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San Francisco, CA (Population: 739,426)

Located on the tip of the San Francisco Peninsula and embraced by the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay, San Francisco, California is the second most densely populated city in the United States. Known for its cool fog in the summertime, its cable cars, and an amalgam of both modern and Victorian architecture, this city offers a rich and exciting culture, daring anyone to be bored. Settled by the Spanish in 1776, the area was thrust into a period of quick-paced growth by the California Gold Rush. In 1906 the city was devastated by an earthquake and subsequent fire, however the city was quickly rebuilt and began to thrive once again. Today, San Francisco is known for its high standard and cost of living and for its cultural diversity.

The Golden Gate Bridge and the Island of Alcatraz are two of the most popular landmarks in this city. Chinatown bursts with Asian flair in downtown San Francisco and has been a thriving part of the city since the mid 1800's. Framing the border of Alamo Square are a row of well-maintained Victorian homes called the "Painted Ladies." This line of highly decorative houses with colorful exteriors is also referred to as "Postcard Row," and frequently appears in mass-marketed photographs of the city. On the Pacific border of San Francisco is Ocean Beach, an uninviting place to swim due to violent rip currents and cold waves. Baker Beach is situated south of the Golden Gate bridge, and despite the clothing-optional area in the north, provides an appropriate picnic spot for locals and their families on the southern end.

San Francisco is also known for several of its neighborhoods that played prominent roles in cultural movements. The Beat Generation of the 1950's centered in North Beach while the hippies gathered in Haight-Ashbury. The Castro emerged in the 1970's as part of the gay rights movement. As a result, the city is a big attraction for gay tourists; San Francisco Pride is the world's best known gay pride parade and festival. The South of Market neighborhood has seen recent redevelopment, in part due to its role in the 1990's dot-com boom.

San Francisco is a distinct financial point for the West Coast, and is home to the Wells Fargo corporate headquarters, as well as the founding city of the Bank of America. The financial success of the city is credited, in part, to the remaining legacy of the California Gold Rush. San Francisco's economy is largely supported by tourism, reflected by the number of restaurants and hotels in the area.

The War Memorial and Performing Arts center houses the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Ballet, as well as others, some of which are among the longest operating companies in the United states. Davies Symphony Hall hosts the San Francisco Symphony while the Herbst Theater is more likely draw more alternative musicians. Another famous music venue in San Francisco is the Fillmore where many musical groups of the 60's got their start. Theater venues include the Orpheum, the Curran and the Golden Gate Theater. The American Conservatory Theater is one of the prominent leaders in the performing arts in San Francisco.

With five Super Bowl titles under their belt, the San Francisco 49ers are the best known major league team in the city. More participant-oriented sports include the Bay to the Breakers race and the San Francisco Marathon. Boating and sailing are also very popular pastimes as well, with a large number of residents taking advantage of the city's proximity to the sea. San Francisco is truly a dream destination spot for travelers with its rich, eclectic culture, its Pacific Ocean views and intriguing landmarks, and continues to draw permanent inhabitants who recognize it as an ideal city in which to live.