To some, San Francisco is the quintessential American city, and most first-time visitors discover a similar feeling upon leaving. The tumultuous roller coaster of the city’s history, tied in closely with the history of the United States, has created a mecca of modernism and tradition, revolution and reaction, sassy style and sophistication.
San Francisco began as the Spanish colony of Yerba Buena, followed soon thereafter by the California Gold Rush, which exploded the city’s population nearly 25-fold within a year. An earthquake followed by the Great Fire nearly destroyed the entire city in 1906. Since San Francisco’s early city hood it has been a mosaic melting pot of Chinese, Japanese and Italian immigrants (to name a few), many of whom were held at Angel Island, the West’s own Ellis Island equivalent. Today you can catch a ferry out to the historic island which is now a beautiful park suited for most outdoor recreation including cycling and jogging.
It’s Got That Groovy Feeling
San Francisco has been a bastion of social movements and progressive thinkers over the last century. Although it may not be the Summer of Love anymore, this city is still a product of its Hippie parents, civil rights protests and beatnik artist generation – as well as the dot-com boom and burst that came in the late 90s.
The Critical Mass ride on the last Friday of each month is true to form for San Francisco. Hundreds of bicyclists gather and ride a route through the city streets to a predetermined destination to claim their rights to the streets (make sure you are not driving that day!). A walk through The Castro, the predominantly gay and artsy neighborhood, is also a must do. You will find exquisite boutique stores, antique book shops and some excellent independent movie theaters.
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