San Francisco California

By Kamyar Shah

San Francisco, California is also known as "The City by the Bay". The City and County of San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the fourteenth most populous city in the U.S., with an estimated populated of 744,041 as of 2006. The city is most well-known for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture, and its peninsular location.

Famous landmarks include the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, the cable cars, Coit Tower and Chinatown. Fisherman's Wharf is also a must-see for tourists and a favorite place for residents.

The city is also infamous for the major earthquake on the morning of April 19, 1906 that ruptured gas lines and ignited fires that destroyed over three-quarters if the city. More than 200,000 people were left homeless and settled into temporary tent villages in Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, on the beaches, or elsewhere. When it was time to rebuild, the destroyed mansions of Nob Hill became grand hotels, City Hall rose again and the city celebrated is rebirth in 1915 at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

The San Andreas and Hayward Faults are responsible for much earthquake activity, although neither passes directly through the city itself.

San Francisco's peninsular geography makes the city unique. San Francisco, California is located on the west coast of the U.S. at the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. It includes significant stretches of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Several islands are also part of the city including, Alcatraz, Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. The uninhabited Farallon Islands are also included in the city and are 27 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean.

San Francisco is famous for hills, with more than 50 just within the city limits. Some of these illustrious hills include Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Potrero Hill and Telegraph Hill. Mount Sutro is the site of Sutro Tower, a large red and white television transmission tower. Twin Peaks is a pair of hills resting at one of the highest points in the city and is a popular spot for tour groups. The city's tallest hill, Mount Davidson, is 925 feet high and is capped with a 103 feet tall cross.

Entire neighborhoods such as Marina and Hunters Point and sections of Embarcadero sit on areas of landfill because the city has outgrown its natural limits. Treasure Island was constructed from material dredged from the bay as well as material resulting from tunneling through Yerba Island during the building of the Bay Bridge.

The historic center of San Francisco is home to the Financial District, with Union Square, the principal shopping and hotel district nearby.

Union Square is home to some of the finest department stores including Macy's, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale's. Nordstrom's is just off the square on Market. Fine designers such as Christian Dior, Gucci, Kate Spade, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Ralph Lauren and Versace can be found at Union Square. Other popular clothing stores are Banana Republic, Bebe, Diesel USA, Guess?, Gap, Victoria's Secret, Levi's Flagship Store, Urban Outfitters, Nine West, Cole-Haan, Johnston & Murphy, Loehman's and DSW. Jewelry stores at Union Square include Tiffany & Co., Bulgari, Cartier, Swatch and Simayof.

The city is a gracious host to tourist, offering charming bed and breakfasts as well as hotels. Bed and breakfasts in the city include The Inn San Francisco, Red Victorian B&B, Chateau Tivoli, Victorian Inn On the Park, Archbishop's Mansion, Albion House Inn, Bocks B&B, Golden Gate Hotel, Hayes Valley In, Jackson Court, The Mansions and more. Area hotels include Nob Hill Motor Inn, Comfort Inn by the Bay, Castle Inn Motel, Heritage Marina Hotel, Carriage Inn, Hotel Britton and Hotel Americania. Luxury hotel suites are widely available at Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, Mandarin Oriental, Palace Hotel, Argent Hotel, Hilton, Hotel Vitale, Pan Pacific, Grand Hyatt, Prescott, Sir Francis Drake, Galleria Park, Stanford Court, The Omni Hotel, Hotel Monaco, El Drisco, Hotel Griffon, Hotel Nikko and Huntington, to name a few.

The San Francisco night life has something that appeals to everyone with its many clubs and bars including 1751 Social Club, Velvet Lounge, Brunos, The End Up, The Fillmore, Café Du Nord, Ashkenaz, New Wave City, Toronado, Bottom of the Hill, Bimbo's 365 Club, Elbo Room, Sweetwater and Ruby Sky.

