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Celebrate Christmas at the Symphony
You'll probably meet more politically correct people in San Francisco than in most other cities in the U.S. However, for all of its political correctness, San Francisco pulls out all the stops to celebrate Christmas and doesn't worry about the fallout that will occur by putting up a Christmas tree in a building lobby or piping in Christmas Muzak over the loudspeaker.
As a fun tradition each December, my family heads over to Davies Symphony Hall to listen to the joint performance of the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus. This popular performance is also a singalong so be prepared to give your windpipes a good work out!
Fireworks are a huge part of the 4th of July celebrations throughout the US, and San Francisco is no exception. As soon as the sun goes down, the fireworks go up!
There are many places from where to watch the fireworks. If you happen to be staying near North Beach, walk (don't drive) to the top of Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower (seen in the center of the picture). You'll have a front row seat.
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Halloween in San Francisco......
The annual "Night of Freaks" in the city is certainly worth celebrating. Halloween in the Castro is a definite MUST SEE event. Thousands and thousands of revelers jam pack the streets of San Francisco.....most in full costume, and some just showing up dressed as "gawkers."
My friends and I go out and contribute to this ghoulish "freakiness" as often as we can. This was one year we decided to do a "group theme."
Ya ever seen such a lovelier Asian Addams Family?????
- Family Travel
Fleet Week! (early October)
SF may be a liberal, anti-war city, but even we can't resist the roar of F-18s! Fleet Week happens every year during the first or second week in October. Thousands upon thousands of folks line the north waterfront to see the parade of navy ships, aerial acrobatics, and, especially, the Blue Angels. I went this year, and they threw in the Red Bull air races as well!
Events run all week, but the main days are Saturday and Sunday. It's free, so the waterfront is mobbed for about 2 miles! There's so much space, however, that it's really not necessary to get there real early. The best place to watch the event - especially the Blue Angels, is at the grandstand seating at Municipal Pier, just to the right of the Fort mason complex. These seats cost money, though - $20 - and have to be reserved ahead of time. Another great place to walk is the jetty containing the "wave organ." It's a hike, though; you have to walk around the yacht club to get out there, and it does fill up.
What to bring: A folding chair, camera (with zoom), snacks and water (the food stands are scarce, expensive, and lousy), binoculars, sunscreen, and a jacket for later.
Parking: Don't park north of Lombard Street! The area is absolutely jammed after the Blue Angels finish. Public transportation is useless - the buses can't get through the crowds. It's best to hike up the steep hills (a brutal walk!) and catch an east-west route, or just get a coffee and wait a while. And speaking of coffee, for some very strange reason, coffee is just impossible to find at the event! Get some on the way!
"Drop Everything Days"
The average day in San Francisco - no matter what the season - is partly cloudy in the 50's. But every so often, The weather Gods align just right and we get a few days of hot, sunny, gorgeous weather. Temperatures in the 80's or 90's with a crystal clear sky!
We get only a handful of these days every year – usually a few in the Spring and a few in the Fall - so, when they happen, you have to take advantage. Any bar with an outdoor patio will be packed all day, the parks are covered with people and dogs, and people at the beach wear bikinis instead of down jackets!
Being out at midnight in just shorts and a t-shirt may not sound like much, but in San Francisco it is a magical event that MUST be celebrated. It is virtually a City law that you must drop any plans and enjoy the day... because you never know when another one will come along.
But watch out! We have another, similar weather phenomenon that is even more mysterious. Sometimes we get these freak hot days where the air is deathly still. The locals call this "earthquake weather." I don't know if there's any evidence behind it, but it is on these days when we seem to have more than the usual amount of detectable earthquake activity. No one who lived through it will forget the day of the "Pretty Big One" on October 17th, 1989... not just because of the 7.1 magnitude quake, but also the freak heat wave that hit the day before!
Chinese New Year Festival & Parade
This is a 140 years old tradition in Chinatown. It all began in 1860s with educational purposes - to introduce Westerners to Asian customs. More than a century later, it has been named Largest Asian Celebration Outside Of Asia.
