San Francisco Wikitravel Version

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San Francisco is a major city in California, the centerpiece of the Bay Area, well-known for its liberal community, hilly terrain, Victorian architecture, scenic beauty, summer fog, and great ethnic and cultural diversity. These are only a few of the aspects of the city that make San Francisco one of the most visited cities in the world.

Although huge in terms of offerings, San Francisco is physically quite compact. It is located on a seven-by-seven mile (11 x 11km) square of land at the tip of a peninsula between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific coast. It has a population of 812,000 which represents a small fraction of the entire Bay Area population of 7.1 million. San Francisco is just one of the cities which makes up the entire San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco’s neighbors -Oakland and Berkeley east of the Bay Bridge, Marin County north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Peninsula south of the city are all part of separate counties, each with their own governments and local public transportation systems. San Francisco suffers from crime in some downtown districts like the Tenderloin, Mid Market, 6th Street, Soma and the Western Addition. The south-eastern part of the city also suffers from violent crime. Visitors should be aware of their surroundings when walking late at night near some downtown hotels. San Francisco also has a high rate of pedestrian and bicycle fatalities.

Districts


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Golden Gate Bridge from Marin County with San Francisco in background

Each district of San Francisco carries its own unique and distinct culture. This map is predominantly based on the 11 official governmental districts of San Francisco, but it has been adapted to suit the purposes of this travel guide. Some districts of particular interest to travellers have been broken up into popular neighborhood groupings, while others, mainly residential districts, have been merged together.

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San Francisco Districts

Understand


History

Prior to European settlement in the area, the peninsula that now contains San Francisco was home to the Yelamu tribe, who were part of the larger Ohlone language group which stretched south from the Bay Area to the Big Sur of California. Due to San Francisco’s characteristic foggy weather, the earliest European explorers completely bypassed the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay.

The first European settlement in the area was founded by the Spanish in 1776 as a mission community surrounding the Mission San Francisco de Asís, in what is today called the Mission Dolores in the Mission District. In addition to the mission, a military fort was built near the Golden Gate: El Presidio.

Upon gaining independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually came to an end and private ownership of land became a possibility. In 1835, an Englishman named William Richardson founded the town of Yerba Buena, the first significant settlement on the peninsula outside of the Mission Dolores area. As the new settlement gradually grew, Yerba Buena developed a street plan and became attractive to settlers.

In 1846, the United States claimed California, and in July of that year, the US Navy arrived to raise the American flag above Yerba Buena. Over the next couple of years, California officially became part of the United States following the Mexican-American War, and the name of the town was changed from Yerba Buena to San Francisco.

With the California Gold Rush of 1848, San Francisco began to explode in population. Waves of immigrants came to the city to seek their fortunes, including large numbers of Chinese immigrants, forming one of the largest Chinese populations outside of Asia. During this time, many major businesses were created and flourished in San Francisco, and famous (and infamous) personalities settled in the city. Of course, with all this success came problems: the rapid growth of the city outstripped any efforts at city planning, meaning proper sanitation and infrastructure were largely undeveloped, which led to a cholera outbreak in 1855. Violence and corruption were evident, and anti-immigrant violence resulted in many race riots.

In the 1890’s, there was a large campaign to modernize and beautify the city, the success of which led some officials to proudly call San Francisco the “Paris of the West.” But in 1906, a devastating earthquake shook the city and a resulting fire leveled much of the city (in fact, almost 90% of the total damage was from the fire, and not the quake itself). Nevertheless, officials at the time immediately set out on a plan to rebuild the city, with new parks, boulevards, the current civic center complex, and landmarks such as the Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. In 1915, San Francisco hosted the Panama-Pacific Exposition (where the Palace of Fine Arts complex is currently located) to showcase the completely rebuilt city.

In the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, San Francisco remained largely unscathed. In fact, it was during this time that the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge were conceived and built. It was also during this time that the Federal Government established a prison on Alcatraz Island, which would hold some of the most notorious criminals of the era.

After World War II, San Francisco continued to grow in population. Urban planning projects at the time led to more highrises downtown (including the Transamerica Pyramid) and the destruction of many neighborhoods to build freeways (many of which were later torn down after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake). In the same period, San Francisco became a center of counterculture and the hippie movement, contributing to San Francisco’s liberal outlook. San Francisco also became a center for gay men during this time, leading to the development of gay neighborhoods like the Castro.

More recently, San Francisco has experienced a boom in business. Despite falling victim to the dot-com bubble burst in the 1990s, the city’s economy largely recovered and gentrification of neighborhoods like SoMa continues.

Today San Francisco is known for its liberal outlook and remains one of America’s top tourist destinations. Tourism is the city’s largest industry.

Climate

San Francisco Climate

San Francisco has a mild climate, with cool, wet winters and dry summers. In most months, you can expect the high temperature to be in the upper 50s, 60s or low 70s degree Fahrenheit (15-25°C). However, these mild temperature readings belie a unique climate not shared by other major cities in the state or country. Essentially San Francisco is never warmer than 73 degrees but never colder than 50 degrees. The nights are chilly so usually people in San Francisco always carry around a light jacket because the temperatures can drop or rise drastically within an hour.

Summer days usually start out under fog, slowly burning off towards the ocean into a sunny albeit windy afternoon. Measurable precipitation during the summer months is rare, although light drizzle is possible. Humidity is very constant, but rarely uncomfortable. At late afternoon, when the fog and wind returns people generally find themselves needing a jacket (and this is summer!). There are some days when the fog lingers all day.

In the winter, the rainy season is in full swing. That being said, the chances for a calm, windless, sunny day are actually higher in the winter than in the summer! However, the overall temperatures are going to be lower in the winter.

Spring and fall are not so much seasons in themselves in San Francisco, but rather they are quick transitional periods with some days resembling summer and others the winter. Fall in particular is a good time to visit because the summer wind & fog has mostly gone, but the rainy season has not yet started. The late summer month of September, as summer transitions into fall, is the warmest and driest month of the entire year for San Francisco. Heat waves can occasionally occur around this time of year.

Within these general rules, San Francisco also has a series of microclimates created by the city’s topography and maritime setting. Large hills in the city’s center block much of the fog, wind, and precipitation that rolls in from the Pacific Ocean. Because of this, there can be significant weather differences in different parts of the city and the surrounding Bay Area at the same time. Generally, the more windward areas along the coast are cooler and foggier, while the more leeward areas in the east are warmer and drier. Temperature differences of 10-15 degrees or so are common on days where the fog persists on the western side of the city. These differences continues as you move east, out of the city and into the outer East Bay (on the other side of the hills from Berkeley and Oakland), where it can be much hotter and drier. Local meteorologists routinely have three forecasts: one for the coast, one for the bay, and one for the inland areas. In short, if you don’t like the weather, perhaps travel a few miles east or west to your desired climate.

Literature

San Francisco literature finds its roots in the city’s long and often tumultuous history, its diversity, and its attraction to eclectic characters; the city was a major center for the Beat poetry movement and seems to also hold an uncanny attraction for science fiction writers. Among the most famous works set in San Francisco:

  • Jack Kerouac spent a lot of time in San Francisco, and portions of two of his most influential works are set here: On the Road and The Dharma Bums. Both are accounts of Kerouac examining his place in the universe; the first a tale of a man travelling the country, the second a story of someone looking for the simple life.
  • The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett. A gripping detective novel set in San Francisco that would come to define the private detective genre. The novel follows private eye Sam Spade as he tries to retrieve a valuable bird figurine, and has been adapted into film twice, including one where Spade was played by none other than Humphrey Bogart.
  • Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin. A famous series which offers an excellent look into 1970’s San Francisco, particularly the city’s counter culture and alternative lifestyles.
  • Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson lived in San Francisco in the mid-60s and the city appears in many of his books and articles.
  • Anne Rice lived in San Francisco in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. She wrote her best known novel, “Interview with a Vampire” while living in San Francisco.
  • Philip K. Dick spent much of his life in the San Francisco area, and among his novels set here are Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, set in a post-apocalyptic near future where androids serve humankind and bounty hunters are called in to “retire” androids that become too independent, and The Man in the High Castle, an alternate universe novel where Japan and Germany won World War II.
  • The Bridge trilogy (Virtual Light, Idoru, and All Tomorrow’s Parties), William Gibson. Set in a futuristic San Francisco following a massive earthquake, in which the city has been rebuilt using nanotechnology and a race is on to control the new cyberspace technology.
  • Altered Carbon, Richard K. Morgan. Also set in a futuristic San Francisco, where human personalities can be stored digitally and downloaded into new bodies.
  • The Crying of Lot 49, Thomas Pynchon. A renowned novel which follows a woman who sinks into paranoia as she attempts to unravel a worldwide conspiracy.
  • The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan. A story of four Chinese American immigrant families who start a club and spend their time playing the Chinese game of Mahjong and tell of their struggles in travelling to America.
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe. A nonfictional account which perfectly captures the Hippie movement, following a band of psychedelic drug users across the country in their painted school bus.
  • Barbary Coast, Herbert Asbury. For a non-fictional work on the tumultuous early history of San Francisco, this is an excellent choice.

Movies

San Francisco has been the backdrop for many films, due in part to the Bay Area’s vibrant film-making community and the city’s proximity to Hollywood. The production companies of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, along with the animation company Pixar are just a few of the big players who call the San Francisco area home. Among the better films set in San Francisco:

  • The Maltese Falcon (John Huston, 1941). Humphrey Bogart stars as a San Francisco private detective dealing with three unscrupulous adventurers who compete to obtain a fabulous jewel-encrusted statuette of a falcon.
  • Dark Passage (Delmer Daves, 1947). An offbeat film noir featuring two icons of the genre, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart. The city’s dark alleyways and side streets are on prominent display throughout the eccentric story of a man wrongly accused of murder and an enigmatic woman who lives in a lavish art deco apartment on top of the Filbert Steps.
  • Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958). While it’s not the only Hitchcock film set in San Francisco (portions of The Birds are set here), Vertigo really packs in a lot the city, following a private investigator who suffers from acrophobia as he uncovers the mystery of one woman’s peculiar behavior and travels from one San Francisco landmark to the next.
  • Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968). A very popular and highly influential crime thriller starring Steve McQueen (who also starred in the locally-set The Towering Inferno) and featuring one of the best car chase scenes in the history of cinema.
  • Psych-Out (Richard Rush, 1968). An incredibly trippy film with psychedelic music (including an appearance from Strawberry Alarm Clock), recreational drugs, and Haight-Ashbury — Hippies aplenty in this one.
  • Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971). Another cop film set in San Francisco (in addition, all but one of the sequels were also set here), starring Clint Eastwood chasing down sadistic killers and asking people if they feel lucky. Well do they, punk?
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978). Emotionless drones impersonating people and hatched from pods take over San Francisco in this classic science fiction flick.
  • 48 Hrs. (Walter Hill, 1982). Often credited with starting the buddy-cop genre, this flick follows a hot-headed cop who has to team up with a wisecracking convict in order to find two cop killers in the crime-ridden underworld of San Francisco.
  • Chan Is Missing (Wayne Wang, 1982). Illustrating the problems experienced by Chinese-Americans, this film tells the story of two taxi drivers searching Chinatown for a man who ran off with their money.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy, 1986). In the 23rd century, San Francisco is the home of Starfleet Command and humpback whales have long been extinct. In this instalment of the popular franchise, Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew have to time travel to a more contemporary San Francisco to bring back a couple of whales and save Earth.
  • Milk (Gus Van Sant, 2008). A recent biopic on the life of Harvey Milk, the former San Francisco City Supervisor in the late 1970s and the first openly gay man to be elected to public office. This story still holds sway for many San Franciscans given the city’s role in the ongoing gay rights movement.
  • La Mission (Peter Bratt, 2009). Ultra-macho ex-con Che Rivera learns the true meaning of being a father when he discovers his son is gay.
  • A whole host of great films have been set at Alcatraz; among them are Escape from Alcatraz (Don Siegel, 1979), Birdman of Alcatraz (John Frankenheimer, 1962), The Rock (Michael Bay, 1996), and the very influential Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967), The Room (Tommy Wiseau, 2003).

Tourist Information

San Francisco’s visitor information centers offer maps, brochures and other information for tourists.

  • San Francisco Visitor Information Center, 900 Market Street (next to the Cable Car turnaround at Market & Powell), ☎ +1 415 391-2000 (fax: +1 415 362-7323), May-Oct M-F 9am-5pm, Sa-Su and holidays 9am-3pm; Nov-Apr M-F 9am-5pm, Sa and holidays 9am-3pm. Closed Easter, Thanksgiving Day, 25 Dec & 1 Jan. Visitor Center run by the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. edit
  • California Welcome Center, Pier 39, Building P, Second Level, ☎ +1 415 981-1280 (info@pier39.com), One of several California Welcome Centers across the state. 

Talk

English is the dominant language spoken in San Francisco. Cantonese is spoken by the majority of San Francisco’s large Chinese population, with an increasing Mandarin-speaking minority. Spanish is also commonly spoken in San Francisco, although not as common as in the rest of California.

Get In

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Map of San Francisco

By Plane

  • San Francisco International, +1 800 435 9736, (IATA: SFO) located about 10 mi (16km) south of the city is a major international airport, one of the largest in the world and has numerous passenger amenities including a wide range of food and drink establishments, shopping, baggage storage, public showers, a medical clinic, and assistance for lost or stranded travelers and military personnel. It is the major hub for Virgin America and United as well as a major international airport with direct flights to Asia, Latin America and Europe from airlines that include British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
  • Oakland International, +1 510 563-3300, (IATA: OAK) in the East Bay provides service to numerous destinations in the United States as well as Mexico and Scandinavia. It is a major hub for Southwest airlines.
  • Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International, +1 408 277-4759, (IATA: SJC) in Silicon Valley, about 1 hour south of San Francisco attracts Bay Area residents who find SFO to be inconveniently distant from their homes. Daily long haul destinations include Tokyo (ANA) and London (British Airways). Beijing (Hainan) and Shanghai (Air China) are served multiple times a week while Frankfurt (Lufthansa) is seasonal (summer).

Oakland and San Jose tend to offer more discount airline flights, while San Francisco Airport attracts more international flights and can be more convenient for those staying in the city. Private pilots should consider Oakland (ICAO: KOAK) rather than SFO, as the separate general aviation field there is more accommodating to light aircraft.

Public Airport Transportation

San Francisco and Oakland Airports are connected to downtown SF by the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

Passengers arriving in SFO can walk (5 minutes from United’s domestic terminal) or take a free airport shuttle (AirTrain) to the BART station, which is adjacent to the G side of the International Terminal. The BART ride from SFO to San Francisco downtown costs $8.95 one-way and runs frequently, every 15 or 20 minutes depending on the time of day. Ticket machines accept cash – giving back change – and debit cards. BART trains run through San Bruno, South San Francisco, Colma, Daly City before reaching the city of San Francisco; from there Muni can take travellers anywhere in the city. More information on travel from SFO is available from BART’s website.

SFO is also connected to San Francisco by SamTrans routes 292, 397, and KX. Routes 292 and 397 are $2 to San Francisco, while KX is $5. Large luggage is generally not permitted on the KX bus.

From Oakland Airport, an automated shuttle train connects to the Colliseum BART station, where trains to downtown San Francisco and other Bay Area destinations arrive frequently. The total cost to travel to downtown San Francisco is $10.20. More information is available from BART’s website.

The San Jose airport is served by a free shuttle to both VTA Light Rail and Caltrain called the Airport Flyer — VTA Route #10. Passengers arriving in San Jose can use Caltrain to reach San Francisco directly (this costs $10.50 one-way [4 zone]). Caltrain also links with the BART system at the Millbrae intermodal station. Be aware that public transportation within the South Bay is not as developed as around San Francisco. Also, when riding Caltrain, be sure to buy your ticket at the automated station kiosks before boarding, as they are not sold on the trains.

Private Airport Transportation

Taxis are considerably more expensive than the public transportation options. A taxi from SFO to the city can easily cost more than $40, and over $60 from OAK. Taxi and van prices from San Jose to San Francisco are significantly higher. Shared vans will cost around $14. If you plan to drive from a car rental area near the SFO airport to downtown San Francisco, you can take the 101 freeway. When returning a rental car to SFO, remember to take the rental car exit, otherwise you will have to wind your way slowly back to the rental car center. There are other options around SF like Uber or ShuttleWizard or Chauffeur that are cheap and safe options especially for tourist who don’t know how to move around by public transportation services.

By Train

Amtrak, ☎ +1 800 872 7245, serves the Bay Area with long-distance and intercity trains. San Francisco’s long distance station is across the bay, outside city limits. Passengers arrive in Emeryville or Oakland’s Jack London Square Station in the East Bay and may take an Amtrak California Thruway bus over the Bay Bridge to San Francisco’s Amtrak stop at the Temporary Transbay Terminal (Folsom and Beale Streets) and usually several other downtown destinations (note that Amtrak passengers are not subjected to any extra charge for the bus). Travellers on some shorter distance Amtrak routes can also transfer to BART trains at the Richmond or Oakland Coliseum stations (see below). Alternatively, riders approaching the Bay Area from the south may transfer to Caltrain at San Jose’s Diridon Station for a direct ride to Fourth and King Streets in San Francisco.

Amtrak routes serving the Bay Area are:

  • The California Zephyr runs daily between Chicago and Emeryville with connections to/from the east coast.
  • The Coast Starlight runs daily between Seattle, Portland, Emeryville, and Los Angeles. To reach San Francisco, either transfer to Caltrain in San Jose or to the Amtrak bus in Emeryville.
  • The Capitol Corridor runs 16 times daily (11 on weekends and holidays) between Sacramento and Emeryville, with some trains also serving San Jose. Caltrain (see below) is the best bet to get between San Jose and San Francisco, but the most convenient transfer to San Francisco is via the Amtrak bus at Emeryville or to BART at either the Richmond station north of Emeryville or the Oakland Coliseum station for trains continuing south of Emeryville. Discount BART tickets can be purchased in the cafe car.
  • The San Joaquins runs 4 times daily between Bakersfield, Stockton and Emeryville. Travelers on the San Joaquins can continue on to San Francisco via the Amtrak bus at Emeryville or by transferring to the BART at the Richmond station. Discount BART tickets can be purchased in the cafe car.

There are two regional rail systems which serve San Francisco:

Caltrain, +1 510 817-1717, operates a regional rail service from San Jose to its San Francisco terminal at Fourth and King. The service also runs between San Jose and Gilroy during rush hour. Caltrain is very useful for travel between San Francisco and communities on the Peninsula, Silicon Valley or South Bay. On weekdays Caltrain provides one train per hour midday and evening (c. 10am-2pm & 7pm-11pm) but up to 4 per hour during commute hours, including “Baby Bullet” limited services that cruise between San Francisco and San Jose in about 1 hour; on weekends and public holidays trains run hourly, except that after 10pm only one train runs, leaving at midnight. The 4th & King terminal is served by Muni Metro (see ‘Get around’ below) giving connections to the rest of the city. Fares vary depending on how far you go. Tickets must be purchased before boarding the train from ticket vending machines at any of the stations or from ticket clerks at staffed stations. Tickets are checked on the trains and anyone found without a ticket is liable to a substantial fine. Cyclists should use the designated car at the northern end of the train, and be aware that bike space is often limited during commute hours.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), +1 415 989-2278, provides a regional frequent rail service connecting much of the East Bay and Contra Costa County with San Francisco and the San Francisco Airport through the Transbay Tube, a tunnel underneath San Francisco Bay. BART operates five routes, of which four run through San Francisco. There are three or four trains per hour on each route; consequently trains within San Francisco require generally less than a 5 minute wait. In the East Bay, BART runs mostly on elevated track; in downtown San Francisco it runs in a subway under Market Street, and several underground stations provide easy access to downtown areas and simple transfers to the Muni Metro subway. BART meets Caltrain at Millbrae. Bicycles are allowed on BART except between stations designated in the schedule brochure during commute hours. Fares vary depending with distance travelled, and start at $1.85 for trips within the city. You will need to insert your ticket into barriers when entering and exiting the system. Tickets hold a balance, deducting the appropriate price for each trip, so someone who plans to use the system several times can buy a $10 or $20 ticket and not worry about fares until the card is used up. Note that the BART vending machines accept primarily cash or debit cards, some accept credit cards but only twice within any 24 hour period. BART also accepts the Clipper Card, and BART ticket machines can be used to refill Clipper Cards, although do not sell them.

By Bus

Unfortunately there is no central bus terminal or intermodal terminals in San Francisco. Each company has their own terminal or stops located in/around downtown, SoMa and Tenderloin/Civic Center. They are:

  • Bolt Bus, Greyhound Terminal, 200 Folsom St (Slip 1 @ Greyhound Terminal), ☎ +1 877 265-8287, Goes down to the downtown Union Station in Los Angeles. 
  • California Shuttle Bus, Hilton Hotel, 333 O’Farrell St (Picks up Mason St across from Nikko Hotel), ☎ +1 408 294-1798 (sales@cashuttlebus.com), offers service to Los Angeles via San Jose. Another stop at Carl’s Jr, 25 Cyril Magnin St (Cyril Magnin & Eddy St). Charter buses with free Wi-Fi, reserved seating, 2 bags allowed for free (3rd for $15), and bicycles allowed for $5. Prices start at $15. 
  • Greyhound, 200 Folsom St (Folsom & Main, 3 blocks SE from the Embarcadero BART station in downtown San Francisco), ☎ +1 415 495-1569, Travels primarily on Interstate 80 (S Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Colfax, Truckee, Reno); Interstate 5/CA-133 (Los Angeles, Avenal, Gilroy, San Jose, S Francsico/Oakland); US 101 south (San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Salinas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard & Los Angeles); US-101 north (San Francisco, Oakland, Santa Rosa, Willits, Eureka, Arcata); CA-152/99 (S Francisco, San Jose, Gilroy, Los Banos, Madera, & Fresno); Interstate 580/CA-99 (San Francisco, Oakland, Hayward, Modesto, Fresno, Bakersfield, S Fernando and Los Angeles). Passengers transfer to other buses or Amtrak California in Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Luis Obispo, Reno, Bakersfield and/or Fresno to get to other cities.
  • Hoang Express, McDonald’s, 600 Van Ness (Van Ness & Golden Gate Ave in Tenderloin/Civic Center), offers service to Los Angeles and San Diego.
    megabus.com, Townsend St between 4th & 5th St (The stop is at the passenger boarding zone near the north entrance to the 4th Street Caltrain station in SoMa), ☎ +1 877-462-6342, Express bus service to/from Los Angeles. Double Deck Coaches with WiFi, Restrooms, Power Outlets and seats starting at $1 with dynamic pricing; average prices around $20. 

Several regional bus / train systems serve San Francisco from the immediate suburbs:

  • AC Transit, +1 510 891-4700, from Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, and other East Bay cities (in Alameda County).
  • SamTrans, +1 510 817-1717, from San Mateo County.
  • Golden Gate Transit, +1 415 455-2000, from Sonoma and Marin counties.
  • WestCAT, +1 510 724-7993, from Contra Costa County.
  • Vallejo Baylink, +1 707 643-3779, (in conjunction with BayLink Ferry) from Vallejo.
    BART , +1 510 465-2278, runs commuter trains between various places in San Francisco, San Mateo, Alameda, Vallejo and Contra Costa Counties including the San
  • Francisco International Airport.
  • 511.org, provides streamlined information on getting around the bay area by public transport with various transit agencies, train companies and ferries including a trip planner program.

By Boat

In many ways a boat is the ideal way to approach San Francisco. The city’s spectacular skyline is best appreciated from the water, and from the deck of a boat the bay and its bridges and islands can be viewed as a whole. Cruise ships and private yachts are regular visitors to San Francisco, and passenger ferries regularly link other Bay Area cities to San Francisco.

Ferries run to San Francisco from Larkspur, Sausalito and Tiburon in Marin County, from Vallejo in Solano County and from Alameda and Oakland in the East Bay. In San Francisco, the ferries dock at one or both of the city’s two piers at Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building, the later of which is a very short walk from the Amtrak San Francisco bus stop as well as Embarcadero Station, where the BART and Muni trains stop, and the stop for the historic streetcars that run above ground down Market Street. For more information on boat connections:

  • Golden Gate Ferries, ☎ +1 415 455-2000. Serving Larkspur and Sausalito.
  • Blue and Gold Fleet, ☎ +1 415 705-8200. Serving Alameda, Angel Island, Oakland, Sausalito, Tiburon and Vallejo.
  • BayLink Ferry, ☎ +1 877 643-3779. Serving Vallejo.
  • Alameda Oakland Ferry, ☎ +1 510 522-3300. Serving Alameda and Oakland.
  • Harbor Bay Ferry, ☎ +1 510 769-5500. Serving (a different location in) Alameda.

By Car

There are four major highway approaches to San Francisco. US-101 comes up the eastern side of the SF peninsula and is the most direct route from the south, although it often backs up with traffic. Interstate 280 is a more scenic route into the city from the same direction, but with poorer connections than 101. The I-280 San Jose Avenue exit (#52, but poorly marked) avoids dense rush hour bridge traffic for drivers going to areas as the Civic Center. Interstate 80 approaches the city from the east over the San Francisco Bay Bridge. From the north, US-101 takes you over the Golden Gate Bridge.

All Bay Area toll bridges have toll plazas that charge tolls in one direction only. That direction is usually north or west, although the Golden Gate Bridge charges tolls only to traffic going south. All bridges except the Golden Gate Bridge still have cash toll booths; simply enter any open lane that has a “CASH” or “FASTRAK/CASH” sign. All bridges have a sign for “last exit before toll.”

As of 2012, the Golden Gate Bridge has closed all cash toll booths and fully converted to electronic toll collection. All users must have a FasTrak transponder issued by one of the state’s various toll road agencies (many California rental car agencies can rent a transponder with their vehicles for a “convenience fee”) or will receive a bill for the toll amount, to be settled within 21 days of crossing. Note that the large-scale rental companies will automatically bill you for any tolls incurred, plus a daily charge ($3 as of June 2013) that accrues on every day of your rental period following your crossing the Bridge) – this can be avoided if you pre-pay, see here for further details]).

The toll plaza is equipped with cameras to record license plates of vehicles that do not have transponders. Tolls can be paid online or at one of several retail locations that take cash. If you want to pay with cash, be advised that even locals sometimes have a hard time calculating the correct toll fees. Consider using this handy tool to estimate the fees for you: Bay Area Tolls.

Get Around


Navigating

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No left turns (or U-turns) allowed on 19th Avenue

Cross streets. As San Francisco streets are numbered (100 per block) from the beginning of the street, and even and odd numbers are always on opposite sides, it is best when asking directions to ask for a cross street or neighborhood name rather than relying on the address alone. For instance, addresses on Mission Street at 18th Street are in the 2200s, but one block away on Valencia at 18th, addresses are only in the 700s. This is because Mission starts at the Embarcadero, two miles further east than Valencia’s start at Market Street. Local residents rely on cross streets.

Numbered streets and avenues. San Francisco has both numbered streets, in the Mission, the Castro, and SoMa, and numbered streets an alphabetically ordered avenues in the largely residential Richmond (starting with Anza) and Sunset districts (ending with Yorba). Mixing numbered streets and avenues when asking directions may leave you miles from your destination. This can be confusing, as San Franciscans will not say “Street” or “Avenue” unless it is required to avoid ambiguity. Thus, they won’t say “I live on Fifth Avenue,” but will say “I live near Fifth and Geary.” Street signs generally don’t have “Street” or “Avenue” either; they just say “GEARY” or “MASONIC”, although numbered streets and avenues do.

Multiple street grids. One of the most confusing aspects of driving in San Francisco is the presence of multiple street grids, particularly in the downtown area where two grids intersect at an angle along Market Street. Even more confusing are streets in the middle of the standard blocks, like New Montgomery Street.

No left turns. Several key San Francisco arterial streets, including 19th Avenue and Market Street, do not have space for dedicated left turn lanes and therefore bear NO LEFT TURN signs at most intersections. As a result, you will be frustrated when you drive for miles on these streets with no opportunity to turn left. The trick, of course, is to go around the block with multiple right turns after passing one’s desired street, which requires you to stay in the right lane, not the left lane.

