San Francisco Last Minute

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

With such beauty and charm, San Francisco is the ideal place to head to when you need a last minute vacation. And if you’d like to get out and do more than just enjoy the views, you’ll be glad to know that there’s plenty for a last minute traveler to do in this unique city.

Blessed with a panoramic city view, San Francisco is surrounded on three sides by water. Known simply as The City by its residents, a visitor might be prompted to call it by its more common name, The City by the Bay. With colorful legends and unmatched architecture, it’s no wonder that the city has painstakingly and lovingly been restored to its original glory seven times, after the destruction of fires and earthquakes.

Given the combined effect of its 43 hills, the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge, this city is stunning in its beauty and scope. This metropolis varies in altitude from sea level to 929 feet because of its configuration. One distinguishing trait of this area comes in the form of a beautifully fluffy, chilly, wet, heavy material called fog. Held back by coastal mountains along a 600 mile front, the low clouds seek out any passage they can find, and make the city’s weather mysterious, exciting and unpredictable.

Almost unbelievably, this city was once called Yerba Buena and had fewer than 100 inhabitants. But as people came in search of gold, the city began to develop into what we know as San Francisco today.

In fact, San Francisco has a world class symphony orchestra, opera, and ballet. And for those who enjoy the arts, take a trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where you can catch up with a few masterpieces from famed artists like Matisse, Picasso, O’Keeffe, Kahlo, Pollock, Warhol, and other 20th century artists from the heart of the diverse permanent collection. The striking facility, a work of art in itself, was designed by architect Mario Botta. Consisting of a sienna brick facade and a central tower of alternating bands of black and white stone, this stunning piece may need to be admired for a while.

Other not to be missed attractions on your spontaneous last minute trip are the San Francisco Maritime Museum, the California Academy of Science, the Natural History Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden. Restaurants and nightspots span the entire spectrum of fine cuisine and the best in live music and dance. And if your last minute vacation finds you craving more exotic food, head over to Chinatown, where delicious smells waft out of restaurants, fish markets, and produce stands. Good luck banners of crimson and gold hang beside dragon entwined lampposts, pagoda roofs, and street signs with Chinese calligraphy. At No. 56 Ross Alley west of and parallel to Grant Avenue between Washington and Jackson Streets visitors are welcome to watch fortune cookie bakers in action. What a perfect dessert!

But save some of your energy: the main shopping, hotel, and theater district is at Union Square. A few blocks farther on, the formerly run down factory district has been reborn as a cultural center. Major galleries, museums and restaurants have opened there, as well as Sony’s Metreon theater complex. And if you’ve got little ones with you or just want a break from all the action, Yerba Buena Gardens provides constant family entertainment year round with its ice rinks, parks and children’s play areas.

But San Francisco is known for more than just its culture, dining and nightlife. Sports are at the top of the charts with everything from golf, surfing, fishing, skiing, basketball and swimming to the unforgettable San Francisco 49ers and San Francisco Giants. With so many great characteristics, it’s no wonder that the year 2000 marked the twelfth of thirteen years that San Francisco has been designated Best City in the United States and the third year as the leader in the restaurants category.

While in San Francisco, be sure to save time to visit Fisherman’s Wharf. The wharf once bustled with Sicilian and Genoese fishermen unloading their catches to sell. There is still a fishing fleet, but the wharf is lined with more than a hundred seafood restaurants and steaming crab pots as well as marine gear suppliers, and sidewalk performers. Nearby, the 853 foot Transamerica pyramid marks the heart of the Financial District, as does Embarcadero Center. Nearby is the home of the new San Francisco Giants baseball stadium, Pac Bell Park.

And as long as you’re close to Fisherman’s Wharf, be daring and a take a trip into the past at Alcatraz Island, the notorious former prison in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. You can reach Alcatraz Island by ferry from Pier 41, a short 20 to 25 minutes.

As the end of your last minute vacation comes near, you may want to consider a day of relaxation in Golden Gate Park or a quiet stroll along Ocean Beach. But whether you crave excitement or leisurely afternoons in the sun, you’ll find that San Francisco is a city of beauty and dignity. It presents to the visitor a banquet of sights, sounds, tastes and aromas to sample, to savor, and to remember forever.