Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco

Haight-Ashbury is a district in San Francisco that is famous for the origin of the 1960s hippie culture.

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The district is named after the intersection of Haight and Ashbury Streets. The streets are named after early San Francisco residents – exchange banker Henry Haight and member of San Francisco Board of Supervisors Munroe Ashby.

The area has colourful Victorian homes, quirky boutiques, vintage clothing stores, music stores, chic cafes and restaurants. The famous Haight Ashbury legs are above the Piedmont Boutique (1452 Haight Street).

Haight-Ashbury was also home to bands and musicians, such as Janis Joplin (635 Ashbury Street) and The Gratetful Dead (710 Ashbury Street).

A fun fact the clock at Haight and Ashbury is set out 4:20.

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‘Grateful Dead’ house – 710 Ashbury St

Castro District, San Francisco

The Castro District is a neigbourhood in San Francisco. It is recognised as one of the first gay neighbourhoods in the United States.

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What is recognised as San Francisco’s gay village is located on Castro Street from Market Street to 19th Street. There are rainbow flags and murals dotted around the district.

To learn more about San Francisco’s LGBTQI+ history it is worth checking out the GLBT Historical Society Museum (4127 18th Street).

Also in the Castro is The Castro Theatre (429 Castro Street) an Art Deco movie palace built in 1922.

Castro Street is named after José Castro, who was a Californio politician and acting governor of Alta Californio.

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Muir Woods National Monument

Muir Woods National Monument is a redwoods forest within the the Golden Gate Recreational Area.

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Muir Woods is home to an ancient coastal redwood forest. The trees average in age from 400 to 800 years with heights of up to 250 feet. There are trees within the forest that are at least 1200 years old.

Congressman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thatcher Kent donated 295 acres of land to the Federal Government to protect the redwood forest. President Theodore Roosevelt established the land as a national monument in 1908.

The National Monument is named after John Muir, a writer and naturalist who founded the environmental organisation Sierra Club.

Muir Woods National Monument is is 19 kilometres (12 miles) north of San Francisco, so is a popular day trip from San Francisco. The park is open from 8am to sunset.

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Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge connecting San Francisco Bay with the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula.

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The bridge has a main span of 1,280 metres (4,200 feet) and a total height of 227 metres (746 feet). At the time of its opening in 1937 it was the longest and tallest suspension bridge in the world. It held this honour until 1964.

Construction on the bridge begun in 1933. It was designed by engineer Joseph Strauss.

You can walk, cycle or drive across the famous bridge. I walked across the bridge. Pedestrian access is from the East Sidewalk (bay side). From November to early March it is open 5am to 6.30pm, and from early March to early November it is open 5am to 9pm.

There are many opportunities to view the bridge. Can you walk along the waterfront from Fisherman’s Wharf. The bridge is 5.5 kilometres (3.5 miles) west of Fisherman’s Wharf.

You can also view the bridge from below Fort Point where Jimmy Stewart saved Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

A popular photo opportunity is from Marin Headlands (Vista Point). I stopped here on a tour to Muir Woods National Monument.

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Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island located in San Francisco Bay is one of the most popular and iconic attractions of San Francisco.

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The island is approximately 2km (1.25 miles) off shore from San Francisco. Alcatraz Island has a long history with a past as a military fort, a site for a lighthouse, a military prison and a federal prison.

A federal prison from 1934 to 1963, is probably what it is most well known for. Some of the States’ most infamous and notorious criminals have been imprisoned here, including Al Capone, George ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly, and ‘Bird Man’ Robert Stroud.

From November 1969 the island was occupied by a group of Native Americans during a nineteenth month protest. There are still signs of the occupation.

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Alcatraz Island is now managed by the National Park Service. Alcatraz Cruises is the official company providing transport to Alcatraz Island. Ferries to Alcatraz depart from Pier 33 Alcatraz Landing and the journey is approximately 15 minutes one way. Booking in advance is advised as they do sell out. Tickets can be reserved up to 90 days in advance.

There are a variety of tours to choose from – earlybird tour, day tour, night tour, an extended behind the scenes tour and a combined Alcatraz and Angel Island tour.

I did the night tour. The advantage of a night tour is that I was able to do other activities during the day, and there is definitely an atmosphere being there at night. A downside with a night tour is that you don’t have as long on the island as a day tour.

It was a misty, grey, rainy San Francisco early evening when our boat departed a little after six thirty. I can’t complain too much as I had 13 days of San Francisco sun up until that point.

The tour includes self-guided audio tour with narration from former guards and prison inmates. The audio tour is important because unlike a museum there is not a lot of written information.

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