The beauty of San Francisco is appreciated in its many parks. The Golden Gate Park, stretches from the center of the city to the Pacific Ocean. The park is planted with thousands of non-native trees and plants and is rich with attractions including the Conservatory of Flowers, the Japanese Tea Garden and Strybing Arboretum. The Presidio and Crissy Field are part of the Golde Gate National Recreation Area, which includes Alcatraz. Buena Vista Park is the city's oldest park, established in 1867. Lake Merced is a freshwater lake surrounded by parkland.

San Francisco is characterized by a high standard of living. Property value and household income have escalated to be among the highest in the nation, allowing the city to support a large restaurant and entertainment infrastructure.

Reflecting San Francisco's high-class economy, luxury dining graces the streets of the city. Some of the city's fine dining includes Park Chow, Universal Café, Restaurant Gary Danko, The Blue Plate, Luna Park, The Last Supper Club, Restaurant Lulu, Limon Restaurant and Levende Lounge. Favorit Italian restaurants in the city include Rose Pistola, Little City, Buca Giovanni, The Stinking Rose, Il Fornaio, Café Macaroni and more. The city spices things up a bit with favorite Mexican restaurants such as La Cumbre, La Rondalla, Chevy's, Left at Albuquerque, Café Marimba and Taqueria El Toro. Streetside and waterfront cafes are the perfect place to sit for a while, some of which are Union Square Café, Muddy's, Café Francisco's and Starbucks.

Boasting the best Asian food in the country, San Francisco has authentic Japanese, Thai, Korean and Chinese restaurants. Some favorite Thai restaurants are Khan Toke Thai House, Bethelnut and Zao. Chinese restaurants include R&G Lounge and Hong Kong Flower Lounge. Korean cuisine can be enjoyed at The Slanted Door or Ace Wasabi's. Other restaurants include The Golden Dragon, Golden Mountain, Naan and Curry, Maharani Restaurant and Angkor Wat.

San Francisco's entertainment allures tourists and caters to the city's residents. The War Memorial and Performing Arts Center features some of the longest performing arts companies in the U.S. The War Memorial Opera House houses the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet. The Davies Symphony Hall is home to the San Francisco Symphony. The Herbst Theatre stages a mix of musical performances and public radio's City Arts & Lectures. The Fillmore is a popular music venue and has fostered the San Francisco Sound with artists such as the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane.

The American Conservatory Theater routinely stages original productions. The city also frequently hosts touring Broadway productions in a number of vintage venues in the Theater District including Curran, Orpheum and Golden Gate Theatres.

San Francisco celebrates history and art in the Museum of Modern Art, the Palace of the Legion of Honor, the De Young Museum, the Asian Art Museum. The Palace of Fine Arts today houses the Exploratorium, a popular science museum dedicated to teaching through hands-on interaction. The California Academy of Sciences is a natural history museum and hosts the Morrison Planetarium and Steinhart Aquarium. The San Francisco Zoo cared for roughly 250 animal species, 39 of which have been deemed endangered or threatened.

Tourism is the backbone of the San Francisco economy. Its frequent portrayal in music, film and popular culture has made the city and its landmarks recognizable worldwide. San Francisco attracts the fifth highest number of foreign tourists of any city in the United States and claims Pier 39 near Fisherman's Wharf to be the third-most popular tourist attraction in the nation.

San Francisco is also the principal banking and finance center of the west coast. Known as the "Wall Street of the West", Montgomery Street is home to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. The Wells Fargo corporate headquarters and the site of the former Pacific Stock Exchange are all held there. Bank of America was also founded in San Francisco. San Francisco is a Beta World City, with over thirty international financial institutions, six Fortune 500 companies and services including law, public relations, architecture and graphic design.

Small businesses make up 85 percent of the city's establishments. The penetration of national big box retail chains into the city has been slow. The Small Business Commission supports a publicity campaign to keep a larger share of retail dollars in the local economy in an effort to buoy small privately owned businesses in San Francisco.