Enjoy San Francisco's international flair at AUA 2010

May 1, 2010

San Francisco's diverse and unique offerings-neighborhoods, attractions, arts, culture, and nightlife-are unparalleled in the United States.

San Francisco's diverse and unique offerings-neighborhoods, attractions, arts, culture, and nightlife-are unparalleled in the United States.

The city's international flavor-39% of San Francisco residents were born overseas-continues to intrigue. The Chinese, in particular, have made an imprint on the city since the 1970s, most notably in Chinatown, where the annual Chinese New Year Parade is recognized as the largest event of its type outside China.

Chinatown is just one of at least a dozen unique and simply San Francisco neighborhoods that you'll want to check out while you're in town for the AUA annual meeting. Here is a sampling of the sites, attractions, and cultural instutions that may peak your interest.

Golden Gate Bridge. This suspension bridge stretches across the Golden Gate, which marks the entrance of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. The bridge is part of U.S. Route 101 and State Route 1. When the bridge was constructed in 1937, the internationally recognized symbol of San Francisco originally contained the longest suspension bridge span. Now, it is ninth in span worldwide and second to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York.

Fisherman's Wharf. Expect to find countless fishing boats, seafood stalls, steaming crab cauldrons, and seafood restaurants, as well as sourdough French bread bakeries-not to mention numerous souvenir shops-in the world-famous Fisherman's Wharf. Cable car lines populate the area, which also is dotted with sight-seeing boats and boat charters transporting visitors to Alcatraz and Angel Island and other nearby destinations around the Bay.

At Pier 39 on Fisherman's Wharf, check out a festival marketplace with more than 110 stores, 14 bayview restaurants, and attractions for all ages, including the famous sea lions, street performers, and live daily entertainment.

Alcatraz Island. In the middle of San Francisco Bay, this small island originally was used as a lighthouse, later a military fort, and then a military prison, succeeded by a federal prison until 1963. Alcatraz now serves as a national recreation area. It is a historic site run by the National Park Service, belonging to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Take a ferry to get to the island from Pier 33 close to Fisherman's Wharf.

Cable cars. The world's only remaining permanently operational manually operated cable car system is right here in San Francisco. The San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI) runs the transportation network. Two routes downtown near Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf are operational, as well as another route on California Street. The cable cars are recognized as one of two moving National Historic landmarks.

Coit Tower. The art deco architecture calls attention to Coit Tower, a 210-foot structure of unpainted reinforced concrete. Designed by architects Arthur Brown Jr. and Henry Howard, the tower was built on Telegraph Hill in 1933 through the inheritance gift of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to enhance the city's appearance.

Performing arts

If you're looking for some long-lasting performing arts companies, venture no further than San Francisco's War Memorial and Performing Arts Center (http://sfwmpac.org/). The War Memorial Opera House is home to the San Francisco Ballet, as well as San Francisco Opera, which is reportedly the second-largest opera company in North America. Or grab tickets to hear the San Francisco Symphony perform in Davies Symphony Hall.

Perhaps one of the more famous venues, The Fillmore, earned its fame in the 1960s serving as the stage for such musical legends as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Janis Joplin. Visit http://www.livenation.com/venue/the-fillmore-tickets.

If you'd like to see a West Coast Broadway number, stop by a slew of vintage 1920s-era venues in the city's theater district, such as the Orpheum or Golden Gate Theaters ( http://www.shnsf.com/).