38 Fun Facts and Things You Didn’t Know About San Francisco
San Francisco, the vibrant and iconic city by the bay, is full of surprises and fascinating history. From its famous landmarks to its unique culture, there’s always something new to discover in the city by the bay. To pique your curiosity and entertain you, here are 38 fun facts and things you probably didn’t know about San Francisco.
Get ready to be amazed!
1. San Francisco Zoo’s Furry Hero:
Did you know that the grizzly bear on the California state flag owes its fame to a bear named Monarch? Monarch, a beloved resident of the San Francisco Zoo, survived the 1906 earthquake and became a symbol of resilience for San Franciscans.
2. Golden Gate Bridge’s almost had black and yellow stripes:
The Golden Gate Bridge, an engineering marvel, was originally planned to be painted black with yellow stripes by the U.S. Navy. However, the striking “International Orange” color we see today was chosen by the architect, and it has become an iconic symbol of the city.
3. Alcatraz’s Hot-Water Showers:
Alcatraz, the notorious federal penitentiary, offered hot-water showers to prevent prisoners from getting used to the colder climate and attempting escape. Despite this, no prisoners successfully escaped from the supposedly “escape-proof” prison.
4. Al Capone, the Dancing Gangster:
One of Alcatraz’s most famous inmates, Al Capone, started a band called “Rock Island” and played the banjo while imprisoned. Who knew the infamous gangster had a musical side?
5. Beat Poets and more poets:
San Francisco has a rich literary history. Famous Beat poets, including Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, found inspiration in the city. Even Robert Frost, one of America’s greatest poets, was born in San Francisco before moving to Massachusetts.
6. We may be overcaffeinated in this Coffee Mecca:
With over 300+ coffeehouses within its city boundaries, San Francisco is truly a coffee lover’s paradise. At one point one shop for every 2297 people (according to Matador Network). With a limit on big chain operators in most neighborhoods the local Coffee shops are numerous and amazing. You’ll never run out of options to get your caffeine fix!
7. Dogs vs. Children:
San Francisco might have more furry friends than human children. This may be an urban legend! The city boasts approximately 10,000 more dogs than kids, showing just how much locals adore their four-legged companions.
8. Every town needs an Emperor – We have Emperor Norton:
In 1859, Joshua Abraham Norton declared himself the Emperor of the U.S., despite having no formal political power. San Franciscans embraced his imperial presence, and when he passed away, thousands lined the streets to honor his life.
9. One of 3 Japantowns in the U.S.
San Francisco is home to the largest and oldest Japantown in the United States. It’s a vibrant community with a rich cultural heritage.
10. What do you call this place? Yerba Buena:
Before San Francisco, the city was known as Yerba Buena, which means “good herb” in Spanish. It was later renamed in 1847.
11. SF has great Jeans! Levi’s Jeans:
The iconic Levi’s jeans, a staple in many wardrobes worldwide, were invented in San Francisco by Levi Strauss. Originally designed for Gold Rush miners, they quickly became a fashion sensation.
12. Fog with a Name:
San Francisco’s fog, a frequent visitor to the city, is affectionately called “Karl” #karlthefog by the locals. There’s even an Instagram account dedicated to this famous resident, with over 250K followers.
13. Hills? What Hills? We have Cable Cars:
San Francisco’s cable cars are the only mobile National Historical Monument. They operate at a constant speed of 9.5 miles per hour, taking you on a nostalgic ride through the city’s hilly streets. Learn more: How to Ride a Cable Car Like a Pro and 15 Fun Facts About Cable Cars
14. Tasty treats and a few culinary innovations:
San Francisco is a culinary hub that has given birth to many iconic dishes. From the Cobb salad to sourdough bread and Mission burritos, the city’s food scene is both diverse and delicious.
15. Legendary Final Beatles Show:
The Beatles’ last-ever concert took place at Candlestick Park (now Oracle Park) in San Francisco. Only 25,000 tickets were sold for the performance, which marked the end of an era for the Fab Four.
16. How many hills? San Francisco’s Hilltops:
Contrary to popular belief, San Francisco is not just defined by seven or nine hills. The city is actually built on over 50 named hills, including Russian Hill and Nob Hill, offering breathtaking views of the cityscape.
17. San Francisco’s not easily depressed:
While the Great Depression had a severe impact worldwide, San Francisco managed to prosper during those challenging times. Not a single bank in the city failed, and construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and Bay Bridge continued, showcasing the city’s resilience.
18. Chinatown Extravaganza:
San Francisco’s Chinatown is the second-largest outside of Asia and the oldest in North America. With its vibrant culture and unique architecture, it’s a must-visit destination. Learn More: Top 11 Things to do and See in Chinatown
19. Philo Farnsworth’s TV Invention:
San Francisco is the birthplace of the first electric TV, invented by Philo Farnsworth in 1927. It paved the way for the television revolution that followed.
20. Irish Coffee Origins:
The famous Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco was the first place to serve Irish coffee in the United States back in 1952. Cheers to that!