On Foot

Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts. San Francisco is a city of friendly neighborhoods, but it is also a big city so be aware of your surroundings and keep in mind the dangers that commonly accompany a city of San Francisco’s size.

However, streets that often go straight up and down hills may make walking challenging when attempting the uphill portions (but provide good exercise). Driving can be difficult up and down hills but have breathtaking views. There are many stairway walks scattered throughout the city when the streets are too steep. You can find maps that include hiking trails, bikeways, and the grade pitch of all streets marked in varying colors by how steep each segment is, that can help you orient to city walks suitable to your ability and temperament, such as the downloadable map issued by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Note that locals rarely use the designations “street” or “avenue,” even when differentiating the numbered streets and avenues. Numbered roads designated “Street” are located on the east side of the city, south of Market in Downtown, Castro, Noe Valley, and Mission. Numbered roads designated “Avenue” put you in the Richmond and Sunset districts on the west side.

By Public Transit

690px-San_francisco_rail_system

San Francisco Rail Systems

San Francisco has one of the most comprehensive public transportation systems in the United States, arguably the most comprehensive system west of Chicago. Transport services within San Francisco are provided by several bodies; they are separate organizations and although they have many interchange stations, tickets are not normally transferable across the systems (except for monthly or longer period passes). The major transit systems are:

  • Muni — Metro subway, streetcars, buses, trolley buses and cable cars within San Francisco proper.
  • BART — regional subway services in the San Francisco Bay Area.
  • Caltrain — commuter rail services to San José.

San Francisco Municipal Railway or Muni, +1 415 701-2311, runs a network of local transport that covers most areas of touristic interest well. An all day Muni passport good on all Muni services, including Cable Cars, costs $20. Other passports and passes are available for longer periods: a 3-day pass costs $31, while a 7 day pass costs $40. The passports come in the form of scratch cards; be sure to scratch off the appropriate dates before using.

The Clipper Card was fully introduced in 2010 and is a contact-less, multi-agency fare card similar to Octopus in Hong Kong and Charlie Card in Boston. Clipper cards are free at any MUNI ticket machine and are accepted on BART, CalTrain, San Francisco ferries, and many regional transit systems outside the City of San Francisco, in addition to all of MUNI’s vehicles (streetcar/subway, busses and cable cars). Clipper can either be set up with pay as you go with all transfers calculated automatically or a 1 day, 3 day, 7 day or monthly pass. MUNI has also created a single use “Clipper Ticket” as the new subway turnstiles no longer accept cash. You can still pay with exact change when boarding a streetcar above ground or a bus. Drivers will accept over-payment, but cannot make change.

MUNI operates on a proof of payment basis, sometimes called an “honor system with teeth.” 90 minutes of travel on the Muni system (Metro, F-line streetcar, buses) costs $2.25 ($0.75 for youth 5-17, disabled, and seniors 65+) including transfers and return trips if they fall within the 90 minute limit. If you’re using a Clipper Card, be sure you “touch on” at any of the readers located near the streetcar or bus door to pay your fare and start the 90 minute clock (you can board at any door as they all have readers). If you aren’t using a Clipper Card, don’t have a Muni passport, and pay cash, you must board at the front door and obtain a transfer ticket from the driver. The MUNI Saturation Team (fare inspectors) and sometimes the SFPD randomly and frequently patrol streetcars, subway stations and buses with handheld Clipper Card readers checking for proper fare – residents who ride MUNI regularly report being checked once or twice a week. The fine for being caught without proof of payment is $250, although tourists are sometimes issued a warning if it’s their first offense.

Cable Cars are not included in these transfers and cost $7 per ride (one way, no transfers), or $20 per day. Before 7am and after 9pm, seniors and disabled pay $3 for cable car rides. Muni Passports and FastPasses greatly reduce this cost, including cable cars in the regular daily, weekly or monthly fares.

A portable wallet-sized map of San Francisco and all its public transit (MUNI, BART, Caltrain) is also available at stores around the city or through their website online Many of the city’s bus stops also have posted copies of this map with the location of the stop marked, a godsend for lost pedestrians.

You can plan your Muni travel online. Muni arrival times are also available online for many lines at NextMuni.

Muni consists of:

  • Muni Metro (Lines J, K, L, M, N, S and T) is a modern light rail and subway system. It connects many southern and western neighborhoods to downtown, where you can transfer to one of BART’s four downtown stations and the Caltrain terminal at 4th and King. Outside of the Market Street and Twin Peaks subways, Muni Metro operates as a surface light rail system, running in the center of the street with stops every couple of blocks (note that some of these stops are not wheelchair accessible – check the map to see which ones are). Tickets can be purchased from ticket vending machines before boarding; if the stop does not have such a machine and you do not have a ticket, you must board through the front door and buy one from the driver or risk being fined by a fare inspector. MUNI Metro operates seven days a week from 4:30am to 1:30am. Between 1:30am and 5am, OWL Buses substitute for Metro service. The Metro system (trains and buses) has a reputation for being extremely crowded. Buses are often slow due to frequent stops and heavy boarding especially during rush hour. However, it is by far superior to most other parts of the Bay Area.
    The Historic Streetcar E and F Lines use historic streetcars, in original colors from several cities in the US, Milan, Italy, and Zurich, Switzerland. The F line runs from Fisherman’s Wharf south along the waterfront Embarcadero to the ferry building at the foot of Market Street, then up Market Street on the surface to the Castro district, terminating near the Castro Theater. The E line runs from the Caltrain station, along Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. Board through the front door and buy tickets from the operator if you do not already have a transfer or pass.
  • The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf: the north-south Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines and the east-west California Street line. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board, if a bit impractical for everyday use (though residents of Nob and Russian Hills do, in fact, use them on a daily basis). The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell Street than it does to walk the short but sloping distance. If you want to save yourself time standing in line at the turnaround, just walk up a couple of blocks to the next stop — the conductors save a few spaces for people boarding along the way; you won’t get first choice of seats, but you’ll save yourself a long time standing in line. Board through any door or just grab a pole on the running boards; tickets are checked and sold by a uniformed conductor. Do not buy tickets from anyone off the car except for clearly marked ticket booths — scam artists are common.
  • Both diesel and electric trolley buses serve the rest of city. Board through the front door and buy tickets from or show your pass or transfer to the driver. You may board the back with a Clipper card, however their cost makes them only recommended for visitors staying for at least a month. Service ranges from a consistent two minutes on many lines leaving Market, to a more sporadic 20 minutes for buses to Treasure Island and between outlying neighborhoods. Bus delays, leading to waits of 20 to 30 minutes, are not uncommon and are a source of much grousing among locals. MUNI operates 24 hours a day / seven days a week in San Francisco although late night owl service is limited in both lines and stops.

Other public transportation options include:

  • BART, the regional metro, has eight stations in San Francisco, making it a nice way to get between well-trafficked parts of the city, especially downtown and the Mission. BART gets you across the Bay to Berkeley and Oakland and to the airports of San Francisco and Oakland. BART Trains run over 107 miles (172km) of track, serving 46 stations. BART trains operate on third rail power and accelerate to speeds approaching 80mph (130km/h). BART operates seven days a week from 4am to 12:30am. On weekdays BART trains depart downtown San Francisco stations at two to three minute intervals. Outer stations in far outlying suburbs have a maximum wait of fifteen to twenty minutes between trains. After 12:30am, AC Transit and other east bay transit providers provide late-night bus service, serving principal BART stations until about 6am. BART routes are named for the two terminus stations, not by line color as denoted on the system map. For more information on BART, see the ‘Get in’ section above.
  • Caltrain has three stops within San Francisco. Other than the 4th and King terminal in SoMa, these are the 22nd St. Station and the Bayshore Station (off Tunnel Ave), neither of which are particularly attractive for visitors. Of interest to visitors who wish to travel outside of the city is the Palo Alto Station (at University Avenue), across the street from the campus of Stanford University, and San Jose Diridon Station. Burlingame, San Mateo, Redwood City and Mountain View also have attractive downtown areas that are easily accessible from the stations and have attractive retail and restaurant areas. Caltrain operates fast frequent commuter rail service, seven days a week. Service generally runs from 5am to midnight. For more information on Caltrain, see the ‘Get in’ section above. If you are using Caltrain to see the peninsula and South Bay make sure you buy a “day pass” from the ticket machine. It is the same price as two one way tickets but gives you unlimited on-off privileges for any station within the zones purchased so can be a great way to see several of the peninsula cities.

By Bike

If you have strong legs and a bit of urban cycling experience, bicycles are an excellent option for transportation within San Francisco. The city is fairly small in land area– just about 7 miles from north to south and 7 miles from east to west– so it’s fairly quick to get from one end to the other, and in recent years, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency has installed many miles of new bike lanes and paths. Cycling is a common transportation choice for San Francisco residents, moreso than in most other American cities, as it is often the quickest way across town. This means that motorists will generally be aware of the presence of cyclists on the roadway. However, it is extremely important to ride with caution, as gridlock and congestion can lead motorists, pedestrians, and cyclists alike to act unpredictably and in an unsafe manner, at times. Theft of bicycle parts and entire bicycles is unfortunately very common in San Francisco, so it is recommended to avoid leaving a bicycle unattended in public for extended periods of time, and if it is necessary to do so, to lock the bicycle as securely as possible, with a strong lock.

If you plan on cycling in San Francisco, consider that much of the terrain is extremely hilly, making for some tough climbs. In addition, coming downhill means, if you’re not careful, you may find yourself barreling out of control into cross traffic at the bottom of the hill. However, there is almost always a bicycle route to get you from one place to another while avoiding major climbs within the city. If you’re unsure of how to get around the hills, ask a local cyclist for advice.

Do not be misled by maps depicting the city’s street grid and assume that these streets are always flat. Even the straightest of San Francisco’s streets might include steep hills or even staircases instead of a roadway. And remember, children may tire even sooner than adults will. A recommended easy ride for children and cyclists with little experience is from the tip of Golden Gate Park’s panhandle in the Haight, along paths and JFK Drive through the park to Ocean Beach. JFK Drive is lightly trafficked, and its eastern portion (between Kezar and Transverse Drives) is closed to cars on Sundays.

SoMa, the Mission, the Sunset, and Richmond districts are relatively flat. There are a number of bike paths and bike routes on city streets; the San Francisco Bike Coalition keeps a lot of information about them. There are a number of bike rental companies in town, including Dylan’s Bike Rental ,Bay City Bike , Bike and Roll and Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals with locations in Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Bike Hut and Pacific Bicycle in SoMa.

A very popular ride for visitors to San Francisco is the ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, a small town in the relatively undeveloped Marin Headlands. The Golden Gate Bridge has sectioned off pathways on each side for pedestrians and bicyclists. When open, the Western side of the bridge is for cyclists only. When the Western side is closed for construction, the Eastern side is intended for shared use by pedestrians and cyclists. When sharing the Western side with pedestrians, ride courteously. Avoid riding side-by-side, and do your best to make way for groups of pedestrians, as well as commuting cyclists, who ride at higher speeds, and generally have less patience for obstructions. When the bridge is closed to pedestrians during nighttime, you may continue to bicycle across by stopping to press the buzzer at the automatically closed gates to be buzzed in and out.

By Taxi

Taxis in San Francisco are, for a large city, surprisingly inefficient and expensive, starting at $3.50 just for getting in the cab and $0.55 per fifth of a mile and per minute of waiting. You can get an idea of how much particular taxi trips cost in San Francisco using the San Francisco Taxicab Commission’s webpage.

San Francisco is home to several startups which are trying to provide a better ride-for-hire service, including Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, which are generally cheaper and more reliable than a taxi. Download the free app for any company to view cars in your area, and request a ride.

Except for taxi stations at or near downtown business hotels, or cruising just a few major arteries, taxis can be hard to find and hail — and calling for a cab can mean a 30-45 minute wait, if the cab shows up at all. Now, if you’re anywhere near Union Square and are holding shopping bags, just by standing on the curb and hailing passing cabs will usually get you one quite quickly. It is significantly easier to catch a taxi on weekdays, not including Friday night.

If you are heading to the airport, your best bet is to call ahead with a specific pickup time to one of the many taxi companies. You will also want to schedule your cab ahead of time because if you are going beyond 15 miles, you will end up paying 50% extra.

By Car

Perpetually-clogged traffic, steep hills, a confusing system of one-way streets downtown, expensive parking, and a fleet of parking control officers who enforce parking laws with zeal can make driving in central San Francisco extremely frustrating; visitors to the city should seriously consider alternatives to automobiles when possible. Car rental is expensive, registration fees are the highest of any US state, and because collisions are common, rates for liability insurance (legally required) are high as well. In addition, traffic from the Golden Gate Bridge uses surface streets either along CA-1, 19th Avenue or US-101 on Lombard and Van Ness. A car is really only useful for visiting destinations outside of the city (excluding Oakland and Berkeley, which is served by BART) or parts of the city less frequently served by MUNI. The greatest hazard of driving is on Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth, where a stretch known as “The Crookedest Street in the World” runs one-way down a steep hill making eight hairpin turns. Oversized vehicles such as pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, and recreational vehicles should NOT attempt to pass through the winding stretch of Lombard Street. Driving and parking tend to be easier in the Western portion of the city, especially in the more suburban Sunset District and surrounding areas.

The most difficult problem with your car in San Francisco will be parking. Parking throughout the city is extremely scarce. Garages, where they are available, are quite expensive ($20-30/day downtown), and downtown street parking is often metered. San Francisco has some of the strictest parking laws and enforcement in the country. For more information, see SFMTA’s parking information page. For day trips into the city, consider a park-and-ride at a Peninsula Caltrain station, at a Peninsula BART station, or at an East Bay BART station.

When parking on a hill (and there are many of them in San Francisco), remember to always apply that parking brake and turn your wheels so that the tires are against the curb (Facing uphill, the front wheels should be turned out until the tires are resting against the curb. Facing downhill, the front wheels should be turned in so that they are set against the curb). Failure to park properly doesn’t just run the risk of having your car roll downhill, but it is also against the law and you may be ticketed.

Motorcycles and Scooters are a common sight on San Francisco streets; in fact, San Francisco is known as one of the most motorcycle-friendly places in the US. Street parking for motorcycles is plentiful and relatively inexpensive ($0.40 to $0.70 an hour), but note that parking on sidewalks is usually illegal. There are several motorcycle rental shops like Dubbelju Motorcycle Rentals, along with many dealers, service shops, and motorcyclist hangouts. As elsewhere in California, motorcyclists must wear helmets. Motorcycle theft is a problem; always use a disk lock or secure your bike to a stationary object using a cable or chain.

Segways, though more novel, are fairly common in San Francisco. So far there is only one authorized Segway dealer that rents out Segways, though various tour operators (many of whom operate from Fisherman’s Wharf) offer guided trips throughout the city.

Ride Share Programs

Ride Sharing is becoming increasingly popular as an alternative to taxi cab services in San Francisco, offering an arguably friendlier and more reliable service at a cheaper price. Programs including Lyft, Sidecar, Uber and Carmainvolve downloading their mobile application to request a ride. Programs such as Sidecar, Lyft, and Uber’s “UberX” utilize local drivers, and Uber also offers a more up-scale service, providing town cars and luxury SUVs at a premium price. The local drivers whom drive for Sidecar, Lyft, etc. usually do not have a taxi license. They are residents who own cars and are looking for an extra income on the side. But be assured, each driver in the ride share programs go through background checks and are tracked via GPS during your ride. Driver photos and their cars are displayed to the rider before pick up to ensure rider safety.

To request ride, the ride share programs usually requires the rider to download their mobile application and create an account and store credit card information. When requesting a ride, the rider enters their pick-up location, and drop-off location. When a driver confirms your ride request, a GPS map will track the driver’s location, ETA, as well as show a picture of the driver and their car.

All forms of payment are done through the mobile application, so there is no need to carry cash. Carma has a fixed $0.20 per mile but drivers can choose to give free rides. Lyft is a fixed $2.50 pickup fee, $1.00 trust and safety fee, $1.90 per mile and $0.40 per minute of waiting in traffic. UberX has a $3.00 base fare, $1.40 per mile and $0.30 per minute waiting in traffic.

See


San Francisco has much to see — these are just the most significant sights. For more detail see the individual district sections, often linked from this entry.

Two passes are available which offer discounts to many interesting attractions:

  • San Francisco CityPASS . A relatively cheap and easy way to cover many attractions of the city is the CityPASS. For a fare of $89 for adults and $66 for children 5-12, you get admission to the California Academy of Sciences, a Blue and Gold Fleet bay cruise, the Aquarium of the Bay, and the Exploratorium or the Legion of Honor and the de Young Museum (both must be visited on the same day). A CityPASS works for 9 consecutive days starting with the use of your first ticket (each ticket only accounts for one visit to each attraction). The pass also includes three consecutive days of Cable Car and MUNI fares.
  • Go San Francisco Card – An all-inclusive pass that lets you visit multiple San Francisco attractions for one price, starting at $65. You can save up to 55% on top museums, tours, and activities vs. paying at the gate. The pass is available in 1, 2, 3, or 5 day increments, and includes admission to dozens of top San Francisco attractions including a Hop-On/Hop-Off Trolley Tour, the California Academy of Sciences, a Golden Gate Bay Cruise, and many more.
  • Aerial tour if you are adventurous, you can see San Francisco from the air. There is a new modern power gilder at Palo Alto airport about 25minute south of San Francisco. You can see Stanford, get an idea of how long SLAC is, and be exposed to some of the most beautiful natural vistas. Check out power glider tours at palo alto airport http://www.powerglidertours.com

The city is strongly associated with the Beat Generation literary movement, notable for authors like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. City Lights Bookstore and the Beat Museum make for excellent places to learn about the Beats, but there are many other bars, cafes, and apartments where Beat history was made.

Itineraries

There are many highlight walks you can take to really capture the feel of the city and see a whole lot of attractions at the same time. Some of the best ones are:

  • Chinatown. Grant from Bush to Broadway takes you through the heart of the famous district. Returning by the parallel Stockton or Powell will give you a better feeling of the day to day life of the residents, and are both good for those looking for imported commodities such as tea or herbs.
  • Ocean Beach. Ocean Beach is entirely open to pedestrians in both the Richmond and Sunset districts from the Cliff House restaurant and Sutro Baths in the north to the zoo in the south. For a shorter walk, the windmills near Lincoln at the end of Golden Gate Park offer a good base for a stroll north.
  • Telegraph Hill. Greenwich and Filbert Steps on the east side of Telegraph Hill, both strenuous and unforgettably beautiful, offer cottages and a flock of wild parrots to enjoy on the way up to the Coit Tower.
  • North Beach. Columbus runs from North Point in Fisherman’s Wharf, through the grand church and famous cafés at the heart of North Beach to the landmark Transamerica pyramid, accessible to transit on nearby Market.
  • Haight Ashbury. Haight from Divisadero to Stanyan covers the shopping district famous for hippie culture; at Stanyan the street becomes a path through Golden Gate Park to a popular site (then and now) for relaxing and concerts.
    Cow Hollow. Union Street between Gough and Fillmore is one of the finest shopping streets outside of the city center.
  • Mission. Mission between 15th and Cesar Chavez streets provides a look at a neighborhood famous for its murals, Latino food and culture, as well as occasional gang activity east of Mission Street. Parallel to Mission, Valencia Street is the artery of the many higher end boutiques and offbeat cafés starting to characterize the neighborhood, and has little of the grit of Mission St. 16th Street between Mission and Guerrero Streets offers a diversity of cuisine and several hip bars.
  • Pacific Heights. Fillmore between Pine and Broadway is lined with a good mix of shopping, views, steep slopes, and some of the city’s largest and most expensive homes.
  • Fillmore. Post from Laguna (near 38 bus stop) to Fillmore takes you through upscale shopping and restaurants in Japantown, and turning left onto Fillmore across Geary and on to Turk takes you past the internationally known jazz venues and a mix of Black and Korean owned shops.
  • Castro and Noe Valley. Market from Church to Castro St. and a left down Castro St to 19th takes you through the center of the city’s famous gay mecca. Continuing up Castro St over the hill from there takes you to 24th St, the main drag of bohemian Noe Valley.

Landmarks

Perhaps the most recognizable landmark in San Francisco and one of the most famous bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge, spanning the Golden Gate, has been called one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World and is the first thing you see of San Francisco if driving in from the north, as it is one of the major road routes into and out of the city. Overlooking the Golden Gate is the Presidio, a former military post with beautiful architecture and a very scenic park setting. Within the Presidio is the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, built for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and reminiscent of Roman and Greek architecture.

Within the center of the city, the famous cable cars run up and down the hills of San Francisco between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf and offer quite a ride (see above under Get around for more info). Atop one of those hills, Telegraph Hill in North Beach, is Coit Tower, a gleaming white tower dedicated to the San Francisco firefighters. At 275′ high, the hill is a healthy hike from the nearby neighborhoods just below. Another prominent tower nearby is the Transamerica Pyramid, the tallest and most recognizable building in the San Francisco skyline, located among the skyscrapers and highrises of the Financial District. Perhaps the most famous view of that skyline is from Alamo Square Park in the Western Addition district, home to the famous Painted Ladies row of Victorian houses, with many other pretty Victorians encircling the lovely park.

Over on Russian Hill is the famous stretch of Lombard Street between Hyde & Leavenworth, the (nearly) crookedest street in America. The city also has a twistier but less scenic stretch of street, Vermont Street on Potrero Hill. Other street oddities in San Francisco include 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church in Noe Valley and Filbert Street between Leavenworth and Hyde on Russian Hill — At a 31.5% grade, these streets share the honor of the steepest streets in San Francisco.

Neighborhoods

San Francisco is also well-known for its collection of unique and intriguing neighborhoods. Most tourists start with Fisherman’s Wharf; although many of the locals consider it a tourist trap, it is a great place to see amazing street entertainers, watch sea lions, visit museums, or take a cruise to the infamous Alcatraz Prison or the pleasant Angel Island. Working fishing boats still come into the small harbor here, and the district is home to several excellent seafood restaurants. The fresh breeze from the bay can provide a bracing setting.

The Downtown area around Union Square-Financial District | Union Square, is the heart of the city’s main shopping and hotel district. Many other interesting areas are in walking distance or a short Muni ride from there.

Chinatown, just north-west of Downtown, centered around Grant Street from Bush to Columbus, is part tourist trap, part an exhibit of local life. Good eating places abound, and the side streets especially have stores one wouldn’t find in a mall. Stockton Street is where most locals do their shopping for groceries; be sure to sample some of the dim sum and other specialties offered in the many bustling shops. However, many local Chinese prefer to eat and shop in the new Chinatowns located in other neighborhoods such as on Clement Street between 2nd and 12th Avenues in the Inner Richmond neighborhood. The Muni #1 (California) and #2 (Clement, does not run at night) buses get people from one Chinatown to the other.

South of Downtown is the Civic Center, with its impressive Beaux Arts buildings including City Hall and the War Memorial Veterans Building, the celebrated Asian Art Museum, music and theater venues (including large concert halls and a renowned Symphony and Opera), and the main public library.

The SoMa, across Market and Mission streets from Downtown to the south-east is rapidly gentrifying. Ii is the loaction of the city’s main convention center and several new museums.

Further south is the Mission District, home to the Mission Dolores Church, one of the oldest structures in the city, and a fantastic collection of murals of all sorts on the walls of many nearby buildings, especially on alleys between Market and Valencia. BART and the Mission street #14 bus go there.

At the southern end of Market Street is the Castro, the center of San Francisco’s Lesbian/Gay/Bi/Transgender (LGBT) community, with numerous theaters, small shops and restaurants. The Muni historic F-line is the best way to go there, although most underground Muni-trains stop there as well.

Further west is Haight Ashbury, famous for being a center of the Hippie movement in the 60s and 70s. While tourism has softened the image of the neighborhood somewhat, the area still retains its distinct feel with small organic coffee shops and store after store selling marijuana-themed goods, tie dye tee shirts and hand bands. The Muni Judah N-line and the Parnassus #6 bus from market street go there.

Treasure Island, an artificial island half-way between San Francisco and Oakland connected to the Bay Bridge, has excellent views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines and quirky structures from the international fairground-turned-navy base-turned-neighborhood. Accessible by Muni bus #108 from the Transbay Terminal in SoMa.

Museums

When the morning is foggy, you may want to spend a few hours in one of the city’s many world-class museums. Golden Gate Park is home to the copper-clad M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary and indigenous art. The de Young Museum’s former Asian collection is now permanently housed in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, located in the Civic Center. Across from the de Young Museum stands the California Academy of Sciences, which holds a huge array of science exhibits, including an aquarium and a natural history museum.

The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is in Lincoln Park in the northwest corner of the Richmond district. In Nob Hill, the Cable Car Museum offers exhibits on the famous moving landmarks of San Francisco. Near the Castro is the Randall Museum, a lovely little children’s museum. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Moscone Center, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Zeum, the Cartoon Art Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Museum of Craft and Folk Art are all located in SoMa, south of Union Square. The Contemporary Jewish Museum, which was designed by Daniel Libeskind and opened in June 2008, is the latest major addition to San Francisco’s museum scene.

At the Hyde Street Pier in Fisherman’s Wharf you can go on board several historical ships, including the 1886 Balclutha clipper ship, a walking-beam ferry, a steam tug, and a coastal schooner. At Pier 45 just to the east, the World War II submarine USS Pampanito and the World War II Liberty Ship SS Jeremiah O’Brien can be visited. Nearby is the Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39 and the newly opened Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. The Musee Mecanique on pier 45 contains hundreds of coin operated amusement machines, many from the 19th century. Most can be used for just a quarter.

The newly relocated and bigger and better than ever Exploratorium on Pier 15 is walking distance from Embarcadero and will keep you busy for an entire day with their science and perception exhibits. In the Marina district is Fort Mason, home to a few cultural museums.

Many museums offer free admission on certain days during the first week of every month.

Parks and Outdoors

San Francisco has numerous parks, ranging from the tiny to the huge. The most famous of them is Golden Gate Park in The Avenues district, a massive (roughly 1/2 mile-by-four mile) urban oasis with windmills, bison, museums, a carousel and much more hidden among its charms. The park contains the antique palatial greenhouse of the Conservatory of Flowers, the modern and ethnic art focused de Young Museum, the large Japanese Tea Garden, the new California Academy of Sciences building designed by Renzo Piano and the Strybing Arboretum, a collection of plants from across the temperate world. Defining the extreme Northwestern corner of the city is Lincoln Park in Richmond, which provides majestic views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side, and the Pacific Ocean itself. At the extreme western end the well known Cliff House provides both semi-casual and a more formal eating and drinking place. The Legion of Honor museum at the center of the park houses many incredible artworks.

Near the physical center of the city is the Twin Peaks, one of San Francisco’s highest points (875′ above sea level); providing spectacular views in all directions. Tour buses can get backed up here during the day, but it’s a great place to really appreciate the city from above, especially at and after sunset. Temperatures up there can be quite a bit lower than in the rest of the city, so bring a jacket. Nearby in the Lake Merced area is the San Francisco Zoo, a large and well maintained zoo which is a great place to go if you are traveling with children or have a fondness for penguins, primates, lions or llamas.

While not particularly well known for its beaches, San Francisco has a couple of good ones along the Pacific Ocean — but the water is brisk, the winds can be rough, and due to strong rip currents swimming at any of them is not recommended. Ocean Beach along the Sunset district is the largest and most famous beach, with plenty of sand and people enjoying themselves. China Beach in Richmond and Baker Beach in Golden Gate are smaller, rather secluded beaches with lovely views.

On sunny days hipsters flock to Mission Dolores Park, so named due to its location across the street from the Mission Dolores Basilica. The park often comes to resemble a large party, with music, coolers of beer and, er, uh…medical marijuana treatment. Mission Dolores Park is situated on a slight slope in the Noe Valley neighborhood, just a few blocks from the many restaurants and bars in the Mission. The east side of the park is bounded by Dolores Street, a hilly and scenic drive lined with palm trees and Victorians. During the fire of 1906 that destroyed much of the city, one of the few working fire hydrants was located near the Southwest corner of the park. This fire hydrant provided water that helped stop the fire. The fire hydrant is still functioning and is repainted gold once a year on the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake.

