The seven wonders of San Francisco

22 Sep

At the end of summer 2012 I spent some time in San Francisco. This is definitely one of the must-see US cities. It’s got great food, great museums, beautiful architecture, stunning natural surroundings, and a very unique character overall. As usual, I’m going to list the seven wonders of the city, meaning what I think are the seven must see sites.

DeYoung Museum

If there’s one museum you see in San Francisco, make it this one. It has a huge collection of art from indigenous tribal cultures in Africa, pre-colombian America, and the Pacific Islands. It really is interesting when you look at how art can vary widely from the art found in western cultures. There’s also lots of American paintings. My personal favorite was “Sacramento Railroad Station” by William Hahn. It’s a painting of a crowded, busy railroad station that emphasises the mix of people from different economic backgrounds. Definitely visit the DeYoung Museum while you’re here.

Cable Cars and Cable Car Museum

The Cable Car system in San Francisco is the world’s last remaining manually operated cable car system. It’s a wild ride that costs five dollars, but thankfully, MUNI passports cover it. TIP: Don’t get on the cable car at the terminus of the line, as the queues are very long. Get on a block away from it at one of the regular stops, where there’s usually little to no queue. It amazes me how many tourists don’t realize this. When you’ve ridden the cable cars, check out the cable car museum and see the massive pulley system that operates the cables underground. There’s also an exhibit about the history of the cable car system.

Golden Gate Bridge

There is no icon of San Francisco more well known than the Golden Gate Bridge. It is amazing when viewed from a distance, and it is also amazing walking across the bridge. The bridge links San Francisco with Marin County. Back when it was being built many people thought it would be a waste of government spending, but it turned out to be a very worthwhile investment. I think the same will happen with the California High Speed Rail project.

Asian Art Museum

This is my personal favorite of these seven places. The DeYoung museum is more of a must-see site but the Asian Art Museum is the one I liked best. It really does a great job of presenting just how varied the art of Asian cultures is. I always knew that there were lots of differences between Asian countries’ artwork but this really showed me just how big those differences were. The Indian, Himilayan, Chinese, and Japanese sections were my favorites. I also was fascinated by reading about how Bhuddism spread over Asia and different cultures presented the practice differently in their artwork.

California Academy of Sciences

This place is amazing. It’s a coral reef, tide pool, and rainforest all packed into one building. It’s $24 to get in but its well worth it. Make sure you get there when it’s early. I went in at 10am and the lines to enter the rainforest area were only about 8 minutes. It looked, however, like it was set up to accommodate much longer lines. Whenever you decide to go, be prepared to see some amazing creatures up close.

Sea Lions at Pier 39

Yes, the area is quite touristy, but it is touristy for good reason. The sea lions first showed up here in 1989. Their numbers have fluctuated over the years and now they are a major tourist attraction. Thanksgiving week 2009, 1701 were spotted. As well as the Sea Lions, there’s incredible views of Marin County, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge on the pier.

Chinatown

There’s many Chinatowns in the world, and the one in San Francisco is the largest outside of Asia. I was amazed at the sheer size of this place compared to ones in other US cities. There’s a lot of restaurants selling great chinese food at cheap prices, but there isn’t always a menu in english so you’ll either need to learn to read chinese characters or ask an english-speaking staff to explain what the options are. Another interesting thing about this place is just how many people are here. In no other part of San Francisco did I have to walk on a sidewalk packed with so many people. Even when I was riding the bus, more people would get on and off at Chinatown than anywhere.

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San Francisco is an amazing city. I’ve never been in a city that was so hilly or so interesting to walk around. A unique thing about it is that you can always see another hill in the city from whatever street you’re on, and these views give you a great sense of general direction. Definitely come to San Francisco, and you’ll see why I love it.

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