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Things to do in San Francisco

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Pier 39
Pier 39 is located on the San Francisco waterfront near the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the city and is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to California. The pier is home to many great restaurants offering local seafood as well as other cuisines. If shopping is your thing you will find 90+ stores offering everything from souvenirs to sports memorabilia. Pier 39 is also where you can find fun and exciting attractions such as the Aquarium of the Bay and the 7D experience. If you walk to the end of Pier 39 and visit K-Dock you will find the world famous sea lions who have made the pontoons their home. The sealions first appeared after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and began taking over the piers on the Pier 39 marina, much to the annoyance of the marina tenants. After numerous attempts to shoo them away they eventually had to give up and the numbers grew and grew reaching a peak of over 1500 in 2009. Today they have become one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco and have their own area of Pier 39. While there why not pay a visit to the Marine Mammal Center just upstairs from the viewing area where you can learn more about the sea lions and pick up some sea lion related souvenirs.
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Golden Gate Bridge
Once called "the bridge that couldn't be built," today it is one the seven wonders of the modern world. This magnificent span, perhaps San Francisco's most famous landmark, opened in 1937 after a four-year struggle against relentless winds, fog, rock and treacherous tides. Crossing the strait of the Golden Gate from San Francisco's Presidio to the Marin headlands for 1.7 miles is the world-renowned Golden Gate Bridge, easily identified by its International Orange color. Opened in 1937, the bridge was built at a cost of $35 million in principal and $39 million in interest and 11 workers’ lives. The single-suspension span is anchored by twin towers that reach skyward 746 feet, and was once taller than any building in San Francisco. To support the suspended roadway, two cables, each more than 7,000 feet in length and both containing 80,000 miles of wire stretch over the top of the towers and are rooted in concrete anchorages on shore. More than 10 years in planning due to formidable opposition, but only four years in actual construction, the Golden Gate Bridge brought the communities of San Francisco and Marin counties closer together.
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Alcatraz Island
Alcatraz reveals stories of American incarceration, justice, and our common humanity. This small island was once a fort, a military prison, and a maximum security federal penitentiary. In 1969, the Indians of All Tribes occupied Alcatraz for 19 months in the name of freedom and Native American civil rights. We invite you to explore Alcatraz's complex history and natural beauty. In 1969, a group of Native American activists calling themselves the Indians of All Tribes arrived on Alcatraz Island. They spoke out against the U.S. Government's Termination Policy and the broader plight of Native Americans. Golden Gate National Recreation Area commemorates this moment in history, with 19 months of special events and an exhibition: Red Power on Alcatraz, Perspectives 50 Years Later.
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Fisherman's Wharf
As San Francisco’s most popular visitor destination, Fisherman’s Wharf offers a wide range of land, sea, and air activities. A food lover's haven, Fisherman's Wharf boasts some of the best dining in the world. Salivate over fresh Dungeness crab served steaming hot at outdoor stands or in a variety of gourmet recipes at the Wharf’s many seafood restaurants. The Wharf's eclectic mix of international cuisine is sure to make a hit with your taste buds.
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Golden Gate Park
Golden Gate Park is the third most visited park in the United States. While the park is free to visit during the day, popular attractions charge admission, such as deYoung Museum, California Academy of Sciences and Conservatory of Flowers. The park is filled with gardens, museums, art, flowers, trees, lakes, birds and wildlife. There are also plenty of opportunities to participate in sports, clubs and other activities. Browse the site for information on parking, maps, weddings, hotels, permits, making reservations, transportation, contact numbers, and the history of Golden Gate Park.
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Baker Beach
Baker Beach is a large popular beach not far from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. On sunny weekends both parking lots could be full and all the spaces along the entrance roads too. This popular spot is one of the many beaches in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Just north of the main parking lot is the Battery Chamberlin, a large historic military gun installation that was built in 1904. It is worth checking out especially if you have kids. Be aware as you explore the north end of Baker Beach because North Baker Beach is a clothing-optional area. All of Baker Beach is an unsafe swimming area because of cold water and frequent rip currents in the surf.
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China Beach
China Beach is a great little local beach in San Francisco. The China Beach Cove is protected by rock walls on both sides creating a protected area that once was a camp for Chinese fishermen, hence the name. China Beach faces north toward the Marin Headlands and has a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge too. It’s not a large beach so when the tide is up and the summer sun is out, it can be hard to find a spot that is dry and isn’t already taken. At low tide there are tide pools to discover. Like all the beaches in this area, China Beach is part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Swimming isn’t safe at China Beach for many reasons including the lack of lifeguards. The area just south of the cove is called Lands End and has many hiking trails to explore.
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San Francisco Cable Cars
Cable cars are a historic symbol recognized around the globe and offer real working transportation up the steep hills of San Francisco. The cable cars begin their runs at 6 a.m. and continue until midnight. From Union Square to the crest of Nob Hill, cable cars offer a thrilling way to move with the City. A ride on San Francisco’s cable cars may be the most iconic and memorable of your entire trip to California. Even people who might dismiss cable cars as a cheesy tourist attraction will admit that there is something incredibly romantic about these rides.