In the southern half of the city is the often overlooked but wonderful Bernal Heights Park, a small park on top of a hill overlooking the entire eastern half of the city, with excellent views of the skyscrapers in the Financial District, the Mission District, and the hills in the southeastern corner of the city. A wide trail runs around the base of the park below the peak which can be walked in ten to fifteen minutes. Bernal Heights Park is dog friendly, so much so that a coyote is often observed there.

Do


Harbor Tours

One of the best ways to see San Francisco is from the waters of San Francisco Bay. There are many companies offering harbor tours of varying durations and prices but they all provide marvelous views of the bay, the bridges, the island of Alcatraz, Angel Island and the city.

Only specific island tours are allowed to land at Alcatraz, but the typical harbor tour will circle the island at a slow crawl, giving you plenty of opportunity to photograph the now-inactive prison from the water.

Also consider taking a ferry from San Francisco across the bay to Tiburon, Sausalito, or Alameda. Same views for a fraction of the price.

Most tours leave from docks at Fisherman’s Wharf near Pier 39 (Pier 33 for Alcatraz). Tickets can be purchased at kiosks along the waterfront walk. Buy tickets a day or two in advance during the summer high season. For Alcatraz island tour, you may need to book weeks in advance (but you can also buy waitlist tickets – if there’s spaces left you get on, if not you get a full refund). It’s well worth it though – you get an extensive audio tour of the prison, with stories of various escape attempts.

Boats usually leave roughly hourly starting around 10am and ending around 5pm. Multi-lingual guides are available on some tours. Prices range from $20-$40, more for sunset, dinner, or whale watching tours.

  • Even on a sunny day the bay can be chilly, so be sure to bring a sweater as well as sun screen.
  • Some boats have snack bars on board, but bring your own water and treats to avoid paying high costs or going without. There are now limited refreshments and a souvenirs shop on Alcatraz.

Performing Arts

The diversity of options to enjoy music and theater is huge. An excellent source for finding current offerings is the edited San Francisco Classical Voice, in addition to specific venues listed here. Concerts by small groups, classical to modern, and often free are listed at the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music page. The SF Classical Music Examiner provides insightful reviews and previews.

  • San Francisco has a Half-Price Ticket Booth located right in the middle of Union Square, where tickets for most San Francisco theatre performances can be purchased the day of the performance for half-price. Run by Theatre Bay Area, the income from all service fees collected from the sale of tickets by TIX Bay Area goes right back into the theatre community.Go to a concert. There are performances most days to choose from by the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Symphony, in the Old First Church. Last minute tickets are often available at the door. Symphony tickets have a wide price range, Terrace seats are often less than $20. There are recitals most days, as well as occasional major performances, at the San Francisco Conservatory nearby . All these venues are located in or near the Civic Center. The museum of the Legion of Honor, located in Lincoln Park overlooking the Golden Gate (north end of 34th Ave), has organ concerts which can be heard in many of its galleries, Saturdays and Sundays at 4pm, as well as music performances in its Florence Gould Theater by the San Francisco Lyric Opera. Around the holidays many churches will have performances and sing-alongs of seasonal music. The classical Herbst Theater (where the UN charter was signed) is temporarily closed for earthquake and major interior updates.
  • Musicals from Broadway and Los Angeles are shown at the traditional Golden Gate and Orpheum theaters on Market, near the Civic Center. For outrageous fun, princes and paupers go to Beach Blanket Babylon in North Beach. Teenagers are welcome at the Sunday matinees. It considers itself the longest running musical revue in theater history
  • For jazz, rock, or folk music the choices are diverse. A new, attractive venue with a wide variety of offerings is SFJAZZ , a few blocks from the Civic Center. There are performances most days, popular artists often sell out early. San Francisco also has many jazz clubs, best found by browsing the web (an excellent site is SFStation.com ). Contemporary bands are featured at The Fillmore Auditorium and less frequently at the large Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in the Civic Center. There is an annual blues festival in late September, at various locations , and at least two great bluegrass music festivals each year — during February around the area and late September or October in Golden Gate Park. Many, but certainly not all, events are listed by the City Box Office
  • Ballet of the world class variety is performed in the Spring by the San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House in Civic Center. Standing room tickets, with excellent views from the back of the orchestra section, are available for only $10 during the afternoon of each performance as well as two hours before showtime. In winter, the popular The Nutcracker is performed; those tickets often sell out early.
  • Plays are performed at the Geary (by the American Conservatory Theater), Curran, Marines Memorial theatre and San Francisco Playhouse near Union Square, and at the small New Conservatory Theatre Center near the Civic Center.
  • Silent, rare, and classical movies are frequently shown, accompanied by a live organist, and sometimes a band, in the classical 1930’s Castro Theater just off Market street in the Castro district. Tickets are available on-line or on the day of the performance. Popular features may sell out early. The Castro theater is also a venue for various film festivals. The Opera Plaza Cinema often shows rare classical and foreign movies in its cozy theaters. Opera Plaza is located just a few blocks up van Ness Avenue from the Opera and Symphony. The San Francisco Symphony shows movies in its large auditorium, accompanied by its orchestra, several times a year. Both silent movies and movies with intense musical contents, as Walt Disney’s Fantasia, are presented. They are a great way to introduce kids to classical music.

Events

There is an incredible array of events going on in San Francisco — virtually every day there will be something of interest to anyone going on, and San Francisco’s mild climate ensures that practically every weekend will bring another major festival or some sort of large event. Listed here are just some of the really big events going on:

Cultural Events

  • Cherry Blossom Festival, Western Addition, April. In Japantown, this kid-friendly event includes a parade, a street fair, and music.
  • Fringe Festival, taking place at various theaters in the Civic Center-Tenderloin area, Just after Labor Day. A 10 day festival about theatrical experimentation and having fun, even if you don’t know what you’re doing exactly.
  • Haight Ashbury Street Fair, Haight, On the second Sunday of June, people pack the Upper Haight for this event featuring local bands, food stalls and plenty of shopping.
  • San Francisco International Film Festival, based at the Presidio in Golden Gate, but smaller events take place throughout the city, Two weeks in Apr/May. Organized by the San Francisco Film Society who are based in the Presidio, but the arthouse movies, documentaries, and short films are shown throughout the city.
  • Tet Festival, Civic Center-Tenderloin area, Mid-January to mid-February. Celebrate New Year’s Vietnamese style at this festival. It’s a great opportunity to sample some of the delicious Vietnamese dishes that they have in the area.
  • Union Street Art Festival, Golden Gate, First weekend in June. This festival attracts many local artists who line the streets displaying their arts and crafts, along with live jazz and classical music performances and an organic farmer’s market.

Holidays

  • Chinese New Year Festivities, Chinatown, January or February. The San Francisco version of the Chinese New Year dates way back, with a colorful, vibrant parade with decorative costumes, lions, deafening firecrackers, “lucky-money” envelopes, colorful banners, ornately themed floats, martial arts groups, stilt walkers, acrobats, and, of course, a 200 foot Golden Dragon.
  • Columbus Day Parade, North Beach, This hugely popular parade celebrates Christopher Columbus and Italian heritage. Handmade floats run all the way from
  • Fisherman’s Wharf up Columbus Avenue through North Beach.
    Easter Parade and Spring Celebration, Union Street in Golden Gate. The kid-friendly but diverse festivities include a petting zoo, pony rides, live music, train rides, alfresco dining, and a parade.
  • Fourth of July. San Francisco’s main Independence Day celebrations take place on Fisherman’s Wharf. There is lots of free entertainment during the day, culminating with an impressive fireworks display from the foot of Municipal Pier, and at the other end of the Wharf from barges moored off the north of PIER 39.
  • Tree Lighting Ceremony at Ghirardelli Square, Ghirardelli Square, Fishermans’ Wharf. End of November. Ring in the holiday season by attending the festivities at Ghirardelli Square. There’s theater, live music, and then at the end they decorate a 45 foot Christmas tree with ornaments, lights, and chocolate bars.

LGBT Community Events

San Francisco is famous for its exuberant and visible lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, who always put together some very festive events:

  • Halloween in the Castro. Halloween, the holiday when everyone puts on a mask, has long been a special time for gay, lesbian and bisexual people to take off the “straight-looking mask” they sometimes wore all year, and be themselves. What remains today is a huge, sometimes poorly controlled, street party in the Castro on the evening of October 31st each year. In recent years, the police have cracked down, and it has been much diminished.
  • Pink Saturday is a street party in the Castro on the Saturday night before the Pride Parade and Celebration.
  • Folsom Street Fair is a street fair, generally the last Sunday in September. One of the largest leather / kink events in the world, attracting a wide range of straight, gay, and queer attendees.
  • The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade and Celebration is one of the largest gay pride parades and festivals in North America, centered in the Civic Center area. It’s a huge, happy, chaotic celebration of diversity, politics, sexuality, and San Francisco wackiness, on the last weekend in June. About a dozen stages and spaces offer everything from square dancing to hip-hop, from a family garden to Leather Alley. It’s a movement, it’s a market, it’s a party. Both parade and celebration are for everyone — straight as well as gay are welcome.

Outdoor and Recreational Events

  • Bay to Breakers, Third Sunday in May. An annual footrace that is one of the largest in the country. The route runs from Downtown to Ocean Beach. Many runners do the whole thing in costume, wearing anything from elaborate costumes to wearing almost nothing at all, lending a party atmosphere to the event.
  • Critical Mass. On the last Friday of each month, bicyclists in San Francisco (and about 200 like-minded cities world-wide) gather at the north end of Market Street on the Embarcadero and ride en masse to some destination, militantly demonstrating their right to occupy the roads. If you are driving in SF on a Critical Mass day, you will want to listen for radio traffic reports, but if you are stopped by the mass the best thing to do is maintain a good sense of humor and remember that it will all pass in about 5 minutes. Although, tempers can and do flare, and there have been cases where run ins with drivers and bicyclists have gotten violent. If your car is surrounded by bikes, definitely do not move until they have passed or they might feel threatened.
  • Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, Second Sunday in June. Participants (which often include world champions and Olympic medalists) swim 1.5 miles through chilly waters, bike 18 miles, and then run an extra 8 miles. The course winds its way throughout the city, but the transition and finish line is at Marina Green in the Golden Gate area.
  • Fleet Week, Fisherman’s Wharf, Usually held in the first week of October, it’s a tribute to the men and women in the armed forces. A flotilla of Navy ships dock on the Wharf in parade fashion, and there are many free Deck tours available from crew members. There are also several air displays by the Navy flyers.
  • Sunday Streets, Sundays in the Summer, various locations. See the website for where and when Sunday Streets is happening and head out for some good times with other walkers, bicyclists, skateboarders, roller skaters, etc. The cars are kicked off of the streets for some hours allowing the neighborhoods to come alive. There are food vendors, bike workshops, music performances, and all kinds of other great events. Sunday Streets is modeled after Bogotá’s Ciclovia.

Sports

San Francisco has several professional sports teams, although the spread-out nature of the Bay Area means there are also teams nearby in San Jose and Oakland.

The San Francisco Giants are the city’s Major League Baseball team, playing their home games at the lovely AT&T Park in SoMa. The other major league team in San Francisco is the San Francisco 49ers, the city’s National Football League team, who used to play their games at Candlestick Park on Candlestick Point in Southeast San Francisco. The 49ers have now relocated to Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Both teams command huge fan bases.

As far as college sports go in San Francisco, there are the University of San Francisco Dons, who play various college sports including baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball at their campus in Western Addition. The San Francisco State University Gators play various college sports including baseball, basketball and soccer at their campus near Lake Merced.

Local Music

San Francisco is a hotbed for underground music; a highly diverse array of musical styles is represented (e.g., rock, pop, experimental, weird folk, and avant-jazz). Shows occur every night, with as many as fifteen small shows occurring each Thursday through Saturday night. Much of this activity is not always well covered in the mainstream media; useful community-driven resources for finding about local shows include Dar Dar Dar and the Transbay Calendar. For major and regular events, see the section on Performing Arts above.

Meet and Greet Locals

For those who want to meet actual San Franciscans in addition to exploring major landmarks, in 2010 a group of locals started a new service, “See San Francisco with a local”. You join 90-minute walks, The local guides show you city landmarks (and the stories and anecdotes that go with them), but they also engage their visitors on life in SF. You chat with a local, you “decode” the city, and you learn from an insider about local events and festivals, about where to shop, good places to eat or drink, secret places locals keep to themselves etc.

  • Discover Walks, 2454 Chestnut St ☎ +1 415 494 9255, . Several tours to choose from everyday. Free service – guests choose their tip/donation.
  • KitTea Cat Cafe, 96 Gough Street, San Francisco, CA 94102, ☎ 4156587888, KitTea Cat Cafe is San Francisco’s first and only cat cafe located in Hayes Valley. This cafe offers a unique experience to travelers, especially to animal lovers who are missing their own pets while visiting San Francisco. This cafe works as a foster space for cats, so visiting the cat lounge is an adorable and cuddly way for visitors to the city to help support adoptable cats in the community. edit

Free Walking Tours of San Francisco

City Guides are local volunteers who love the City, its history, lore and legends…and they’re ready to share it all with you. The regularly scheduled tours are free and open to the public, except for groups of 8 or more. No need to make a reservation, just show up at the time and place indicated on their schedule; groups of 8 or more are asked to schedule a special tour several weeks in advance. The tours are fun and informative, with a combination of tried-and-true San Francisco landmarks and off-the-beaten path sites. Donations are welcome!

  • San Francisco City Guides, c/o SF Public Library, 100 Larkin St ☎ +1 415 557 4266. The list of tours, schedule, and FAQs can be found at their website.
  • Free Tours by Foot, ☎ +1 415 295 2207. The list of tours, schedule, and FAQs can be found at their website.

Beers and Bike in San Francisco

Visit San Francisco by bike with Gears and Grapes while stopping in three of the finest beer drinking establishments of the city. Enjoy beers while learning about the cultural history of San Francisco from a local tour guide who will take you away from the tourist crowds to discover places cherished by locals. Tours operate from Monday to Friday and start at 2pm, departure from the office in Chinatown.

  • Gears and Grapes, 714 Commercial St ☎ +1 (415) 484-1238.

Learn


Work


While San Franciso’s economy is linked to it being a world-class tourist attraction, its economy is diversified. The largest employment sectors are professional services, government, finance, trade, and tourism. Its frequent portrayal in music, films, literature and popular culture has helped make the city and its landmarks known throughout the world. San Francisco has developed a large tourist infrastructure with numerous hotels, restaurants, and top-notch convention facilities.

While it’s been a long time since people considered Montgomery Street in the Financial District to be the “Wall Street of the West”, San Francisco remains one of the principal banking and finance centers of the west coast of the United States. Many major financial institutions and banks are based in the city or have set up regional headquarters here.

San Francisco’s proximity to Silicon Valley has made the city increasingly attractive for high-tech companies. In recent years, San Francisco has also been making itself a center of biotechnology.

Buy


Individual listings can be found in San Francisco’s district articles
If you want it, chances are likely you can get it in San Francisco. There are a wide range of small and locally owned businesses throughout the city’s neighborhoods; in fact, San Francisco has for the most part repelled the development of large chain retailers and big box stores that are common across America.

If it’s tourist trinkets you’re looking for, Fisherman’s Wharf has the typical souvenir, T-shirt, and camera shops, along with plenty of specialty stores. However, San Francisco’s most popular shopping area is Union Square, which has all the big national department stores (Macy’s, Saks, Nordstrom, etc.) and plenty of fancy boutique stores, as well as a few shopping centers thrown in.

For small, upscale boutiques, Union Street, Hayes Street around Octavia, Fillmore Street around California street, and Chestnut Street in the Golden Gate area are lined with unique and trendy places, and all these streets are among the best spots in the city to window shop and nash. Nob Hill is also full of specialty places.

But if you don’t have a luxury dollar to spend and still want to walk away with something unique, there are plenty of shops in Chinatown for you, selling Oriental handicrafts of all descriptions, and no chain stores in sight. Japantown also offers plenty of great shops selling authentic souvenirs, including the excellent Kinokuniya Stationery/Bookstore. The Haight is full of excellent independent record and book stores, with Amoeba Music dominating the scene.

For basic supplies, try the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores and Walgreens pharmacies. If you need groceries, Safeway is the dominant supermarket chain in the city. There are Safeway stores in SoMa, near Fisherman’s Wharf, and near the Financial District, but not near Union Square. The closest supermarket to Union Square is the upscale Bristol Farms supermarket at Westfield San Francisco Shopping Centre.

Eat


San Francisco is a sensual, epicurean city with a vast array of restaurants. In fact, San Francisco has more restaurants per capita than any major city in North America, with 1 restaurant for every 250 residents (in comparison, New York City has 1 restaurant for every 940 residents). The price range is huge, and you can spend anywhere from a small fortune to a couple bucks for every type of cuisine. Vegetarians and vegans will find SF a paradise, however contrary to popular belief the city has one of the lowest rates of vegetarian consumers in the nation. Sushi is a local obsession, and though you can find a sushi bar on almost every street corner, the Richmond district has more than its fair share of excellent sushi chefs.

San Francisco is also one of the best places in the nation for Asian cuisine: Korean, Thai, Indian, Burmese, Japanese and, of course, Chinese. With the largest Chinatown in North America as well as one of the largest Chinese communities in the West, there are many exceptional restaurants serving dim sum and other Chinese delicacies found throughout the city. This localized Chinese cuisine has its feet in Hong Kong and America, and is different from what many visitors are accustomed to — it is common to hear complaints from Chinese visitors that Chinese food here is not like the food back home. There are several main types of Chinese restaurants in San Francisco: those primarily serving immigrants from Hong Kong (“Hong Kong style”) which commonly have signs on the wall in Chinese characters, live fish and shellfish tanks and some exotic main ingredients, such as pig’s blood or sea cucumber; those primarily serving San Franciscans who are not Asian immigrants (“California Chinese”) which commonly have Westernized table service, low fat content and more emphasis on fresh vegetables; those primarily serving tourists or other people accustomed to Chinese food as it is commonly served in the United States (“Americanized Chinese”); and those primarily serving immigrants from other areas or a particular dietary need or interest (regional cuisines, vegetarian, Muslim). There may be some mixing between these various classifications and each category may influence the others, for instance, the Americanized dish known as Chop Suey is often not served even at Americanized Chinese restaurants in San Francisco, while Chinese vegetables such as bok choy and pea sprouts may turn up on your plate at California Cuisine style restaurants.

Fisherman’s Wharf serves fresh seafood, especially clam chowder and crabs cooked to order. North Beach is the place to go for Italian food, and the Mission (birth place of the mission style burrito) for Mexican and Latin American cuisine of all sorts. San Francisco restaurants are also very corkage friendly. Average corkage fee appears to be in the $15 range, with some of the more pricey places charging $25-35.

Drink


The best way to find a good bar or club is to ask the advice of a local; but barring that a copy of The SF Bay Guardian or the SF Weekly will help you find something suited to your personal taste.

San Francisco is very much of a “scene” town, with a varying range of categorical experiences. If you want door-to-door bar hopping at friendly bars that serve PBR tall boys, definitely go to “Polk Gulch” in the Tenderloin and work your way up through bars such as Mayes, The Playground, and Hemlock.

Head to the Marina for mid-20s to mid-30s professionals (and those visiting from Los Angeles) as well as a college atmosphere clubbing scene around super packed club/bars such as Circa and Matrix 24/7. If you want to commit to a single venue for the night and club the night away, pay the necessary cover at high end clubs in South of Market (SoMa) such as The Grand, Manor West, and 330 Ritch, where you can find left-over dot-commers and hipsters hanging out on the street. If you’re in the mood for world class clubbing, Ruby Skye is a must visit place; the SF equivalent of a Vegas club, but be prepared to buy tickets ahead of time and wait in line.

If you are specifically searching for underground Techno, House, or other electronic music club culture your best bet is to peruse the local papers; however be mindful that the most likely venues to host such types of underground music are usually Beatbox, 222 Hyde, Public Works (Function One Sound), The End Up (a San Francisco institution since the Disco days), The Mezzanine, and Monarch (custom installed Void Sound). San Francisco has some of the most high end soundsystems in it’s clubs than almost anywhere in the Country, be sure to experience one of the systems at the aforementioned locations.

Haight-Ashbury, famous for the “Summer of Love” and hippies, is still a place for alternative lifestyle and now has many neo-punks and hipsters in the mix. The Castro primarily serves San Francisco’s gay men, with The Lexingtonhttp://lexingtonclub.com/ and Wild Side Westhttp://www.wildsidewest.com/ in the Mission District serving a lesbian scene. Other spots in the Mission also offers a more down to earth vibe that still lets you get your dance on in spots like Brunos and Medjools; a bonus with this is that you can end the night with a great burrito from one of the local Mission taquerias.

With a large Irish population, San Francisco has a number of very good Irish pubs extending out into the Sunset neighborhood. North Beach is home to several dance clubs and strip clubs.

If you like soccer (football) and all things English, you should stop into the Kezar Pub, at the edge of the Haight-Ashbury District, or Lower Haight’s Mad Dog In the Fog. The pub quiz and bar food are good. Swill some pints and stay in the dark. Good for an entire day’s worth of drinking.

Beer

San Francisco, despite being much smaller than New York City, sports more microbreweries. Anchor Brewing Company (makers of Anchor Steam, found throughout the US) is brewed on Potrero Hill, though it is generally not open to the public (tours are available Friday afternoons by reservation). Similarly, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers opens its doors on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons, though its location in Hunter’s Point makes it a long Muni ride if you’re traveling without a car. The other microbreweries are housed in brewpubs:

  • Beach Chalet & Park Chalet are at the Pacific end of Golden Gate Park, where you can enjoy a view of the ocean or sit in the lawn area.
  • Pizza Orgasmica in the Richmond District specializes in California-style pizza.
    Magnolia Brewing Company is in the heart of the Haight, and operates a second restaurant down the street, The Alembic.
  • Thirsty Bear in SoMa caters mostly to the happy hour crowd.
  • 21st Amendment, also in SoMa, is three blocks away from the Giants’ home at AT&T Park.
  • Social Kitchen & Brewery is the newest brewpub, in the Sunset District, a block from Golden Gate Park.
  • Comstock Saloon, opened since 1907 in North Beach’s old Barbary Coast at the SW corner of Columbus and Pacific, is San Francisco’s second oldest bar; formerly the oldest microbrewery in San Francisco, it was known as The San Francisco Brewing Company
  • The Saloon, opened in 1861 at the corner of Fresno and Grant in North Beach, is San Francisco’s oldest bar and the only bar to survive the 1906 Earthquake and fire

Other destinations for beer drinkers include the Gordon Biersch alehouse on the Embarcadero in SoMa, the City Beer Store and Tasting Bar on Folsom St in SoMa (your best bet for beer to go), the Mission’s Monk’s Kettle, and the famous Toronado Pub on lower Haight Street, which specializes in Belgian ales.

The surrounding Alameda, San Mateo, and Marin Counties also host many microbreweries worth trying. Many of these are accessible by BART. There are North Bay beer options as well that should not be ignored. Lagunitas Brewing Company, one of the country’s fastest growing craft breweries, is 35 minutes north of the city. Also, although Santa Rosa is 45 minutes north of San Francisco, no beer lovers should skip the renowned Russian River Brewing Company in downtown Santa Rosa.

Sleep


San Francisco offers a wide range of accommodations, from a healthy supply of hostels and budget hotels to the lavish, luxurious hotels in the city center, as well as just about everything in-between. The majority of accommodations are in the northeastern portion of the city, in and around the popular areas of Downtown, Chinatown, and Fisherman’s Wharf. As one moves into the mostly residential neighborhoods to the west, the sleeping options filter down to small inns and bed and breakfasts.

Decide if you want to be in walking distance of your destinations, or are up to driving and parking (which can be quite an undertaking in some of the busier areas of San Francisco) or taking public transit. If you have a specific destination in mind, look also in the Districts sections.

If you’d rather stay closer to the San Francisco International Airport, there are plenty of standard airport accommodations in the cities surrounding the airport — Brisbane, Burlingame, Millbrae, San Bruno and South San Francisco. From there, you can drive or take BART or Caltrain into San Francisco.

Contact


The area codes for San Francisco are 415 and 628. You must dial 1, then the 3 digit area code and the 7 digit subscriber number.

For calls within the US or Canada, dial 1, then the 3 digit area code and subscriber number.

For international calls, just replace the “+” International dialling prefix symbol of the phone number shown in international format (that’s the format we use here on Wikitravel) with the international access code of 011.

Pay phones are getting less and less commonplace as nearly everyone in San Francisco has a mobile phone. When you do find one, keep in mind that they only take coins and phone cards with a dial-to-use number. Local calls start at $0.50.

To get online, internet cafés are available at a sprinkling of city center locations. Many coffee houses and cafés also offer wireless connection for free or a small fee. Free access is available in Union Square. For a more scenic place to check your email try the Apple Store on Stockton at Ellis near Market in Union Square or any of the many public libraries, especially the main branch on Market near Civic Center station.

Additionally, those travelling with laptop computers will often find an open free signal across the city which is being deployed by a company called Meraki. The “Free the Net” signal is unlocked and free to use.

Blue mailboxes for mail such as letters and postcards are on many street corners. USPS post offices sell stamps and ship packages, and several private companies provide additional services.

Stay Safe


As with many other major cities in the world, San Francisco has its share of problems. A search for “People Behaving Badly” on YouTube will reveal local KRON 4 reporter Stanley Roberts’ varied and sometimes comical segments on aggressive panhandling, distracted drivers, fare evasion, and most famously “Elmo Shirt Guy” who became an internet-meme in his own right and was featured on Jimmy Kimmel. The good news is that as a visitor to San Francisco, though you may occasionally encounter people behaving badly, with a dash of common sense its unlikely you’ll be the target of any crime or violence.

The areas that one should be most cautious are in the neighborhoods of Bayview-Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, Sunnydale, Ingleside, and Potrero Hill in Southeast San Francisco, as well as the Tenderloin, parts of Western Addition (including the Fillmore District), and parts of the Mission. San Francisco is still susceptible to violent crime, and most of these murders occur in the southeast, less economically fortunate, neighborhoods of the city. Gang violence touches even busy and thriving areas such as the Mission Street retail corridor, although most instances of violent crime are directed to specific targets and are not random acts. The SoMa district used to be somewhat dangerous; however, recent gentrification (something that has become fairly common and a social issue in SF) has transformed it into a rather hip and much safer neighborhood with plenty of art galleries and clubs. However, it is best to be careful even now.

San Francisco also has the largest homeless population per capita in the United States due to it’s temperate weather (they do not freeze to death as often as in Chicago or New York) and its relatively less vicious gangs (SoCal gangs are notorious for using homeless persons for target practice or gang initiations). If someone begs from you, you may either politely say you do not have any change or just keep walking, and he or she will generally leave you alone. A very small but visible percentage of the homeless may appear to be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs. This may be disturbing to some, but they will generally leave you alone if you do not interact with them. The main homeless area is around 6th and Market, heading towards the Civic Center, and in the Tenderloin. Haight Ashbury also has lots of panhandlers, and the area near Golden Gate Park at the end of Haight Street near McDonalds is notorious for junkies and should be avoided at night.

Pickpocketing, purse snatching, and other forms of petty crime are common as with any other large city. Be especially cautious on crowded Muni trains and buses, in heavily touristed areas such as Fisherman’s Wharf, and during the busy holiday shopping season.

Do not leave valuables in your vehicle, especially when parking on public streets. Car break-ins are very common in San Francisco, and any valuables in plain sight are in danger of being stolen. During your visit, you will probably see small piles of broken glass on sidewalks throughout the city, which are the result of such crimes. If you cannot carry all valuables with you, try to keep them in the trunk and park your vehicle in secure parking garages, which are slightly safer than street parking but are not completely free from crime either.

