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No.160 (3/26/10)

Visit San Francisco!

By Robert Finley
Chief Writer

Many of you out there have probably had a layover at San Francisco International Airport during your travels to and from Misawa, but have you ever considered going to San Francisco and staying a while? The city has a lot of fun things to offer to all of its visitors.

San Francisco's history as an inhabited place is believed to stretch as far back as 3,000 B.C., according to archeological evidence. In the 16th Century, the Spanish arrived and claimed the land, despite the fact that the Ohlone-speaking indigenous people had lived on the land since the year 500 A.D. The region grew steadily over the next couple hundred years or so, but really began to gain prominence during the California Gold Rush in the mid-19th Century. On April 18, 1906, the San Andreas Fault ruptured, creating a massive earthquake valued at anywhere between 7.7 and 8.25 on the Richter scale. San Francisco was virtually destroyed by the quake and subsequent fires. During World War II, the city served as a major port of embarkation for troops headed out into the Pacific Theater. The city's long history and prominent landmarks offer a uniquely beautiful experience to all its visitors and 800,000-plus residents.

When many people think of San Francisco, they may visualize hilly roads, cable cars, cloudy, windy weather, and of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. While these are all characteristics of The City By The Bay, the city has much more to offer, such as the very popular tourist spot known as Pier 39. The pier is a large shopping center featuring a myriad of restaurants, shops, rides, live performances, games, and even a great view of California sea lions lounging about on docks. It's easy to kill half a day just wandering about, buying souvenirs or eating some clam chowder in a bread bowl. While there are many gift stores to choose from, one of the more unique ones is the San Francisco Music Box Company, which offers a vast array of music boxes and other fun display pieces. Down at the end of the pier, visitors are treated to a fantastic view of Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, as well as the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges.

Speaking of the Bay, Alcatraz Island is located just 1.5 miles offshore from the city, and is a popular attraction. Established in 1934, the island served as a lighthouse, military fortification, and both a military and federal prison until it was shut down in 1963. In 1972, the island was declared a national recreation area, and has been a popular destination since. Many infamous personalities were house here at one time or another, such as Robert Stroud (The Birdman of Alcatraz), Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, and of course, Frank Morris and John & Clarence Anglin, who orchestrated the island's most elaborate and successful escape plan. The island itself is also home to many ghost stories, such as disembodied screams, talking, and whistling.

Back on the mainland and just down the road from Pier 39 is the famous Fisherman's Wharf neighborhood, where visitors can find some of the best seafood that San Francisco has to offer. The Musee Mecanique is one of the Wharf's more interesting attractions. Housed inside a large warehouse, the museum is home to a wide array of vintage and antique arcade games, all functional and available to patrons. Just down the road are two other very popular museums -- Ripley's Believe It Or Not and the Wax Museum. At Ripley's, visitors are treated to many oddities and other world record-holding pieces that are intriguing and sometimes educational. Next door at the Wax Museum, hundreds of celebrities and notable figures are forever captured in amazingly lifelike detail.

A short stroll down the road will bring you to another San Francisco landmark, the world-famous Ghirardelli Square. Here, you can stop in and have one of their ice cream sundaes, or buy some of their delicious chocolate. If you happen to overindulge in some of Ghirardelli's delectable treats, it might be a good idea to take a walk through Golden Gate Park, one of the city's biggest attractions and the nation's third most visited city park. Measuring at a remarkable 1,017 acres (that's 20 percent larger than New York City's Central Park), the park houses many unique features, such as the San Francisco Botanical Garden, or the Japanese Tea Garden. On the northern side of the park sits Spreckels Lake, where many people sail model yachts for recreation.

Over on Lombard Street, you can drive down the “crookedest street in the world,” and then continue down the road a ways until you run into Coit Tower up on Telegraph Hill. Designed to look like a fire hose, Coit Tower gives visitors a beautiful view of the city.

San Francisco has so much to offer, that it would be virtually impossible to list everything here. There's no other city quite like San Francisco, so check it out sometime!











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