It's one of the most diverse and historically-rich cities in the whole country, and that's part of the reason San Francisco vacations are a great bet for solo travelers, couples, and families. With dozens and dozens of attractions and things to do and sights to see, it's easy to pack a full calendar with fun adventures in this city.
And, if you want a more laid-back time to take things slowly, San Francisco is also home to dozens of parks and waterfront restaurants where you can pass a lazy afternoon in the sun. We love it here, and you will too! You'll find lots of suggestions for things to do in our other articles, but here let's look at five of the many reasons why San Francisco vacations are great ideas.
San Francisco is essentially a collection of diverse neighborhoods, each with its own characteristics that make it worth a visit on your San Francisco vacation. From the posh enclave of Nob Hill to the relaxed counterculture of the Haight-Ashbury to the ethnic Asians centers of Chinatown and Japantown you pass through a wide range of ambiances just going from one neighborhood to the next in San Francisco.
To guide you through the San Francisco's diversity, we've created a 22-part guide to the neighborhoods of the city. That's right, it took 22 parts to even start to describe the variety!
Not only are the neighborhoods diverse, San Franciscans are as well. In fact, it is one of the most diverse cities in the whole world. This city is truly a melting pot of cultures, ethnic groups, languages, and, most importantly, food. San Francisco is a majority-minority city, which means there are more people of color here than white people.
Going from neighborhood to neighborhood you feel like you're entering a new country every few blocks. The Chinese community in Chinatown is the largest in the world outside of Asia. All your favorite American-style Chinese foods such as chop suey got their start in this neighborhood.
You'll find a large population of Mexican heritage in the Mission. Rumour has it that the Mexican food in the Mission is some of the best you can find anywhere, and a couple of sumptuous burritos can make San Francisco vacations feel like the best traveling you've ever done. (Notice how we always seem to get back to the theme of great food?)
In every culture and every district, the people of San Francisco are friendly and open to introducing and sharing their cultures with curious visitors.
San Francisco is home to something like fifty hills that rise above the city, providing marvelous panoramic views. Climb to the top of Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill or take the steps up Russian Hill to find unparalleled vistas of the city, the bay, and the mountains beyond.
The city itself is pretty darn nice to look at, but the real clinchers are the views of San Francisco Bay with the fog rolling in on the Golden Gate Bridge — those postcard-ready experiences you want to see on San Francisco vacations.
Pack up your wicker basket and picnic blanket and head to Dolores Park for a lunch worth remembering and a view of the city you'll never forget. By the way, we always recommend packing walking shoes for your San Francisco vacation because, to get to all these stunning views, you'll have to do some stair climbing. If the walk doesn't take your breath away, the views sure will.
One of the first major American cities in the US west, San Francisco is full of history. When gold was found in 1849, thousands of adventurers left their homes behind to come mining in the mountains around Northern California. These men wanted to get rich quick. To cater to their needs, cities quickly sprang up around them. The creator of blue jeans, Levi Strauss, who made jeans to meet the demands of these miners, still has corporate headquarters in San Francisco. As a visitor, you'll probably want to visit a couple of the numerous museums and historic sites important to the Gold Rush era of San Francisco history.
The 1800s also saw a huge influx of Chinese laborers come through the Angel Island immigration station. These are the workers who built the Transcontinental Railway System, enduring the dangerous work of laying railway track through treacherous mountain passes. These Chinese immigrants also established the first and largest Chinatown in America. Visiting Chinatown nowadays still give you a real sense of the long history of this community (and don't forget to try some of the best Chinese food in the world).
During World War II, San Francisco became a strategic port and naval base for ships fighting in the Pacific Theatre. Scattered around San Francisco you can find memorials to the fallen soldiers and those veterans who lived to tell the tale. Likewise, you can visit old forts where you step into the shoes of military servicemen to see what it was like. In the harbor, you can also go aboard ships that were used to fight the Japanese. There's even a real submarine that you can tour where you can get a sense of the close quarters.
San Francisco is ground zero for hippie counterculture, the LGBT community, and Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs. This melange of cultures makes San Francisco one very interesting city.
It was in 1967 that hippies flocked to the Haight-Ashbury for the Summer of Love, where some of the generation's most compelling artists, musicians, and poets created an enduring testament to peace and love. With flowers in their hair and free love on their minds, these hippies burst forth an alternative vision to the Vietnam War and, along with it, rights for women, minorities, and gays. In this neighborhood, you can still find people wearing tie-dye t-shirts and kicking hacky-sacks around. The spirit of the Summer of Love is alive and well in San Francisco.
For the past 70 years, San Francisco has also been a safe haven for the LGBT community. Long before it was acceptable to be gay, neighborhoods like the Castro were home to artists and activists. Think of Harvey Milk, who have fought for rights for the community for decades. In these neighborhoods you still find places that proudly fly the rainbow flag and are open and welcoming to everyone.
The near proximity of Silicon Valley in the Bay Area has also made San Francisco a hub for entrepreneurship and technological innovation. Many aspiring start-up founders flock to San Francisco to secure venture capital funding hoping to become the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. This tech-savvy ethos has infused itself into everything in a city where there's even an app to help you find street parking.
All-in-all San Francisco vacations are a surefire way to please everyone, and you'll realize that one visit surely isn't enough to take in all the wonderful things this city has to offer.
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