San Francisco, located in northern California on the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast of the western United States, is a port of call on a Disney Cruise Line Alaska & Pacific Coast Cruise vacation. Known for the Golden Gate bridge, foggy summers, steep hills, colorful Victorian houses and cable cars, San Francisco is one of America's most beloved and beautiful cities.
Things to See and Do
San Francisco is a little voyeuristic, a little hedonistic and a lot about personal expression. But it's all in good fun and since there is so much to see and do, it's the perfect vacation destination for the entire family.
During a tour of the city, catch a ride on one of the city's famous cable cars between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf and snap off a picture of historic Lombard Street, the road that zigzags its way up to Russian Hill. Step into history during a tour of Alcatraz—or "The Rock"—where some of the most notorious felons were incarcerated from 1934 until 1963. Former prisoners include Al Capone, "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert Stroud, the "Birdman of Alcatraz."
San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a stunning looker and even more fun to travel across. The center is over 200 feet above the water and the bridge's towers rise almost 300 feet above the water. At Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay offers a glimpse of the world beneath the bay. A conveyer belt takes you on a ride under the bay through a network of glass tubes while sharks circle, manta rays flutter by and schools of fish swim all around.
Nature meets science at the Golden Gate Park, an urban refuge approximately half a mile by 4 miles long, and home to majestic bison, impressive museums, a whimsical carousel and windmills. The park's numerous attractions include the grand greenhouse of the Conservatory of Flowers, the modernist MH de Young Museum and the California Academy of Sciences, which showcases the region's natural treasures and history, including 38,000 types of fish, an albino alligator, an earthquake exhibit and much more.
San Francisco enjoys some of the best shopping in the world, possessing a variety of unique shopping centers, districts and malls. Among them are Union Square, Hayes Valley, upper Fillmore, the Mission, Sacramento Street, Chinatown and San Fran's downtown shopping district. Fisherman's Wharf plays host to classic seafood restaurants and souvenir shops in the historic heart of the city's fishing community. And nearby Ghirardelli Square and The Cannery are bustling centers of food, shopping and entertainment.
Local Culture and Flavor
"Frisco" has a population of almost 800,000, but is the center of a metropolitan area of millions. Centerpiece of the "bay area," San Francisco is just one of the cities which comprise the entire vicinity. San Francisco's reputation for world-class arts, unrivaled attractions and colorful neighborhoods are alive, strong and fueled by a rich diversity of ethnicities, cultures and sub-cultures that energize the city.
The delicacies San Francisco is known for include excellent seafood, such as Dungeness crab, abalone and bay shrimp. On the sweeter side, Ghirardelli chocolates attract millions of tourists to Ghirardelli Square each year. And one cannot miss experiencing the smell of fresh sourdough bread wafting through the air by the Wharf. But that just skims the surface. Beyond the tourist areas lie many gems of the culinary world, tucked away in San Francisco's various districts. This wealth of attractions, experiences and eateries reflect the city's great ethnic and cultural diversity, as well as vibrant artistic and gay communities.
Past and Present
The original inhabitants of the peninsula now known as San Francisco were the native Americans of the Yelamu tribe. The first European settlers were the Spanish in 1776 that established the Mission San Francisco de Asís, in what is known today as the Mission District.
Upon independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, private ownership of land became possible. In 1835, an Englishman named William Richardson founded the town of Yerba Buena and developed a street plan that helped grow the town. In 1846, the U.S. claimed California and the Navy raised the American flag above Yerba Buena. Following the Mexican-American War, California officially became part of the U.S. and Yerba Buena became San Francisco.
San Francisco experienced a population explosion with the California Gold Rush of 1848. The rapid growth and poor infrastructure led to a cholera outbreak in 1855. In 1906, an earthquake and resulting fire leveled most of the city. It was rebuilt, and 9 years later, the new and improved City by the Bay hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition. The 1930s brought more development, with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge and the infamous prison on Alcatraz Island, which housed some of the most notorious criminals of the time. In the 60s, San Francisco became the center of the hippy counterculture, as well as a hub for gay pride. And in the yuppie 90s, San Francisco experienced a dot-com boom and bust.
Today, San Francisco is thriving as both tourist destination and major metropolitan business center. Tourism is a driving force of San Francisco's economy and the City by the Bay remains one of the country's—and the world's—favorite American cities.
Fun Facts & Tips
San Francisco has playgrounds with stunning views of the city, such as Walter Haas Playground in Diamond Heights.
In Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller, Vertigo, the Golden Gate Bridge had a star performance alongside Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.