As with the rest of California, earthquakes are an omnipresent threat, and despite near constant media speculation of the elusive “big one” (the last major quake to hit the city was in 1989); the risk of a major incident remains relatively small. Minor tremors do occur in and around the city on a regular basis however, but apart from the odd broken window they are accepted as routine.

Be careful to check for ticks after hiking in fields in the Bay Area. There is a high rate of lyme disease transmission in the Bay Area. If a bulls’ eye rash develops at the tick bite site, immediately seek medical help and treatment with antibiotics.

Respect


San Francisco prides itself on its openness to diversity in race, gender, sexual orientation and personal style. This trait is widely considered to be one of the defining features of the city, and it draws both visitors and transplants alike.

Smokers beware: as in the rest of California, smoking is illegal in bars, restaurants, and other public places. Bay Area people can be particularly vocal about your personal habits. Be aware of nonsmoking areas, and try to be courteous about smoking in other places. They will probably not bother you about standing and smoking outside a restaurant or bar.

On the other hand, smoking marijuana is remarkably well-tolerated. If you are visiting from elsewhere in the U.S., you may be very surprised to find that marijuana is not considered to be a problem by San Franciscans, and even by the city’s police. While still illegal under federal law, a law was passed in 2006 officially making marijuana the lowest priority for the SFPD. This does not mean that you should smoke marijuana just anywhere — as with cigarettes, it is considered improper etiquette to smoke marijuana in crowded areas.

It’s worth mentioning that natives tend to dislike many of the nicknames given to their city. Instead of saying “San Fran” or “Frisco,” most refer to San Francisco by its full name, “SF”, or “The City.”

As is the case anywhere, when using escalators you are expected to stand on the right and use the left side for walking up or down the stairs. Standing still on the left side might annoy people.

Cope

Publications

  • San Francisco Chronicle . The main newspaper in San Francisco, with circulation daily. $0.75 daily, $2.00 Sunday.
  • San Francisco Examiner . Another daily newspaper, but this time free.
  • San Francisco Daily . Another free daily paper.
  • SF Weekly . A popular free-weekly distributed across the city.
  • San Francisco Bay Guardian . Another popular free-weekly.
  • San Francisco Bay View . Politics, economics, and news from a progressive African American perspective.
  • AsianWeek . A weekly paper, one of the largest English language publications for Asian-Americans.
  • Bay Area Reporter . Free-weekly serving the LGBT community.
  • San Francisco Bay Times . Another free-weekly LGBT newspaper.
  • San Francisco Magazine . A monthly magazine devoted to Bay Area culture.
  • MetroWize . A weekly publication dedicated to insider city and event info for San Francisco.

Consulates

Consulates

Get Out


Bikes can be rented from around the northern waterfront (Pier 41/Fisherman’s Wharf/Aquatic Park area) or near Golden Gate Park for trips to Marin County via the Golden Gate Bridge. Stanyan near Haight at the end of the park has several good shops. Golden Gate Transit also sporadically serves the North Bay from San Francisco, and has bike racks on most buses.

Nearby destinations suitable for day trips include:

  • Oakland — A diverse and vibrant city, Oakland was once considered San Francisco’s “sister city,” and has been regaining that title in recent years due to a general renaissance of the city. Although not a major tourist destination, it’s worth a visit for its many distinct and charming neighborhoods.
  • Berkeley — Home to the University of California, Berkeley and one of the nation’s most progressive communities. Also a hub of liberal political activism for the past several decades. It is also home to quite a few superb restaurants.
  • Sausalito — Enjoy a ferry ride across the bay to beautiful Sausalito where you can walk along the water and admire the San Francisco skyline. Stroll to the waterfront restaurants, shops, and galleries.
  • Healdsburg — A charming Wine Country town located among some of California’s greatest wine appellations: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill. Relaxed yet sophisticated atmosphere, with excellent restaurants, shopping and wine tasting. About 70 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Napa Valley — The main wine growing region in the United States, a trip to the many wineries makes for a fun day, while those wanting a longer adventure can relax in any one of the many spas, bed and breakfasts, or other lodging options.
  • Muir Woods — A 560 acre forest of old-growth redwood trees located in Mill Valley just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Woods is a pleasant respite from the city, and accessible by Golden Gate Transit on summer weekends.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore — Located just north of San Francisco along the Pacific Coast Highway (State Highway 1), Point Reyes is a beautiful seashore that is particularly nice to visit when gray whales are migrating along the coast, usually best in mid-January and then from March through May.
  • Peninsula Just south of San Francisco, the peninsula has excellent nature preserves.
    • Palo Alto — On the Peninsula south of the city, Palo Alto has some of the richest neighborhoods in all of California and makes for a beautiful drive with views of the coastline and magnificent mansions. Palo Alto is also home to Stanford University, a highly ranked university that also has one of the most beautiful campuses in the world.
    • Burlingame — Another well off neighborhood on the Peninsula, Burlingame has a lovely downtown area with plenty of shops, dining and streets lined with cypress trees.
  • Monterey — An otherwise quiet beach town home to one of the country’s best aquariums.
  • Santa Cruz — Located on the coast north of Monterey Bay, this funky town is home to surfers, the beautiful and tech-savvy University of California, Santa Cruz, and a popular boardwalk. The Santa Cruz Mountains north of town are a great place for outdoor recreation such as hiking, and home to misty forests of famous, enormous redwood trees.
  • Vallejo — Home to a wildlife theme park, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.
  • Yosemite National Park — Tours from San Francisco make for a wonderful day trip, although you will spend around 10 hours travelling for less than 4 in the park.
  • Make sure to visit the amazing Giant Sequoias.
  • Lake Tahoe — Buses and one Amtrak train per day link the Bay Area to nearby Truckee, and as with Yosemite, travel even by car to and from would consume much of the day. However, the spectacular alpine setting and winter ski and snowboard options surrounding the Lake make Tahoe an unforgettable destination.
  • Livermore — A suburban city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Livermore Valley is “wine country”, and produces some of California’s best wines.

Routes through San Francisco

San Francisco Tours, Tickets, Activities & Things To Do


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San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

The San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is located in San Francisco, California, United States. The park includes a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a maritime museum, and a library/research facility. The park used to be referred to as the San Francisco Maritime Museum, however the former 1951 name changed in 1978 when the collections were acquired by the National Park Service. Today’s San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park was authorized in 1988; the maritime museum is among the park’s many cultural resources. The park also incorporates the Aquatic Park Historic District, bounded by Van Ness Avenue, Polk Street, and Hyde Street.

Contents
1 Historic vessel fleet
2 Visitor Center
3 Maritime Museum
4 Maritime Research Center
5 Supporting associations
6 Location and access
6.1 Open Water Swimming

Historic Vessel Fleet


The historic fleet of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is moored at the park’s Hyde Street Pier. The fleet consists of the following major vessels:

  • Balclutha, an 1886 built square rigged sailing ship.
  • C.A. Thayer, an 1895 built schooner.
  • Eureka, an 1890 built steam ferryboat.
  • Alma, an 1891 built scow schooner.
  • Hercules, a 1907 built steam tug.
  • Eppleton Hall, a 1914 built paddlewheel tug.

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Scow schooner Alma

Steam tug "Hercules", San Francisco Maritime Natl Hist Park

Steam tug Hercules

"Balclutha", San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park

Square rig sailing ship Balclutha

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Paddlewheel tug Eppleton Hall

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Steam ferryboat Eureka

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Lumber schooner C.A. Thayer

The fleet also includes over one hundred small craft.

Visitor Center


The Visitor Center is housed in the park’s 1909 waterfront warehouse, located at the corner of Hyde and Jefferson Streets. The City of San Francisco declared the four-story brick structure an historic landmark in 1974, and the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Inside, exhibits (including a first order Fresnel lighthouse lens and a shipwrecked boat) tell the story of San Francisco’s colorful and diverse maritime heritage. The visitor center also contains a theater and a ranger-staffed information desk.

Maritime Museum


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Aquatic Park Bathhouse

The maritime museum was until recently housed in a Streamline Moderne (late Art Deco) building that is the centerpiece of the Aquatic Park Historic District, a National Historic Landmark at the foot of Polk Street and a minute’s walk from the visitor center and Hyde Street Pier. The building was originally built (starting in 1936) by the WPA as a public bathhouse, and its interior is decorated with fantastic and colorful murals, created primarily by artist and color theoretician Hilaire Hiler. The architects were William Mooser Jr. and William Mooser III.

Maritime Research Center


The Maritime Research Center is the premier resource for San Francisco and Pacific Coast maritime history. Originating in 1939, the collections have become the largest maritime collection on the West Coast and the largest museum and research collection in the National Park Service.

The collections include more than:

35,000 published titles comprising over 74,000 items
500,000 photographs
7,000 archival and manuscript collections
150,000 naval architecture and marine engineering drawings
3,000 maps and charts
150,000 feet of motion picture film and video
6,000 historical archaeology artifacts
2,500 pieces of folk and fine art
40,000 history objects
100 small craft
50,000 pieces of ephemera
600 oral histories and audio recordings

Supporting Associations


The park is supported by several cooperating associations. One of these is the San Francisco Maritime National Park Association.

Location and Access


The Visitors Center, Hyde Street Pier and Maritime Museum are all situated adjacent to the foot of Hyde Street and at the western end of the Fisherman’s Wharf district. The park headquarters and Maritime Research Center are located in Fort Mason, some 10 minutes walk to the west of the other sites. The Beach and Hyde Street terminal of the San Francisco cable car system adjoins the main site, while the Jones Street terminal of the F Market historic streetcar line is some 5 minutes walk to the east.

Opening times and fees for the various sites can be found on the park’s website, see ‘External links’ below.

Open Water Swimming

Aquatic Park is a popular place for open water swimming, both for recreation and training. The South End Rowing Club and Dolphin Club are located in Aquatic Park.

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From left to right: San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower, Fisherman’s Wharf, Downtown San Francisco, Russian Hill and Aquatic Park Historic District.

BayareaUSGS

Bay AreaUSGS

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Pier 39

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Pier 39

Pier 39 is a shopping center and popular tourist attraction built on a pier in San Francisco, California. At Pier 39, there are shops, restaurants, a video arcade, street performances, the Aquarium of the Bay, virtual 3D rides, and views of California sea lions hauled out on docks on Pier 39’s marina. A two-story carousel is one of the pier’s more dominant features, although it is not directly visible from the street and sits towards the end of the pier. The family-oriented entertainment and presence of marine mammals make this a popular tourist location for families with kids.

The pier is located at the edge of the Fisherman’s Wharf district and is close to North Beach, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero. The area is easily accessible via the historic F Market streetcars.

From the pier one can see Angel Island, Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Bay Bridge. Blue & Gold Fleet’s bay cruises leave from Pier 39.

Pier 39 was first developed by entrepreneur Warren Simmons and opened October 4, 1978.

History of Pier 39 Sea Lions


California sea lions have always been present in San Francisco Bay. They started to haul out on docks of Pier 39 in September 1989. Before that they mostly used Seal Rock for that purpose. Ever since September 1989 the number of sea lions on Seal Rock has been steadily decreasing, while their number on Pier 39 has generally increased. Some people speculate that sea lions moved to docks because of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, but the earthquake occurred months after the first sea lions had arrived at Pier 39. It is likely that the sea lions feel safer inside the Bay.

 

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The sea lions at Pier 39 have become a tourist attraction in their own right

Although the reason for their migration to the pier is unclear, the refurbishing of the docks in September 1989 required the removal of all boats from that area, leaving large open spaces for the sea lions to move into. Once the project was completed, boat owners returned, but did their best to navigate around the sea lions; no efforts were made to encourage the new guests to leave. By the end of that year, less than a dozen sea lions frequented the docks at Pier 39. By January 1990, their numbers had increased to 150 animals. Owners of the 11 boats docked there began to complain about having to avoid the animals who can weigh up to half a ton, and odor and noise complaints began to pour in. Press releases caught national attention, and the sea lions began to attract tourists. Advice from The Marine Mammal Center was to abandon the docks to the animals, and to relocate the boats elsewhere.

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Sea lions on Pier 39

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Pier 39 and the Pier 39 sign

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Old Port Gate

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Pier 39 at night

Although fluctuations in the number of sea lions at Pier 39 are dramatic, as many as 1,701 (Thanksgiving Week, 2009) have been officially reported at one time, many of whom are recognizable to researchers and others, and some of whom have been unofficially named. Volunteers and staff at The Marine Mammal Store and Interpretive Center monitor the sea lion population each day, and educational information is provided to tourists who visit from around the world. Scientists continue to collect information there, adding to knowledge about sea lion health, dietary habits, and behavior. In November 2009 the more than 1,701 (Thanksgiving Week, 2009) sea lions that had lived at the pier began to leave, and by late December 2009 nearly all were gone; a similar flux in population occurs annually, with the animals returning in the spring. Although the reason for their seasonal appearance and departure is not known for certain, according to Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, “Most likely, they left chasing a food source,” anchovies and sardines. A handful of sea lions did return in February, and by late May several hundred could once again be seen on Pier 39. It remains unknown exactly where they went and why. However, in December 2009, nearly 4,000 sea lions that were identified as members of the California sub-species were seen outside Oregon’s Sea Lion Caves, suggesting that they were likely the sea lions from Pier 39.

Opera Snapshot_2017-11-02_204725_en.wikipedia.org

Fisherman’s Wharf

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Location_map_San_Francisco_Central

Fishermans Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf is a neighborhood and popular tourist attraction in San Francisco, California. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Avenue east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street. The F Market streetcar runs through the area, the Powell-Hyde cable car lines runs to Aquatic Park, at the edge of Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Powell-Mason cable car line runs a few blocks away.

Contents
1 History
2 Attractions and characteristics
3 In popular culture

History


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Fisherman’s Wharf, ca. 1891

San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf gets its name and neighborhood characteristics from the city’s early days of the mid to later 1800s when Italian immigrant fishermen came to the city by the bay to take advantage of the influx of population due to the gold rush. One, Achille Paladini, found success wholesaling local fish as owner of the Paladini Fish Company, and came to be known as the “Fish King”. Most of the Italian immigrant fishermen settled in the North Beach area close to the wharf and fished for the local delicacies and the now famed Dungeness crab. From then until the present day it remained the home base of San Francisco’s fishing fleet. Despite its redevelopment into a tourist attraction during the 1970s and 1980s, the area is still home to many active fishermen and their fleets.

In 2010, a $15,000,000 development plan was proposed by city officials hoping to revitalize its appearance for tourists, and to reverse the area’s downward trend in popularity among San Francisco residents, who have shunned the locale over the years.

Attractions and Characteristics


Fishermans_Wharf_aerial_view

Aerial view of San Francisco, looking south, with Fisherman’s Wharf just left of center, directly above a lone sailboat

One of the busiest and well known tourist attractions in the western United States, Fisherman’s Wharf is best known for being the location of Pier 39, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum, the Musée Mécanique, Wax Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf, and the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.

Seafood restaurants are aplenty in the area. Some include the floating Forbes Island restaurant at Pier 39 to stands that serve fresh seafood, most notably Dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. Some of the restaurants, including Fishermen’s Grotto, Pompei’s Grotto and Alioto’s, go back for three generations of the same family ownership. Other restaurants include chains like Applebee’s and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. The area also has an In-N-Out Burger; local business leaders said they opposed every other fast food chain except In-N-Out, because they wanted to maintain the flavor of family-owned, decades-old businesses in the area, with one saying locals would ordinarily “be up in arms about a fast-food operation coming to Fisherman’s Wharf,” but the family-owned In-N-Out “is different.”

Other attractions in Fisherman’s Wharf area are the Hyde Street Pier (part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park), the USS Pampanito, a decommissioned World War II era submarine, and the Balclutha, a 19th-century cargo ship. Nearby Pier 45 has a chapel in memory of the “Lost Fishermen” of San Francisco and Northern California.

There is a sea lion colony next to Pier 39. They “took-up” residence months before the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. The sea lions lie on wooden docks that were originally used for docking boats.

Fisherman’s Wharf plays host to many San Francisco events, including a world-class fireworks display for Fourth of July, and some of the best views of the Fleet Week air shows featuring The Blue Angels.

One of the city’s most popular figures is a harmless but controversial resident of Fisherman’s Wharf called the World Famous Bushman, a local street performer who sits behind some branches and startles people who walk by. He has been a permanent entertainer in the Fisherman’s Wharf area for the past 30 years and has gained a fair amount of notoriety among the locals and tourists that have been warned about him.

In Popular Culture


In 1985, the wharf was used as a filming location in the James Bond film A View to a Kill, where Bond (played for the last time by Roger Moore) met with CIA agent Chuck Lee (David Yip) in his quest to eliminate the villain of the film, Max Zorin (Christopher Walken).

Lake Tahoe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Tahoe_North_Shore_from_the_East_Shore

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe (/ˈtɑːhoʊ/; Washo: dáʔaw) is a large freshwater lake in the Sierra Nevada of the United States. Lying at 6,225 ft (1,897 m), it straddles the state line between California and Nevada, west of Carson City. Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, and at 122,160,280 acre•ft (150,682,490 dam3) trails only the five Great Lakes as the largest by volume in the United States. Its depth is 1,645 ft (501 m), making it the second deepest in the United States after Crater Lake in Oregon (1,945 ft (593 m)).

The lake was formed about 2 million years ago as part of the Lake Tahoe Basin, with the modern extent being shaped during the ice ages. It is known for the clarity of its water and the panorama of surrounding mountains on all sides. The area surrounding the lake is also referred to as Lake Tahoe, or simply Tahoe. More than 75% of the lake’s watershed is national forest land, comprising the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the United States Forest Service.

Lake Tahoe is a major tourist attraction in both Nevada and California. It is home to winter sports, summer outdoor recreation, and scenery enjoyed throughout the year. Snow and ski resorts are a significant part of the area’s economy and reputation. The Nevada side also offers large casinos, with highways providing year-round access to the entire area.

Contents
1 Geography
2 Natural history
2.1 Geology
2.2 Climate
2.3 Ecology
3 Human history
3.1 Native people
3.2 Exploration and naming
3.3 Mining era
3.4 Development
3.5 Government and politics
3.6 Historical locations
4 Environmental issues
4.1 Water quality
4.2 Ecosystem changes
4.3 Environmental protection
5 Tourist activities
5.1 Winter sports
5.2 Water sports
5.3 Hiking and bicycling
5.4 Gambling
6 Transportation
6.1 Highways
6.2 Major area airports
7 Communities
7.1 California
7.2 Nevada
8 In the media

Geography


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North Lake Tahoe aerial photo

Lake Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the U.S., with a maximum depth of 1,645 feet (501 m), trailing Oregon’s Crater Lake at 1,949 ft (594 m). Tahoe is the 16th deepest lake in the world, and the fifth deepest in average depth. It is about 22 mi (35 km) long and 12 mi (19 km) wide and has 72 mi (116 km) of shoreline and a surface area of 191 square miles (490 km2). Approximately two-thirds of the shoreline is in California. The south shore is dominated by the lake’s largest city, South Lake Tahoe, California, which adjoins the town of Stateline, Nevada, while Tahoe City, California, is located on the lake’s northwest shore. Although highways run within sight of the lake shore for much of Tahoe’s perimeter, many important parts of the shoreline lie within state parks or are protected by the United States Forest Service. The Lake Tahoe Watershed (USGS Huc 18100200) of 505 sq mi (1,310 km2) includes the land area that drains to the lake and the Lake Tahoe drainage divide traverses the same general area as the Tahoe Rim Trail.

Lake Tahoe is fed by 63 tributaries. These drain an area about the same size as the lake and produce half its water, with the balance entering as rain or snow falling directly on it.

The Truckee River is the lake’s only outlet, flowing northeast through Reno, Nevada, into Pyramid Lake which has no outlet. It accounts for one third of the water that leaves the lake, the rest evaporating from the lake’s vast surface. The flow of the Truckee River and the height of the lake are controlled by the Lake Tahoe Dam at the outlet. The natural rim is at 6,223 ft (1,897 m) above sea level, with a spillway at the dam controlling overflow. The maximum legal limit, to which the lake can be allowed to rise in order to store water, is at 6,229.1 ft (1,898.6 m). Around New Year 1996/1997 a Pineapple Express atmospheric river melted snow and caused the lake and river to overflow, inundating Reno and surrounding areas.

See also: List of Lake Tahoe peaks and Lake Tahoe-Nevada State Park

Natural History


Geology

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Lake Tahoe from space

The Lake Tahoe Basin was formed by vertical motion (normal) faulting. Uplifted blocks created the Carson Range on the east and the main Sierra Nevada crest on the west. Down-dropping and block tilting (half-grabens) created the Lake Tahoe Basin in between. This kind of faulting is characteristic of the geology of the adjoining Great Basin to the east.

Lake Tahoe is the youngest of several extensional basins of the Walker Lane deformation zone that accommodates nearly 12 mm/yr of dextral shear between the Sierra Nevada-Great Valley Block and North America.

Three principal faults form the Lake Tahoe basin: the West Tahoe Fault, aligned between Meyers and Tahoe City, and which is the local segment of the Sierra Nevada Fault, extending on shore north and south of these localities; the Stateline/North Tahoe Fault, starting in the middle of the lake and creating the relief that forms Stateline, NV; and the Incline Village Fault, which runs parallel to the Stateline/North Tahoe Fault offshore and into Incline Village. The West Tahoe Fault appears to be the most active and potentially hazardous fault in the basin. A study in Fallen Leaf Lake, just south of Lake Tahoe, used seafloor mapping techniques to image evidence for paleoearthquakes on the West Tahoe and revealed the last earthquake occurred between 4,100 and 4,500 years ago. Subsequent studies revealed submarine landslides in Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe that are thought to have been triggered by earthquakes on the West Tahoe fault and the timing of these events suggests a recurrence interval of 3,000–4,000 years.

Some of the highest peaks of the Lake Tahoe Basin that formed during the process of Lake Tahoe creation are Freel Peak at 10,891 feet (3,320 m), Monument Peak at 10,067 feet (3,068 m), Pyramid Peak at 9,984 feet (3,043 m) (in the Desolation Wilderness), and Mount Tallac at 9,735 feet (2,967 m). The north shore boasts three peaks at 10,000+ feet: Mount Rose, Houghton and Relay peaks. Mt. Rose is a very popular hiking and backcountry skiing destination.

Eruptions from the extinct volcano Mount Pluto formed a dam on the north side. Melting snow filled the southern and lowest part of the basin to form the ancestral Lake Tahoe. Rain and runoff added additional water.

The Sierra Nevada adjacent to Lake Tahoe were carved by scouring glaciers during the Ice Ages, which began a million or more years ago, and retreated ~15,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene. The glaciers carved canyons that are today iconic landmarks such as Emerald Bay, Cascade Lake, and Fallen Leaf Lake, among others. Lake Tahoe itself never held glaciers, but instead water is retained by damming Miocene volcanic deposits.

Soils of the basin come primarily from andesitic volcanic rocks and granodiorite, with minor areas of metamorphic rock. Some of the valley bottoms and lower hill slopes are mantled with glacial moraines, or glacial outwash material derived from the parent rock. Sandy soils, rock outcrops and rubble and stony colluvium account for over 70% of the land area in the basin. The basin soils (in the < 2 mm fraction) are generally 65–85% sand (0.05–2.0 mm).

Given the great depth of Lake Tahoe, and the locations of the normal faults within the deepest portions of the lake, modeling suggests that earthquakes on these faults can trigger tsunamis. Wave heights of these tsunamis are predicted to be on the order of 10 to 33 ft (3 to 10 m) in height, capable of traversing the lake in just a few minutes. A massive collapse of the western edge of the basin that formed McKinney Bay around 50,000 years ago is thought to have generated a tsunami/seiche wave with a height approaching 330 ft (100 m).

Climate

Fallen_Leaf_Lake_and_Lake_Tahoe_South_Shore

Fallen Leaf Lake and Lake Tahoe in background from Angora Ridge Rd. to the Angora Lakes Resort

Lake Tahoe has a dry-summer continental climate (Dsb in the Koeppen climate classification). Mean annual precipitation ranges from over 55 inches (1440 mm) for watersheds on the west side of the basin to about 26 inches (660 mm) near the lake on the east side of the basin. Most of the precipitation falls as snow between November and April, although rainstorms combined with rapid snowmelt account for the largest floods. There is a pronounced annual runoff of snowmelt in late spring and early summer, the timing of which varies from year to year. In some years, summertime monsoon storms from the Great Basin bring intense rainfall, especially to high elevations on the northeast side of the basin.

August is normally the warmest month at the Lake Tahoe Airport (elevation 6,254 ft, 1,906 m) with an average maximum of 78.7 °F (25.9 °C) and an average minimum of 39.8 °F (4.3 °C). January is the coolest month with an average maximum of 41.0 °F (5.0 °C) and an average minimum of 15.1 °F (−9.4 °C). The all-time maximum of 99 °F (37.2 °C) was recorded on July 22, 1988. The all-time minimum of −16 °F (−26.7 °C) was recorded on December 9, 1972. Temperatures exceed 90 °F (32.2 °C) on an average of 2.0 days annually. Minimum temperatures of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower occur on an average of 231.8 days annually, and minimum temperatures of 0 °F (−17.8 °C) or lower occur on an average of 7.6 days annually. Freezing temperatures have occurred in every month of the year.

Climate data for Tahoe City, California (Elevation 6,230 ft, 1,899 m)

Climate data for Tahoe City

Ecology

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Salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) jumping a beaver dam

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Damaged beaver dam on Blackwood Creek. Beaver dams are easily crossed by trout and their ponds may serve as critical breaks for wildfires.

Vegetation in the basin is dominated by a mixed conifer forest of Jeffrey pine (Pinus jeffreyi), lodgepole pine (P. contorta), white fir (Abies concolor), and red fir (A. magnifica). The basin also contains significant areas of wet meadows and riparian areas, dry meadows, brush fields (with Arctostaphylos and Ceanothus) and rock outcrop areas, especially at higher elevations. Ceanothus is capable of fixing nitrogen, but mountain alder (Alnus tenuifolia), which grows along many of the basin’s streams, springs and seeps, fixes far greater quantities, and contributes measurably to nitrate-N concentrations in some small streams. The beaches of Lake Tahoe are the only known habitat for the rare Lake Tahoe yellowcress (Rorippa subumbellata), a plant which grows in the wet sand between low- and high-water marks.

Each autumn, from late September through mid-October, mature kokanee salmon (Oncorhyncus nerka) transform from silver-blue color to a fiery vermilion, and run up Taylor Creek, near South Lake Tahoe. As spawning season approaches the fish acquire a humpback and protuberant jaw. After spawning they die and their carcasses provide a feast for gatherings of mink (Neovison vison), bears (Ursus americanus), and bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). The non-native salmon were transplanted from the North Pacific to Lake Tahoe in 1944.

North American beaver (Castor canadensis) were re-introduced to the Tahoe Basin by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Forest Service between 1934 and 1949. Descended from no more than nine individuals, 1987 beaver populations on the upper and lower Truckee River had reached a density of 0.72 colonies (3.5 beavers) per kilometer. At the present time beaver have been seen in Tahoe Keys, Taylor Creek, Meeks Creek at Meeks Bay on the western shore, and Kings Beach on the north shore, so the descendants of the original nine beavers have apparently migrated around most of Lake Tahoe. Recently novel physical evidence has demonstrated that beaver were native to the Sierra until at least the mid-nineteenth century, via radiocarbon dating of buried beaver dam wood uncovered by deep channel incision in the Feather River watershed. That report was supported by a summary of indirect evidence of beaver including reliable observer accounts of beaver in multiple watersheds from the northern to the southern Sierra Nevada, including its eastern slope. A specific documented record of beaver living historically in Lake Tahoe’s North Canyon Creek watershed above Glenbrook includes a description of Spooner Meadow rancher Charles Fulstone hiring a caretaker to control the beaver population in the early 20th century. A recent study of Taylor Creek showed that beaver dam removal decreased wetland habitat, increased stream flow, and increased total phosphorus pollutants entering Lake Tahoe – all factors which negatively impact the clarity of the lake’s water. In addition, beaver dams located in Ward Creek, located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, were also shown to decrease nutrients and sediments traveling downstream.

