Your Destination Guide to San Francisco

Destination Guide San Francisco - Your Destination Guide to San Francisco, CA

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Union Square

Union Square
Union Square

© James Hannan

San Francisco's Union Square district has a distinct charm and appeal that radiates from the moment one reaches the intersection of O'Farrell and Powell streets. Union Square physically represents an actual squared public space--Geary, Powell, Stockton, and Post streets intersect to create "the square." San Francisco's first mayor, John White Geary, dubbed Union Square a public space in 1849. The space was later used as a meeting place for the Union Army rallies during the Civil War era. The Union Square of today includes the area immediately surrounding the original square, and is home to upscale shopping, luxury and boutique hotels, and the city's theater district.

Due to San Francisco's efficient public transportation system, lack of parking space, and inherently difficult to navigate one-way streets, traveling to and from Union Square is best by way of the city's Municipal Railway (Muni) or Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) systems. Adventure seekers can also make their way to Union Square on one of San Francisco's cable car lines. Most of the sites in Union Square are within walking distance, making car travel virtually unnecessary. Traveling by foot also aids in capturing the energy and true essence of life in Union Square. Streams of tourists and locals meander the streets during day and evening hours. For those who desire to drive in, however, a pricey parking garage is located below the square.

Visitors with a desire to shop will find Tiffany & Co. and Saks Fifth Avenue on Post St., Neiman Marcus on Geary and Stockton, and Macy's Union Square, the largest department store this side of New York, on Geary. Barney's, Prada, Gump's, Gucci, Chanel, and Juicy Couture are only a mere block or two away near Maiden Lane--an upscale shopping haven close to Union Square. Souvenir and gift shops and booths are strategically placed along Powell and Market streets--the main entry streets to the Union Square area.

Atop Macy's Union Square sits The Cheesecake Factory. Here, visitors encounter a bustling and mingling crowd, fantastic views of the square, and a nice and affordable meal. During Christmas season, the view will include the beautifully decorated Macy's Christmas tree--a famous San Francisco attraction that draws huge crowds for its annual tree lighting ceremony in late November.

Traveling West on Geary Street, visitors will find the Curran Theatre. The Curran functions and feels much like a Broadway theater, and has hosted A Chorus Line, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, and a variety of noteworthy productions. Next door to the Curran is the American Conservatory Theater (ACT). The ACT is a non-profit organization that hosts classical and contemporary theater productions, and also trains actors.

To round out one's visit to San Francisco's Union Square, a room with a view is available at the Westin St. Francis, Sir Francis Drake, Grand Hyatt, Renaissance Parc 55, and Marriot Union Square--all within walking distance of the square.

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