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The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art houses a permanent collection of over 15,000 works, including more than 4,700 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and 9,000 plus photographs. Originally opened in 1995, the museum has exhibited the works of Henri Matisse, Richard Diebenkorn, Dorothea Lange, Paul Klee, Cindy Sherman, Matthew Barney and many contemporary artists. Designed by Swiss architect Mario Botta, the space itself is a wonder to behold. After a major renovation completed in 2016, the SFMOMA now boasts seven floors of art along with exciting features including a living wall, sculpture garden and impressive views of Yerba Buena Gardens.
Don't leave San Francisco without a stroll through this legendary square near Fisherman's Wharf, which is named after San Francisco's original chocolate-maker. There is a bakery and several restaurants and, of course, there's the Ghirardelli Ice Cream Shop where you can savor the deliciousness of the old-fashioned Ghirardelli sundae or buy some sweet goodies to bring back. Take some time and visit the art galleries, gift and specialty stores, and shoe and clothing shops.
This San Francisco landmark features some of Fisherman's Wharf's best shopping and attractions. Ride the carousel, people watch, or take in views of the bay. There are more than 25 one-of-a-kind gift stores that carry automobile, Hollywood, and rock 'n' roll memorabilia, as well as flags of the world, Russian dolls, collectible knives, hammocks, kites, and more. But that's not all. You will find over 30 more stores, including the famous Na Hoku to shop for clothing, jewelry and toys. It is a great place to pick up high-end San Francisco souvenirs. When you're done shopping and eating to your heart's content, visit the famous resident sea lions for a prime photo session. Pier 39 is a magnet for locals and tourists for many reasons, including their calendar of special attractions for the whole family like the Tulipmania tulip festival held in late February or the Holiday Tree Lighting in November.
In the late 1800s, California's first state engineer, William Hammond Hall, and his assistant, a Scotsman named John McLaren, transformed more than 1000 acres (405 hectares) of sand dunes into a wondrous haven in the midst of the city, christened Golden Gate Park after the eponymous strait nearby. Stretching over 50 blocks from Stanyan Street to the Pacific Ocean, the lush landscape is etched with numerous trails for walking, jogging, biking and horseback riding, alongside a golf course, bowling greens, a lake with paddle boats, soccer fields and a baseball diamond. From the Japanese Tea Garden and the Conservatory of Flowers to the California Academy of Sciences and the de Young Museum, San Francisco's Golden Gate Park encompasses a wealth of scenic beauty and cultural intrigue within is expansive embrace. There are also several playgrounds, a quaint carousel, an aquarium, a buffalo reserve and an outdoor bandshell where open-air concerts are hosted each summer.
A mere 1.25 miles (2.01 km) off the coast of San Francisco, Alcatraz Island boasts a fascinating history that extends far beyond its stint as a federal penitentiary from 1934 to 1963; it is also the site of the West Coast's oldest operating lighthouse, the remains of a historic military fortress, and a bird sanctuary. Although within sight of the city, Alcatraz is isolated from the outside world, surrounded by the frigid waters of the bay, the perilous currents making escape virtually impossible. This very fact made Alcatraz an apt choice for a prison meant to house some of the country's most notorious criminals, including the likes of Al Capone, Robert Franklin Stroud and Alvin Karpis. The year 1969 marked the beginning of another intriguing chapter in the history of Alcatraz when a group of Native American activists occupied the island for 19 months, signs of which are still visible to this day. Amid this turbulent narrative thrives a vibrant habitat for native flora and fauna, creating a miniature world of startling contrasts where the haunting remains of the prison stand amid a striking landscape of rock pools, rugged coasts and lush flora. The isle is now a tourist attraction, one of San Francisco's most popular, with self-guided and guided tours that delve into the past of the island as a whole and the prison in particular.
Named one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Golden Gate Bridge spans the eponymous strait that links the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Designed by Joseph Strauss, Irving Morrow, and Charles Ellis, the bridge opened in 1937 as the world's longest suspension bridge, its main span measuring at an impressive 4,200 feet (1,280 meters) in length. The bridge is not quite golden, but is instead a bright orange, its Art Deco towers looming through the dense fog that often mires the bay; a sight that has come to be emblematic of the city of San Francisco. The bridge ferries vehicular and pedestrian traffic between San Francisco and Marin City, the vista points on either side boasting awe-inspiring views of the Golden Gate, while the bridge itself promises unmatched views of the bay.
The Ferry Building Marketplace is a must-see for San Francisco visitors. This multi-million dollar development has an abundance of activities for the entire family. The marvelous building was designed by renowned architect Arthur Page Brown in Beaux Arts Style. Similar to that of the iconic Giralda Bell Tower in Seville, the clock tower of this building is a popular landmark and can be seen from afar. Take a tour of the historic Ferry Building, browse through antique shops, enjoy a view by the bay and a bowl of chowder at Ferry Plaza Seafood or buy organic produce at the Farmer's Market. Enjoy the sights and sounds of what makes the Ferry Building one of the Bay's most popular destinations for entertainment, food, and fun.
Constructed as a temporary attraction for the 1915 Pan-Pacific International Exhibition, Palace of Fine Arts continues to enchant the city. The original plaster, which made up the monument's exterior, has been gradually replaced, with funds raised by the Marina's residents who wanted to preserve a graceful part of their landscape. Swans in the adjoining lagoon glide by the soaring ocher-tinted colonnades and the imposing dome rigged with panels of centaurs and warriors. Stroll inside the dome and marvel at the uncanny acoustics, then enjoy a picnic lunch on one of the park benches to provide an unparalleled view of this gem.
Located in Golden Gate Park, the California Academy of Sciences is one of the greenest buildings in the city and has a platinum certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The museum features the renovated and expanded Steinhart Aquarium, complete with a hands-on tide pool and the well-known alligator swamp. Other exciting features are the Morrison Planetarium, the four-storey rainforest dome, and the Tusher African Hall. In addition to these educational gems, the museum features other natural history exhibits as well as exhibits about global warming. The Academy Café offers international cuisine, while the elegant Moss Room restaurant is the only dining option available in the park past museum closing time.
The San Francisco Cable Car is one of the most popular mode of transport for those visiting the city for the first time. The cable cars run across various routes throughout, offering passengers a spectacular option for touring the City by the Bay. One could also visit the cable car barn where you get to see how the machinery operates the cable cars. All in all, there is nothing like a ride on the cable cars to tour the city.