A cultural melting pot in northern California that welcomes freaks and geeks alike.
A city tuning into its own (bongo) drum beat, the city by the bay is easily the country's most beautiful. Its personable neighborhoods are packed into its fist-shaped peninsula surrounded on three sides by seal-filled waters, with the (surprisingly red) Golden Gate Bridge to the north, beaches (both nude and normal) to the west, and views over the bay to the hills to the east. Everyone talks about the touristy cable cars, but best are the restored historic street cars, rescued from garbage heaps, that commuters take along Market Street to downtown. Just north, past cute Chinatown, is North Beach’s beat (when not Italian) cafes and pasta shops, and famously crooked Lombard Street. To the west is Haight-Ashbury, a '60s leftover with tattoo parlors and record stores. Down the hill to the south, rainbow flags fly over the Castro, one of the nation’s most famous gay neighborhoods, home to the lush Castro Theatre, where an organ player introduces double features from yesteryear. The food is great everywhere, but don’t leave without getting a "mission burrito" in their place of origin, the Latin American/hipster Mission, where family run taquerías churn out the best $4 meal this country has to offer. Get views of the city from (touristy) Twin Peaks or (local favorite) Bernal Heights, where it’s tempting to linger and plot ways to move here.