Union Square is actually one of my least favorite plazas in town, in part because it is almost fully paved concrete ambiance, but also because of the centerpiece Dewey Memorial, which celebrates the victory of the USA over the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. The 1896 war, which eventuated in the annexation of Cuba and the Philippines as American territory was a blantant opportunist imperialist act that resulted in many decades of turmoil in these two nations, which argueably have yet to recover their proper nationalism and liberty. Indeed the Iraq War has been compared to the Spanish-American War. However, the 95-foot high statue, designed in 1901 by sculptor Robert Aitken, and architect, Newton Tharp, also capped a period of pride in San Francisco just prior to the great earthquake and fire of 1906. Alma Spreckels, later the lovely wife of sugar baron Adolph Spreckels, was the nude model for the figure, which Aitken used to symbolize "the Republic, dignified and graceful, on a pedestal of granite. In her outstretched hand he placed a palm, denoting work well done, a tribute to the memory of the beloved president. In her other hand he gave her a trident, the three-pronged fork which was the scepter of King Neptune, king of the sea (see link below)." Thus, the memorial is both a tribute to victory in war and recently martyred President McKinley. Alma had sprung from humble beginnings and later married into the Spreckels wealth, so the statue, which survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, as well as several reconstructions of Union Square, came to symbolize more than the men whose names are on the memorial base. This memorial came to symbolize for San Francisco a determination to rise from ashes and return to a great city of wealth and splendor.
The best part of Union isn't the shops or the fact it's a beautiful place to relax, but rather the heavy European influence that make up the square. Much like the many different squares in Rome, Union Square is a place of tranquility amidst the bustling city. However Union Square had a much more modern look as its surrounded by towering skyscrapers and palm tree's. There are a couple cafe's in the square with plenty of outdoor tables to enjoy coffee and a view. From a people watching perspective its about the best spot in the city, of course if you prefer shopping you are in luck as Macy's, Nike Town, and Sak's 5th Ave are among the many different stores that surround the square. Definitely plan on making Union Square a staple of your visit to San Francisco!
Just off Union Square, at 345 Stockton Street in the plaza of the Grand Hyatt Hotel is a very curious bronze fountain that exhibits a seemingly chaotic mixture of San Francisco elements. This is one of several Ruth Asawa fountains in town, actually. The molds for this bronze sculpture were created from 41 separate panels that Asawa had made from baker's clay. Inviting children and friends to help, she includes in this fountains many of the geographic and unreal elements that make up San Francisco. Asawa was a very proflic contributor of art in the Bay Area and a professor of art at UC Berkeley. The link below describes more about her life.
I consider Union Square as the 'center of downtown' - at least for touristic purposes.
A number of well-known hotels are cramped into the area and you will find, somewhat unfortunately, a lot of touristy bars and restaurants.
What to see & do:
Shop. The Macy's flagship store is located right on Union Square, and so is Neimann Marcus. Along Post street you will find fine boutiques like Burberry and Prada.
Other well-known shops include Borders (Books), the Disney store and Niketown.
Eat. Walk west towards Jones and there are lots of ethnic restaurants on Geary and Post. Some of my favourites include Borobudur (Indonesian on Post & Jones) and Katana-Ya (Ramen house on Geary & Taylor). The famous Lori's diner also has a couple of branches here, although it's not my favourite spot to eat. Other good & famous restaurants that I have or haven't tried in the area include Farallon (Seafood on Post), Michael Mina (American at Westin St Francis Hotel) and Postrio by Wolfgang Puck (Prescott Hotel on Post).
Drink. The rather famous Redwood room at Clift Hotel is 5 minutes walk on Geary and Taylor. Also there's a lively Irish bar called Johnny Foley's on Mason & O'Farrell.
Sightsee. The Westin St. Francis hotel has those famous elevators that runs outside of the building. The gigantic Christmas tree is put up during Thanksgiving time, and the "Heart" of Tony Bennet (from the song).
Give money to charity. What? Yeah, there's a bunch of homeless people asking for spare change.
This is a good place to read a book, hang out with friends or family, or mingle with either the tourists or the native San Franciscans.
For singles it could be an ideal place to meet someone (better than a bar).
Tiffany, Armani, Prada… a few among the most luxurious signboards that line Union Square. But it is also the place to go if you are looking for bookshops.
The name of this vast square comes from the frequent demonstrations in support of the Union, held there during the American Civil War.
A granite column in the center of the Square commemorates Admiral Dewey’s victory at the Battle of Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War of 1898.
So, it is a place that is also linked with History...
The first underground garage ever build in the US lies just beneath Union Square, and is a four-level parking facility.
This is the very heart of San Francisco--the center of where the action is. Union Square always has something going on. It's close to everything.
The monument commemorates Commodore Dewey's decisive victory over the Spanish fleet at the Battle of Manila Bay in 1898. This made America the dominant naval power in the Pacific for years to come.
Union Square is located near some of San Francisco's top art galleries. On the day of my last visit, there was a huge art fair going on.
Union Square is a shopping mecca that has a little something for every price range from free outdoor movies on select summer nights, half price ticket booth, to Tiffany’s. Since free is a great price, check out free MP3 tours of Union Square (www.geogad.com) that you can download. They point out the interesting attractions and historic trivia that is all around this area. You can find some great, inexpensive restaurants and cafes. For the best views and people watching, try Emporio Rulli. It is a very European style cafe that sits on an exclusive corner of the Union Square park itself. On a beautiful sunny day, it does not get much better than this. If you want to continue the European cafe theme, try Cafe de la Press right outside the Chinatown gate on Grant and Bush. It is pricey, but it has international newspapers that can make ex-pats feel at home. Of course, when you are in Union Square, you are right next to scenic cable cars that can take you from Union Square to Fisherman’s Wharf. While in Union Square, visit the pricey hotels around the square and the surrounding blocks to see how the upper crust live, which can be mighty entertaining all by itself. Locals know that one of the best places to kick back and enjoy some peaceful surfing on the Net while downing some quality coffee is on the second floor of the Borders at 400 Post St. Google has a free WiFi hot spot that covers the Border’s upstairs cafe. Bring your laptop and flip through a stack of books and magazines.
The Union Square is basically the center of San Francisco's shopping district . With many well known shops in it, you will have plenty to see and shop. You can find there Victoria Secret, a huge Levis Store, a Gap store, W-Sonoma and a large Macy's, among many other shops.
Around it you can also find some of the best San Francisco hotels as well as good restaurants , Fine Arts Galleries and bars.
Union Square is a must for people who want to do some fine shopping.
Union Square, one of San Francisco's main retail and cultural centers, also refers to the actual park bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton streets. Set aside as a park in 1850 and named before the start of the Civil War as a tribute to the frequent demonstrations in support of the Union troop, the park got a major renovation and restoration in 2002.
You can just buy yourself a coffee and sit there for people watching or walk among the nearby streets where all major fashion shops are located.This is also San Francisco's main theater district, with some historic, beautiful buildings housing the performances. Shows range from traveling Broadway and off-Broadway shows on limited runs to smaller local productions.
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