Birthdays, anniversaries and parties are always a great excuse to hop on a plane. This year, use the Golden Gate’s 75th as an excuse to visit San Francisco!
San Francisco has always played a big role in US culture: It witnessed the birth of the hippie movement with flower children protesting the war and Joni Mitchell singing songs about freedom; Harvey Milk was elected the first openly gay man in public office, playing a pivotal role in the gay rights movement; and its sloped streets were the backdrop for the family classic Full House, which ran for 8 successful years. San Francisco was at the centre of it all.
Things to do
Check out the bridge – On May 27th the Golden Gate Bridge will turn 75 years old. Considered the longest suspension bridge at the time of completion, the orangey-red structure is the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco.
The writing is on the wall – The Mission District murals are one of the best free attractions San Francisco has on offer. Prompted by the Chicano Art Mural Movement of the 70s, the images were originally inspired by Mexican painter, Diego Rivera. Head to the Balmy alley where the most concentrated collection of murals is and then check out Clarion alley to get a peek at newer additions.
For more information, visit: www.sanfrancisco.travel/neighborhood/mission-district/
Get behind the bars – Still drawing in the crowds, Alcatraz has inspired numerous books, movies and even a hit TV series that launched in early 2012 about the prisoners and guards that allegedly disappeared when Alcatraz was shut in 1963. The small island prison is visited by thousands of tourists each year, who are intrigued by famous inmates like Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Alvin “Creepy Karpis” Karpowicz and a slew of bank robbers, bootleggers, mobsters and gamblers.
Consider participating in the “Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon” on June 10th with a 1.5 mile swim through frigid waters from Alcatraz Island to shore, a grueling 18-mile bike race, and a demanding 8-mile run through the rugged trails of Golden Gate Recreation Area.
More information can be found at: www.escapefromalcatraztriathlon.com
Places to eat
Japantown – Everyone knows Chinatown is great, but for a different spin on Asian cuisine, head to Japantown. Compressed into six city blocks, Japantown (or “Little Osaka”, “Funayville”, “J Town”) is the largest enclave of its kind in the US. Enjoy sushi, sashimi, izakaya, udon, ramen, shabu shabu and Japanese-style pizza.
For more information, visit: www.sfjapantown.org
Fisherman’s Wharf – Spread out along the northern waterfront, this popular tourist destination has tons to offer. After you’ve checked out Pier 39, the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, the Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, the Wax Museum, the USS Pampanito and the Balclutha, head to one of the many seafood restaurants serving Dungeness crab, lobster and the award-winning clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl.
For more information, visit: www.fishermanswharf.org
Ferry Building – Technically a terminal for ferries travelling across the San Francisco Bay, the picturesque 1892 Beaux Arts-inspired building also contains a marketplace with shops and restaurants. Sample small dishes from the cafes and eateries or plan your trip for Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday to take advantage of The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
For more information, visit: www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.com
Places to sleep
Hotel Diva ($)
Located across from the American Conservatory Theater and the Redwood Room (designed by famous architect, Philippe Starck), this popular hotel screens film clips of famous divas in the swanky lobby.
440 Geary Boulevard, 415-885-0200, www.hoteldiva.com
Sir Francis Drake Hotel ($$)
A costumed doorman, extravagant lobby with marble floors, gold leaf ceiling and crystal chandelliers make this charming hotel a fun place to rest your feet.
450 Powell Street at Sutter, 415-392-7755, www.sirfrancisdrake.com