San Francisco, CA
||Tropical... warm! Warmer than home!
"You could live in San Francisco a month and ask no greater entertainment than walking through it," wrote Inez Hayes Irwin, the author of The Californiacs, an effusive 1921 homage to the state of California and the City by the Bay. Her claim remains true today: touring on foot is the best way to experience this diverse metropolis.
San Francisco is a relatively small city. About 750,000 residents live on a 46.6-square-mi tip of land between San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. San Franciscans cherish the city's colorful past; many older buildings have been spared from demolition and nostalgically converted into modern offices and shops. Longtime locals rue the sites that got away -- railroad and mining boom-era residences lost in the 1906 earthquake, the baroque Fox Theater, and Playland at the Beach. Despite acts of God, the indifference of developers, and the mixed record of the city's planning commission, much of the architectural and historical interest remains.
San Francisco's charms are great and small. You wouldn't want to miss Golden Gate Park, the Palace of Fine Arts, the Golden Gate Bridge, or a cable-car ride over Nob Hill. But a walk down the Filbert Steps or through Macondray Lane or a peaceful hour spent gazing east from Ina Coolbrith Park can be equally inspiring.
The neighborhoods of San Francisco retain strong cultural, political, and ethnic identities. Locals know this pluralism is the real life of the city. Experiencing San Francisco means visiting the neighborhoods: the colorful Mission District, the gay Castro, countercultural Haight Street, swank Pacific Heights, lively Chinatown, ever bohemian North Beach, and arts- and news media-oriented SoMa, among others.