The lake’s cold temperatures and extreme depth can slow the decomposition rate of organic matter. For example, a diver was found at a depth of 300 feet (90 m) 17 years after being lost, with his body preserved nearly perfectly.

Human History


Native People

The area around Lake Tahoe was previously inhabited by the Washoe tribe of Native Americans. Lake Tahoe was the center and heart of Washoe Indian territory, including the upper valleys of the Walker, Carson and Truckee Rivers. The English name for Lake Tahoe derives from the Washo word “dá’aw,” meaning “The Lake” or possibly “The Lake of the Sky.”

Exploration and Naming

Lt. John C. Frémont was the first person of European descent to see Lake Tahoe, during Fremont’s second exploratory expedition on February 14, 1844. John Calhoun Johnson, Sierra explorer and founder of “Johnson’s Cutoff” (now U.S. Route 50), was unlikely the first white man to see Meeks Bay and from a peak above the lake he named Fallen Leaf Lake after his Indian guide, as the area had been overly explorated by the Spaniards for centuries. His first job in the west was in the government service, carrying the mail on snowshoes from Placerville to Nevada City, during which time he named the lake “Lake Bigler” in honor of California’s third governor John Bigler.

In 1853 William Eddy, the surveyor general of California, identified the lake as Lake Bigler. During the Civil War, Union advocates objected to the name, because Bigler was an ardent secessionist. Due to this, the U.S. Department of the Interior introduced the name Tahoe in 1862. Both names were in use: the legislature passed legislation declaring the official name to be Lake Bigler in 1870, while to most surveys and the general public it was known as Lake Tahoe. The lake didn’t receive its official and final designation as Lake Tahoe until 1945.

Mining Era

Upon discovery of gold in the South Fork of the American River in 1848, thousands of gold seekers going west passed near the basin on their way to the gold fields. European civilization first made its mark in the Lake Tahoe basin with the 1858 discovery of the Comstock Lode, a silver deposit just 15 miles (24 km) to the east in Virginia City, Nevada. From 1858 until about 1890, logging in the basin supplied large timbers to shore up the underground workings of the Comstock mines. The logging was so extensive that loggers cut down almost all of the native forest.

Lake Tahoe became a transportation hub for the surrounding area as mining and logging commenced prior to development of railroads. The first mail delivery was via a sailboat which took a week to visit each of the lakeside communities. The first steamboat on Lake Tahoe was the 42-foot (13 m) paddle wheel tugboat Governor Blasdel towing log rafts to a sawmill on the south side of Glenbrook Bay from 1863 until her boiler exploded in 1877. The 40-foot (12 m) Truckee and 55-foot (17 m) propeller-driven Emerald were also towing log rafts in 1870. J.A. Todman brought steam-powered passenger service to Lake Tahoe in 1872 with the 100-foot (30 m) 125-passenger side-wheel steamer Governor Stanford which reduced the mail delivery trip around Lake Tahoe to eight hours. Todman expanded service with steamboats Mamie, Niagara, and Tod Goodwin. Lawrence & Comstock provided competition with their steel-hulled steamboat Tallac in 1890 and later purchased Todman’s steamboats Mamie and Tod Goodwin. The Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company purchased the 83-foot (25 m) Niagara and built the iron-hulled steamboats Meteor in 1876 and Emerald (II) in 1887. The 75-foot (23 m) Meteor was the fastest boat on Lake Tahoe with a speed of 22 miles (35 km) per hour. Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company dominated the passenger and mail route after launch of their 200-passenger steamboat Tahoe on 24 June 1896. The 154-ton Tahoe was 170 feet (52 m) long with a slender 18-foot (5.5 m) beam so her 1,200 horsepower (890 kW) engines could push her over the lake at 18.5 knots. Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company purchased Tallac and rebuilt her as Nevada with length increased by 20 feet (6.1 m) to serve as a backup steamboat when Tahoe required maintenance.

Tod Goodwin burned at Tallac, and most of the other steamboats were retired as the sawmills ran out of trees and people began traveling by automobile. Niagara was scrapped at Tahoe City in 1900. Governor Stanford was beached at Glenbrook where its boiler was used until 1942 heating cottages at Glenbrook Inn and Ranch. Steamboats continued to carry a mail clerk around Lake Tahoe until 1934, when the mail contract was given to the 42-foot (13 m) motorboat Marian B powered by two Chevrolet engines. Mail delivery moved ashore after Marian B was lost on 17 May 1941 with her owner and the mail clerk attempting mail delivery during a storm. The 60-foot (18 m) Emerald (II) left Lake Tahoe in 1935 to become a fishing boat in San Diego. Historic Tahoe, Nevada, and Meteor were purchased with hope they might be preserved; but were scuttled in deep water after deterioration made preservation impractical. The latter two lie in Glenbrook Bay, but Tahoe sank in deeper water.

Development

Even in the mining era, the potential of the basin as a tourist destination was recognized. Tahoe City was founded in 1864 as a resort community for Virginia City.

Public appreciation of the Tahoe basin grew, and during the 1912, 1913 and 1918 congressional sessions, congressmen tried unsuccessfully to designate the basin as a national park.

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The only outlet of Lake Tahoe and the headwaters of the Truckee River at Lake Tahoe Dam

While Lake Tahoe is a natural lake, it is also used for water storage by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District (TCID). The lake level is controlled by Lake Tahoe Dam built in 1913 at the lake’s only outlet, the Truckee River, at Tahoe City. The 18-foot (5.5 m) high dam can increase the lake’s capacity by 744,600 acre•ft (918,500,000 m3).

During the first half of the 20th century, development around the lake consisted of a few vacation homes. The post-World War II population and building boom, followed by construction of gambling casinos in the Nevada part of the basin during the mid-1950s, and completion of the interstate highway links for the 1960 Winter Olympics held at Squaw Valley, resulted in a dramatic increase in development within the basin. From 1960 to 1980, the permanent residential population increased from about 10,000 to greater than 50,000, and the summer population grew from about 10,000 to about 90,000. Since the 1980s, development has slowed due to controls on land use.

Government and Politics

After a dispute that included gunshots exchanged between militia, in 1864, California and Nevada defined a partition that followed geographical coordinates: the state line runs east of the approximate center line of the lake; at 39 degrees north latitude, the state line runs southeasterly towards the Colorado River.

Unbeknownst to the negotiators, this compromise split Lake Tahoe: two-thirds for California, one-third for Nevada. In California, Lake Tahoe is divided between Placer County and El Dorado County. In Nevada, Lake Tahoe is divided among Washoe County, Douglas County and Carson City (an independent city).

As the population grew and development expanded in the 1960s, the question of protecting the lake became more imperative. In 1969, the U.S. Congress and the California and Nevada State Legislatures created a unique compact to share resources and responsibilities. The Compact established the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA), a bi-state agency charged with environmental protection of the Basin through land-use regulation and planning. In 1980, the U.S. Congress amended the Compact with public law 96-551. The law designated a new agency, the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD), to facilitate and implement Basin and regional transportation improvements/additions for the protection, restoration and use of the lake. Schisms between both agencies and local residents have led to the formation of grass-roots organizations that hold to even stricter environmentalism.

Historical Locations

Lake Tahoe is also the location of several 19th and 20th century palatial homes of historical significance. The Thunderbird Lodge built by George Whittel Jr once included nearly 27 miles (43 km) of the Nevada shoreline. Vikingsholm was the original settlement on Emerald Bay and included an island teahouse and a 38-room home. The Ehrman Mansion is a summer home built by a former Wells Fargo president in Sugar Pine Point and is now a state park.

Environmental Issues


Water Quality

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An example of road runoff with fine sediment at El Dorado Beach. However, this storm drain was removed during construction. The new beach now called Lakeview Commons opened in Summer 2012.

Despite land-use planning and export of treated sewage effluent from the basin, the lake is becoming increasingly eutrophic (having an excessive richness of nutrients), with primary productivity increasing by more than 5% annually, and clarity decreasing at an average rate of 0.25 meters per year. Until the early 1980s, nutrient-limitation studies showed that primary productivity in the lake was nitrogen-limited. Now, after a half-century of accelerated nitrogen input (much of it from direct atmospheric deposition), the lake is phosphorus-limited. Theodore Swift et al., concluded that “suspended inorganic sediments and phytoplanktonic algae both contribute significantly to the reduction in clarity, and that suspended particulate matter, rather than dissolved organic matter, are the dominant causes of clarity loss.” The largest source of fine sediment particles to Lake Tahoe is urban stormwater runoff, comprising 72 percent of the total fine sediment particle load. Recent research has shown that the urban uplands also provide the largest opportunity to reduce fine sediment particle and phosphorus contributions to the lake. Historic clarity of approximately 30 meters can be achieved with total reduction of approximately 75 percent from urban sources.

Historically, the clarity of Lake Tahoe continued to decrease through 2010, when the average Secchi depth, 64.4 feet, was the second lowest ever recorded (the lowest was 64.1 feet in 1997). This represented a decrease of 3.7 feet from the previous year. However, the lake’s clarity increased from 2011 to 2014, improving by nearly 20 percent.

A water quality study by the Lahontan Water Quality Control Board and the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection determined the largest source of fine sediment particles: 71 percent is developed area (urban) erosion and run-off, much of it associated with transportation infrastructure and services.

Lake Tahoe is a tributary watershed drainage element within the Truckee River Basin, and its sole outlet is the Truckee River, which continues on to discharge to Pyramid Lake. Because of the sensitivity of Truckee River water quality (involving two protected species, the cui-ui sucker fish and the Lahontan cutthroat trout), this drainage basin has been studied extensively. The primary investigations were stimulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who funded the development of the DSSAM model to analyze water quality below Lake Tahoe.

Lake Tahoe never freezes. Since 1970, it has mixed to a depth of at least 1,300 ft (400 m) a total of 6 or 7 times. Dissolved oxygen is relatively high from top to bottom. Analysis of the temperature records in Lake Tahoe has shown that the lake warmed (between 1969 and 2002) at an average rate of 0.015 °C per year. The warming is caused primarily by increasing air temperatures, and secondarily by increasing downward long-wave radiation. The warming trend is reducing the frequency of deep mixing in the lake, and may have important effects on water clarity and nutrient cycling.

Ecosystem Changes

Since the 1960s, the Lake’s food web and zooplankton populations have undergone major changes. In 1963–65, opossum shrimp (Mysis diluviana) were introduced to enhance the food supply for the introduced Kokanee salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka). The shrimp began feeding on the lake’s cladocerans (Daphnia and Bosmina), and their populations virtually disappeared by 1971. The shrimp provide a food resource for salmon and trout, but also compete with juvenile fish for zooplankton. Since the 1970s, the cladoceran populations have somewhat recovered, but not to former levels. Since 2006, goldfish have been observed in the lake, where they have grown to “giant size”, behaving like an invasive species. They may have descended from former pets which owners dumped or escaped, when used as fishing bait.

In June 2007, the Angora Fire burned approximately 3,100 acres (1,300 ha) throughout the South Lake Tahoe area. While the impact of ash on the lake’s ecosystem is predicted to be minimal, the impact of potential future erosion is not yet known.

Environmental Protection

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Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

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Secret Beach on Lake Tahoe’s Nevada side

Until recently, construction on the banks of the Lake had been largely under the control of real estate developers. Construction activities have resulted in a clouding of the lake’s blue waters. Currently, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is regulating construction along the shoreline (and has won two Federal Supreme Court battles over recent decisions). These regulations are unpopular with many residents, especially those in the Tahoe Lakefront Homeowners Association.

The League to Save Lake Tahoe (Keep Tahoe Blue) has been an environmental watchdog in the Lake Tahoe Basin for 50 years. Founded when a proposal to build a four-lane highway around the lake—with a bridge over the entrance to Emerald Bay—was proposed in 1957, the League has opposed many development projects in the area, which it alleges were environmentally harmful. The League embraces responsible and diversified use of the Lake’s resources while protecting and restoring its natural attributes.

Since 1980, the Lake Tahoe Interagency Monitoring Program (LTIMP) has been measuring stream discharge and concentrations of nutrients and sediment in up to 10 tributary streams in the Lake Tahoe Basin, California-Nevada. The objectives of the LTIMP are to acquire and disseminate the water quality information necessary to support science-based environmental planning and decision making in the basin. The LTIMP is a cooperative program with support from 12 federal and state agencies with interests in the Tahoe Basin. This data set, together with more recently acquired data on urban runoff water quality, is being used by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board to develop a program (mandated by the Clean Water Act) to limit the flux of nutrients and fine sediment to the Lake.

UC Davis remains a primary steward of the lake. The UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center is dedicated to research, education and public outreach, and to providing objective scientific information for restoration and sustainable use of the Lake Tahoe Basin. Each year, it produces a well-publicized “State of the Lake” assessment report.

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A view from the east shore of Lake Tahoe

Tourist Activities


Much of the area surrounding Lake Tahoe is devoted to the tourism industry and there are many restaurants, ski slopes, golf courses and casinos catering to visitors.

Winter Sports

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Ski slopes overlooking Lake Tahoe

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Lake Tahoe Gondola Ride

During ski season, thousands of people from all over Nevada and California, including Reno, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento, flock to the slopes for downhill skiing. Lake Tahoe, in addition to its panoramic beauty, is well known for its blizzards.

Some of the major ski areas in Tahoe include:

  • Heavenly Mountain Resort: the largest ski area in California and Nevada, located near Stateline
  • Squaw Valley: the second largest ski area, known for its hosting of the 1960 Winter Olympics, located near Tahoe City
  • Alpine Meadows: a medium-sized ski area on the north shore only a few miles from Squaw Valley
  • Diamond Peak: a small ski area located in Incline Village, Nevada
  • Northstar California: a popular north shore ski area
  • Kirkwood Mountain Resort: a ski area which gets more snow than any other ski area in the Tahoe region
  • Sierra-at-Tahoe: a medium-sized south shore ski area
  • Boreal Mountain Resort: a small ski area on Donner Pass
  • Sugar Bowl Ski Resort: a medium-sized ski area in Donner Pass
  • Donner Ski Ranch: a very small ski area on Donner Pass
  • Homewood Mountain Resort: a medium-sized ski area on the west shore
  • Mount Rose Ski Resort: a medium-sized ski area north-east of the Lake, on Slide Mountain

The majority of the ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe region are on the northern end of the lake, near Truckee, California and Reno, Nevada. Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly are located on the southern side of the lake, 55–75 miles (90–120 km) from Reno. Scattered throughout Tahoe are public and private sled parks. Some, such as Granlibakken are equipped with rope tows to help sledders get up the hill.

Many ski areas around Tahoe also have snow tubing, such as Squaw Valley. Throughout Tahoe, cross-country skiing, snowmobile riding and snowshoeing are also popular.

Water Sports

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A sailboat on Lake Tahoe

During late Spring to early Fall, the lake is popular for water sports and beach activities. The two cities most identified with the Lake Tahoe tourist area are South Lake Tahoe, California and the smaller Stateline; smaller centers on the northern shoreline include Tahoe City and Kings Beach.

Other popular activities include parasailing, jet ski rentals and eco-friendly paddle sport rentals. There are rental locations located around Lake Tahoe. Kayaking and stand up paddle boards have also become very popular.

Boating is a primary activity in Tahoe in the summer. The lake is home to one of the most prestigious wooden boat shows in the country, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, held every August. There are lake front restaurants all over the lake, most equipped with docks and buoys (See the restaurants section). There are all sorts of boating events, such as sailboat racing, firework shows over the lake, guided cruises, and more. As an interstate waterway, Lake Tahoe is subject to the United States Coast Guard. Lake Tahoe is home to Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe.

SCUBA diving is popular at Lake Tahoe, with some dive sites offering dramatic drop-offs or wall dives. Diving at Lake Tahoe is considered advanced due to the increased risk of decompression sickness (DCS) while diving at such a high altitude.

Fred Rogers became the first person to swim the length of Lake Tahoe in 1955, and Erline Christopherson became the first woman to do so in 1962.

Hiking and Bicycling

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View from the Tahoe Rim Trail

There are numerous hiking and mountain biking trails around the lake. They range widely in length, difficulty and popularity. One of the most famous of Tahoe’s trails is the Tahoe Rim Trail, a 165-mile (270-km) trail that circumnavigates the lake. Directly to the west of the lake is the Granite Chief Wilderness, which provides great hiking and wilderness camping. Also, to the southwest is the very popular Desolation Wilderness. One of the most popular trailheads used to access these popular destinations is Eagle Lake Trailhead, located near Emerald Bay on Tahoe’s west shore. The Flume Trail of the east shore is one of Mountain Biking Magazine’s Top 10 Trails in the U.S. There are also many paved off-road bicycle paths that meander through communities on all sides of the lake.

Gambling

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Casinos in Stateline, Nevada

Gambling is legal on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. Casinos, each with a variety of slot machines and table games, are located on the South Shore in Stateline, and on the North Shore in Crystal Bay and Incline Village.

When Nevada legalized gambling in 1931, the first casino at the lake had already been open for years. First built on the North Shore in Crystal Bay by Robert Sherman in 1926, the Calneva cabin became the property of Norman Henry Biltz and was sold to Bill Graham and Jim McKay in 1929.

The Calneva was rebuilt after a fire in 1937 and expanded several times, most noticeably in 1969 when the high-rise hotel was built. Along the way, Frank Sinatra owned the property in the early 1960s, shared his cabins with the likes of Sam Giancana and Marilyn Monroe, and sold out at the height of the area’s popularity.

Other casinos at the North Shore include the Crystal Bay Club, first built in 1937 as the Ta-Neva-Ho; the Tahoe Biltmore, and the Nugget. The Hyatt Regency is found at Incline Village.

At South Shore, Bill Harrah purchased the Stateline Country Club, which had stood since 1931 and built Harrah’s Tahoe. Other casinos include Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Lake Tahoe, Harveys Lake Tahoe, Montbleu, and the Lakeside Inn.

Transportation


Lake Tahoe can be reached directly by car, and indirectly by train or air. The nearest passenger train service is the Amtrak station in Truckee, and is served by Amtrak’s train, the California Zephyr, which runs daily between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. The closest scheduled passenger airline service is available via the Reno-Tahoe International Airport (RNO).

Highways

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Cave Rock Tunnel on US 50

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U.S. Route 50 in South Lake Tahoe

Visitors can reach Lake Tahoe under ideal conditions within two hours from the Sacramento area, one hour from Reno or thirty minutes from Carson City. In winter months, chains or snow tires are often necessary to reach Tahoe from any direction. Traffic can be heavy on weekends due to tourists if not also from weather.

The primary routes to Lake Tahoe are on Interstate 80 via Truckee, U.S. Route 50, and Nevada State Route 431 via Reno. Most of the highways accessing and encircling Lake Tahoe are paved two-lane mountain roads. US 50 is a four-lane highway (from the canyon of the South Fork American River at Riverton, over the Sierra Nevada at Echo Summit, and into the Lake Tahoe Basin, is a mainly two-lane road) passing south of the lake and along part of the eastern shore.

California State Route 89 follows the western shore of the lake through the picturesque wilderness and connects camping, fishing and hiking locations such as those at Emerald Bay State Park, DL Bliss State Park and Camp Richardson. Farther along are communities such as Meeks Bay and Tahoe City. Finally, the highway turns away from the lake and heads northwest toward Truckee.

California State Route 28 completes the circuit from Tahoe City around the northern shore to communities such as Kings Beach, Crystal Bay, and into Incline Village, Nevada where the road becomes Nevada State Route 28. Route 28 returns along the eastern shore to US 50 near Spooner Lake.

Major area airports
Reno-Tahoe International Airport/KRNO (Reno, Nevada)
Sacramento International Airport/KSMF (Sacramento, California)
Lake Tahoe Airport/KTVL (South Lake Tahoe, California)
Truckee-Tahoe Airport/KTRK (Truckee, California)
Minden-Tahoe Airport/KMEV (Minden, Nevada)

Communities


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Placer County

  • Carnelian Bay #3
  • Dollar Point #4
  • Kings Beach #1
  • Sunnyside-Tahoe City #5
  • Tahoe Vista #2
  • Tahoma (partially in El Dorado County) #6

El Dorado County

  • South Lake Tahoe #7

  • Tahoma (partially in Placer County) #6

Nevada

  • Carson City #14

Douglas County

  • Glenbrook #13
  • Lakeridge #11
  • Logan Creek #12
  • Round Hill Village #8
  • Skyland #10
  • Stateline #17
  • Zephyr Cove #9

Washoe County

  • Crystal Bay #16
  • Incline Village #15

In the Media


The Ponderosa Ranch of the TV series Bonanza was formerly located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. The opening sequence of the TV series was filmed at the McFaul Creek Meadow, with Mount Tallac in the background. In September 2004 the Ponderosa Ranch closed its doors, after being sold to developer David Duffield for an undisclosed price.

The 1974 film The Godfather Part II used the lakeside estate Fleur de Lac as the location of several scenes, including the elaborate First Communion celebration, the Senator’s shakedown attempt of Michael, the assassination attempt on Michael, Michael disowning Fredo, Carmela Corleone’s funeral, Fredo’s death while fishing, and the closing scene of Michael sitting alone outside. Fleur de Lac, on the western California shore of Lake Tahoe, was formerly the Henry Kaiser estate. The surrounding lakeside area has been developed into a private gated condominium community and some of the buildings of the “Corleone compound” still exist, including the boathouse.

The 2014 film Last Weekend, starring Patricia Clarkson and directed by Tom Dolby and Tom Williams, used the west shore lakefront home of Ray and Dagmar Dolby as the primary location for its interiors and exteriors. The house, built in 1929, was also the site for the exteriors for A Place in the Sun, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift. The 1988 film Things Change was also filmed here.

Yosemite National Park

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Yosemite National Park

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Yosemite National Park is one of the World Heritage Site

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Location of Yosemite National Park

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Yosemite Historic Maps

Yosemite National Park (/joʊˈsɛmɪti/ yoh-SEM-i-tee) is a United States National Park spanning portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in Northern California. The park, which is managed by the National Park Service, covers an area of 747,956 acres (1,168.681 sq mi; 302,687 ha; 3,026.87 km2) and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On average, about 4 million people visit Yosemite each year, and most spend the majority of their time in the 5.9 square miles (15 km2) of Yosemite Valley. The park set a visitation record in 2016, surpassing 5 million visitors for the first time in its history.

Designated a World Heritage Site in 1984, Yosemite is internationally recognized for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, clear streams, giant sequoia groves, lakes, mountains, glaciers, and biological diversity. Almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. Yosemite was central to the development of the national park idea. First, Galen Clark and others lobbied to protect Yosemite Valley from development, ultimately leading to President Abraham Lincoln’s signing the Yosemite Grant in 1864. Later, John Muir led a successful movement to establish a larger national park encompassing not just the valley, but surrounding mountains and forests as well—paving the way for the U.S. National Park system.

Yosemite is one of the largest and least fragmented habitat blocks in the Sierra Nevada, and the park supports a diversity of plants and animals. The park has an elevation range from 2,127 to 13,114 feet (648 to 3,997 m) and contains five major vegetation zones: chaparral/oak woodland, lower montane forest, upper montane forest, subalpine zone, and alpine. Of California’s 7,000 plant species, about 50% occur in the Sierra Nevada and more than 20% within Yosemite. There is suitable habitat for more than 160 rare plants in the park, with rare local geologic formations and unique soils characterizing the restricted ranges many of these plants occupy.

The geology of the Yosemite area is characterized by granitic rocks and remnants of older rock. About 10 million years ago, the Sierra Nevada was uplifted and then tilted to form its relatively gentle western slopes and the more dramatic eastern slopes. The uplift increased the steepness of stream and river beds, resulting in formation of deep, narrow canyons. About one million years ago, snow and ice accumulated, forming glaciers at the higher alpine meadows that moved down the river valleys. Ice thickness in Yosemite Valley may have reached 4,000 feet (1,200 m) during the early glacial episode. The downslope movement of the ice masses cut and sculpted the U-shaped valley that attracts so many visitors to its scenic vistas today.

The name “Yosemite” (meaning “killer” in Miwok) originally referred to the name of a renegade tribe which was driven out of the area (and possibly annihilated) by the Mariposa Battalion. Before then the area was called “Ahwahnee” (“big mouth”) by indigenous people.

Contents
1 History
1.1 Ahwahneechee and the Mariposa Wars
1.2 Early tourists
1.3 Yosemite Grant
1.4 Increased protection efforts
1.5 National Park Service
2 Geography
2.1 Rocks and erosion
2.2 Popular features
2.3 Water and ice
2.4 Climate
3 Geology
3.1 Tectonic and volcanic activity
3.2 Uplift and erosion
3.3 Sculpting by glaciers
4 Ecology
4.1 Habitats
4.2 Management issues
4.3 Wildfires
5 Activities
5.1 Hiking
5.2 Driving destinations
5.3 Climbing
5.4 Winter activities
5.5 Other
6 In popular culture

History


Ahwahneechee and the Mariposa Wars

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Paiute ceremony (1872)

Engraving of Dr Lafayette Bunnell, showing him as an older man with a craggy face, short bristly hair and a cropped grey beard.

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Dr. Lafayette Bunnell gave Yosemite Valley its name.

Archeological finds show the Yosemite Valley to have been inhabited for nearly 3,000 years, though humans may have first visited the area as long as 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. The indigenous natives called themselves the Ahwahneechee, meaning “dwellers in Ahwahnee.” They are related to the Northern Paiute and Mono tribes. Many tribes visited the area to trade, including nearby Central Sierra Miwoks, who lived along the drainage area of the Tuolumne and Stanislaus Rivers. A major trading route went over Mono Pass and through Bloody Canyon to Mono Lake, just to the east of the Yosemite area. Vegetation and game in the region were similar to that present today; acorns were a staple to their diet, as well as other seeds and plants, salmon and deer.

The California Gold Rush in the mid-19th century dramatically increased travel by European-Americans in the area, causing competition for resources between the regional Paiute and Miwok and the miners and hangers on. In 1851 as part of the Mariposa Wars intended to suppress Native American resistance, United States Army Major Jim Savage led the Mariposa Battalion into the west end of Yosemite Valley. He was pursuing forces of around 200 Ahwahneechee led by Chief Tenaya.

Accounts from this battalion were the first well-documented reports of ethnic Europeans entering Yosemite Valley. Attached to Savage’s unit was Dr. Lafayette Bunnell, the company physician, who later wrote about his awestruck impressions of the valley in The Discovery of the Yosemite. Bunnell is credited with naming Yosemite Valley, based on his interviews with Chief Tenaya. Bunnell wrote that Chief Tenaya was the founder of the Pai-Ute Colony of Ah-wah-nee. The Miwok, a neighboring tribe, and most white settlers considered the Ahwahneechee to be especially violent because of their frequent territorial disputes. The Miwok term for the Pai-Ute band was yohhe’meti, meaning “they are killers”. Correspondence and articles written by members of the battalion helped to popularize the natural wonders of the Yosemite Valley and the surrounding area. Chief Tenaya and his Ahwahneechee were eventually captured and their village burned; they were removed to a reservation near Fresno, California. The chief and some others were later allowed to return to Yosemite Valley. In the spring of 1852 they attacked a group of eight gold miners, and then moved east to flee law enforcement. Near Mono Lake, they took refuge with the nearby Mono tribe of Paiute. They stole horses from their hosts and moved away, but the Mono Paiutes tracked down and killed many of the Ahwahneechee, including Chief Tenaya. The Mono Paiute took the survivors as captives back to Mono Lake and absorbed them into the Mono Lake Paiute tribe.

After these wars, a number of Native Americans continued to live within the boundaries of Yosemite. A number of Indians supported the growing tourism industry by working as laborers or maids. Later, Indians became part of the tourism industry itself by selling baskets or performing for tourists. A reconstructed “Indian Village of Ahwahnee” has been erected behind the Yosemite Museum, located next to the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center.

