Situated against the vast Pacific Ocean, San Francisco is one of the most well-known cities in the U.S. Established during the country's fast-and-loose frontier expansion during the 19th century, and since its foundation has built itself into a bustling urban metropolis. A veritable cultural capital of the Western U.S., San Francisco is home to a thriving cultural scene, iconic architecture and an overall city-wide aesthetic that is truly unique. The City by the Bay is definitely worth a visit, whether you seek a family travel destination or simply want to get away on your own.
A true golden gate
Originally settled by the Yelamu tribe of Native Americans, the first Europeans to arrive at the area that is now San Francisco were the Spanish in 1769. The European missionaries were quick to establish the area as a religious hub of the new world, and by 1808 the Mission San Francisco de Asis had been established. When gold was discovered in California in 1848, San Francisco was situated right at the center of the prospectors' fervor, serving as the central point into and out of the territory. Thanks to the gold rush, the city's population saw a 25-fold increase in population in just a year.
Over the next century, the city continued to grow, surviving a 7.8-scale earthquake in the early 20th century, and serving as important roles as staging areas in both World War II and the Cold War. San Francisco's countercultural leanings were also responsible for its urban development, providing a haven for 1960s-era hippies and LGBTQ citizens alike.
Something for everyone
Whether you're out to get a taste of American history or looking for a place to really let your hair down, travelers heading to San Francisco will find something to their liking. Those desiring a sightseeing tour can bear witness to some of the most famous landmarks in the U.S. The Golden Gate Bridge, practically synonymous with San Francisco, provides tourists with a 1.7-mile span of architectural history. Frommer's even suggested that ambitious travelers can walk its expanse, at no cost. The notorious Alcatraz prison is accessible by ferry for those who want to stand in the same spot as some of the most infamous names in criminal history, such as Al Capone. According to Frommer's, if a more in-depth guided tour is your cup of tea, make sure to head out at night.
If tours and landmarks aren't your thing, you may take an interest in San Francisco's bustling cultural offering. Regions such as Haight-Ashbury, The Mission, The Castro and Lombard Street are all positively teeming with the city's eclectic blend of bohemian, hippie, immigrant and LGBTQ cultural influences that are hard to find anywhere else.