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San Francisco City Hall
The City Hall you see today took two years to build. Steel, granite, and four floors of white marble interiors make up San Francisco's symbol of resilience, built after the previous City Hall was destroyed in the Great Earthquake and Fire of April 18, 1906. Civic leaders were determined to demonstrate the city's rebirth in time for the start of the World's Fair of 1915. Designed by architect Arthur Brown, Jr. and begun in 1913, natives and the world were suitably awed by the gilt exterior detailing, the sweeping grand staircase, and the massive dome. At 307 feet in height, the dome is a full 42 feet taller than the dome of the nation's capital. During the past century, the building has seen major political upheavals and demographic shifts in the makeup of its legislators. City Hall is often a focus of drama: the tragic assassinations of 1979; and jubilation when same-sex marriages were first performed in 2004. Once the repository of records and a site for smaller courts, current debates and decisions about labor, land use, and public policy issues take place inside on a regular basis. City Hall has been a location for movies from Dirty Harry and Indiana Jones to Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
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Aquatic Park Cove
Aquatic Park Cove has a narrow sandy beach and a grass park at the end of the Hyde Street Cable Car line on the San Francisco Waterfront. The cove is located at the north end of Hyde Street and Van Ness Avenue near Fisherman’s Wharf. Boats are allowed to anchor in the protected harbor in the cove. It is protected by a long curved municipal pier that should not be missed if you have time to walk out on it. The view from the pier includes the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island, and the San Francisco skyline. Nearby Hyde Street Pier has historic ships to see as well. The Marine Museum sits at the center of Aquatic Park Cove near the beach. Behind that is Ghirardelli Square. Aquatic Park Cove is part of San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, a district within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The large park at Fort Mason is a short walk away up the trail to the west.
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Muir Woods
Walk among old growth coast redwoods, cooling their roots in the freshwater of Redwood Creek and lifting their crowns to reach the sun and fog. Federally protected as a National Monument since 1908, this primeval forest is both refuge and laboratory, revealing our relationship with the living landscape. Muir Woods National Monument is world renowned for its old-growth coastal redwoods, attracting over one million visitors each year. With the park’s popularity come pressures on a fragile ecosystem representing more than 380 different plants and animals. The incredible diversity of flora and fauna at Muir Woods can be daunting sometimes, elusive at other times. The redwoods themselves dominate the scene, but the Steller's jay often steals the show. Ladybugs clustering by the thousands on ancient horsetail ferns boggle the imagination, while the slimy banana slug is able to disgust and fascinate all at once. Plants adapt to low light levels on the forest floor, while whole plant and animal communities bustle in the canopy above our heads.
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Lombard Street
Lombard Street in San Francisco is often called the most crooked street in the world. Actually, it's the second crookedest, but San Francisco has the number one street as well! The pretty, postcard view of Lombard Street has become famous worldwide and many visitors enjoy seeing the cars carefully winding down the turns among the beautiful flower beds.
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Chinatown
San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest one in North America and covers 24 city blocks. This neighborhood is one of the most popular attractions in San Francisco, and for good reason. It's easy to spend a day here, exploring the streets and alleys, browsing the shops and enjoying the authentic Chinese food. More people visit Chinatown than the Golden Gate Bridge!
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Japanese Tea Garden
Come and relax in the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco. It is a popular tourist attraction, but it's still a peaceful and lovely place to wander.
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Ocean Beach
Ocean Beach is the grand-daddy of San Francisco beaches, stretching out for three miles along the entire western edge of San Francisco. This wide, flat expanse of sand is the best beach for long walks or a run. It's also the most popular, which means lots of people on our warm, sunny days. This is a great surfing beach, and dogs can be off-leash in certain parts.
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Crissy Field East Beach
Just inside the Golden Gate, Crissy Field has a wide, sandy beach with a pretty view of the bridge and Alcatraz. It's a short, 10 minute walk from Fisherman's Wharf. Of the San Francisco beaches, this one's the most popular with windsurfers.
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Japantown
San Francisco's Japantown is a fun place to explore, but not that many visitors go there. Three indoor malls, and a pedestrian-only block, are lined with a fascinating variety of authentic Japanese shops and restaurants.
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Twin Peaks
Want a spectacular 360 degree view of San Francisco? Head for the top of Twin Peaks, San Francisco. These two hills rise almost 1000 feet above the City and sit just about in its geographical center.
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Fort Funston Beach
Another San Francisco beach located near an old fort. Fort Funston a rugged beach with crashing surf at the bottom of 200 foot cliffs, just south of Ocean Beach. Very popular with dogs, as well. When the winds are blowing, you'll see hang gliders soaring from the cliff tops.
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Mile Rock Beach
At the western tip of San Francisco, jutting out into ocean, is Lands End: a nature park of steep cliffs with beautiful views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands. It has a small, rocky beach, called Mile Rock Beach, accessible from the Coastal Trail. Wonderful beach to walk to.
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San Francisco Botanical Garden
Welcome to San Francisco Botanical Garden, a living museum within Golden Gate Park, offering 55 acres of both landscaped gardens and open spaces, showcasing over 8,000 different kinds of plants from around the world.
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SFMOMA
SFMOMA is dedicated to making the art for our time a vital and meaningful part of public life. For that reason we assemble unparalleled collections, create exhilarating exhibitions, and develop engaging public programs.
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