Chinese New Year 2008 (Lunar year 4706) is in fact today, when I am typing this tip - 7th of February. But the actual celebration will be held on the February, 23rd at 5.30pm.
There will be over 100 units participating in the Parade. Long time crowd favorite is the Golden Dragon. It takes a team of over 100 men and women from the martial arts group to carry it throughout the streets.
LOCATION: Parade starts at Market & 2nd Str and ends on Kearny Str.
PRICES: Free, but if you want a bleacher seat on Kearny Street (at between Sacramento & California) for $30 per ticket +$8 shipping/handling per order, order it online here.
Come early for better viewing spots.
- Arts and Culture
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Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival
Japantown Cherry Blossom Festival is held on consecutive weekends in early to mid April each year (in 2007 it was April 14 & 15 and 21 & 22). The highlights of the festival are the Cherry Blossom Queen Pageant on the first Saturday of the festival and the Grand Parade on the last Sunday. In between these events you will find traditional song and dance, karaoke, arts and crafts, martial arts demonstrations and competitions, food bazaars, tea ceremonies, and much more. The main stage is at the Peace Plaza in the heart of Japantown and various buildings throughout the area (mostly along Post and Geary) host different events and displays.
The first Cherry Blossom Festival took place in 1967 and today draws 150,000 visitors to the area, plus 100,000 for the parade.
Bastille Day at the Little French Quarter
Belden Place is home to San Francisco's Little French Quarter. Belden Place began its transformation from an alley to a destination in 1990 when Cafe Bastille was opened. Cafe Tiramisu opened in 1991 and Plouf opened its doors in 1996. The area also includes Sam's, B44, Voda, Brindisi Cucina di Mare, and Belden Taverna.
Each year on Bastille Day (July 14th) the alley is packed especially tight for celebration of the French anniversary of the start of the revolution which eventually removed their monarchy.
Claude Lane, off Sutter between Kearny and Grant also participates in this annual festival.
Xmas in San Francisco
If you've ever wondered what Christmas time is like in San Francisco. Well, here's an isolated J-town aurora borealis of sorts on land. SF lights up. No, it's nothing as pretty as Hong Kong's Neon lights, but it's still refreshing to see as you walk the lonely SF Streets. It's a bit like Gotham City here at night in the winter time. Everyone's inside eating, watching movies, or even working.
It's not lively in a grandiose way like NY. SF has pockets of nightlife scattered about on Lombard Street, the Castro, Noe Valley, Potrero Hill, South of Market, Union Street, and Fisherman's Wharf.
I took this picture next to Denny's in San Francisco's Japantown. Us locals call it "J-town."
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What is “earthquake weather?”
You’ll notice if you’re in the city on a certain rare kind of day that some people will bring up the subject of earthquake weather. Earthquake weather is typically an unseasonably hot, slightly humid day with an overcast sky... but also an unnatural, eerie stillness to the air.
Although we San Franciscans like to believe we invented the idea, it is an old theory... VERY old. In the 4th Century B.C., the Greek philosopher Aristotle proposed that earthquakes were caused by winds trapped in subterranean caves. Small tremors were thought to be caused by air pushing on cavern roofs, and large ones by the air breaking the surface. This theory led to a belief in earthquake weather, that - because a large amount of air was trapped underground - the weather would be hot and calm before an earthquake. (from the Wikipedia page on Earthquake Weather).
Now, living in the SF Bay Area for all of my 44 years, I can tell you there’s no such thing as earthquake weather. On the other hand... anyone who lived through the “Pretty Big One” on October 17th, 1989 will also no doubt remember that the quake was preceded by classic earthquake weather!
Here's the latest place-to-be in the Bay Area. A great day away for us San Franciscans will always be Napa. And here's the latest, getting rave reviews.
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If you come to San Francisco during the Spring or Summer, you will definitely run into a fair. From the North Beach Festival (Italian District filled with Italian restaurants and cafes), Fleet Week, Jazz Festival, Union Street Faire, Stern Grove Festival to the crazy, risque Folsom Street Fair...the list goes on and on. There's pretty much some event going on in a section of San Francisco even if it isn't spring or summer, like Halloween in Castro or the Exotic/Erotic Ball.
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