Introduction with Resources

San Francisco, California

Even those who don't know much about San Francisco and the Bay Area have an opinion about it. There is so much history, such a multitude of peoples and things, that everyone seems to be touched somehow by happenings in and near San Francisco - whether it's Silicon Valley, sports teams, universities, social upheaval and re-evaluation, seismic and wildlife activities including wayward whales, immigration events...

The San Francisco Bay Area is comprised of 6 major counties (moving clockwise): San Francisco City/County, Marin County (the North Bay), Alameda County (the East Bay including Oakland), Santa Clara County (the South Bay including San Jose), and San Mateo County (most of the Peninsula). The three largest islands in the Bay are Alcatraz (home of the one-time prison), Angel Island (a park and former immigration station), and Yerba Buena and Treasure Island (midspan of the SF/Oakland Bridge, Coast Guard Station, and site of the 1935 World's Fair). The Bay is served by five main bridges: The Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco north to Marin County, the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge going from Marin County south to Alameda County, the San Francisco/Oakland Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge and the Dunbarton Bridge - linking the Peninsula to the East Bay (each of these bridges is a toll bridge). Three full-service international airports serve the area: San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose. There are also trains, ferries, busses, cable cars and a rapid transit system (BART) to help you get around.

So what interests your family? The arts are very well represented, as is history, shopping, education, nature, etc. If one member of the family has come for a conference, course or the like, there should be plenty for the rest of the family to do. Below are some numbers to help you get started.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the San Francisco Bay is the gathering of cultures. You can immerse yourself in several Asian cultural areas (Chinatown in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose; Japan Town in San Francisco; Southeast Asian communities), Hispanic areas (the Mission in San Francisco, Mexican, Central American and Filipino areas throughout the Bay Area); European (North Beach's Italian community, the Russian community out in the Avenues); Native American enclaves quietly maintained here and there (remember when the Indians took over Alcatraz?); and long-standing African-American communities in San Francisco and Oakland. Oakland was the end of the Pullman lines in the first half of the 20th century, and many black railroad employees who had seen just about every part of the U.S. and who had been saving for years chose to settle and raise families or retire in Oakland. A very proud and elite community has grown from those settlers. Also, San Francisco became the seat of the Russian Royalists in exile, providing the basis for a Russian community which now welcomes a new generation of Russians out exploring the world.

For natural wonders, expect diversity in opportunities and in weather. Water sports are not as popular as in warmer, more southern climes, but whale watching and ocean fishing trips are available, there are yacht harbors and marinas here and there, and the San Francisco Maritime Museum is fascinating. Angel Island is a great getaway by ferry from Tiburon in Marin with bike and hiking trails. The Golden Gate National Recreational Area encompasses large chunks of land along the ocean, including Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge. Extreme effort by many individuals is working toward a natural hiking trail that will completely encircle the Bay Area. The trail down the East Bay is complete, and other portions are in place, but the final trail will be awesome and definitely will not be possible in one day's march. There are resorts, spas, tennis clubs, golf courses, skating rinks, race tracks, etc., to meet anyone's desires.

The entire San Francisco Bay Area loves to party. Opening Day on the Bay, Mardi Gras, St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Chinese New Year, and the list goes on and on. And the Bay Area has been a favorite home for many musicians and artists, from the conservative to the avant garde. Rarely will you see such diversity of peoples and architecture - OK, rarely on the West Coast.

Whether you are looking for a quiet foggy day in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park - a fast and furious day of shopping Downtown - a day at the races at Golden Gate Fields - museum hopping at the De Young, the Mexican, the Asian, the California Museum of History, the Cartoon Art, the Performing Arts, the Oakland Museum, or the Exploratorium - bicycling down the Peninsula - enjoying the grand old hotel-now-spa Claremont in the Oakland-Berkeley hills - re-visiting the Old Fillmore Theater and the Haight-Ashbury - hitting the theater district (don't forget Beach Blanket Babylon!) - or round-tripping on the various ferries on the Bay, watching the seals and windsurfers, circling Alcatraz and flying a kite off the stern - it's worth a trip.


Department of Parks & Recreation

P.O. Box 942896

Sacramento, California 94296

(916) 653-6995

Regional Director

600 Harrison St. Suite 600

San Francisco, CA 94107

(415) 427-1300


1416 Ninth Street

Sacramento, California 95814

(916) 653-7664


201 Third Street, Ste. 900

San Francisco, CA 94103

Phone: 415-391-2000


Department of Commerce

P.O. Box 9278

Van Nuys, California 91409

(916) 322-2881

(800) 862-2543

Bed and Breakfast Inns