Known for being “Everybody’s Favorite City,” San Francisco earns the title with its diverse communities, cultural attractions, scenic beauty, and world-class cuisine. This city has quite a vibrant past as nearly overnight it grew from a small village to a major city.

Facts about San Francisco

Facts about San Francisco
Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

All thanks to the 1849 Gold Rush. San Franciso is this enchanting place at present as since early days it carried a large gay/lesbian population, there were writers from the “beat” generation, and in the late 1960s, the hippies of the Summer of Love. There’s much more to know about this fun city and if you’re intrigued, stick with us to find out further.

1. It was initially named Yerba Buena

This tiny city by the bay was previously known as Yerba Buena before it got renamed as San Francisco. Yerba Buena is a Spanish name meaning, “good herb”. The name was given in 1776, and in 1846, it was replaced. The public square in Yerba Buena was situated in Portsmouth Square in Chinatown.

2. Biggest Chinatown Outside of Asia

The biggest Chinatown outside of Asia is located in San Francisco. About a mile long by one and a half miles broad, it is also the oldest in North America. This Chinatown is home to more than 100,000 people, making this neighborhood the most densely populated one in the city.

3. Largest Competition of American Wines in the world

The largest competition of American wines in the world is also hosted by San Francisco. Every February, the yearly Chronicle Wine Competition is held here. A public tasting is held after a few weeks of announcing the winners and there you get to sample the winners and other entrants.

4. Lots of Film Festivals

The locals of San Francisco also love independent films as much as they love wine. Each year, this city hosts over fifty film festivals. Some of the festivals are quite grand and international. The others can be smaller, having quite focused film offerings like the Jewish Film Festival, the Greek Film Festival, and the American Indian Film Festival.

5. Rules to Bury the Dead

Burying your dead within the city limits is not allowed. Only two cemeteries are remaining due to this restriction. One is the National Cemetery located in the Presidio while the other is behind the Mission San Francisco de Asis. Due to space issues, the board of supervisors agreed on stopping all burials inside the city limits in 1902. They then planned on moving the current graves down to Colma to make more room. This move happened sometime between the 1920s and the 1940s.

6. Fake bells at the Ferry Building

It might come as a surprise to you that the bell toll that’s seen chiming each full and half hour is fake. San Francisco Ferry Building has no real bells, instead, there is only a giant clock face including a recorded Westminster Quarters. You might say at the Embarcadero, throughout the day, they just play a recording of London’s Big Ben.

7. Many people get to work by water in Sausalito

A tiny city right across the Golden Gate Bridge, Sausalito has been named the French Riviera of San Francisco. The name only makes sense as you can see stunning blue waters with countless rows of boats.

You might be surprised to hear that ten percent of people traveling from Sausalito opt to get to work by ferry. That’s quite an appealing lifestyle and it only adds to the perks as you get to avoid the traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy delightful views on your way to work. Especially when the bay isn’t enveloped with fog.

8. Fortune cookies came from San Francisco

Another surprising fact for those you didn’t know, San Francisco is where fortune cookies were invented. Unlike most beliefs, they did not come from China. Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory makes these special biscuits just as they’ve been doing since 1962.

All done by hand, the workers make an astonishing number of 10,000 fortune cookies every day and sometimes even more. You might not want to miss visiting the factory when you’re in San Francisco as it’s quite mesmerizing to see the workers quickly transforming a perfectly flat, circular biscuit into the curved fortune cookies.

9. The infamous Alcatraz where Al Capone played the banjo

Alcatraz is a well-known island prison in San Francisco, located right off the shores of the city. This prison once housed a few of the most dangerous criminals in the U.S.A and the gangster Al Capone was the most famous inmate.

The inmates at Alcatraz somehow managed to find ways in keeping themselves entertained as there can only be a few things worse than being imprisoned on an island. There was a band called ‘The Rock Islanders’, Al Capone was a member of it and he skillfully played the banjo there, making him seem unlike the typical monster people expected him to be.

There was also a library in the prison with more than 15,000 books in it. You might say it’d be quite a luxury in today’s prisons. It is also said that prisoners from other facilities would actually ask for a transfer to Alcatraz just so they could bask in some of the perks.

10. Where the term “Sugar Daddy” came from

The expression sugar daddy is used to refer to an older man who provides a younger woman with lavish gifts and money. But the funny thing is, it is said that the title actually came from something that has to do with sugar.

As said, this expression goes back to the early 1900s in San Francisco when there was a businessman named Adolph Spreckels, he is said to have owned Spreckels Sugar Company. Adolph married a woman called Alma de Bretteville, who was 24 years his junior. Alma used to frequently refer to him as her ‘sugar daddy’ because of the trade he was operating in.

Hence, this expression came into existence! The origin story is plenty more wholesome than you would’ve imagined. Spreckels is also the person who, in 1924, donated the Palace of the Legion of Honor to San Francisco.