There’s something in the air in San Francisco that makes this great Californian city on the bay one of the world’s great vacation destinations. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but maybe it’s that incredible sense of history, spanning the Gold Rush, the huge wealth that poured in, the devastating earthquake of 1906, and the 1960s rebirth of the city as the center for all things rock and hippie.
Perhaps it’s the aroma of delicious food (cuisines from all over the world) being cooked in the varied restaurants and cafés at Fisherman’s Wharf, the city’s historic fishing district, or even the eerie dampness of the fog that creeps over the Golden Gate Bridge. I guess it’s the way the city comes alive every day and night with a vibe that nods to its rock ’n’ roll days but with a high-tech twist that acknowledges its debt to Silicon Valley and fuels a pulsating nightlife and cultural offerings.
Exploring the Exploratorium
I managed to take some time to visit the Exploratorium, newly moved to Pier 15 on the waterfront and three times bigger than its previous home. This mega-science museum is packed with interactive displays, ideal for family visits, and it’s worth visiting the Bay Observatory there for spectacular views of the bay and the city.
Coasting on cable cars
San Francisco’s transport system is awesome, with historic streetcars mixing with electric trolley coaches and more standard vehicles. The crowning glory is its cable cars, running up and over Nob Hill and Russian Hill, and laying the whole city out below for the passengers.
Music and museums
Catching up with international art in the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park gave me the chance to see the iconic bridge at close quarters, rounded off with a concert by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the stunning Davies Symphony Hall in the city’s Civic Center area. San Francisco is teeming with live music venues and it is easy to find a flavor of the city’s links with its rock and roll past.
San Francisco hotels range from the ultimate in luxury to comfortable guesthouses and family accommodations, but step outside at night and a whole new world opens up to you.
I like to eat first and be entertained later, but there’s plenty of choice to do both at the same time. Check out the Golden Gate Park area for some jazz and blues or hit the dance floor after dining at a French brasserie, an American bar or a Japanese sushi restaurant.
North Beach and Chinatown host a cluster of historic bars that were once hangouts for intellectuals and celebrities, including the famous Beat Poets, but for serious dance floor action head for the SOMA neighborhood where hip-hop clubs rub shoulders with chilled-out art lounges and frenetic electronic music can be found on every street. Many of the clubs have restaurants and all, of course, have bars.
The Marina area is upscale and trendy, whereas the North Beach is packed with hideaway bars and noisy clubs, open until the small hours.
There’s so much to see and do in San Francisco that it needs more than one trip to explore its sights, museums, galleries, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. I’ll be back!
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Aimee is an enthusiastic, well educated freelance writer with a passion for travel. She is fascinated with exploring new countries, and is always dreaming of the next destination to visit.
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