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San Francisco: what to know before going to AIO 2017

Cushla McGoverin

1. San Francisco hasn’t always been San Francisco.
This city by the bay was founded in 1776 and named Yerba Buena, which means ‘good herb’ in Spanish. The city was renamed San Francisco in 1847.

2. The United Nations Charter was signed in the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Centre on June 26, 1945.

3. Philio Farnsworth invented the first electric television in his lab (202 Green Street, San Francisco) in 1927.

4. San Francisco has almost 50 film festivals each year.
These range from large international festivals to smaller, more specific festivals such as the Dance film festival and American Indian festival.

5. The bendy straw is another invention which originated in San Francisco.
Joseph B. Friedman received a patent for the bendy straw in 1937. He was inspired after observing his daughter’s frustration when trying to drink out of a straight straw while sitting at the counter of the Varsity Sweet Shop (200 19th Avenue, San Francisco).

6. The piano accordion is the official instrument of San Francisco.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6-4 in 1990 to make the accordion the official instrument of San Francisco.

7. The San Francisco cable cars are the only National Historical Monument that can move.
This is impressive considering there are over 2,500 National Historic Landmarks in the U.S., 142 of which are in California. The cables that pull the cable car run at 15 km/h; if you want to know more about how the cable car system works be sure to visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum (1201 Mason Street, San Francisco).

8. San Francisco Chinatown is the largest outside of Asia and the oldest in North America.
It is approximately one mile long by one and half miles wide, and is centred on Grant Avenue and Stockton Street. With more than 100,000 people living in Chinatown it is one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in the city.

9. San Francisco is built on 43 hills.
San Francisco cannot be accused of being flat. Gladys Hansen’s San Francisco Almanac lists 43 hills, however, other lists catalogue a greater number of hills.

10. The Rainbow Flag was created for the 1978 San Francisco Pride Parade.
The Rainbow Flag identified with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community was created by Gilbert Baker. Originally the flag had eight strips but has since been simplified to six strips. A six strip Rainbow Flag flies in the Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro District, one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the U.S.
5 Top places to visit in San Francisco:

Golden Gate Bridge
No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge. Finished in 1937 the US Navy wanted to paint the bridge yellow and black stripes to make it easier to see through the fog. However, the architect liked the colour of the sealant used to protect the steel during transit so much the Golden Gate Bridge was painted the same colour, International Orange.

Pier 39
Pier 39 is a hive of activity: there are shops, restaurants, street performances, the Aquarium of the Bay, and views of California sea lions. The pier is located close to North Beach, Chinatown, and the Embarcadero, and is easily accessible using the F Market streetcars.

Alcatraz Island
This small island, 2 km offshore, is most famous for its past life as a federal prison (1934-1963), when it housed some of the U.S.’s most notorious criminals. Today Alcatraz is home to rare flowers and plants, and seabirds. Tours of the island are possible and the ferry boats leave from Pier 33. If you are interested in touring the island be sure to book you ticket early.

Lombard Street
San Francisco is a city of hills, with numerous steep streets, some more crazy than others. The most famous of these is Lombard Street, commonly referred to as the “crookedest” street in the world. Lombard Street consists of eight hairpin turns and is located along the eastern segment of the Russian Hill neighbourhood.

California Academy of Sciences
Located in the Golden Gate Park this museum houses an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a four-story rainforest housed in a 27 m glass dome. All year this building is teeming with life, from African penguins, a coral reef ecosystem to wildflowers. While in the area be sure to take a stroll through the botanical gardens.
Food and drink
You won’t run out of options for food and drink in San Francisco, at any given time there are more than 3,500 restaurants open. Irrespective of your hankering you are bound to find something delicious in the San Francisco city limits. Oysters on the half shell and cioppino are longstanding seafood favourites in the bay. Since 1849 the Boudin Bakery has been serving up sourdough, a traditional favourite of the region. A good glass of wine should never be far away in San Francisco, as Napa Valley the centre of U.S. wine making is just down the road.

Important things to know about San Francisco before travelling there
During June the average daily temperature is 15°C, with an average low and high of 12 and 19°C, respectively. Rain hopefully won’t be too much of a problem, the average number of rainy days is one and a half (≥0.25 mm).
Credit cards are generally accepted everywhere.
San Francisco is similar to other major U.S. cities with respect to tipping. At full service restaurants a tip of at least 15-20% is customary. This is the same for taxis cabs. 
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