Images and text by Zak Cannon.
When gold was discovered in California in 1848, San Francisco, a lonely town of 200, was transformed into a bustling city of 36,000 in a matter of a few years. Since then, the Bay Area city has evolved into a cultural epicenter for Asian Americans and young creatives. Over my spring break, I traveled to San Francisco and experienced the city myself. Now I’ll give you tips, recommendations, and insights into this gorgeous city right on the Pacific.
When you first arrive in Northern California, consider driving down south to the Big Sur and experiencing a ride alongside the cliffed Pacific Ocean. This drive is absolutely stunning- even Taylor Swift and Karlie Kloss recently took a roadtrip along this famous strip of hills. Although many enjoy the beaches and picturesque views of this region, the town of Carmel is only a half-hour drive away. Here, you can explore classy boutiques, Mexican architecture, and Clint Eastwood’s own restaurant, the Hog’s Breath Inn.
Once you arrive in San Francisco, you’ll of course want to go shopping. Take a bus to Union Square (or better yet, stay at Hotel Stratford, an accommodation right in the heart of the shopping center) and walk through the designer pinnacles like Saks Fifth Avenue, Alexander McQueen, Dior, and Valentino. To get a more local look, check out the thrift stores in The Haight and explore San Francisco’s Little Italy (known as North Beach). Here, a stop at Al’s Attire will get you custom-made, one-of-a-kind garments and a purchase at OOMA will get you a unique gift for a friend.
Wanting a bit more culture in California? San Francisco has two world-class museums, both of which are worth a visit- preferably on the same day, as a ticket to one will get you free entrance to the other! The de Young Museum houses classic American art, along with an observatory tower that overlooks the sprawling city. The Legion of Honor, at the very northwest point of the city, has a vast collection of European art including Monet, Van Gogh, Rodin, and Bouguereau. Plus, the Legion has spectacular architecture and a cast of Rodin’s The Thinker in the courtyard. A short walk from this spectacular museum will have you arriving at China Beach, a little-known gem with a view to rival even the most exotic destinations.
Ask any local- San Francisco is a spectacular city for food. Almost a third of the city is Asian, meaning fantastic Chinese and Japanese cuisine. M.Y. China in the Westfield Shopping Centre is quite popular, and for good reason. Award winning chef and TV host Martin Yan specializes in noodle dishes and irresistible wok delights for prices far below what you would expect at such a high-class eatery. If you’re wanting something more European, Sodini’s offers the cream of the crop Italian food in North Beach. And if you’re wondering where the countless fortune cookies in San Francisco come from, then take a side-step onto Ross Alley in Chinatown and grab a bag of freshly made cookies at the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory.
Public transportation is largely efficient and consistent in San Francisco. I used the numerous buses, streetcars, and cable cars to get to and fro every destination on my trip. Download Google Maps to route you anywhere in the city! If you’d rather have a driver of your own, San Francisco is full of Uber and Lyft drivers that will take you to where you want to be. Prefer renting a car? Remember to curb your wheels- or else find that the rolling hills of San Francisco have caused your rental to kiss the car behind it. Ouch!
There are countless ways to experience and enjoy this city that’s both equally modern and historical. The people of San Francisco are some of the most kind I’ve ever met. They’ll always stop to ask if you’re lost or recommend their favorite place to grab a coffee. Perhaps their friendliness stems from the stunning views, the delicious food, or maybe it’s something in the water. Either way, this gorgeous city is not one to miss. Just remember to recycle your fork- or else face the infamous San Francisco glare.