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Magazine by Elizabeth Blair
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USATourist News Magazine

October 2010 - San Francisco

In this issue:

Welcome to the October issue of the News Magazine. This month fall is in full-swing throughout most of the United States which means the leaves are starting to turn and it's a great month for festivals and picking pumpkins. This issue we're heading west to California.

I'm sure I've said this before, but I will say it again. San Francisco is one of my favorite cities in the United States. There is so much to do, the Bay Area is extremely scenic and the food is out of this world. Let's begin.

Getting there

The numerous airports in the area make this an easy city to visit. San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose International Airports all serve the San Francisco Bay area. If you're driving from Southern California consider taking Pacific Coast Highway, aka Highway 1. The road can be busy, but the scenery is spectacular. Once you arrive there are plenty of ways to get around without having to rent a car. Trolleys, buses, ferries and rail are terrific options. You may learn more on our San Francisco transportation page.

Alcatraz Island

You can view Alcatraz Island from one of the many water tours offered in San Francisco.
© Beth Blair

The Rock

Alcatraz Island is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) in the San Francisco Bay and is a hot tourist attraction. Often called the "The Rock," Alcatraz has a long history with many purposes from light house to military prison to the most famous of all, being used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons which lasted until 1963. Some of the most notorious criminals graced the prison with their presence, which make great fodder for tour guides. Today the National Park Service controls this historic landmark as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. A trip to San Francisco isn't complete without a boat ride to the island for a tour. Another option, offered by many of the boat and ferry companies, is a ride around the island which usually includes sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge. http://www.nps.gov/alcatraz

Alcatraz Island is an inescapable experience, and the only way to visit and experience the beauty, history and infamy of the former federal penitentiary on San Francisco Bay is with Alcatraz Cruises. You can explore the grounds and take the Cellhouse Audio Tour to discover the island?s diverse history. Alcatraz Cruises offers frequent tours daily, and advance reservations are recommended. Purchase tickets online or call 415- 981-ROCK (7625).

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf is another top San Francisco destination. Here you will find many restaurants, shops and street vendors. It's no secret this a very busy tourist attraction but it's also terrific place to pick up souvenirs and enjoy a seafood meal. Most ferry rides depart from this area.

Fisherman's Wharf is also home to the well-known Pier 39 which is a destination in itself. Some of the best known attractions are located on this pier, but one of the highlights is the infamous clan of barking sea lions who call this home. They arrived in January 1990 shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and would originally migrate during the summer months to the Channel Islands for breeding season. But recently a small group has been staying behind at Pier 39's K-Dock. If you're interested in learning more stop by the nearby Marine Mammal Center's Kiosk.

Can't get enough of the wildlife? Aquarium of the Bay gives visitors an up close peek at sharks, rays, jellyfish and octopuses. In total there area 20,000 aquatic animals and some land friends.

If you're one for a cheap thrill, keep an eye out for Frequent Flyers (Building Q, level 1) a bungee trampoline made for all age (30-230 pounds). Participants jump up to 20 ft. in the air and try aerial acrobatics. If you prefer a mellower ride, look for the handcrafted San Francisco Carousel which is hand-painted with local icons such as Golden Gate Bride and Lombard Street, the twisty one-block street filled with hairpin turns.

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is possibly San Francisco's most famous landmark.
© Beth Blair

One of my favorite ways to figure out a city is taking a sightseeing tour shortly after arriving. Then I can get the scoop on the area, see what areas I'd like to explore more and hear the history. Gray Line San Francisco Sightseeing Tours is one of the many companies offering a glimpse of San Francisco. These guided trolley tours can also take you to Muir Woods/Sausalito, Monterey/Carmel, California Wine Country and Yosemite National Park and selected tours are available in French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.

Site of the 1915 World's Fair

Because San Francisco is such a pretty area, don't miss spending time in nature. One place to do this is Presidio of San Fran, a former army post for three nations and host to the 1915 World Fair. Start at the National Park Service Presidio Visitor Center for information on the park's history, points of interest and maps. Some things to see are Fort Point, the only Civil War-era brick and mortar fort on the West Coast, and Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.


San Francisco's Chinatown is the largest Chinatown outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. San Francisco's Chinese history dates back to 1848, when the first immigrants arrived. Over the decades the Chinese population grew as did the neighborhood. Today, this "city-within-a city" offers authentic Chinese restaurants, herb shops, temples, churches and merchants. Grant Street attracts the most tourists. It's easy to become immersed in the culture, as this one nothing like the Chinatown in New York.


The neighborhood that is now Japantown (Nihonmachi) is about one mile west of Union Square and, like Chinatown, has a strong cultural influence with immigration starting in the 1860's. Today, Japan Center and the adjacent blocks of Japantown are lined with shops, restaurants and two hotels. You will find some of the freshest sushi restaurants here and hibachi steakhouses.

Thank you for reading this month's USA Tourist News Magazine. USATourist.com has plenty of other information on San Francisco, so be sure to visit the site to learn more about the city, hotels and attractions.

See you next month!

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My Favorite Place

Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania

By Cathy Maxwell, Director of Marketing

Jones Mill Run Dam

The Jones Mill Run Dam in Laurel Hill State Park creates a unique man-made waterfall.
© Cathy Maxwell

When anyone asks me where's my favorite place to travel, I usually say it's the last place I visited!

This summer, I spent some time in the Laurel Highlands located in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Laurel Highlands are about 1 ½ hours from Pittsburgh with great hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, historical attractions, an amusement park, and my favorite, Fallingwater.

There are a number of state parks in the Laurel Highlands with lakes for swimming, boating, and fishing plus hundreds of miles of hiking trails. The 70-mile Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is located in Kooser State Park and many people backpack for days in the park. At night you can set up a tent and camp along a trout stream that runs through the park. Nearly every state park has campgrounds and many have modern or rustic cabins for rent. Some of the more rustic cabins were built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. You can also rent a Yurt Tent or rent a Walled Tent for camping. There is so much to do in these state parks: biking, fishing, camping, swimming, boating, hunting, and cross-country skiing in the winter, or just relaxing. http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/

Ohiopyle is famous for its thrilling whitewater rafting on almost 14 miles of the Youghiogheny River. It's beautiful anytime of the year, but spring and summer are especially pretty with wildflowers near the 30-foot bridal veil Cucumber Falls and Cucumber Run Ravine. Another popular activity at Ohiopyle is biking on the 27-mile Youghiogheny River Trail, which is part of the Great Allegheny Passage. http://www.atatrail.org/

My absolute favorite place in the Laurel Mountains is Fallingwater located within the Bear Run Nature Preserve. I never get tired of visiting this iconic, wondrous home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Created to be one with nature, Fallingwater is situated atop a waterfall, and you can hear the sound from most every room in the house. It is beautiful any time of the year, but especially stunning in the fall. Tours are available year round and you can buy tickets online. http://www.fallingwater.org/

You'll find numerous accommodation options including mountain vacation home rentals, retreat centers, four-season resorts, hotels, motels, campgrounds, Bed and Breakfast homes, and pet-friendly accommodations. A good place to start is http://laurelhighlands.org

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Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair

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