Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

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Marina District

Marina District
Marina District

© Chris McEwen

Set in the shadows of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco's Marina District, colloquially referred to as "the Marina," is a thriving neighborhood imbued with a boundless energy that is best exemplified by its prolific restaurants and nightlife scenes. The neighborhood's rich history and bevy of activities make it an exciting destination for tourists and locals alike.

The Marina exudes a hearty and resilient character atypical of many places. The neighborhood was literally built atop the discarded remains of early twentieth century San Francisco, which had been utterly obliterated by the 1906 earthquake. The marshes and mud pits that surrounded the city's marina were filled in with rubble from the shaken region. In an effort to convey to the world not only the rebirth of the storied metropolis, but also to highlight the singular ingenuity and resolve of the city's people, San Francisco inveigled the Panama-Pacific International Exposition to be showcased on the land that would eventually become the Marina District.

Dozens of buildings were erected for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the most prominent of which was the Palace of Fine Arts, a beautiful classically-themed interpretation heavily influenced by the Greek and Roman temples of antiquity. The Palace of Fine Arts was the only structure to remain after the exposition's conclusion, and today is one of San Francisco's most beloved tourist attractions, drawing visitors from all over to relax on the shores of the palace's serene lagoon as stray wisps of fog aimlessly dance over the building's exalted dome.

In 1989 the Marina District was severely damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake, the most powerful seismic event to hit the Bay Area since the 1906 quake. Owing in part to the sandy soil and its proximity to the water, the Marina is prone to liquefaction during large earthquakes. As such, the Loma Prieta earthquake caused many homes and businesses in the area to literally amid the violent shaking. Undaunted, residents ultimately rebuilt; within a few years, the Marina was as good as new.

Today the Marina is a beacon for San Francisco's burgeoning yuppie contingent. Beginning in the mid-80s, and bolstered greatly by the widespread decreases in rent in the wake of the Loma Prieta quake, the influx of young urban professionals has profoundly changed the culture of the neighborhood. Some of the finest shopping and dining options in San Francisco are located on or near the Marina's main thoroughfares, Chestnut, Lombard, and Fillmore Streets. The area's wealthy residents command particular attention from certain segments of the service industry, namely high-end and boutique shopping and dining options. As such, the Marina District is teeming with luxury spas and gourmet restaurants, making it the ideal place to spend a relaxing afternoon or a romantic evening.

The Marina's sky-high property values, ritzy restaurants and shops, and young affluent residents have earned the neighborhood an air of snobbery, vis-à-vis the rest of San Francisco's decidedly more diverse (both culturally and economically) populace. It isn't for everyone, but the region is not without its significant charms. Its rich, if relatively short, history coupled with the abounding dining and shopping choices makes the Marina District one of San Francisco's most compelling neighborhoods, one certainly worth visiting.

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