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San Francisco occupies just 48 hilly square miles at the tip of a slender peninsula, almost perfectly centered along the California coast. The Napa Valley runs through more than 30 miles of agricultural land speckled with hundreds of wineries.
San Francisco Vacations
Experience San Francisco and vacation in the "City by the Bay." Learn more about this unique area below.
The original inhabitants of this area, the Ohlone Indians, were all but wiped out in 1776, just a few years after of the establishment of the Mission Dolores. This was the sixth mission in the chain of Spanish Catholic missions that ran the length of California. Two years after the Americans replaced the Mexicans in 1846, the discovery of gold in the Sierra foothills precipitated the rip-roaring Gold Rush. Within a year fifty thousand pioneers had traveled west and east from China, turning San Francisco from a muddy village and wasteland of sand dunes into a thriving supply center and transit town. By the time the transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, San Francisco was a lawless, rowdy boomtown of bordellos and drinking dens. The moneyed elite - who hit it big on the much more dependable silver Comstock Load - worked hard to civilize the city, constructing wide boulevards, parks, a cable car system and elaborate Victorian redwood mansions.
In 1906 during the height of the city's golden age most of the town was wiped out by a massive earthquake, followed by three days of fire. Rebuilding began immediately, resulting in a city more magnificent than before; in the decades that followed, writers like Dashiell Hammett and Jack London lived and worked here. Many of the city's landmarks, including Coit Tower and both the Golden Gate and Bay bridges, were built in the 1920s and 1930s. By World War II San Francisco had been eclipsed by Los Angeles as the main west coast city. It achieved a new cultural eminence with the emergence of the beats in the Fifties and the hippies in the Sixties, when the fusion of music, protest, rebellion and, of course, drugs that characterized 1967's "Summer of Love" took over the Haight-Ashbury district.