San Francisco, officially the City and County of San Francisco, is the cultural center and a leading financial hub of the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern California. San Francisco encompasses a land area of about 46.9 square miles. The city is the financial and cultural hub of the larger San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland combined statistical area, with a population of 8.5 million.
San Francisco is a popular tourist destination, known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former prison on Alcatraz Island, and its Chinatown district. San Francisco is also the headquarters of five major banking institutions and various other companies such as Gap Inc., Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Yelp, Pinterest, Twitter, Uber, Mozilla and Craigslist.
San Francisco is famous for its hills. There are more than 50 hills within city limits. Some neighborhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Potrero Hill, and Russian Hill. Near the geographic center of the city, southwest of the downtown area, are a series of less densely populated hills. Twin Peaks, a pair of hills forming one of the city’s highest points, forms a popular overlook spot. San Francisco’s tallest hill, Mount Davidson, is 925 feet (282 m) high and is capped with a 103-foot (31 m) tall cross built in 1934. Dominating this area is Sutro Tower, a large red and white radio and television transmission tower.
The historic center of San Francisco is the northeast quadrant of the city anchored by Market Street and the waterfront. It is here that the Financial District is centered, with Union Square, the principal shopping and hotel district, nearby. Cable cars carry riders up steep inclines to the summit of Nob Hill, once the home of the city’s business tycoons, and down to the waterfront tourist attractions of Fisherman’s Wharf, and Pier 39, where many restaurants feature Dungeness crab from a still-active fishing industry. Also in this quadrant are Russian Hill, a residential neighborhood with the famously crooked Lombard Street; North Beach, the city’s Little Italy and the former center of the Beat Generation; and Telegraph Hill, which features Coit Tower. Between Russian Hill and North Beach is San Francisco’s Chinatown, the oldest Chinatown in North America. The South of Market, which was once San Francisco’s industrial core, has seen significant redevelopment following the addition of AT&T Park and an infusion of startup companies. New skyscrapers, live-work lofts, and condominiums dot the area. Further development is taking place just to the south in Mission Bay, a former railyard now anchored by a second campus of the University of California, San Francisco.
A popular quote incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain is “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” San Francisco’s climate is characteristic of the cool-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb) of California’s coast, “generally characterized by moist mild winters and dry summers”. Since it is surrounded on three sides by water, San Francisco’s weather is strongly influenced by the cool currents of the Pacific Ocean, which moderate temperature swings and produce a remarkably mild year-round climate with little seasonal temperature variation.
San Francisco’s War Memorial and Performing Arts Center hosts some of the most enduring performing-arts companies in the U.S. The War Memorial Opera House houses the San Francisco Opera, the second-largest opera company in North America as well as the San Francisco Ballet, while the San Francisco Symphony plays in Davies Symphony Hall. The Herbst Theatre stages an eclectic mix of music performances, as well as public radio’s City Arts & Lectures.
With an ideal climate for outdoor activities, San Francisco has ample resources and opportunities for amateur and participatory sports and recreation. There are more than 200 miles (320 km) of bicycle paths, lanes and bike routes in the city, and the Embarcadero and Marina Green are favored sites for skateboarding. Extensive public tennis facilities are available in Golden Gate Park and Dolores Park, as well as at smaller neighborhood courts throughout the city. San Francisco residents have often ranked among the fittest in the U.S.
Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants left New York for California prior to the 1958 season. Though boasting such stars as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Barry Bonds, the club went 52 years until its first World Series title in 2010, and won an additional title in 2012. The Giants play at AT&T Park, which opened in 2000, a cornerstone project of the South Beach and Mission Bay redevelopment. In 2012, San Francisco was ranked #1 among America’s Best Baseball cities. The study examined which U.S. metro areas have produced the most Major Leaguers since 1920.
The San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL) were the longest-tenured major professional sports franchise in the city. The team began play in 1946 as an All-America Football Conference (AAFC) league charter member, moved to the NFL in 1950 and into Candlestick Park in 1971. The team will play its home games at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California in 2014; the team will still be named the “San Francisco 49ers”, even though they will be much closer to the city of San Jose. The 49ers have won five Super Bowl titles in the 1980s and 1990s behind coaches Bill Walsh and George Seifert, and stars such as Joe Montana, Steve Young, Ronnie Lott, and Jerry Rice.
Boating, sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing are among the popular activities on San Francisco Bay, and the city maintains a yacht harbor in the Marina District. The St. Francis Yacht Club and Golden Gate Yacht Club are located in the Marina Harbor. The South Beach Yacht Club is located next to AT&T Park and Pier 39 has an extensive marina.
Historic Aquatic Park located along the northern San Francisco shore hosts two swimming and rowing clubs. The South End Rowing Club, established in 1873, and the Dolphin Club maintain a friendly rivalry between members. Swimmers can be seen daily braving the typically cold bay waters.
Several of San Francisco’s parks and nearly all of its beaches form part of the regional Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the most visited units of the National Park system in the United States with over 13 million visitors a year. Among the GGNRA’s attractions within the city are Ocean Beach, which runs along the Pacific Ocean shoreline and is frequented by a vibrant surfing community, and Baker Beach, which is located in a cove west of the Golden Gate and part of the Presidio, a former military base. Also within the Presidio is Crissy Field, a former airfield that was restored to its natural salt marsh ecosystem. The GGNRA also administers Fort Funston, Lands End, Fort Mason, and Alcatraz. The National Park Service separately administers the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park – a fleet of historic ships and waterfront property around Aquatic Park.