A city like no other

February 1, 2006

This year's attendees of the American Academy of Dermatology's Annual Meeting are lucky enough to take in the beauty of one of the most liberal and individualistic cities in the country. With its cool temperatures, a colorful past and cultural attractions, the Bay City is not the typical California hot spot.

This year's attendees of the American Academy of Dermatology's Annual Meeting are lucky enough to take in the beauty of one of the most liberal and individualistic cities in the country. With its cool temperatures, a colorful past and cultural attractions, the Bay City is not the typical California hot spot.

This relatively small city that prides itself on distinct neighborhoods, creative cuisine and great attractions and entertainment is best seen on foot. Author Inez Hayes Irwin summed it up best: "You could live in San Francisco a month and ask no greater entertainment than walking through it."

See the city

The recognizable waterfront area houses Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, The Cannery, Hyde Street Pier and Pier 39. It's almost guaranteed that a great meal, shopping or attraction will bring attendees here at some point during their stay. Also known for great cuisine is Chinatown, with blocks of markets, souvenir stores and plenty of dim sum. Also, Japantown will not disappoint with its shopping, food and entertainment possibilities. See page s48.

A good portion of an attendee's time in the city will be spent in SoMa, the industrial area south of Market Street which is the city's counterpart to New York's SoHo. This spot houses the Moscone Convention Center and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. But attendees can head north of Market Street to the Financial District and enjoy dining, shopping and entertainment at the Embarcadero Center.

For a livelier time, check out the Mission District, San Francisco's largest Latin American neighborhood. The senses come alive with brilliant murals on the walls and the rich aromas of Hispanic food. Also entertaining are the offbeat bars, cafes and famed City Lights Bookstore of the North Beach area.

If none of those catch your interest, tempt your wallet with shopping in the Union Square/Theater District. Before taking in a show, exercise the credit cards at Saks, Chanel or Tiffany.

Two other districts known for celebrating their diversity are The Castro - one of the largest gay and lesbian neighborhoods in the world - and The Haight, with its New Age feel.

Rebuilt and renewed

When thinking of San Francisco's past, this district, the Haight - with a fusion of music, protest, rebellion and drugs - usually comes to mind. The Haight-Ashbury of the 1960s only came about, however, after a massive earthquake and fire wiped out San Francisco in 1906. Rebuilding started immediately and brought about a more magnificent city with the construction of great landmarks such as Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge.

Writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Jack London also began flocking to the area. By World War II, San Francisco had become the main city on the West Coast and a cultural spot with the beatniks of the 1950s and hippies of the 1960s. In even more recent years, the city was the setting of the dot.com rise and fall. It remains one of the most distinctive places to visit.

Make time for it all

San Francisco is still known as a city of culture with dozen of attractions that are a must on any traveler's "to-do" list. Take a ride over to Alcatraz to see the penitentiary that held Al Capone and Robert Stroud. The Aquarium of the Bay is a unique experience with its 300 feet of crystal-clear underwater tunnels. Don't forget to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge and wind down Lombard Street. There are myriad museums, and a popular one for visitors and residents alike is the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. A complete listing starts on page s41.

Take home a souvenir of the trip from one of many shopping spots - featured on page s46 - such as Fisherman's Wharf or The Cannery, a city within a city.