Early Tourists

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The Dead Giant, c.1870

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Vernal Falls (c. 1889)

In 1855, entrepreneur James Mason Hutchings, artist Thomas Ayres and two others were the first to tour the area. Hutchings and Ayres were responsible for much of the earliest publicity about Yosemite, writing articles and special magazine issues about the Valley. Ayres’ style in art was highly detailed with exaggerated angularity. His works and written accounts were distributed nationally, and an art exhibition of his drawings was held in New York City. Hutchings’ publicity efforts between 1855 and 1860 led to an increase in tourism to Yosemite.

Wawona was an Indian encampment in what is now the southwestern part of the park. Settler Galen Clark discovered the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia in Wawona in 1857. He had simple lodgings built, and roads to the area. In 1879, the Wawona Hotel was built to serve tourists visiting Mariposa Grove. As tourism increased, so did the number of trails and hotels developed by people intending to build on the trade.

The Wawona Tree, also known as the Tunnel Tree, was a famous giant sequoia that stood in the Mariposa Grove. It was 227 feet (69 m) tall, and was 90 ft (27 m) in circumference. When a carriage-wide tunnel was cut through the tree in 1881, it became even more popular as a tourist photo attraction. Everything from horse-drawn carriages in the late 19th century, to automobiles in the first part of the 20th century, traveled the road which passed through that tree. The Wawona Tree fell in 1969 under a heavy load of snow. It was estimated to have been 2,300 years old.

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The Wawona Hotel


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Woman in a long dress in front of a sign across a road. Wooden letters read “Camp Curry”.  [Jennie Curry in front of Camp Curry, c. 1900]

Yosemite’s first concession was established in 1884 when John Degnan and his wife established a bakery and store. In 1916, the National Park Service granted a 20-year concession to the Desmond Park Service Company. It bought out or built hotels, stores, camps, a dairy, a garage, and other park services. Desmond changed its name to the Yosemite National Park Company in December 1917 and was reorganized in 1920.

The Curry Company had been started in 1899 by David and Jennie Curry to provide concessions in the park. They also founded Camp Curry, formerly known as Curry Village, now known as Half Dome Village. The Currys lobbied reluctant park supervisors to allow expansion of concession operations and development in the area.

Administrators in the National Park Service felt that limiting the number of concessionaires in each national park would be more financially sound. The Curry Company and its rival, the Yosemite National Park Company, were forced to merge in 1925 to form the Yosemite Park & Curry Company (YP&CC). The company built the Ahwahnee Hotel in 1927.

Yosemite Grant

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Map of rail and stage routes to the Yosemite in 1885

Concerned by the effects of commercial interests, prominent citizens including Galen Clark and Senator John Conness advocated for protection of the area. A park bill was prepared with the assistance of the General Land Office in the Interior Department. The bill passed both houses of the 38th United States Congress, and was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864, creating the Yosemite Grant. This is the first instance of park land being set aside specifically for preservation and public use by action of the U.S. federal government, and set a precedent for the 1872 creation of Yellowstone as the first national park. Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove were ceded to California as a state park, and a board of commissioners was proclaimed two years later.

Galen Clark was appointed by the commission as the Grant’s first guardian, but neither Clark nor the commissioners had the authority to evict homesteaders (which included Hutchings). The issue was not settled until 1872 when the homesteader land holdings were invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. Clark and the reigning commissioners were ousted in 1880, this dispute also reaching the Supreme Court in 1880. The two Supreme Court decisions affecting management of the Yosemite Grant are considered important precedents in land management law. Hutchings became the new park guardian.

Access to the park by tourists improved in the early years of the park, and conditions in the Valley were made more hospitable. Tourism significantly increased after the First Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, but the long horseback ride to reach the area was a deterrent. Three stagecoach roads were built in the mid-1870s to provide better access for the growing number of visitors to Yosemite Valley.

John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist and explorer. It was because of Muir that many National Parks were left untouched, such as Yosemite Valley National Park. One of the most significant camping trips Muir took was in 1903 with then president Theodore Roosevelt. This trip persuaded Roosevelt to return “Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove to federal protection as part of Yosemite National Park”.

John Muir wrote articles popularizing the area and increasing scientific interest in it. Muir was one of the first to theorize that the major landforms in Yosemite Valley were created by large alpine glaciers, bucking established scientists such as Josiah Whitney, who regarded Muir as an amateur. Muir wrote scientific papers on the area’s biology. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted emphasized the importance of conservation of Yosemite Valley.

Increased Protection Efforts

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Early settler, Galen Clark

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Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir on Glacier Point

Overgrazing of meadows (especially by sheep), logging of giant sequoia, and other damage caused Muir to become an advocate for further protection. Muir convinced prominent guests of the importance of putting the area under federal protection; one such guest was Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of Century Magazine. Muir and Johnson lobbied Congress for the Act that created Yosemite National Park on October 1, 1890. The State of California, however, retained control of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. Muir also helped persuade local officials to virtually eliminate grazing from the Yosemite high country.

The newly created national park came under the jurisdiction of the United States Army’s Troop I of the 4th Cavalry on May 19, 1891, which set up camp in Wawona with Captain Abram Epperson Wood as acting superintendent. By the late 1890s, sheep grazing was no longer a problem, and the Army made many other improvements. The cavalry could not intervene to ease the worsening condition of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove. The cavalry left another legacy in the park, the ranger hat. From 1899 to 1913, cavalry regiments of the Western Department, including the all Black 9th Cavalry (known as the “Buffalo Soldiers”) and the 1st Cavalry, stationed two troops at Yosemite and brought with them the trooper’s campaign hat with its distinctive Montana Peak we recognize today as the “ranger hat.” This peak had been formed into the trooper’s stetson by veterans of the 1898 Spanish–American War to better shed tropical rain.

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Photograph of Bridalveil Fall and El Capitan by Carleton E. Watkins c. 1880

Muir and his Sierra Club continued to lobby the government and influential people for the creation of a unified Yosemite National Park. In May 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt camped with Muir near Glacier Point for three days. On that trip, Muir convinced Roosevelt to take control of Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove away from California and return it to the federal government. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that did precisely that.

National Park Service

The National Park Service was formed in 1916, and Yosemite was transferred to that agency’s jurisdiction. Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, Tioga Pass Road, and campgrounds at Tenaya and Merced lakes were also completed in 1916. Automobiles started to enter the park in ever-increasing numbers following the construction of all-weather highways to the park. The Yosemite Museum was founded in 1926 through the efforts of Ansel Franklin Hall.In the 1920s, the museum featured Native Americans practicing traditional crafts, and many of the Sierra Miwok continued to live in Yosemite Valley until they were evicted from Yosemite in the 1960s.

In 1903, a dam in the northern portion of the park was proposed. Located in the Hetch Hetchy Valley, its purpose was to provide water and hydroelectric power to San Francisco. Muir and the Sierra Club opposed the project, while others, including Gifford Pinchot, supported it. In 1913, the U.S. Congress authorized the O’Shaughnessy Dam through passage of the Raker Act.

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O’Shaughnessy Dam in Hetch Hetchy Valley

In the late 1920s, in an attempt that would be impossible to make today, a bid for Yosemite for the 1932 Winter Olympics was put forward. (Ultimately, Lake Placid, New York, hosted.) In 1937, conservationist Rosalie Edge, head of the Emergency Conservation Committee (ECC), successfully lobbied Congress to purchase about 8,000 acres of old-growth sugar pines on the perimeter of Yosemite National Park that were to be logged.

More recently, preservationists persuaded Congress to designate 677,600 acres (274,200 ha), or about 89% of the park, as the Yosemite Wilderness—a highly protected wilderness area. The Park Service has reduced artificial inducements to visit the park, such as the Firefall, in which red-hot embers were pushed off a cliff near Glacier Point at night. Traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley during the summer months has become a concern. Two electric buses commenced service in September 1995. The buses are quiet and do not emit pollutants. Eventually, all the buses in Yosemite will be electric.

In 2016, The Trust for Public Land purchased Ackerson Meadow, a 400-acre tract on the western edge of Yosemite National Park, for $2.3 million in order to preserve habitat and protect the area from development. Ackerson Meadow was originally included in the proposed 1890 park boundary but never acquired by the federal government. On September 7, 2016, the National Park Service accepted the donation of the land, making the meadow the largest addition to Yosemite since 1949.

Geography


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Yosemite National Park Map

Yosemite National Park is located in the central Sierra Nevada of California. Three wilderness areas are adjacent to Yosemite: the Ansel Adams Wilderness to the southeast, the Hoover Wilderness to the northeast, and the Emigrant Wilderness to the north.

The 1,189 sq mi (3,080 km2) park is roughly the size of the U.S. state of Rhode Island and contains thousands of lakes and ponds, 1,600 miles (2,600 km) of streams, 800 miles (1,300 km) of hiking trails, and 350 miles (560 km) of roads. Two federally designated Wild and Scenic Rivers, the Merced and the Tuolumne, begin within Yosemite’s borders and flow westward through the Sierra foothills, into the Central Valley of California. On average, about 4 million people visit the park each year, with most visitor use concentrated in the seven-square-mile (18 km2) area of Yosemite Valley.

Rocks and Erosion

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El Capitan

Almost all of the landforms in the Yosemite area are cut from the granitic rock of the Sierra Nevada Batholith (a batholith is a large mass of intrusive igneous rock that formed deep below the surface). About 5% of the park’s landforms (mostly in its eastern margin near Mount Dana) are metamorphosed volcanic and sedimentary rocks. These rocks are called roof pendants because they were once the roof of the underlying granitic rock.

Erosion acting upon different types of uplift-created joint and fracture systems is responsible for creating the valleys, canyons, domes, and other features we see today. These joints and fracture systems do not move, and are therefore not faults. Spacing between joints is controlled by the amount of silica in the granite and granodiorite rocks; more silica tends to create a more resistant rock, resulting in larger spaces between joints and fractures.

Pillars and columns, such as Washington Column and Lost Arrow, are created by cross joints. Erosion acting on master joints is responsible for creating valleys and later canyons. The single most erosive force over the last few million years has been large alpine glaciers, which have turned the previously V-shaped river-cut valleys into U-shaped glacial-cut canyons (such as Yosemite Valley and Hetch Hetchy Valley). Exfoliation (caused by the tendency of crystals in plutonic rocks to expand at the surface) acting on granitic rock with widely spaced joints is responsible for creating domes such as Half Dome and North Dome and inset arches like Royal Arches.

Popular Features

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Cathedral Peak

Yosemite Valley represents only one percent of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. The Tunnel View is the first view of the Valley for many visitors and is extensively photographed. El Capitan, a prominent granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world because of its diverse range of climbing routes in addition to its year-round accessibility. Granite domes such as Sentinel Dome and Half Dome rise 3,000 and 4,800 feet (910 and 1,460 m), respectively, above the valley floor.

The high country of Yosemite contains beautiful areas such as Tuolumne Meadows, Dana Meadows, the Clark Range, the Cathedral Range, and the Kuna Crest. The Sierra crest and the Pacific Crest Trail run through Yosemite, with peaks of red metamorphic rock, such as Mount Dana and Mount Gibbs, and granite peaks, such as Mount Conness. Mount Lyell is the highest point in the park, standing at 13,120 feet (4,000 m). The Lyell Glacier is the largest glacier in Yosemite National Park and is one of the few remaining in the Sierra Nevada today.

The park has three groves of ancient giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trees; the Mariposa Grove (200 trees), the Tuolumne Grove (25 trees), and the Merced Grove (20 trees). This species grows larger in volume than any other and is one of the tallest and longest-lived.

Water and Ice

The Tuolumne and Merced River systems originate along the crest of the Sierra Nevada in the park and have carved river canyons 3,000 to 4,000 feet (910 to 1,220 m) deep. The Tuolumne River drains the entire northern portion of the park, an area of approximately 680 square miles (1,800 km2). The Merced River begins in the park’s southern peaks, primarily the Cathedral and Clark Ranges, and drains an area of approximately 511 square miles (1,320 km2).

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U-shaped valley—Yosemite

Hydrologic processes, including glaciation, flooding, and fluvial geomorphic response, have been fundamental in creating landforms in the park. The park also contains approximately 3,200 lakes (greater than 100 m2), two reservoirs, and 1,700 miles (2,700 km) of streams, all of which help form these two large watersheds. Wetlands in Yosemite occur in valley bottoms throughout the park, and are often hydrologically linked to nearby lakes and rivers through seasonal flooding and groundwater movement. Meadow habitats, distributed at elevations from 3,000 to 11,000 feet (910 to 3,350 m) in the park, are generally wetlands, as are the riparian habitats found on the banks of Yosemite’s numerous streams and rivers.

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Bridalveil Fall flows from a U-shaped hanging valley that was created by a tributary glacier.

Yosemite is famous for its high concentration of waterfalls in a small area. Numerous sheer drops, glacial steps and hanging valleys in the park provide many places for waterfalls to exist, especially during April, May, and June (the snowmelt season). Located in Yosemite Valley, the Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America at 2,425 feet (739 m). Also in Yosemite Valley is the much lower volume Ribbon Falls, which has the highest single vertical drop, 1,612 feet (491 m). Perhaps the most prominent of the Yosemite Valley waterfalls is Bridalveil Fall, which is the waterfall seen from the Tunnel View viewpoint at the east end of the Wawona Tunnel. Wapama Falls in Hetch Hetchy Valley is another notable waterfall. Hundreds of ephemeral waterfalls also exist in the park.

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Vernal Fall

All glaciers in the park are relatively small glaciers that occupy areas that are in almost permanent shade, such as north- and northeast-facing cirques. Lyell Glacier is the largest glacier in Yosemite (the Palisades Glaciers are the largest in the Sierra Nevada) and covers 160 acres (65 ha). None of the Yosemite glaciers are a remnant of the much, much larger Ice Age alpine glaciers responsible for sculpting the Yosemite landscape. Instead, they were formed during one of the neoglacial episodes that have occurred since the thawing of the Ice Age (such as the Little Ice Age). Climate change has reduced the number and size of glaciers around the world. Many Yosemite glaciers, including Merced Glacier, which was discovered by John Muir in 1871 and bolstered his glacial origins theory of the Yosemite area, have disappeared and most of the others have lost up to 75% of their surface area.

Climate

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Yosemite in Autumn

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Vernal Fall at the Bottom

Yosemite has a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa), meaning most precipitation falls during the mild winter, and the other seasons are nearly dry (less than 3% of precipitation falls during the long, hot summers). Because of orographic lift, precipitation increases with elevation up to 8,000 feet (2,400 m) where it slowly decreases to the crest. Precipitation amounts vary from 36 inches (910 mm) at 4,000 feet (1,200 m) elevation to 50 inches (1,300 mm) at 8,600 feet (2,600 m). Snow does not typically persist on the ground until November in the high country. It accumulates all winter and into March or early April.

Mean daily temperatures range from 25 °F (−4 °C) to 53 °F (12 °C) at Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet (2,600 m). At the Wawona Entrance (elevation 5,130 feet or 1,560 metres), mean daily temperature ranges from 36 to 67 °F (2 to 19 °C). At the lower elevations below 5,000 feet (1,500 m), temperatures are hotter; the mean daily high temperature at Yosemite Valley (elevation 3,966 feet or 1,209 metres) varies from 46 to 90 °F (8 to 32 °C). At elevations above 8,000 feet (2,400 m), the hot, dry summer temperatures are moderated by frequent summer thunderstorms, along with snow that can persist into July. The combination of dry vegetation, low relative humidity, and thunderstorms results in frequent lightning-caused fires as well.

At the park headquarters, with an elevation of 3,966 feet (1,209 m), January averages 38.2 °F (3.4 °C), while July averages 73.0 °F (22.8 °C), though in summer the nights are much cooler than the hot days. There are an average of 39.5 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 97.9 nights with freezing temperatures. Freezing temperatures have been recorded in every month of the year. The record high temperature was 115 °F (46 °C) on July 20, 1915, while the record low temperature was −6 °F (−21 °C) on January 2, 1924 and on January 21, 1937. Average annual precipitation is nearly 37 inches (940 mm), falling on 65 days. The wettest year was 1983 with 68.94 inches (1,751 mm) and the driest year was 1976 with 14.84 inches (377 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 29.61 inches (752 mm) in December 1955 and the most in one day was 6.92 inches (176 mm) on December 23, 1955. Average annual snowfall is 65.6 inches (1.67 m). The snowiest year was 1967 with 154.9 inches (3.93 m). The most snow in one month was 140.8 inches (3.58 m) in January 1993.

Climate data for Yosemite Park Headquarters, elev. 3,966 feet (1,209 m)

Geology


Tectonic and volcanic activity

 

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Generalized geologic map of the Yosemite area (based on an USGS image)

The area of the park was astride a passive continental margin during the Precambrian and early Paleozoic. Sediment was derived from continental sources and was deposited in shallow water. These rocks have since been metamorphosed.

Heat generated from the Farallon Plate subducting below the North American Plate led to the creation of an island arc of volcanoes on the west coast of proto-North America between the late Devonian and Permian periods. Later volcanism in the Jurassic intruded and covered these rocks in what may have been magmatic activity associated with the early stages of the creation of the Sierra Nevada Batholith. 95% of these rocks were eventually removed by uplifted-accelerated erosion.

The first phase of regional plutonism started 210 million years ago in the late Triassic and continued throughout the Jurassic to about 150 million years before present (BP). Around the same time, the Nevadan orogeny built the Nevadan mountain range (also called the Ancestral Sierra Nevada) to a height of 15,000 feet (4,600 m). This was directly part of the creation of the Sierra Nevada Batholith, and the resulting rocks were mostly granitic in composition and emplaced about 6 miles (9.7 km) below the surface. The second major pluton emplacement phase lasted from about 120 million to 80 million years ago during the Cretaceous. This was part of the Sevier orogeny.

Starting 20 million years ago (in the Cenozoic) and lasting until 5 million years ago, a now-extinct extension of Cascade Range volcanoes erupted, bringing large amounts of igneous material in the area. These igneous deposits blanketed the region north of the Yosemite region. Volcanic activity persisted past 5 million years BP east of the current park borders in the Mono Lake and Long Valley areas.

Uplift and Erosion

Starting 10 million years ago, vertical movement along the Sierra fault started to uplift the Sierra Nevada. Subsequent tilting of the Sierra block and the resulting accelerated uplift of the Sierra Nevada increased the gradient of western-flowing streams. The streams consequently ran faster and thus cut their valleys more quickly. Additional uplift occurred when major faults developed to the east, especially the creation of Owens Valley from Basin and Range-associated extensional forces. Uplift of the Sierra accelerated again about two million years ago during the Pleistocene.

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Exfoliation joints have modified the near-surface portions of massive granitic rocks in the park, helping create the many spectacular domes, including Half Dome shown here.

The uplifting and increased erosion exposed granitic rocks in the area to surface pressures, resulting in exfoliation (responsible for the rounded shape of the many domes in the park) and mass wasting following the numerous fracture joint planes (cracks; especially vertical ones) in the now solidified plutons. Pleistocene glaciers further accelerated this process and the larger ones transported the resulting talus and till from valley floors.

Numerous vertical joint planes controlled where and how fast erosion took place. Most of these long, linear and very deep cracks trend northeast or northwest and form parallel, often regularly spaced sets. They were created by uplift-associated pressure release and by the unloading of overlying rock via erosion.

Sculpting by Glaciers

A series of glaciations further modified the region starting about 2 to 3 million years ago and ending sometime around 10,000 BP. At least four major glaciations have occurred in the Sierra Nevada, locally called the Sherwin (also called the pre-Tahoe), Tahoe, Tenaya, and Tioga. The Sherwin glaciers were the largest, filling Yosemite and other valleys, while later stages produced much smaller glaciers. A Sherwin-age glacier was almost surely responsible for the major excavation and shaping of Yosemite Valley and other canyons in the area.

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Glacially polished granite cirque in upper Tenaya Canyon

Glacial systems reached depths of up to 4,000 feet (1,200 m) and left their marks in the Yosemite area. The longest glacier in the Yosemite area ran down the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River for 60 miles (97 km), passing well beyond Hetch Hetchy Valley. Merced Glacier flowed out of Yosemite Valley and into the Merced River Gorge. Lee Vining Glacier carved Lee Vining Canyon and emptied into Lake Russel (the much-enlarged ice age version of Mono Lake). Only the highest peaks, such as Mount Dana and Mount Conness, were not covered by glaciers. Retreating glaciers often left recessional moraines that impounded lakes such as the 5.5 miles (9 km) long Lake Yosemite (a shallow lake that periodically covered much of the floor of Yosemite Valley).

Ecology


Habitats

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Mule deer in Yosemite Valley

With its scrubby sun-baked chaparral, stately groves of pine, fir, and sequoia, and expanses of alpine woodlands and meadows, Yosemite National Park preserves a Sierra Nevada landscape as it prevailed before Euro-American settlement. In contrast to surrounding lands, which have been significantly altered by logging, the park still contains some 225,510 acres (91,260 ha) of old-growth forest. Taken together, the park’s varied habitats support over 250 species of vertebrates, which include fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

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California tree in the Mariposa Grove

Along much of Yosemite’s western boundary, habitats are dominated by mixed coniferous forests of ponderosa pine, sugar pine, incense cedar, white fir, Douglas fir, and a few stands of giant sequoia, interspersed by areas of black oak and canyon live oak. A relatively high diversity of wildlife species is supported by these habitats, because of relatively mild, lower-elevation climate and the mixture of habitat types and plant species. Wildlife species typically found in these habitats include black bear, coyote, raccoon, mountain kingsnake, Gilbert’s skink, white-headed woodpecker, bobcat, river otter, gray fox, red fox, brown creeper, two species of skunk, cougar, spotted owl, and a wide variety of bat species.

Going higher in elevation, the coniferous forests become purer stands of red fir, western white pine, Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine, and the occasional foxtail pine. Fewer wildlife species tend to be found in these habitats, because of their higher elevation and lower complexity. Species likely to be found include golden-mantled ground squirrel, chickaree, fisher, Steller’s jay, hermit thrush, and northern goshawk. Reptiles are not common, but include rubber boa, western fence lizard, and northern alligator lizard.

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Marmot in Tuolumne Meadows.

As the landscape rises, trees become smaller and more sparse, with stands broken by areas of exposed granite. These include lodgepole pine, whitebark pine, and mountain hemlock that, at highest elevations, give way to vast expanses of granite as treeline is reached. The climate in these habitats is harsh and the growing season is short, but species such as pika, yellow-bellied marmot, white-tailed jackrabbit, Clark’s nutcracker, and black rosy finch are adapted to these conditions. Also, the treeless alpine habitats are the areas favored by Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep. This species, however, is now found in the Yosemite area only around Tioga Pass, where a small, reintroduced population exists.

At a variety of elevations, meadows provide important, productive habitat for wildlife. Animals come to feed on the green grasses and use the flowing and standing water found in many meadows. Predators, in turn, are attracted to these areas. The interface between meadow and forest is also favored by many animal species because of the proximity of open areas for foraging and cover for protection. Species that are highly dependent upon meadow habitat include great grey owl, willow flycatcher, Yosemite toad, and mountain beaver.

Management Issues

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An American black bear with a conspicuous ear tag, browsing on its natural foods in Yosemite Valley

Despite the richness of high-quality habitats in Yosemite, the brown bear, California condor, and least Bell’s vireo have become extinct in the park within historical time, and another 37 species currently have special status under either California or federal endangered species legislation. The most serious current threats to Yosemite’s wildlife and the ecosystems they occupy include loss of a natural fire regime, exotic species, air pollution, habitat fragmentation, and climate change. On a more local basis, factors such as road kills and the availability of human food have affected some wildlife species.

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Plants such as this yellow star thistle are competing with native plants in Yosemite.

The black bears of Yosemite were once famous for breaking into parked cars to steal food. They were also an encouraged tourist sight for many years at the park’s garbage dumps, where bears congregated to eat park visitors’ garbage and tourists gathered to photograph the bears. Increasing encounters between bears and humans and increasing damage to property led to an aggressive campaign to discourage bears from relying on human food or interacting with people and their property. The open-air dumps were closed; all trash receptacles were replaced with bear-proof receptacles; all campgrounds were equipped with bear-proof food lockers so that people would not leave food in their vehicles, which were easy targets for the powerful and resourceful bears. Because bears who show aggression towards people usually are eventually destroyed, park personnel have continued to come up with innovative ways to have bears associate humans and their property with unpleasant experiences, such as being hit with rubber bullets. Today, about 30 bears a year are captured and ear-tagged and their DNA is sampled so that, when bear damage occurs, rangers can ascertain which bear is causing the problem.

Increasing ozone pollution is causing tissue damage to the massive giant sequoia trees in the park, making them more vulnerable to insect infestation and disease. Since the cones of these trees require fire-touched soil to germinate, historic fire suppression has reduced these trees’ ability to reproduce. The current policy of setting prescribed fires is expected to help the germination issue.

Yosemite National Park has documented more than 130 non-native plant species within park boundaries. These non-native plants were introduced into Yosemite following the migration of early Euro-American settlers in the late 1850s. Natural and human-caused disturbances, such as wildland fires and construction activities, have contributed to a rapid increase in the spread of non-native plants. A number of these species aggressively invade and displace the native plant communities, resulting in impacts on the park’s resources. Non-native plants can bring about significant changes in park ecosystems by altering the native plant communities and the processes that support them. Some non-native species may cause an increase in the fire frequency of an area or increase the available nitrogen in the soil that may allow more non-native plants to become established. Many non-native species, such as yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), are able to produce a long tap root that allows them to out-compete the native plants for available water.

Bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), and Klamath weed (Hypericum perforatum) have been identified as noxious pests in Yosemite since the 1940s. Additional species that have been recognized more recently as aggressive and requiring control are yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis), sweet clover (Melilot spp.), Himalayan blackberry (Rubus armeniacus), cut-leaved blackberry (Rubus laciniatus) and large periwinkle (Vinca major).

Wildfires

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The Meadow Fire burns in Little Yosemite Valley, 2014

Forest fires seasonally clear the park of dead vegetation, making way for new growth. These fires damage the income generated by tourism. The Summer of Fire saw more resources dedicated to the subject of wildfire than ever before or since in the United States. The Rim Fire in 2013 destroyed nearly $2 billion in assets and revenue, though natural woodland assets are renewable, and closed off much of the park to tourists. This rim fire was the third largest on record, and burned nearly 500 acres of wild habitat.

Activities


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The Yosemite Hybrid Shuttle, Yosemite’s free shuttle bus system

Yosemite Valley is open year-round and numerous activities are available through the National Park Service, Yosemite Conservancy, and Delaware North at Yosemite, including nature walks, photography and art classes, stargazing programs, tours, bike rentals, rafting, mule and horseback rides, and rock climbing classes. Many people enjoy short walks and longer hikes to waterfalls in Yosemite Valley, or walks among giant sequoias in the Mariposa, Tuolumne, or Merced Groves. Others like to drive or take a tour bus to Glacier Point (summer–fall) to see a spectacular view of Yosemite Valley and the high country, or drive along the scenic Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows (May–October) and go for a walk or hike.

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CAMPING NEAR YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

Most park visitors stay just for the day, and visit only those locations within Yosemite Valley that are easily accessible by automobile. There is a US$25-30 per automobile user fee to enter the park, depending on the season. Traffic congestion in the valley is a serious problem during peak season, in summer. A free shuttle bus system operates year-round in the valley, and park rangers encourage people to use this system since parking within the valley during the summer is often nearly impossible to find.

In addition to exploring the natural features of the park, visitors can also learn about the natural and cultural history of Yosemite Valley at a number of facilities in the valley: the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the adjoining Yosemite Museum, and the Nature Center at Happy Isles. There are also two National Historic Landmarks: the Sierra Club’s LeConte Memorial Lodge (Yosemite’s first public visitor center), and the world-famous Ahwahnee Hotel. Camp 4 was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Hiking

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Hiking up the cables on Half Dome

Over 800 miles (1,300 km) of trails are available to hikers—anything from the easy stroll, to the grueling hikes up several park mountains, to multiple-day backpack trips.

