San Francisco's Japantown.
San Francisco International Film Festival
AMC Kabuki, Castro Theater and other venues, 931-FILM.
More than 100 films and videos from 30 countries will be showcased during this annual
Cinco de Mayo
Parade on Mission Street, Festival in Civic Center Plaza, 826-1401,
A parade and festival featuring Mexican and Central American art and entertainment. Also included is a classic low rider and bomb car show with over 80 cars on display. There will also be a children's area. 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
San Francisco Youth Arts Festival
Golden Gate Park, 759-2916.
An annual exhibition and celebration showcasing the visual and performing arts by San Francisco students in grades K-12.
Harrison Street, between 16th and 22nd, 826-1401.
San Francisco's version of Mardi Gras, and one of its largest annual public events, featuring exotic carnaval dancers with a mixture of Latino, jazz, samba Caribbean,
Haight Street Fair
Haight Street, 661-8025.
One of San Francisco's most famous neighborhoods celebrates its creative roots with
arts, crafts and entertainment.
San Francisco Black Film Festival
Showcases films that celebrate black independent film and filmmakers.
Kimball Park, located at Geary and Steiner Streets, 229-1220.
A celebration of African American culture.
San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
Castro Theatre and other venues, 703-8663.
More than 250 films from around the globe are showcased in this 25th annual flick festival, the largest and oldest event of its kind in the world.
San Francisco Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Pride Celebration Parade
Embarcadero to Civic Center, 864-FREE.
San Francisco's annual celebration of lesbian and gay pride culminates with a
festive parade from the Embarcadero to the Civic Center
Jewish Film Festival
Castro Theater and other venues around the Bay Area, 621-0556.
Films from American and international filmmakers showcase the diversity and
vitality of the Jewish culture.
Fourth of July Waterfront Festival
Fisherman's Wharf, 705-5500.
A day long event featuring the West Coast's largest display of fireworks, live entertainment, food, arts and crafts at this annual waterfront party. Fireworks begin around 9:00 p.m.
Cable Car Bell-Ringing Competition
Union Square, 923-6217.
Muni cable car operators clang out melodies on a cable car bell during this annual
competition for top bell-ringer.
Afro Solo Arts Festival 2001
Yerba Center of the Arts & other locations, 771-AFRO.
The Afro Solo Arts Festival features celebrity and emerging African American artists in various performances such as theater, dance, music, spoken word and visual arts. Most shows begin at 8:00 p.m.
Nihonmachi Street Fair
Japantown and Japan Center, 771-9861.
This Japanese festival features lion dancers, taiko drummers, Japanese arts and crafts, musical entertainment, food and children's events.
ACC Craft Fair
Fort Mason Center,800 836-3470.
This is the largest juried craft fair on the West Coast featuring necklaces, stoneware bowls and silk goods.
Renaissance Pleasure Faire
Nut Tree, Vacaville, 800 523-2473.
Journey back to 16th century England with 1,500 brilliantly costumed performers, jousting knights, rare handmade crafts, theater, dance, food and drink. 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Weekends only.
San Francisco Shakespeare Festival
Golden Gate Park, 422-2222.
Relax in a tranquil environment and enjoy Shakespeare's classics, beginning on Labor Day and running every Saturday and Sunday through September 30. Shows begin at 1:30 p.m. but locals arrive by noon for a seat. Free.
San Francisco Fringe Festival
Exit Theater and other downtown venues, for information call 931-1094, for tickets call 673-3847.
A non-juried, non-censored marathon of 260 performances by 50 local, national and international theater companies in several locations in downtown San Francisco, with a broad spectrum of classic theater, performance art and outrageous comedy.
Festival of the Sea
Hyde Street Pier, 561-6662.
Re-live San Francisco's seafaring past with a tugboat rodeo, free boat rides,
hands-on activities, a boat-building contest, hands-on crafts demonstrations and
Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival
Ghirardelli Square, 775-5500.
A chocolate lover's dream. Attendees sample various chocolate treats including chocolate covered strawberries, brownies, chocolate cheesecake and more. Proceeds benefit Project Open Hand.
Vivas Las Americas!
Pier 39, 705-5500.
Hispanic Heritage is the focus of this event, featuring music and dance performances commemorating the artistry of Mexico and Central and South America.
San Francisco International Art Exposition
Fort Mason Center, Herbst and Festival Pavilion, 312 587-3300.
100 fine art galleries will exhibit, representing the work of 1500 artists, ranging from painting to drawing to sculpture to prints and video art.
San Francisco Blues Festival
Great Meadow at Fort Mason, 979-5588.
The oldest blues festival in America presents some of the best blues musicians in the world.
Wells Fargo Fall Cup Regatta
Pier 39, 705-5500, www.pier39.com.
Watch America's Cup participants, Olympic veterans and former World Champions in two days of fleet-style racing on the San Francisco Bay. The public is invited to watch from noon to 5:00 p.m.
Italian Heritage Parade and Festival
tentative Fisherman's Wharf and North Beach, 989-2220.
The City celebrates its Italian heritage with a lively parade through North Beach, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
San Francisco Jazz Festival
Various locations, 788-7353.
One of San Francisco's biggest and best musical festivals features local, national and international jazz artist performances at locations throughout San Francisco. The line-up includes many renowned musicians such as Abbey Lincoln, Jimmy Scott, John McLaughlin, and Zakir Jussain in Remember Shakti.
Grand National Rodeo, Horse and Stock Show
Cow Palace, 469-6057, for tickets, 469-6065.
Enjoy concerts, art, food, livestock and rodeo competitions at the annual Grand National.
San Francisco Fall Antiques Show
Fort Mason Center, 546-6661.
Over 65 distinguished antique dealers from America and Europe sell a broad range of antique merchandise.
Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema
Castro and Roxie Theaters, 552-8760.
More than 300 films by local artists showcase the richness and diversity of San
Francisco and Northern California as a major hub in the independent film world.
American Indian Film Festival
Palace of Fine Arts Theater, 554-0525.
Presenting documentaries and dramas by new and emerging Native American artists.
San Francisco International Automobile Show
Moscone Center, 331-4406.
The latest and greatest automobiles in