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SAN FRANCISCO’S RAINBOW-HUED SPLENDOR

1 year ago / by ABHIJIT MASIH
Photo by <a href="https://unsplash.com/@mrs80z?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Mercedes Mehling</a> on <a href="https://unsplash.com/?utm_source=unsplash&utm_medium=referral&utm_content=creditCopyText">Unsplash</a>
Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

One of the most prominent figures to make San Francisco home was Harvey Milk, the city’s mayor who was assassinated on November 27, 1978. 

Milk, remembered as one of the first political activists for the LGBTQ+ community, made the pride flag a potent symbol for the community. As the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, Milk convinced those that came after him of his vision for a more inclusive future. A lot has changed in the 44 years since his death. There as many as 1,000 LGBTQ+ officials in the US, according to The New York Times. So much so that President Biden appointed as White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, the first Black person, and one who is openly LGBTQ+.

The city famous for the Golden Gate Bridge attracts all kinds of visitors, from business travelers heading to Silicon Valley to domestic and international tourists. This year, the SF Gay Pride Parade & Celebration is planned for June 15 and 26. It is considered to be one of the largest LGBTQ+ gatherings in the world, with the current year’s theme being “Love Will Keep Us Together.”

Supporters of the cause can show solidarity by visiting The Castro, a neighborhood made famous by  Milk. The beautiful four blocks is one of the prominent symbols for LGBTQ+ community. Though not the main attraction of San Francisco – which would probably be the Fisherman’s Wharf – The Castro most definitely demands a full day of your itinerary. The neighborhood has a lot to offer — a vibrant LGBTQ+ community with its rich history, incredible eating joints and shopping outlets, and a fascinating night-life.

You can also take in a movie at The Castro Theatre, one of the classic single-screen old world cinemas. The theater that opened in 1922 is officially designated as a historic landmark of San Francisco. The premier of the Sean Penn starrer, “Milk,” based on the life of the pathbreaking leader, was held at the theater in 2008, a stone’s throw away from Milk’s house.

There are many LGBTQ+ landmarks in The Castro, such as the Pink Triangle Park, the rainbow striped crosswalks, and the Rainbow Walk. Yes, they are two different attractions. Besides these there are numerous street murals that are just perfect as your Instagram reels background.

You really cannot have a complete American holiday experience if you have not visited San Francisco, even though the other city in California is more popular because it is home to Hollywood.

June may be the best time to visit the city though the weather in San Francisco can shock most first-time visitors. It is probably best and aptly described by Mark Twain: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” While most parts of the country enjoy the summer, it is normal to have the San Francisco temperature linger in the pleasant 50s. So think twice before packing in those shorts and flip-flops for the summer break. Bring a pullover instead, unless you want to be roaming around in a San Francisco-branded hoodie for the rest of your stay – a dead giveaway that you are an unsuspecting tourist who did not prep for the weather.

SAN FRANCISCO'S RAINBOW-HUED SPLENDOR

The city offers accommodations for every budget, but the best area to stay would definitely be in and around Fisherman’s Wharf. The place buzzes with tourists and has more attractions and family-friendly activities than any other part of San Francisco. These include the various piers, restaurants, shops, Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Aquarium of the Bay, etc. Pier 39, besides its many attractions also provides unobstructed views of the Golden Gate and The Rock, more famously known as the Alcataraz Penitentiary, the temporary home of Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly.

You could tour The Rock if you have booked early, for the Alcatraz tour is almost always overbooked. The other option is to take a Bay cruise on one of the ferries that gives a guided tour of the area, also taking you around The Rock. You can witness amazing views of the city from the bay and of the most iconic symbol of the city, the Golden Gate Bridge.

If you feel you haven’t yet ticked all the boxes even after you make it across the 1.7 mile bridge, then you could rent a bicycle for the mesmerizing ride. However, be wary of gusty headwinds and the steep inclines of the road. The other option – probably less strenuous – is the city tour bus, which crosses the bridge along and offers a few other sights and stops on the way to Sausalito Island across the bay. The island is a distinctly elite neighborhood with beautiful marinas and restaurants. The island was also home to the late actor and comedian Robin Williams.

SAN FRANCISCO'S RAINBOW-HUED SPLENDOR

Returning from Sausalito, you can see the Pacific Ocean on the right side of the bridge but at a fair distance. A visit to the West Coast can’t be complete without dipping your feet in the Pacific Ocean. Take a bus ride to the Ocean Beach and experience the waves of the biggest ocean on the planet. Witness massive container ships making their way towards the San Francisco harbor through the strait over which the Golden Gate Bridge is suspended.

While in San Francisco make use of public transportation. The best option would be to purchase a three-day pass, the Visitor Passport, and enjoy unlimited rides on mass transport vehicles: Muni, Muni Metro, historic streetcars, and cable cars. The city is not very large and can be easily covered entirely using public transport, which is cheap and not frightfully crowded. In most cases tourists choose the popular routes. A three-day pass will cost $36, a steal compared to the taxi fares. Do take in the charms of the street cars, which have been in service from the early 1900s.

The final box to be ticked is the iconic cable car system that form the integral part of the history of San Francisco. The wait in the line could be long and the ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to Union Square is an unsatisfactory 15 minutes. That may sound a bummer; but you just can’t leave San Francisco without taking it.

As early as the 1940s, San Francisco was reputed to be a city of tolerance and inclusiveness. This was possibly why many members of the LGTBQ+ community moved to the city – and specifically to The Castro. Also, the reason why Harvey Milk moved from New York City to the Golden City and called it home.