The park can be divided into 5 sections for the day-user—Yosemite Valley, Wawona/Mariposa Grove/Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows, Hetch Hetchy, and Crane Flat/White Wolf. Numerous books describe park trails, and free information is available from the Park Service in Yosemite. Park rangers encourage visitors to experience portions of the park in addition to Yosemite Valley.

Between late spring and early fall, much of the park can be accessed for multiple-day backpacking trips. All overnight trips into the back country require a wilderness permit and most require approved bear-resistant food storage.

Driving Destinations

While some locations in Yosemite require hiking, other locations can be reached via automobile transportation. Driving locations also allow guests to observe the night sky in locations other than their campsite or lodge. All of the roads in Yosemite are scenic, but the most famous is the Tioga Road, typically open from late May or early June through November.

As an alternative to driving, bicycles are allowed on the roads. However, bicycles are allowed off-road on only 12 miles (19 km) of paved trails in Yosemite Valley itself; mountain biking is not allowed.

Climbing

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Climbing the Narrows in Sentinel Rock

Rock climbing is an important part of Yosemite. Camp 4, a walk-in campground in Yosemite Valley, was instrumental in the development of rock climbing as a sport, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Climbers can generally be spotted in the snow-free months on anything from ten-foot-high (3 m) boulders to the 3,300-foot (1.0 km) face of El Capitan. Classes on rock climbing are offered by numerous groups.

Winter Activities

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A ranger-guided snowshoe walk in the park

Yosemite Valley is open all year, although some roads within the park close in winter. Downhill skiing is available at the Badger Pass Ski Area—the oldest downhill skiing area in California, offering downhill skiing from mid-December through early April. Much of the park is open to cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, with several backcountry ski huts open for use. Wilderness permits are required for backcountry overnight ski trips.

The Bracebridge dinner is an annual holiday event, held since 1927 at the Ahwahnee Hotel, inspired by Washington Irving’s descriptions of Squire Bracebridge and English Christmas traditions of the 18th century in his Sketch Book. Between 1929 and 1973, the show was organized by Ansel Adams.

Other

Bicycle rentals are available in Yosemite Valley spring through fall. Over 12 miles (19 km) of paved bike paths are available in Yosemite Valley. In addition, bicyclists can ride on regular roads. Helmets are required by law for children under 18 years of age. Off-trail riding and mountain biking are not permitted in Yosemite National Park.

Water activities are plentiful during warmer months. Rafting can be done through the Yosemite Valley on the Merced River. There are also swimming pools available at Yosemite Lodge and Curry Village.

In 2010, Yosemite National Park was honored with its own quarter under the America the Beautiful Quarters program.

In Popular Culture


The opening scenes of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) were filmed in Yosemite National Park. Films such as The Last of the Mohicans (1920) and Maverick (1994) have also been shot here.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

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The Final Frontier

The Last Of The Mohicans

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The Last Of The Mohicans

Maverick [2016]

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Maverick

Additional Information for Travellers

Yosemite National Park Trail Maps

Yosemite National Park Trail Maps-2

Bangkok

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Bangkok DataBangkok_montage_3

Bangkok (UK: /bæŋˈkɒk/, US: /ˈbæŋkɒk/) is the capital and most populous city of the Kingdom of Thailand. It is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร, pronounced [krūŋ tʰêːp mahǎː nákʰɔ̄ːn] (About this sound listen)) or simply Krung Thep (About this sound listen (help•info)). The city occupies 1,568.7 square kilometres (605.7 sq mi) in the Chao Phraya River delta in Central Thailand, and has a population of over 8 million, or 12.6 percent of the country’s population. Over 14 million people (22.2 percent) live within the surrounding Bangkok Metropolitan Region, making Bangkok an extreme primate city, significantly dwarfing Thailand’s other urban centres in terms of importance.

Bangkok traces its roots to a small trading post during the Ayutthaya Kingdom in the 15th century, which eventually grew and became the site of two capital cities: Thonburi in 1768 and Rattanakosin in 1782. Bangkok was at the heart of the modernization of Siam, later renamed Thailand, during the late 19th century, as the country faced pressures from the West. The city was at the centre of Thailand’s political struggles throughout the 20th century, as the country abolished absolute monarchy, adopted constitutional rule and underwent numerous coups and several uprisings. The city grew rapidly during the 1960s through the 1980s and now exerts a significant impact on Thailand’s politics, economy, education, media and modern society.

The Asian investment boom in the 1980s and 1990s led many multinational corporations to locate their regional headquarters in Bangkok. The city is now a major regional force in finance and business. It is an international hub for transport and health care, and has emerged as a regional centre for the arts, fashion and entertainment. The city is well known for its vibrant street life and cultural landmarks, as well as its notorious red-light districts. The historic Grand Palace and Buddhist temples including Wat Arun and Wat Pho stand in contrast with other tourist attractions such as the nightlife scenes of Khaosan Road and Patpong. Bangkok is among the world’s top tourist destinations. It is named the most visited city in MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index, and was named “World’s Best City” for four consecutive years by Travel + Leisure magazine.

Bangkok’s rapid growth amidst little urban planning and regulation has resulted in a haphazard cityscape and inadequate infrastructure systems. Limited roads, despite an extensive expressway network, together with substantial private car usage, have led to chronic and crippling traffic congestion, which caused severe air pollution in the 1990s. The city has since turned to public transport in an attempt to solve this major problem. Five rapid transit lines are now in operation, with more systems under construction or planned by the national government and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Contents
1 History
2 Name
3 Government
4 Geography
4.1 Topography
4.2 Climate
4.3 Districts
4.4 Cityscape
4.5 Parks and green zones
5 Demography
6 Economy
7 Tourism
8 Culture
8.1 Festivals and events
8.2 Media
8.3 Art
8.4 Sport
9 Transport
9.1 Roads
9.2 Buses and taxis
9.3 Rail systems
9.4 Water transport
9.5 Airports
10 Health and education
10.1 Education
10.2 Healthcare
11 Crime and safety
12 International relations
12.1 International participation
12.2 Sister cities

History


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Map of 17th-century Bangkok, from Simon de la Loubère’s Du Royaume de Siam

The history of Bangkok dates at least back to the early 15th century, when it was a village on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, under the rule of Ayutthaya. Because of its strategic location near the mouth of the river, the town gradually increased in importance. Bangkok initially served as a customs outpost with forts on both sides of the river, and became the site of a siege in 1688 in which the French were expelled from Siam. After the fall of Ayutthaya to the Burmese Empire in 1767, the newly declared King Taksin established his capital at the town, which became the base of the Thonburi Kingdom. In 1782, King Phutthayotfa Chulalok (Rama I) succeeded Taksin, moved the capital to the eastern bank’s Rattanakosin Island, thus founding the Rattanakosin Kingdom. The City Pillar was erected on 21 April, which is regarded as the date of foundation of the present city.

Bangkok’s economy gradually expanded through busy international trade, first with China, then with Western merchants returning in the early-to-mid 19th century. As the capital, Bangkok was the centre of Siam’s modernization as it faced pressure from Western powers in the late 19th century. The reigns of Kings Mongkut (Rama IV, 1851–68) and Chulalongkorn (Rama V, 1868–1910) saw the introduction of the steam engine, printing press, rail transport and utilities infrastructure in the city, as well as formal education and healthcare. Bangkok became the centre stage for power struggles between the military and political elite as the country abolished absolute monarchy in 1932. It was subject to Japanese occupation and Allied bombing during World War II, but rapidly grew in the post-war period as a result of United States developmental aid and government-sponsored investment. Bangkok’s role as an American military R&R destination boosted its tourism industry as well as firmly establishing it as a sex tourism destination. Disproportionate urban development led to increasing income inequalities and unprecedented migration from rural areas into Bangkok; its population surged from 1.8 million to 3 million in the 1960s. Following the United States’ withdrawal from Vietnam in 1973, Japanese businesses took over as leaders in investment, and the expansion of export-oriented manufacturing led to growth of the financial market in Bangkok. Rapid growth of the city continued through the 1980s and early 1990s, until it was stalled by the 1997 Asian financial crisis. By then, many public and social issues had emerged, among them the strain on infrastructure reflected in the city’s notorious traffic jams. Bangkok’s role as the nation’s political stage continues to be seen in strings of popular protests, from the student uprisings in 1973 and 1976, anti-military demonstrations in 1992, and successive anti-government demonstrations by opposing groups from 2008 onwards.

Administration of the city was first formalized by King Chulalongkorn in 1906, with the establishment of Monthon Krung Thep Phra Maha Nakhon (มณฑลกรุงเทพพระมหานคร) as a national subdivision. In 1915 the monthon was split into several provinces, the administrative boundaries of which have since further changed. The city in its current form was created in 1972 with the formation of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA), following the merger of Phra Nakhon Province on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya and Thonburi Province on the west during the previous year.

Name


The etymology of the name Bangkok (บางกอก, pronounced in Thai as [bāːŋ kɔ̀ːk] (About this sound listen)) is not absolutely clear. Bang is a Thai word meaning “a village situated on a stream”, and the name might have been derived from Bang Ko (บางเกาะ), ko meaning “island”, a reference to the area’s landscape which was carved by rivers and canals. Another theory suggests that it is shortened from Bang Makok (บางมะกอก), makok being the name of Elaeocarpus hygrophilus, a plant bearing olive-like fruit. This is supported by the fact that Wat Arun, a historic temple in the area, used to be named Wat Makok. Officially, however, the town was known as Thonburi Si Mahasamut (ธนบุรีศรีมหาสมุทร, from Pali and Sanskrit, literally “city of treasures gracing the ocean”) or Thonburi, according to Ayutthaya chronicles. Bangkok was likely a colloquial name, albeit one widely adopted by foreign visitors, who continued to use it to refer to the city even after the new capital’s establishment.

When King Rama I established his new capital on the river’s eastern bank, the city inherited Ayutthaya’s ceremonial name, of which there were many variants, including Krung Thep Thawarawadi Si Ayutthaya (กรุงเทพทวารวดีศรีอยุธยา) and Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (กรุงเทพมหานครศรีอยุธยา). Edmund Roberts, visiting the city as envoy of the United States in 1833, noted that the city, since becoming capital, was known as Sia-Yut’hia, and this is the name used in international treaties of the period. Today, the city is known in Thai as Krung Thep Maha Nakhon (กรุงเทพมหานคร) or simply as Krung Thep (กรุงเทพฯ). Its full ceremonial name, which came into use during the reign of King Mongkut, reads as follows:

Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit
กรุงเทพมหานคร อมรรัตนโกสินทร์ มหินทรายุธยา มหาดิลกภพ นพรัตนราชธานีบูรีรมย์ อุดมราชนิเวศน์มหาสถาน อมรพิมานอวตารสถิต สักกะทัตติยวิษณุกรรมประสิทธิ์

The name, composed of Pali and Sanskrit root words, translates as:

City of angels, great city of immortals, magnificent city of the nine gems, seat of the king, city of royal palaces, home of gods incarnate, erected by Vishvakarman at Indra’s behest.

The name is listed in Guinness World Records as the world’s longest place name, at 168 letters. Thai school children are taught the full name, although few can explain its meaning as many of the words are archaic, and known to few. Most Thais who recall the full name do so because of its use in a popular song, “Krung Thep Maha Nakhon” (1989) by Asanee–Wasan and will often recount it by singing it, much as an English speaker might sing the alphabet song to recite the alphabet. The entirety of the lyrics is just the name of the city repeated over and over.

The city is now officially known in Thai by a shortened form of the full ceremonial name, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon, which is colloquially further shortened to Krung Thep. Bangkok is the city’s official English name, as reflected in the name of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Government


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The city’s ceremonial name (partially visible) is displayed in front of the Bangkok City Hall. On the building is the BMA seal bearing an image of Indra riding Erawan.

The city of Bangkok is locally governed by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA). Although its boundaries are at the provincial (changwat) level, unlike the other 76 provinces Bangkok is a special administrative area whose governor is directly elected to serve a four-year term. The governor, together with four appointed deputies, form the executive body, who implement policies through the BMA civil service headed by the Permanent Secretary for the BMA. In separate elections, each district elects one or more city councillors, who form the Bangkok Metropolitan Council. The council is the BMA’s legislative body, and has power over municipal ordinances and the city’s budget. However, after the coup of 2014 all local elections have been cancelled and the council was appointed by the government on 15 September 2014. The current Bangkok Governor is Police General Aswin Kwanmuang, who was appointed by the military government on 26 October 2016 following the suspension of the last elected governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra.

Bangkok is subdivided into fifty districts (khet, equivalent to amphoe in the other provinces), which are further subdivided into 180 subdistricts (khwaeng, equivalent to tambon). Each district is managed by a district director appointed by the governor. District councils, elected to four-year terms, serve as advisory bodies to their respective district directors.

The BMA is divided into sixteen departments, each overseeing different aspects of the administration’s responsibilities. Most of these responsibilities concern the city’s infrastructure, and include city planning, building control, transportation, drainage, waste management and city beautification, as well as education, medical and rescue services. Many of these services are provided jointly with other agencies. The BMA has the authority to implement local ordinances, although civil law enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police Bureau.

The seal of the city shows Hindu god Indra riding in the clouds on Airavata, a divine white elephant known in Thai as Erawan. In his hand Indra holds his weapon, the vajra. The seal is based on a painting done by Prince Naris. The tree symbol of Bangkok is Ficus benjamina. The official city slogan, adopted in 2012, reads:

As built by deities, the administrative center, dazzling palaces and temples, the capital of Thailand
กรุงเทพฯ ดุจเทพสร้าง เมืองศูนย์กลางการปกครอง วัดวังงามเรืองรอง เมืองหลวงของประเทศไทย

As the capital of Thailand, Bangkok is the seat of all branches of the national government. The Government House, Parliament House and Supreme, Administrative and Constitutional Courts are all located within the city. Bangkok is the site of the Grand Palace and Chitralada Villa, respectively the official and de facto residence of the king. Most government ministries also have headquarters and offices in the capital.

Geography


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The Bangkok city proper is highlighted in this satellite image of the lower Chao Phraya delta. Notice the built-up urban area along the Chao Phraya River, which extends northward and southward into Nonthaburi and Samut Prakan Provinces.

The Bangkok city proper covers an area of 1,568.737 square kilometres (605.693 sq mi), ranking 69th among the other 76 provinces of Thailand. Of this, about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) form the built-up urban area. It is ranked 73rd in the world in terms of land area by City Mayors. The city’s urban sprawl reaches into parts of the six other provinces it borders, namely, in clockwise order from northwest: Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, Chachoengsao, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon and Nakhon Pathom. With the exception of Chachoengsao, these provinces, together with Bangkok, form the greater Bangkok Metropolitan Region.

Topography

Bangkok is in the Chao Phraya River delta in Thailand’s central plains. The river meanders through the city in a southward direction, emptying into the Gulf of Thailand approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) south of the city centre. The area is flat and low-lying, with an average elevation of 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) above sea level. Most of the area was originally swampland, which was gradually drained and irrigated for agriculture via the construction of canals (khlong) which took place throughout the 16th to 19th centuries. The course of the river as it flows through Bangkok has been modified by the construction of several shortcut canals.

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Bangkok’s major canals are shown in this map detailing the original course of the river and its shortcut canals.

This intricate waterway network served as the primary mode of transport up until the late 19th century, when modern roads began to be built. Up until then, most people lived near or on the water, leading the city to be known during the 19th century as the “Venice of the East”. Many of these canals have since been filled in or paved over, but others still criss-cross the city, serving as major drainage channels and transport routes. Most canals are now badly polluted, although the BMA has committed to the treatment and cleaning up of several canals.

The geology of the Bangkok area is characterized by a top layer of soft marine clay known as Bangkok clay, averaging 15 metres (49 ft) in thickness, which overlies an aquifer system consisting of eight known units. This feature has contributed to the effects of subsidence caused by extensive ground water pumping. First recognized in the 1970s, subsidence soon became a critical issue, reaching a rate of 120 millimetres (4.7 in) per year in 1981. Ground water management and mitigation measures have since lessened the severity of the situation, although subsidence is still occurring at a rate of 10 to 30 millimetres (0.39 to 1.18 in) per year, and parts of the city are now 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) below sea level. There are fears that the city may be submerged by 2030. Subsidence has resulted in increased flood risk, as Bangkok is already prone to flooding due to its low elevation and inadequate drainage infrastructure resulting from rapid urbanization. The city now relies on flood barriers and augmenting drainage from canals by pumping and building drain tunnels, but parts of Bangkok and its suburbs are still regularly affected by flooding. Heavy downpours resulting in urban runoff overwhelming drainage systems, and runoff discharge from upstream areas, are major triggering factors. Severe flooding affecting much of the city occurred recently in 1995 and 2011. In the latter, most of Bangkok’s northern, eastern and western districts became inundated, in some places for over two months. Coastal erosion is also an issue in the gulf coastal area, a small length of which lies within Bangkok’s Bang Khun Thian District. Global warming poses further serious risks, and a study by the OECD has estimated that 5.138 million people in Bangkok may be exposed to coastal flooding by 2070, the seventh highest among the world’s port cities.:8

There are no mountains in Bangkok, the closest mountain range being the Khao Khiao Massif, located about 40 km (25 mi) southeast of the city. Phu Khao Thong, the only hill in the metropolitan area, originated in a very large chedi that King Rama III (1787–1851) decided to build at Wat Saket. The chedi collapsed during construction because the soft soil of Bangkok could not support the weight. Over the next few decades, the abandoned mud-and-brick structure acquired the shape of a natural hill and became overgrown with weeds. The locals called it “phu khao” (ภูเขา), as if it were a natural feature. In the 1940s surrounding concrete walls were added to stop the hill from eroding.

Climate

Like most of Thailand, Bangkok has a tropical savanna climate under the Köppen climate classification and is under the influence of the South Asian monsoon system. It experiences three seasons, hot, rainy and cool, although temperatures are fairly hot year-round, ranging from an average low of 22.0 °C (71.6 °F) in December to an average high of 35.4 °C (95.7 °F) in April. The rainy season begins with the arrival of the southwest monsoon around mid-May. September is the wettest month, with an average rainfall of 334.3 millimetres (13.16 in). The rainy season lasts until October, when the dry and cool northeast monsoon takes over until February. The hot season is generally dry, but also sees occasional summer storms. The surface magnitude of Bangkok’s urban heat island has been measured at 2.5 °C (4.5 °F) during the day and 8.0 °C (14 °F) at night. The highest recorded temperature of Bangkok metropolis was 40.0 °C (104.0 °F) in April 1979, and the lowest recorded temperature was 9.9 °C (49.8 °F) in January 1955.

Climate data for Bangkok Metropolis

Districts

Bangkok’s fifty districts serve as administrative subdivisions under the authority of the BMA. Thirty-five of these districts lie to the east of the Chao Phraya, while fifteen are on the western bank, known as the Thonburi side of the city. The fifty districts, arranged by district code, are:

Districts

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The BMA uses several schemes to organize the districts into groups for administrative and general planning purposes. The scheme adopted in 2004 used twelve characteristic groups.

Cityscape

Bangkok’s district areas often do not accurately represent the functional divisions of its neighbourhoods or actual land uses. Although urban planning policies date back to the commission of the “Litchfield plan” in 1960, which set out strategies for land use, transportation and general infrastructure improvements, actual zoning regulations were not fully implemented until 1992. As a result, the city grew organically throughout the period of its rapid expansion, both horizontally as ribbon developments extended along newly built roads, and vertically, with increasing numbers of high rises and skyscrapers being built in several commercial areas. The city has grown from its original centre along the river into a sprawling metropolis surrounded by swaths of suburban residential development extending north and south into neighbouring provinces. The highly populated and growing cities of Nonthaburi, Pak Kret, Rangsit and Samut Prakan are effectively now suburbs of Bangkok. Nevertheless, large agricultural areas remain within the city proper, in its eastern and western fringes. Land use in the city consists of 23 percent residential use, 24 percent agriculture, and 30 percent used for commerce, industry and by the government. The BMA’s City Planning Department is responsible for planning and shaping further development. It has published master plan updates in 1999 and 2006, and a third revision is undergoing public hearings in 2012.

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The Royal Plaza in Dusit District was inspired by King Chulalongkorn’s visits to Europe.

Bangkok’s historic centre remains the Rattanakosin Island in Phra Nakhon District. It is the site of the Grand Palace and the City Pillar Shrine, primary landmarks of the city’s foundation, as well as many important Buddhist temples. Phra Nakhon, along with the neighbouring Pom Prap Sattru Phai and Samphanthawong Districts, formed what was the city proper in the later 19th century. Many traditional neighbourhoods and markets are located here, including the Chinese settlement of Sampheng. The city was expanded toward Dusit District in the early 19th century, following King Chulalongkorn’s relocation of the royal household to the new Dusit Palace. The buildings of the palace, including the neoclassical Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall, as well as the Royal Plaza and Ratchadamnoen Avenue which leads to it from the Grand Palace, reflect the heavy influence of European architecture at the time. Major government offices line the avenue, as does the Democracy Monument. The area is the site of the country’s seats of power as well as the city’s most popular tourist landmarks.

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The Sukhumvit area appears as a sea of high-rise buildings in this photograph taken from Baiyoke Tower II, the second tallest building in Bangkok.

In contrast with the low-rise historic areas, the business district on Si Lom and Sathon Roads in Bang Rak and Sathon Districts teems with skyscrapers. It is the site of many of the country’s major corporate headquarters, but also of some of the city’s infamous red-light districts. The Siam and Ratchaprasong areas in Pathum Wan are home to some of the largest shopping malls in Southeast Asia. Numerous retail outlets and hotels also stretch along Sukhumvit Road leading southeast through Watthana and Khlong Toei Districts. More office towers line the streets branching off Sukhumvit, especially Asok Montri, while upmarket housing span many of its sois.

Bangkok lacks a single distinct central business district. Instead, the areas of Siam and Ratchaprasong serve as a “central shopping district” containing many of the bigger malls and commercial areas in the city, as well as Siam Station, the only transfer point between the city’s two elevated train lines. The Victory Monument in Ratchathewi District is among its most important road junctions, serving over 100 bus lines as well as an elevated train station. From the monument, Phahonyothin and Ratchawithi / Din Daeng Roads respectively run northward and eastward linking to major residential areas. Most high-density development is located within the 113-square-kilometre (44 sq mi) area encircled by the Ratchadaphisek inner ring road. Ratchadaphisek is lined with businesses and retail outlets, and office buildings also concentrate around Ratchayothin Intersection in Chatuchak District to the north. Farther from the city centre, most areas are primarily mid- or low-density residential. The Thonburi side of the city is less developed, with fewer high rises. With the exception of a few secondary urban centres, Thonburi, as well as the outlying eastern districts, consist mostly of residential and rural areas.

While most of Bangkok’s streets are fronted by vernacular shophouses, the largely unrestricted building frenzy of the 1980s has transformed the city into an urban jungle of skyscrapers and high rises exhibiting contrasting and clashing styles. There are 581 skyscrapers over 90 metres (300 feet) tall in the city. Bangkok was ranked as the world’s 8th tallest city in 2016. On the other hand, as a result of economic disparity, many slums have emerged in the city. In 2000 there were over 1 million people living in about 800 slum settlements. A large number of slums are concentrated near the Bangkok Port in Khlong Toei District.

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Skyscrapers of Ratchadamri and Sukhumvit at night, viewed across Lumphini Park from the Si Lom – Sathon business district

Parks and Green Zones

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Lumphini Park appears as an oasis of greenery among the skyscrapers of Ratchadamri and Sukhumvit.

Bangkok has several parks, although these amount to a per-capita total park area of only 1.82 square metres (19.6 sq ft) in the city proper. Total green space for the entire city is moderate, at 11.8 square metres (127 sq ft) per person; however, in the more densely built-up areas of the city these numbers are as low as 1.73 and 0.72 square metres (18.6 and 7.8 sq ft) per person. More recent numbers claim that there is only 3.3 m2 of green space per person, compared to an average of 39 m2 in other cities across Asia. In Europe, London has 33.4 m2 of green space per head. Bangkokians thus have 10 times less green space than is standard in the region’s urban areas. Green belt areas include about 700 square kilometres (270 sq mi) of rice paddies and orchards in the eastern and western edges of the city proper, although their primary purpose is to serve as flood detention basins rather than to limit urban expansion. Bang Kachao, a 20-square-kilometre (7.7 sq mi) conservation area in an oxbow of the Chao Phraya, lies just across the southern riverbank districts, in Samut Prakan Province. A master development plan has been proposed to increase total park area to 4 square metres (43 sq ft) per person.

Bangkok’s largest parks include the centrally located Lumphini Park near the Si Lom – Sathon business district with an area of 57.6 hectares (142 acres), the 80-hectare (200-acre) Suanluang Rama IX in the east of the city, and the Chatuchak–Queen Sirikit–Wachirabenchathat park complex in northern Bangkok, which has a combined area of 92 hectares (230 acres).

Demography


Historical census populations

Historical census populations

The city of Bangkok has a population of 8,280,925 according to the 2010 census, or 12.6 percent of the national population. However, there are only 5,692,284 registered residents, belonging to 2,672,423 households. A large number of Bangkok’s daytime population commutes from surrounding provinces in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region, the total population of which is 14,565,547. Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city; the census showed that it is home to 81,570 Japanese and 55,893 Chinese nationals, as well as 117,071 expatriates from other Asian countries, 48,341 from Europe, 23,418 from the Americas, 5,289 from Australia and 3,022 from Africa. Immigrants from neighbouring countries include 303,595 Burmese, 63,438 Cambodians and 18,126 Lao.

Although it has been Thailand’s largest population centre since its establishment as capital city in 1782, Bangkok grew only slightly throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. British diplomat John Crawfurd, visiting in 1822, estimated its population at no more than 50,000. As a result of Western medicine brought by missionaries as well as increased immigration from both within Siam and overseas, Bangkok’s population gradually increased as the city modernized in the late 19th century. This growth became even more pronounced in the 1930s, following the discovery of antibiotics. Although family planning and birth control was introduced in the 1960s, the lowered birth rate was more than offset by increased migration from the provinces as economic expansion accelerated. Only in the 1990s have Bangkok’s population growth rates decreased, following the national rate. Thailand had long since become highly centralized around the capital. In 1980, Bangkok’s population was fifty-one times that of Hat Yai and Songkhla, the second-largest urban centre, making it the world’s most prominent primate city.

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Yaowarat Road is the centre of Bangkok’s Chinatown. Chinese immigrants and their descendants form the largest minority group in the city.

The majority of Bangkok’s population are of Thai ethnicity, although details on the city’s ethnic make-up are unavailable, as the national census does not document race. Bangkok’s cultural pluralism dates back to the early days of its foundation; several ethnic communities were formed by immigrants and forced settlers including the Khmer, Northern Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, Tavoyan, Mon and Malay. Most prominent were the Chinese, who played major roles in the city’s trade and became the majority of Bangkok’s population—estimates include up to three-fourths in 1828 and almost half in the 1950s. However, Chinese immigration was restricted from the 1930s and effectively ceased after the Chinese Revolution in 1949. Their prominence subsequently declined as most of younger generations of Thai Chinese have integrated and adopted a Thai identity. Bangkok is still nevertheless home to a large Chinese community, with the greatest concentration in Yaowarat, Bangkok’s Chinatown. The majority (91 percent) of the city’s population is Buddhist. Other religions include Islam (4.7%), Christianity (2.0%), Hinduism (0.5%), Sikhism (0.1%) and Confucianism (0.1%).

Apart from Yaowarat, Bangkok also has several other distinct ethnic neighbourhoods. The Indian community is centred in Phahurat, where the Gurdwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha, founded in 1933, is located. Ban Khrua on Saen Saep Canal is home to descendants of the Cham who settled in the late 18th century. Although the Portuguese who settled during the Thonburi period have ceased to exist as a distinct community, their past is reflected in Santa Kruz Church, on the west bank of the river. Likewise, the Assumption Cathedral on Charoen Krung Road is among many European-style buildings in the Old Farang Quarter, where European diplomats and merchants lived during the late 19th to early 20th centuries. Nearby, the Haroon Mosque is the centre of a Muslim community. Newer expatriate communities exist along Sukhumvit Road, including the Japanese community near Soi Phrom Phong and Soi Thong Lo, and the Arab and North African neighbourhood along Soi Nana. Sukhumvit Plaza, a mall on Soi Sukhumvit 12, is popularly known as Korea Town.

