San Francisco is one of those incredible destinations that is loaded with activities for a variety of interests, activity levels and personality types. This is why it’s a perfect city to escape to for a weekend. You can pick and choose and fill a weekend with one specific activity that you love, or you can mix and match activities and taste a little bit of everything that San Francisco has to offer.
San Francisco is known the world over for a few of its historic landmarks, Alcatraz Island is one of those famed locations. Originally home to the first lighthouse and U.S. fort on the west coast it gained its notoriety for the notorious men who lived on the island. Alcatraz served as home to some of the most famous and infamous criminals in U.S. history. Affectionately known as The Rock, it was first transformed into a prison during its service as a military base, Civil War prisoners were held on the island and then Spanish-American war prisoners also served time on Alcatraz. During the 1906 earthquake civilian prisoners were transferred for their protection and soon the prison expanded. Some of the more noted inmates were Al Capone, the noted Birdman of Alcatraz, James “Whitey” Bulger and Alvin Karpis. In addition to the prison tours you can learn about Indians of All Tribes who twice “liberated” the island in an effort to establish tribal rights in the United States. But beyond all of the struggle and terror on the island there is an incredible beauty to this island with the natural rock gardens, tide pools and the bird colonies.
The Golden Gate Bridge is another one of those noted landmarks. Known as one of the most beautiful suspension bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge spans the opening of the San Francisco Bay onto the Pacific Ocean. The 1.7 miles draw an estimated 9 million people annually and visitors can either drive, bike, or walk across the famed span. Construction on the bridge began in 1933 under the supervision of Joseph Strauss. Strauss had been working on the bridge, at least conceptually, since 1916. The bridge was finished in 1937 with an opening ceremony that lasted for an entire week. On an entirely different note, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular place to commit suicide in the United States and one of the most popular in the world. No accurate number of suicides is reported as many of these events aren’t witnessed but it 2005 it was estimated that there was one suicide or attempt every two weeks.
The Bridge is not the only way to enjoy the bay and it should really take center stage during your weekend in San Francisco. The Aquarium of the Bay is a wonderful way to learn more about the bay and the life within it. It is a 65,000 square foot facility with acrylic tunnels that wind through 700,000 gallons of Bay water. Visitors get to experience more than 20,000 aquatic animals including sharks, bat rays, skates, octopus, jelly fish and many more. The Aquarium of the Bay is organized into three different environments, Discover the Bay, Under the Bay and Touch the Bay. At Discover the Bay you are introduced to the environment and the marine life that is most prevalent in the region. Under the Bay takes you beneath the bay to a unique view of life above the tunnels. Touch the Bay is an interactive lab with local and exotic land animals.
Another way to take in the beautiful coastline is by visiting Fisherman’s Wharf. Fisherman’s Wharf is one of the most popular tourist attractions in San Francisco and Pier 39 is probably its most popular destination. But the wharf is a lot more than just a wharf, it features a number of exciting attractions including Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Musee Mecanique, the Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, Forbes Island and a number of stores, restaurants and excitement for everyone. A streetcar runs through the area and two of the cable cars run close so you can combine this visit with a trip to the cable car barn. No matter what you do, make sure you stop to have some fresh seafood at the wharf, it’s some of the best in the world because it’s so remarkably fresh.
Think of San Francisco and images of cable cars winding up and down steep grades comes to mind. Taking a ride on a cable car is almost a must when visiting San Francisco but you can take the experience to another level and learn more about San Francisco’s cable cars with a visit to the Cable Car Barn. The first cable car started in 1873 and rose in popularity until 1892 when the first electric streetcars started running. The earthquake of 1906 contributed to the downfall of the cable car and by 1944 only two lines existed. A few groups worked to restore and maintain the remaining lines and by 1984 several lines were running and restored. Now the cable cars serve mainly as a tourist experiences but some locals still use them in their regular commute. The Cable Car Barn lets you view an actual cable winding and watch the path as it enters the building and leaves underneath the street. The museum houses many great artifacts, including the first cable car from 1873.
San Francisco is pretty well known for its historic and natural attractions but the city has also garnered quite a reputation for its food as well. Way beyond Rice-a-Roni, the city has truly become a foodie destination with incredible food at almost every turn. From a fresh-from-the-sea simple fish sandwich or a bowl of chowder at a food stand to a five star Michelin rated restaurant, it can all be found in San Francisco. No matter what you have a hankering for you will find it in spades in San Francisco.
Photo credit: Maschinenraum