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.
The Asian Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the Western world devoted exclusively to Asian art. Home to over thousands of treasures spanning 6000 years of history, the museum serves as a portal to the rich artistic cultures throughout Asia. Renowned architect Gae Aulenti oversaw the dramatic transformation of the building, which now features a massive gallery space. This majestic destination leads a diverse global audience towards the exploration of the unique, aesthetic and intellectual achievements of Asian art and culture.
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.
This impressive structure crowning Nob Hill was built on the site of the Crocker Mansion after the 1906 earthquake and fire. One of the main attractions of the cathedral are the stained glass windows. These windows showcase over 1000 figures, with some of them dating back as far as the 1930s. The gilded bas-reliefs that adorn the doors of the main entrance are cast from Ghiberti's original molds for the Gates of Paradise that adorn the Baptistery in Florence. The cathedral also boasts two labyrinths. The outdoor one is made of Terrazzo stone and the indoor one from limestone.
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.
Located at the western end of Golden Gate Park is San Francisco's biggest beach. It extends from Fort Funston in the south, to the Cliff House in the north. Typically, the cold winds, fog and low San Francisco temperatures deter any regular beach activities (unless you're lucky enough to be there on a hot day) but visitors fly kites or just walk along and admire the views of Seal Rocks and Point Lobos. Adventure seekers love surfing here. There are also bonfire pits provided on the beach for the general public; to claim one, go early in the evening.
Gain a deeper insight into San Francisco and its heritage and discover all that the city has to offer by embarking on tours offered by San Francisco City Guides. Sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library, the organization conducts several diverse tours which focus on different aspects of the city's culture, including its history and architecture. Tours include a walking tour of the Mission District, where you can admire striking murals, and an Art Deco tour of the Marina. All tours are free, though donations to benefit the library are requested. Departure locations and times vary.
College Avenue stretches from deep within Berkeley to Oakland, and along this bustling boulevard numerous restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and much more are waiting for your enjoyment. Near the Rockridge end of the street you will find many eclectic restaurants serving an enormous variety of cuisines, as well as other small boutique shops selling anything from yoga mats to antique brass bedposts. Near the University, College Avenue takes on a funkier spirit, and incense shops allure you with their intriguing scents. Shopping is a major attraction of this East Bay hot spot, yet there are not many chain stores. Rather, locals prefer to support local businesses instead of national chains. However certain stores, such as Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and Hot Topic, can still be found conveniently nearby. Great for a Sunday walk where you can leisurely stroll down this beautiful avenue - stop and have a coffee at one of many cafes, or buy a unique present for a special someone!
Roscoe Ceramic Gallery is one of the many galleries dotted throughout Uptown's Arts District. Roscoe is dedicated to giving up-and-coming Bay Area ceramics artists a venue to exhibit their work. Exhibits change monthly, each one opening the first Friday of the month for Oakland's Art Murmur. Shows here will range from sculpture to pottery and flatware to masks and pretty much anything you can make out of clay.
Located within the Russian Center of San Francisco, the Museum of Russian Culture, San Francisco showcases the Russian culture and exhibits items that influenced the American Culture. The 1948 museum was incorporated as an independent corporation in 1953 and preserved materials from Russian descendants who are now American citizens.
On the north end of Berkeley's fabulous Tilden Regional Park lies this 740-acre (299-hectare) preserve, where adults and children can visit the Environmental Education Center. The EEC is the ecology education headquarters of Tilden Park. Here, visitors can learn about wildlife and nature through a variety of displays, literature, and programs. Amid this haven of enlightenment, an enchanting highlight emerges the Little Farm. This cherished addition transforms Tilden into an idyllic playground, introducing children to the joys of interaction with farm animals in a safe and welcoming setting.
FM gallery is located in Oakland's up-and-coming Arts District, near Uptown. FM consists of a front gallery exhibition space that rotates feature shows every month, that mostly is open to the public the first Friday of every month during Oakland's Art Murmur. However, FM doesn't consist solely of the exhibition space, it is also (and mainly) ten artist studios in the back of the space which local artists take full advantage of.