Economy


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The BTS Skytrain passes through the business district of Sathon. The Robot Building (centre-right) was completed in 1986 and is a symbol of Bangkok’s rapid growth in the mid-1980s.

Bangkok is the economic centre of Thailand, and the heart of the country’s investment and development. In 2010, the city had an economic output of 3.142 trillion baht (98.34 billion US dollars), contributing 29.1 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). This amounted to a per-capita GDP value of ฿456,911 ($14,301), almost three times the national average of ฿160,556 ($5,025). The Bangkok Metropolitan Region had a combined output of ฿4.773tn ($149.39bn), or 44.2 percent of GDP. Bangkok’s economy ranks as the sixth among Asian cities in terms of per-capita GDP, after Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Osaka–Kobe and Seoul.

Wholesale and retail trade is the largest sector in the city’s economy, contributing 24.0 percent of Bangkok’s gross provincial product. It is followed by manufacturing (14.3%); real estate, renting and business activities (12.4%); transport and communications (11.6%); and financial intermediation (11.1%). Bangkok alone accounts for 48.4 percent of Thailand’s service sector, which in turn constitutes 49.0 percent of GDP. When the Bangkok Metropolitan Region is considered, manufacturing is the most significant contributor at 28.2 percent of the gross regional product, reflecting the density of industry in the Bangkok’s neighbouring provinces. The automotive industry based around Greater Bangkok is the largest production hub in Southeast Asia. Tourism is also a significant contributor to Bangkok’s economy, generating ฿427.5bn ($13.38bn) in revenue in 2010.

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Outside view of MBK Center

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) is located on Ratchadaphisek Road in inner Bangkok. The SET, together with the Market for Alternative Investment (MAI) has 648 listed companies as of the end of 2011, with a combined market capitalization of 8.485 trillion baht ($267.64bn). Due to the large amount of foreign representation, Thailand has for several years been a mainstay of the Southeast Asian economy and a centre of Asian business. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network ranks Bangkok as an “Alpha−” world city, and it is ranked 59th in Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centres Index 11.

Bangkok is home to the headquarters of all of Thailand’s major commercial banks and financial institutions, as well as the country’s largest companies. A large number of multinational corporations base their regional headquarters in Bangkok due to the lower cost of the workforce and firm operations relative to other major Asian business centres. Seventeen Thai companies are listed on the Forbes 2000, all of which are based in the capital, including PTT, the only Fortune Global 500 company in Thailand.

Income inequality is a major issue in Bangkok, especially between relatively unskilled lower-income immigrants from rural provinces and neighbouring countries, and middle-class professionals and business elites. Although absolute poverty rates are low—only 0.64 percent of Bangkok’s registered residents were living under the poverty line in 2010, compared to a national average of 7.75—economic disparity is still substantial. The city has a Gini coefficient of 0.48, indicating a high level of inequality.

Tourism


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A Thai temple complex with several ornate buildings and a stupa, and a lot of visitors
Wat Phra Kaeo in the Grand Palace is among Bangkok’s major tourist attractions.

Bangkok is one of the world’s top tourist destination cities. MasterCard ranked Bangkok as the top destination city by international visitor arrivals in its Global Destination Cities Index 2016, ahead of London with more than 21 million overnight visitors. Euromonitor International ranked Bangkok fourth in its Top City Destinations Ranking for 2016. Bangkok was also named “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine’s survey of its readers for four consecutive years, from 2010 to 2013. As the main gateway through which visitors arrive in Thailand, Bangkok is visited by the majority of international tourists to the country. Domestic tourism is also prominent. The Department of Tourism recorded 26,861,095 Thai and 11,361,808 foreign visitors to Bangkok in 2010. Lodgings were made by 15,031,244 guests, who occupied 49.9 percent of the city’s 86,687 hotel rooms. Bangkok also topped the list as the world’s most popular tourist destinations in 2017 rankings.

Bangkok’s multi-faceted sights, attractions and city life appeal to diverse groups of tourists. Royal palaces and temples as well as several museums constitute its major historical and cultural tourist attractions. Shopping and dining experiences offer a wide range of choices and prices. The city is also famous for its dynamic nightlife. Although Bangkok’s sex tourism scene is well known to foreigners, it is usually not openly acknowledged by locals or the government.

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Khao San Road is lined by budget accommodation, shops and bars catering to tourists.

Among Bangkok’s well-known sights are the Grand Palace and major Buddhist temples, including Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Pho, and Wat Arun. The Giant Swing and Erawan Shrine demonstrate Hinduism’s deep-rooted influence in Thai culture. Vimanmek Mansion in Dusit Palace is famous as the world’s largest teak building, while the Jim Thompson House provides an example of traditional Thai architecture. Other major museums include the Bangkok National Museum and the Royal Barge National Museum. Cruises and boat trips on the Chao Phraya and Thonburi’s canals offer views of some of the city’s traditional architecture and ways of life on the waterfront.

Shopping venues, many of which are popular with both tourists and locals, range from the shopping centres and department stores concentrated in Siam and Ratchaprasong to the sprawling Chatuchak Weekend Market. Taling Chan Floating Market is among the few such markets in Bangkok. Yaowarat is known for its shops as well as street-side food stalls and restaurants, which are also found throughout the city. Khao San Road has long been famous as a backpackers’ destination, with its budget accommodation, shops and bars attracting visitors from all over the world.

Bangkok has a reputation overseas as a major destination in the sex industry. Although prostitution is technically illegal and is rarely openly discussed in Thailand, it commonly takes place among massage parlours, saunas and hourly hotels, serving foreign tourists as well as locals. Bangkok has acquired the nickname “Sin City of Asia” for its level of sex tourism.

Issues often encountered by foreign tourists include scams, overcharging and dual pricing. In a survey of 616 tourists visiting Thailand, 7.79 percent reported encountering a scam, the most common of which was the gem scam, in which tourists are tricked into buying overpriced jewellery.

Culture


The culture of Bangkok reflects its position as Thailand’s centre of wealth and modernisation. The city has long been the portal of entry of Western concepts and material goods, which have been adopted and blended with Thai values to various degrees by its residents. This is most evident in the lifestyles of the expanding middle class. Conspicuous consumption serves as a display of economic and social status, and shopping centres are popular weekend hangouts. Ownership of electronics and consumer products such as mobile phones is ubiquitous. This has been accompanied by a degree of secularism, as religion’s role in everyday life has rather diminished. Although such trends have spread to other urban centres, and, to a degree, the countryside, Bangkok remains at the forefront of social change.

A distinct feature of Bangkok is the ubiquity of street vendors selling goods ranging from food items to clothing and accessories. It has been estimated that the city may have over 100,000 hawkers. While the BMA has authorised the practice in 287 sites, the majority of activity in another 407 sites takes place illegally. Although they take up pavement space and block pedestrian traffic, many of the city’s residents depend on these vendors for their meals, and the BMA’s efforts to curb their numbers have largely been unsuccessful.

In 2015, however, the BMA, with support from the National Council for Peace and Order (Thailand’s ruling military junta), began cracking down on street vendors in a bid to reclaim public space. Many famous market neighbourhoods were affected, including Khlong Thom, Saphan Lek, and the flower market at Pak Khlong Talat. Nearly 15,000 vendors were evicted from 39 public areas in 2016. While some applauded the efforts to focus on pedestrian rights, others have expressed concern that gentrification would lead to the loss of the city’s character and adverse changes to people’s way of life.

Festivals and Events

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Ratchadamnoen Avenue is annually decorated with lights and displays in celebration of the king’s birthday.

The residents of Bangkok celebrate many of Thailand’s annual festivals. During Songkran on 13–15 April, traditional rituals as well as water fights take place throughout the city. Loi Krathong, usually in November, is accompanied by the Golden Mount Fair. New Year celebrations take place at many venues, the most prominent being the plaza in front of CentralWorld. Observances related to the royal family are held primarily in Bangkok. Wreaths are laid at King Chulalongkorn’s equestrian statue in the Royal Plaza on 23 October, which is King Chulalongkorn Memorial Day. The present king’s and queen’s birthdays, respectively on 5 December and 12 August, are marked as Thailand’s national Father’s Day and national Mother’s Day. These national holidays are celebrated by royal audiences on the day’s eve, in which the king or queen gives a speech, and public gatherings on the day of the observance. The king’s birthday is also marked by the Royal Guards’ parade.

Sanam Luang is the site of the Thai Kite, Sport and Music Festival, usually held in March, and the Royal Ploughing Ceremony which takes place in May. The Red Cross Fair at the beginning of April is held at Suan Amporn and the Royal Plaza, and features numerous booths offering goods, games and exhibits. The Chinese New Year (January–February) and Vegetarian Festival (September–October) are celebrated widely by the Chinese community, especially in Yaowarat.

Media

Bangkok is the centre of Thailand’s media industry. All national newspapers, broadcast media and major publishers are based in the capital. Its 21 national newspapers had a combined daily circulation of about two million in 2002. These include the mass-oriented Thai Rath, Khao Sod and Daily News, the first of which currently prints a million copies per day, as well as the less sensational Matichon and Krungthep Thurakij. The Bangkok Post and The Nation are the two national English language dailies. Foreign publications including The Asian Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Straits Times and the Yomiuri Shimbun also have operations in Bangkok. The large majority of Thailand’s more than 200 magazines are published in the capital, and include news magazines as well as lifestyle, entertainment, gossip and fashion-related publications.

Bangkok is also the hub of Thailand’s broadcast television. All six national terrestrial channels, Channels 3, 5 and 7, Modernine, NBT and Thai PBS, have headquarters and main studios in the capital. With the exception of local news segments broadcast by the NBT, all programming is done in Bangkok and repeated throughout the provinces. However, this centralised model is weakening with the rise of cable television, which has many local providers. There are numerous cable and satellite channels based in Bangkok. TrueVisions is the major subscription television provider in Bangkok and Thailand, and it also carries international programming. Bangkok was home to 40 of Thailand’s 311 FM radio stations and 38 of its 212 AM stations in 2002. Broadcast media reform stipulated by the 1997 Constitution has been progressing slowly, although many community radio stations have emerged in the city.

Likewise, Bangkok has dominated the Thai film industry since its inception. Although film settings normally feature locations throughout the country, the city is home to all major film studios. Bangkok has dozens of cinemas and multiplexes, and the city hosts two major film festivals annually, the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

Art

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Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, the city’s major public contemporary art venue, was opened in 2008 after many delays.

Traditional Thai art, long developed within religious and royal contexts, continues to be sponsored by various government agencies in Bangkok, including the Department of Fine Arts’ Office of Traditional Arts. The SUPPORT Foundation in Chitralada Palace sponsors traditional and folk handicrafts. Various communities throughout the city still practice their traditional crafts, including the production of khon masks, alms bowls, and classical musical instruments. The National Gallery hosts permanent collection of traditional and modern art, with temporary contemporary exhibits. Bangkok’s contemporary art scene has slowly grown from relative obscurity into the public sphere over the past two decades. Private galleries gradually emerged to provide exposure for new artists, including the Patravadi Theatre and H Gallery. The centrally located Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, opened in 2008 following a fifteen-year lobbying campaign, is now the largest public exhibition space in the city. There are also many other art galleries and museums, including the privately owned Museum of Contemporary Art.

The city’s performing arts scene features traditional theatre and dance as well as Western-style plays. Khon and other traditional dances are regularly performed at the National Theatre and Salachalermkrung Royal Theatre, while the Thailand Cultural Centre is a newer multi-purpose venue which also hosts musicals, orchestras and other events. Numerous venues regularly feature a variety of performances throughout the city.

Sport

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Games of sepak takraw can be spotted throughout Bangkok’s parks and streets.

Modern Bangkok has developed a strong spectator sport culture. While muay Thai kickboxing matches at Rajadamnern and Lumpini Stadiums are regularly broadcast on television, the sport has mostly been overtaken in popularity by association football. Several foreign leagues and competitions, especially England’s Premier League, have large followings in Bangkok as well as other Thai urban centres. In recent years, the Thai Premier League has been gaining popularity. BEC–Tero Sasana based in Bangkok and Muangthong United based in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region are leading clubs.

While sepak takraw can be seen played in open spaces throughout the city, especially by the working class, football and other modern sports are now more of the norm. Western sports were introduced during the reign of King Chulalongkorn, and were originally only available to the privileged. Such status is still associated with certain sports. Golf is popular among the upwardly mobile, and while Thailand’s more famous clubs are in the countryside, there are several courses in Bangkok itself. Horse riding takes place in a couple of exclusive clubs in the city. Horse racing is very popular in Bangkok and betting on horses is legal. There are two racecourses in Bangkok: “Royal Bangkok Sports Club” and “Royal Turf Club of Thailand”.

There are many public sporting facilities located throughout Bangkok. The two main centres are the National Stadium complex, which dates to 1938, and the newer Hua Mak Sports Complex, which was built for the 1998 Asian Games. Bangkok had also hosted the games in 1966, 1970 and 1978. The city was the host of the inaugural 1959 Southeast Asian Games, the 2007 Summer Universiade and the 2012 FIFA Futsal World Cup.

Transport


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Streetlamps and headlights illuminate the Makkasan Interchange of the expressway. The system sees a traffic of over 1.5 million vehicles per day.

Although Bangkok’s canals historically served as a major mode of transport, they have long since been surpassed in importance by land traffic. Charoen Krung Road, the first to be built by Western techniques, was completed in 1864. Since then, the road network has vastly expanded to accommodate the sprawling city. A complex elevated expressway network helps bring traffic into and out of the city centre, but Bangkok’s rapid growth has put a large strain on infrastructure, and traffic jams have plagued the city since the 1990s. Although rail transport was introduced in 1893 and electric trams served the city from 1894 to 1968, it was only in 1999 that Bangkok’s first rapid transit system began operation. Older public transport systems include an extensive bus network and boat services which still operate on the Chao Phraya and two canals. Taxis appear in the form of cars, motorcycles, and “tuk-tuk” auto rickshaws.

Bangkok is connected to the rest of the country through the national highway and rail networks, as well as by domestic flights to and from the city’s two international airports. Its centuries-old maritime transport of goods is still conducted through Khlong Toei Port.

The BMA is largely responsible for overseeing the construction and maintenance of the road network and transport systems through its Public Works Department and Traffic and Transportation Department. However, many separate government agencies are also in charge of the individual systems, and much of transport-related policy planning and funding is contributed to by the national government.

Roads

]Road-based transport is the primary mode of travel in Bangkok. Due to the city’s organic development, its streets do not follow an organized grid structure. Forty-eight major roads link the different areas of the city, branching into smaller streets and lanes (soi) which serve local neighbourhoods. Eleven bridges over the Chao Phraya link the two sides of the city, while several expressway and motorway routes bring traffic into and out of the city centre and link with nearby provinces.

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Traffic jams are common in Bangkok.

Bangkok’s rapid growth in the 1980s resulted in sharp increases in vehicle ownership and traffic demand, which have since continued—in 2006 there were 3,943,211 in-use vehicles in Bangkok, of which 37.6 percent were private cars and 32.9 percent were motorcycles. These increases, in the face of limited carrying capacity, caused severe traffic congestion evident by the early 1990s. The extent of the problem is such that the Thai Traffic Police has a unit of officers trained in basic midwifery in order to assist deliveries which do not reach hospital in time. While Bangkok’s limited road surface area (8 percent, compared to 20–30 percent in most Western cities) is often cited as a major cause of its traffic jams, other factors, including high vehicle ownership rate relative to income level, inadequate public transport systems, and lack of transportation demand management, also play a role. Efforts to alleviate the problem have included the construction of intersection bypasses and an extensive system of elevated highways, as well as the creation of several new rapid transit systems. The city’s overall traffic conditions, however, remain bad.

Traffic has been the main source of air pollution in Bangkok, which reached serious levels in the 1990s. However, efforts to improve air quality by improving fuel quality and enforcing emission standards, among others, have been largely successful. Atmospheric particulate matter levels dropped from 81 micrograms per cubic metre in 1997 to 43 in 2007.

Although the BMA has created thirty signed bicycle routes along several roads totalling 230 kilometres (140 mi), cycling is still largely impractical, especially in the city centre. Most of these bicycle lanes share the pavement with pedestrians. Poor surface maintenance, encroachment by hawkers and street vendors, and a hostile environment for cyclists and pedestrians, make cycling and walking unpopular methods of getting around in Bangkok.

Buses and Taxis

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A large number of buses, minibuses and taxis share the streets with private vehicles at Victory Monument, a major public transport hub.

Bangkok has an extensive bus network providing local transit services within the Greater Bangkok area. The Bangkok Mass Transit Authority (BMTA) operates a monopoly on bus services, with substantial concessions granted to private operators. Buses, minibus vans, and song thaeo operate on a total of 470 routes throughout the region. A separate bus rapid transit system owned by the BMA has been in operation since 2010. Known simply as the BRT, the system currently consists of a single line running from the business district at Sathon to Ratchaphruek on the western side of the city. The Transport Co., Ltd. is the BMTA’s long-distance counterpart, with services to all provinces operating out of Bangkok.

Taxis are ubiquitous in Bangkok, and are a popular form of transport. As of August 2012, there are 106,050 cars, 58,276 motorcycles and 8,996 tuk-tuk motorized tricycles cumulatively registered for use as taxis. Meters have been required for car taxis since 1992, while tuk-tuk fares are usually negotiated. Motorcycle taxis operate from regulated ranks, with either fixed or negotiable fares, and are usually employed for relatively short journeys.

Despite their popularity, taxis have gained a bad reputation for often refusing passengers when the requested route is not to the driver’s convenience. Motorcycle taxis were previously unregulated, and subject to extortion by organized crime gangs. Since 2003, registration has been required for motorcycle taxi ranks, and drivers now wear distinctive numbered vests designating their district of registration and where they are allowed to accept passengers.

Rail Systems

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A BTS train passes over the busy Sala Daeng Intersection. The MRT also crosses below the street at this location.

Bangkok is the location of Hua Lamphong Railway Station, the main terminus of the national rail network operated by the State Railway of Thailand (SRT). In addition to long-distance services, the SRT also operates a few daily commuter trains running from and to the outskirts of the city during the rush hour.

Bangkok is currently served by three rapid transit systems: the BTS Skytrain, the underground MRT and the elevated Airport Rail Link. Although proposals for the development of rapid transit in Bangkok had been made since 1975, it was only in 1999 that the BTS finally began operation.

The BTS consists of two lines, Sukhumvit and Silom, with thirty stations along 30.95 kilometres (19.23 mi). The MRT opened for use in July 2004, and currently consists of two line, the Blue Line and Purple Line. The Airport Rail Link, opened in August 2010, connects the city centre to Suvarnabhumi Airport to the east. Its eight stations span a distance of 28 kilometres (17 mi).

Although initial passenger numbers were low and their service area remains limited to the inner city, these systems have become indispensable to many commuters. The BTS reported an average of 600,000 daily trips in 2012, while the MRT had 240,000 passenger trips per day.

As of 2016, construction work is ongoing to extend BTS and MRT, as well as several additional transit lines, including the Light Red grade-separated commuter rail line. The entire Mass Rapid Transit Master Plan in Bangkok Metropolitan Region consists of eight main lines and four feeder lines totalling 508 kilometres (316 mi) to be completed by 2029. In addition to rapid transit and heavy rail lines, there have been proposals for several monorail systems.

Water Transport

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The Khlong Saen Saep water bus serves over 50,000 passengers daily.

Although much diminished from its past prominence, water-based transport still plays an important role in Bangkok and the immediate upstream and downstream provinces. Several water buses serve commuters daily. The Chao Phraya Express Boat serves thirty-four stops along the river, carrying an average of 35,586 passengers per day in 2010, while the smaller Khlong Saen Saep boat service serves twenty-seven stops on Saen Saep Canal with 57,557 daily passengers. Long-tail boats operate on fifteen regular routes on the Chao Phraya, and passenger ferries at thirty-two river crossings served an average of 136,927 daily passengers in 2010.

Bangkok Port, popularly known by its location as Khlong Toei Port, was Thailand’s main international port from its opening in 1947 until it was superseded by the deep-sea Laem Chabang Port in 1991. It is primarily a cargo port, though its inland location limits access to ships of 12,000 deadweight tonnes or less. The port handled 11,936,855 tonnes (13,158,130 tons) of cargo in the first eight months of the 2010 fiscal year, about 22 percent the total of the country’s international ports.

Airports

Bangkok is one of Asia’s busiest air transport hubs. Two commercial airports serve the city, the older Don Mueang International Airport and the new Bangkok International Airport, commonly known as Suvarnabhumi. Suvarnabhumi, which replaced Don Mueang as Bangkok’s main airport at its opening in 2006, served 52,808,013 passengers in 2015, making it the world’s 20th busiest airport by passenger volume. This amount of traffic is already over its designed capacity of 45 million passengers. Don Mueang reopened for domestic flights in 2007, and resumed international services focusing on low-cost carriers in October 2012. Suvarnabhumi is undergoing expansion to increase its capacity to 60 million by 2019 and to 90 million by 2021.

Health and Education


Education

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The campus of Chulalongkorn University was surrounded by rural fields when it was established in 1917. Pathum Wan District has since become part of the Bangkok city centre.

Bangkok has long been the centre of modern education in Thailand. The first schools in the country were established here in the later 19th century, and there are now 1,351 schools in the city. The city is home to the country’s five oldest universities, Chulalongkorn, Thammasat, Kasetsart, Mahidol and Silpakorn, founded between 1917 and 1943. The city has since continued its dominance, especially in higher education; the majority of the country’s universities, both public and private, are located in Bangkok or the Metropolitan Region. Chulalongkorn and Mahidol are the only Thai universities to appear in the top 500 of the QS World University Rankings. King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, also located in Bangkok, is the only Thai university in the top 400 of the 2012–13 Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Over the past few decades the general trend of pursuing a university degree has prompted the founding of new universities to meet the needs of Thai students. Bangkok became not only a place where immigrants and provincial Thais go for job opportunities, but also for a chance to receive a university degree. Ramkhamhaeng University emerged in 1971 as Thailand’s first open university; it now has the highest enrolment in the country. The demand for higher education has led to the founding of many other universities and colleges, both public and private. While many universities have been established in major provinces, the Greater Bangkok region remains home to the greater majority of institutions, and the city’s tertiary education scene remains over-populated with non-Bangkokians. The situation is not limited to higher education, either. In the 1960s, 60 to 70 percent of 10- to 19-year-olds who were in school had migrated to Bangkok for secondary education. This was due to both a lack of secondary schools in the provinces and perceived higher standards of education in the capital. Although this discrepancy has since largely abated, tens of thousands of students still compete for places in Bangkok’s leading schools. Education has long been a prime factor in the centralization of Bangkok and will play a vital role in the government’s efforts to decentralize the country.

Healthcare

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Siriraj Hospital, established in 1888, is the oldest hospital in Thailand.

Much of Thailand’s medical resources are disproportionately concentrated in the capital. In 2000, Bangkok had 39.6 percent of the country’s doctors and a physician-to-population ratio of 1:794, compared to a median of 1:5,667 among all provinces. The city is home to 42 public hospitals, five of which are university hospitals, as well as 98 private hospitals and 4,063 registered clinics. The BMA operates nine public hospitals through its Medical Service Department, and its Health Department provides primary care through sixty-eight community health centres. Thailand’s universal healthcare system is implemented through public hospitals and health centres as well as participating private providers.

Research-oriented medical school affiliates such as Siriraj, King Chulalongkorn Memorial and Ramathibodi Hospitals are among the largest in the country, and act as tertiary care centres, receiving referrals from distant parts of the country. Lately, especially in the private sector, there has been much growth in medical tourism, with hospitals such as Bumrungrad and Bangkok Hospital, among others, providing services specifically catering to foreigners. An estimated 200,000 medical tourists visited Thailand in 2011, making Bangkok the most popular global destination for medical tourism.

Crime and Safety


Bangkok has a relatively moderate crime rate when compared to urban counterparts around the world. Traffic accidents are a major hazard, while natural disasters are rare. Intermittent episodes of political unrest and occasional terrorist attacks have resulted in losses of life.

Although the crime threat in Bangkok is relatively low, non-confrontational crimes of opportunity such as pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, and credit card fraud occur with frequency. Bangkok’s growth since the 1960s has been followed by increasing crime rates partly driven by urbanisation, migration, unemployment and poverty. By the late 1980s, Bangkok’s crime rates were about four times that of the rest of the country. The police have long been preoccupied with street crimes ranging from housebreaking to assault and murder. The 1990s saw the emergence of vehicle theft and organized crime, particularly by foreign gangs. Drug trafficking, especially that of ya ba methamphetamine pills, is also chronic.

According to police statistics, the most common complaint received by the Metropolitan Police Bureau in 2010 was housebreaking, with 12,347 cases. This was followed by 5,504 cases of motorcycle thefts, 3,694 cases of assault and 2,836 cases of embezzlement. Serious offences included 183 murders, 81 gang robberies, 265 robberies, 1 kidnapping and 9 arson cases. Offences against the state were by far more common, and included 54,068 drug-related cases, 17,239 cases involving prostitution and 8,634 related to gambling. The Thailand Crime Victim Survey conducted by the Office of Justice Affairs of the Ministry of Justice found that 2.7 percent of surveyed households reported a member being victim of a crime in 2007. Of these, 96.1 percent were crimes against property, 2.6 percent were crimes against life and body, and 1.4 percent were information-related crimes.

Political demonstrations and protests are common in Bangkok. While most events since 1992 had been peaceful, the series of protests since 2006 have often turned violent. Demonstrations during March–May 2010 ended in a crackdown in which 92 were killed, including armed and unarmed protesters, security forces, civilians and journalists. Terrorist incidents have also occurred in Bangkok, most notably the 2015 Bangkok bombing at the Erawan shrine, and also a series of bombings on the 2006–07 New Year’s Eve.

Traffic accidents are a major hazard in Bangkok. There were 37,985 accidents in the city in 2010, resulting in 16,602 injuries and 456 deaths as well as 426.42 million baht in damages. However, the rate of fatal accidents is much lower than in the rest of Thailand. While accidents in Bangkok amounted to 50.9 percent of the entire country, only 6.2 percent of fatalities occurred in the city. Another serious public health hazard comes from Bangkok’s stray dogs. Up to 300,000 strays are estimated to roam the city’s streets, and dog bites are among the most common injuries treated in the emergency departments of the city’s hospitals. Rabies is prevalent among the dog population, and treatment for bites pose a heavy public burden. Natural disasters, on the other hand, are rare. While the severe floods of 2011 adversely affected Bangkok, no deaths were reported in city itself. Such extreme flooding is uncommon, although limited flooding does occur regularly in some neighbourhoods.

International Relations


1024px-Protesters_at_2009_Bangkok_Talks_on_Climate_Change

Protesters in front of the United Nations Building during the 2009 Bangkok Climate Change Conference—Bangkok is home to several UN offices.

The city’s formal international relations are managed by the International Affairs Division of the BMA. Its missions include facilitating cooperation with other major cities through sister city agreements, participation and membership in international organizations, and pursuing cooperative activities with the many foreign diplomatic missions based in the city.

International Participation

Bangkok is a member of several international organizations and regional city government networks, including the Asian Network of Major Cities 21, the Japan-led Asian-Pacific City Summit, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, the ESCAP-sponsored Regional Network of Local Authorities for Management of Human Settlements in Asia and Pacific (CITYNET), Japan’s Council of Local Authorities for International Relations, the World Association of the Major Metropolises and Local Governments for Sustainability, among others.

With its location at the heart of mainland Southeast Asia and as one of Asia’s hubs of transportation, Bangkok is home to many international and regional organizations. Among others, Bangkok is the seat of the Secretariat of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), as well as the Asia-Pacific regional offices of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Sister Cities

Bangkok has made sister city and/or friendship agreements with twenty-seven other cities in sixteen countries, as of 2016. They are:

Sister cities