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San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco

San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities on the west coast. Famed for its steep rolling hills, iconic bridges, unique architecture, and its wonderful location on the Pacific Coast Highway. Cosmopolitan and diverse, the stunning Bay Area just gets better with time.

From hippies to hipsters, gold rush to dot coms – San Francisco has had a colourful history. Art, culture and past glories intertwine – such as the vintage cable cars criss-crossing the city, or the counterculture roots of Haight-Ashbury – ‘Frisco’ is a city of constant change. San Francisco’s capacity to embrace social change and subcultures creates an intriguing place. The Victorian splendour of the ‘Painted Ladies’ of Alamo Square contest with the high-rise megaliths of the Financial District. Museums and galleries vie for your attention against sports and shopping. Add to this world-class restaurants, great bars and idyllic parks and you have the makings of a fantastic San Francisco holiday.

Golden Gate City Festivals.
Golden Gate City Festivals

One of the most diverse cities in the USA, San Francisco has it all. Since the 60s and the height of counter-culture, San Fran has been a musical and cultural hotspot. The SF Outsidelands Festival at the Golden Gate Park has some of the biggest names in music and food. Watch Radiohead or Lana Del Rey whilst drinking craft ale and eating gastronomic hot dogs from 5 to 7 August. Another great festival happens in October (TBC) on the wonderfully-named Treasure Island, just near San Francisco Bay. Small but inspiring, the eponymous Treasure Island Festival provides two days of music and mayhem.

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What's on in San Francisco over the next few months

October is, of course, all about Halloween – with spooky ballets and ghost tours leading the fun. Thanksgiving in November means a large helping of holiday fun – including Christmas fairs and skating on ice rinks. The Christmas period brings parades, festive concerts and New Year’s parties to welcome in 2017.

October
ArtSpan Open Studio.

October

Not-to-be-missed dates for the diaries of art lovers… 6 October to 6 November sees hundreds of artists welcome the public into their working spaces, as part of the ArtSpan Open Studios event. Get a fascinating glimpse into multiple art forms – ranging from photography to sculpture – and enjoy a rare opportunity to meet new and established art talent. Then soak up the carnival atmosphere as San Francisco Columbus Day is celebrated with the traditional Italian Heritage Parade. Dozens of handcrafted floats, marching bands and Italian musicians will form a procession through the streets from Fisherman’s Wharf to North Beach, on Sunday 9 October. Add a dash of culture to your Halloween celebrations, by booking tickets for Company C Contemporary Ballet’s Arcane: A Tale of All Hallows’ Eve. Breathtaking beautiful choreography and music combine with a touch of the eerie in this Tim Burton-esque tale of the spirit world – at the Fort Mason Center from 21 to 30 October. Then step up the spookiness on Halloween, with a night tour of Alcatraz – said to be haunted by former prison mates – or a ghost walking tour.

November
San Francisco Turkey Trot.

November

World cinema fans should hurry to grab tickets for the San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival: Bollywood and Beyond. Toasting the finest independent new work from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, this prestigious festival is the USA’s leading showcase of independent documentaries, short films and experimental work – with a little Bollywood mixed in. At various locations, from 10 to 13 November. Then step into the world of Dickensian London at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair from 19 November to 18 December. The Cow Palace Exhibition Halls will be transformed into an enticing, lamp lit world of vintage pubs, tearooms, theatres and shops. So browse for unique gifts while enjoying the festive revelry – it’s guaranteed to get your Christmas spirit flowing. See the city in a new light, when the Illuminate SF Festival of Light sees San Francisco a-glow with a series of extraordinary art installations. Free guided tours, illuminated bike rides and other special events form this annual celebration of the Bay Area’s commitment to culture and creativity – from 24 November to 1 January 2017. Then watch and cheer on hundreds of runners in fancy dress, as they build up an appetite for Thanksgiving dinner during the San Francisco Turkey Trot. Expect to see jogging turkeys and pilgrims pounding the pathways of Golden Gate Park, during this festive fun run on 24 November.

December
White christmas.

December

December is a very Christmassy affair in San Fran, starting with the San Francisco Ballet’s version of Tchaikovsky’s classic, The Nutcracker, playing at the War Memorial Opera House between 10 and 29 December. It has been an annual tradition since 1944. Then, at the Golden Gate Theatre, it’s your chance to see Irving Berlin’s classic musical White Christmas between the 14 and 20 December. Made famous by Bing Crosby in the 50s, this lavish new production will get your Christmas spirit soaring. On the 16 December, head down to Fisherman’s Wharf to see The Lighted Boat Parade, which since 1994, has been delighting locals and visitors alike with glittering boats in the bay.

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Union Square
Union Square

The cosmopolitan and chic Union Square is a haven for shopaholics, with its abundant shopping opportunities. They range from well-known department stores, like Macy’s, to exclusive designer boutiques and lesser celebrated emporiums. Union Square is a one-block plaza boasting a 97-foot Corinthian column, with flower stands, palm trees and a great atmosphere. You will also find some great food options, from high-end restaurants to food stands selling hot dogs and pizza – it caters for everyone looking for a bite to eat after shopping.

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