This month, in an ongoing series called “The Destination,” we’ve been profiling cities with historic attractions that are appropriate for Memorial Day-themed getaways. Most of these feature articles have focused on East Coast or Southern cities, but the West Coast offers its own fair share of history—perhaps most notably in the City by the Bay, San Francisco.
Situated on one of the world’s best natural harbors, San Francisco transformed into a major city following the Gold Rush of 1848, and it became known as “Paris of the West.” It remains the cultural and commercial center of Northern California. There’s far too much to do and see in a long weekend, but here’s a summary of the city’s major attractions that might appeal to a first-time visitor, with an added emphasis on historical points of interest.
Golden Gate Park
One of San Francisco’s greatest treasures, the 1,017-acre Golden Gate Park draws 13 million visitors each year. Its gardens, playgrounds, lakes, walking trails, and museums place it among the world’s most impressive urban parks.
A traditional San Francisco bay cruise will take you sailing around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a great way to give your feet a break if you’ve been scaling the city’s hills all day, and it’ll offer you breathtaking views of the area. You can also take cruises to other locations, such as Angel Island or Sausalito. Some cruise lines offer included drinks, champagne brunch, or dinner.
Located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fort Point defended San Francisco from naval attacks from the Gold Rush through World War II. You can take a guided history tour of the fort to learn about its unique architecture and the lives of soldiers stationed there.
This former airfield is located at the northernmost tip of the city, and it’s one of the best spots to view the Golden Gate Bridge. Parking can sometimes be hard to find, but locals nevertheless consider this park a great place to walk, run, or cycle.
Carnaval San Francisco
If you manage to make it to the city for Memorial Day, be sure to catch the 38th annual Carnaval San Francisco, a beloved Memorial Day Weekend event that “cultivates and celebrates the vibrantly diverse Latin American and Caribbean roots of the Mission District and the greater San Francisco Bay Area.” The two-day family festival takes place on May 28th and 29th, and features a grand parade with more than 50 music and dance groups.