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Leave your heart in San Francisco

We were spending two days or 48 hours in San Francisco and we wanted to make the most of our stop-over in the legendary city. From the pictures we pored over and the crazy desire to see the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco was on our list of to-do places like - forever.

The city practically invented gay said TomBates our friend who lives in Berkeley. And we did enjoy the amazing restaurants, legendary sights– whatever you’re hungry for, its a weekend, you are not likely to forget.

What we liked about visiting San Francisco is that, although the city is “big” in terms of attractions and amenities, it is geographically small, only 49 square miles.

Include Fisherman's Wharf on your itinerary, more than 75 percent of San Francisco's visitors do that.And if you must eat, just hop into any of the eateries, they are all excellent.

If you are there during the Dungeness crab season (mid November through mid-June), try the tasty, fresh crab in all the eateries as they are available in abundance. The fishermen still bring in, Squid, sand dabs, sole, sea bass, cod, mackerel and halibut which are caught year round. Crab, salmon, shrimp, abalone and ocean perch are seasonal. In the last century, the fishermen were predominantly Italian immigrants, sailing their narrow feluccas with triangular sails, into the open ocean. Today, the fishermen are of many races and nationalities yet the Italian language and customs prevail in the area.

Look out for the brick buildings of Ghirardelli Square, once a chocolate factory. Historical plaques tell the history of Domingo Ghirardelli who came to California to prospect gold but ended up becoming the king of chocolate. The Chocolate Factory and Soda Fountain still makes chocolate with the original old fashioned machines, and no one can resist ordering a luscious ice cream sundae with chocolate on top or a cup of hot chocolate. Ghirardelli Square is also filled with shops, selling everything from apparel to folk art.

The Chinatown we visited is the oldest and one of the largest in the United States. Built near Portsmouth Square, the historic heart of San Francisco, we were stunned by its sheer size and variety of shopping possibilites. I found lovely Australian Opal there, which made my head spin with the variety on display. Don’t go home without an Australian opal! I brought mine home to India and had the gold smith entwine it with braided gold into a pendant and two smaller ones into earrings.

Riding a cable car is a popular option after a delicious meal and judging by the lines, many people want to try it. The turnaround for the Powell-Hyde Cable Car is located in Victorian Park across the street from Ghirardelli Square.
The views of the bay, the Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge and the city from the far end of Hyde Street Pier are magnificent.

An oasis for outdoor enthusiasts, the Golden Gate Park covers 1,017 acres encompassing free-to-the-public meadows, lakes, rose gardens, an arboretum, a rhododendron dell, and the tallest artificial waterfall in the West.

The San Francisco Giants have created some fan-friendly spots at their ballpark, AT&T Park. Located beyond the outfield wall, the Portwalk offers sweeping views of San Francisco Bay and a peek at the game. A statue of Willie McCovey, perhaps the most beloved Giant of all,stands in the park, while a 570-foot-long seat wall features historic markers, representing every Giants team from 1958 through 1999.

San Francisco’s museums are free at least one day each month and in many cases, free always for children 12 and under. In the landmark Palace of Fine Arts in the Marina District, of SFO houses the Exploratorium which offers hundreds of interactive exhibits in the areas of science, art and human perception. Admission is free on the first Wednesday of every month.

The Wells Fargo History Museum in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District takes visitors back to the Gold Rush era with its displays of gold nuggets, rare artifacts, interactive exhibits and a stagecoach that visitors can hop aboard.

The Presidio of San Francisco was once the most important military post on the West Coast. Next to the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay you can enjoy miles of hiking trails; signed bike routes; hidden picnic sites with lavish backdrops of the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands and Pacific Ocean. We gaped at the eucalyptus and cypress groves, at cannons dating from the late 1700s, and abandoned barracks where Indian fighters once slept.

If on a family trip a visit to the San Francisco Zoo must not be missed. Check out the African Savanna, Lemur Forest, Meerkats and Prairie Dogs, the Feline Conservation Center, Otter River, Eagle Island, Gorilla World, Penguin Island, Sumatran tigers, African wart hog exhibit and Koala Crossing. The Children’s Zoo lets children feed and pet their favorite barnyard animals, or they can enjoy the Little Puffer Zoo Train which makes regular circuits of the grounds.

It’s more fun if you hire an SFO City Guide, who will talk about San Francisco’s historical and architectural highlights. Tall tales, and gold rush lore, will make the walk very enjoyable and a walking tour is the best way to see the city.

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