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A decade ago, San Francisco--"The City"--was riding high on the wealth of the dot com explosion. And it showed in outrageously high priced hotels, restaurants and real estate. When the bubble burst, The City was forced to adjust and it became a great time to visit the somewhat humbler, but just as fabulous, cultural mecca of the Left Coast. One of the best things about San Francisco is that you can be in a museum in the morning and on a mountain in the afternoon. Mind-expanding cultural attractions exist alongside invigorating outdoor activities. Gaze at the work of Jackson Pollock at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the morning and then head to Muir Woods to peer up at gigantic redwoods in the afternoon. From the hippie haunts of Haight-Ashbury to the colorful Victorian architecture of the predominantly gay Castro District, and from Japantown to Chinatown, San Francisco is all about neighborhoods. Each has a distinct look and vibe. You could easily spend a day in each, or hop on a streetcar to sample a few.
Mark Twain never famously said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" -- though he spent several here -- but that quip still captures the climatic disappointment of a SF summer. San Francisco, poet George Sterling's "cool, grey city of love", may be as famous for its fog as for its food. The fog may sometimes steal in on "little cat feet" as poet Carl Sandburg said, but frequently it comes roaring through the Golden Gate, around Twin Peaks, and over the Alemany Gap, on a swirling river of wind in the late afternoon. (OK, he was talking about Chicago) Often, it never makes it more than half-way across The City. Writer Harold Gilliam has identified no less than 9 different summer fog formations. It is with good reason that so much literary talent has turned its attention upon San Francisco's fog: residents find great amusement in the shivering hordes of uninformed tourists in shorts and t-shirts lined up at the cable car turnarounds, and the Fisherman's Wharf vendors know that they will sell a great many sweatshirts in July and August. Spring and fall -- even the mild winters -- bring much less fog, "nature's air conditioner", than July and August.
For the baseball fan, be sure not to miss a visit to the San Francisco Giants ballpark, nestled in one of the sunniest corners of The City. It is a beautiful, new, retro-style ballpark with stunning vistas of San Francisco Bay from the upper deck. There is direct ferry service to the ballpark from Marin and Oakland.
To truly experience San Francisco, make sure to sample the local restaurants. You can go to McDonald's at home, right? With San Francisco's mixture of nationalities, you can find food from all over the world. Tommy's Joynt on Van Ness Ave. and Geary Blvd., exudes The City's bodacious character. You will sink your teeth into the best pastrami sandwich you've ever had. Just good bread, good pastrami and a dab of mustard will send your tastebuds into overdrive. Wash it down with one of their 100-or-so good beers, sit back and enjoy the local flavor. Another good choice for deli food would be Max's Opera Cafe, just a bit further down Van Ness near the War Memorial Opera House. And no visit to San Francisco would be complete without seafood, whether it be the cutting edge sushi found in many places or the old-style Swann Oyster Depot (lunch only) on Polk St.
Here and in conversation, don't you dare call it "Frisco!" On the other hand, using "The City" (always initial caps) will effortlessly denote you as knowledgeable about Northern California. Welcome!!