Staycations: Destination San Francisco


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A wonderful view of San Francisco Bay and Alcatraz Island, a peek at the national treasure that is the Golden Gate Bridge, the tranquility of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area -- this can all be outside your doorstep for as little as $28 a night per bed.

Hostel International Fisherman's Wharf at Fort Mason is one of three hostels in San Francisco you can reserve at an affordable price.

"You're definitely going to want to stretch your travel budget, so the longer you can travel, obviously the better," says Nannette Mickle of Fisherman's Wharf Hostel. "So if that means having a little bit of a lower cost stay, I'd definitely suggest that."

The hostel comes with its own kitchen, common areas such as a family room, a recreational area and Internet access. You can reserve a private room or sleep in a dormitory setting.

Once there, you can explore the traditional, including our many restaurants. The city boasts more restaurants than any other urban area in North America; one for every 28 people in San Francisco.

Or you can explore the offbeat.

"Even if you live here, you'll be surprised what you can find," says travel writer Alison Bing of Lonely Planet.

Most people think the free speech movement began in Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley in the sixties. But Bing makes a pretty good argument -- it actually happened a decade earlier at City Lights book store in San Francisco.

"It's really a free speech landmark. City Lights had the nerve to publish at the height of the red scare era a book of poems by Alan Ginsberg," say Bing.

City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti and book buyer Shig Maurao were both arrested in 1956. After an 18-month trial, the court ruled anything that had redeeming social significance could not be banned.

Bing says City Lights is also where for decades the dragon was stored for the Lunar New Year Parade. It was also home to a religious cult in the 1920s.

Strange signs such as "I am the door" and "Land of my father are one" are all that is left of the cult today.

Not far from City Lights is Washington Square Park where there are always people doing Tai Chi, and where St. Peter and Paul Church rings its bell.

If you prefer quiet, check out Bob Kaufman Alley, named for the prominent beatnik.

"When JFK was killed, he was really struck by it, really impacted, and he took a vow of silence and did not speak for 12 years," says Bing. "And the day that he broke his silence was the day the Vietnam War ended."

For a limited time, you can download Lonely Planet's San Francisco Guidebook on iTunes for free. Visit www.lonelyplanet.comfor more information.

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