21. Strange Laws in SF:
San Francisco has had its share of peculiar laws throughout history. In 1867, the city implemented America’s first “ugly law,” which prohibited unsightly people from appearing in public. Not sure who was the judge on this beauty standard. This law has since been repealed. Also, to curb dog walker records it is illegal to walk nine or more dogs at once, also weirdly it is illegal to display dead bodies for commercial purposes without the written consent of the deceased. Next up pet birds, gold or other fish, or your favorite reptiles are not allowed in parks, hitching or tying animals to lampposts, fire hydrants, and growing trees is prohibited (not sure about dead trees), and of course, it is illegal to carry bread, cakes, or pastries intended for human consumption in an open basket when walking through the San Francisco streets.
22. Sea Lions of Pier 39:
The adorable sea lions that bask in the sun at Pier 39 in Fisherman’s Wharf arrived after the 1989 earthquake. Initially seen as a disturbance by business owners, they have now become a beloved tourist attraction.
23. San Francisco’s Massive Dining Scene:
With over 3,400 dining restaurants, San Francisco offers an unparalleled culinary experience. You could eat at a different restaurant every day and still have more to explore!
24. Presidio and Mission San Francisco de Asís:
The Presidio of San Francisco and Mission San Francisco de Asís were established by Spanish colonists in 1776. They were the northernmost missions founded by the Spanish in California.
25. Golden Gate Park vs. Central Park:
Here’s a surprising fact—San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is actually bigger than New York City’s Central Park by 20%! It covers a whopping 1,017 acres of greenery.
26. San Francisco has many movie Connections:
San Francisco has been a popular filming location for many movies. The city’s scenic beauty has been featured in numerous films, adding to its cinematic charm. Here are 25 movies to start:
- Vertigo (1958)
- Bullitt (1968)
- Dirty Harry (1971)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
- Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
- The Rock (1996)
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
- Zodiac (2007)
- Milk (2008)
- The Social Network (2010)
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
- Blue Jasmine (2013)
- Ant-Man (2015)
- Steve Jobs (2015)
- San Andreas (2015)
- The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019)
- Big Little Lies (2017-2019) – TV series, but filmed in San Francisco
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
- Always Be My Maybe (2019)
- Birds of Prey (2020)
- The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)
- Lovecraft Country (2020) – TV series, but filmed in San Francisco
- Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021)
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)
- Matrix 4 (2022)
27. San Francisco’s Musical Legacy:
San Francisco has given birth to legendary bands like The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, and Metallica, among others. The city’s music scene has left an indelible mark on the world.
28. Chinese Fortune Cookies:
Believe it or not, Chinese fortune cookies were actually invented in San Francisco by a Japanese resident named Makoto Hagiwara. They became popularized at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park in 1909.
29. Birthplace of Famous Actors:
San Francisco has been the birthplace of many famous actors, including Robin Williams, Clint Eastwood, and Danny Glover. It’s also the hometown of Rob Schneider, Liev Schreiber, Alicia Silverstone, Margaret Cho, Leslie Mann, Dianna Agron, and Cheryl Burke. Talk about a star-studded city!
30. San Francisco’s Innovative Inventions:
San Francisco has been a hotbed of inventions throughout history. Not only were blue jeans and the jukebox invented here, but also slot machines, cioppino (a delicious fish stew), and even bendy straws. Innovation knows no bounds in this city.
31. San Francisco’s Resilience During Natural Disasters:
San Francisco has faced its fair share of challenges, including earthquakes. However, the city has always shown remarkable resilience. Even the devastating 1906 earthquake didn’t deter San Franciscans from rebuilding and thriving. We threw a party AKA Worlds Fair and invited the world a few years later.
32. San Francisco’s Vibrant LGBT Community:
San Francisco has a long history of being a hub for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s been a place of acceptance, activism, and celebration, making it one of the most inclusive cities in the world.
33. We like books – San Francisco’s Literary Heritage:
From Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” to Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City,” San Francisco has been a muse for many renowned authors. The city’s unique charm and vibrant atmosphere continue to inspire writers to this day.
34. It’s a bit crowded:
San Francisco is one of the most densely populated major U.S. cities San Francisco is only 47 square miles yet home to over 800,000 residents. As of 2022, it’s the second most densely populated city in the United States, right behind New York City.
35. Not a cheap place to hang out. Great city to be wealthy.
San Francisco has 44 billionaires (maybe more now), who have a combined net worth of over 160 billion USD (definitely more now). SF has more billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world. (changes weekly!) The San Francisco Bay Area has 4 of the 10 most expensive counties in the United States. The city also has a higher % of homes costing above $1 million than anywhere in the U.S.
36. San Francisco’s Sports Legacy:
The city boasts a rich sports history, with successful teams like the San Francisco Giants (baseball), the Golden State Warriors (basketball), and the San Francisco 49ers (football). The local sports culture runs deep, and fans are passionate about their teams.
37. San Francisco’s Love for Nature:
Despite being a bustling metropolis, San Francisco is surrounded by natural beauty. From the majestic redwoods of Muir Woods to the stunning coastal views of Point Reyes, nature is always within reach for San Franciscans looking to escape the urban jungle.
38. Bell Wringing:
The Liberty Bell, a famous symbol of American independence, made an appearance in San Francisco. During the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the bell took a train tour of the city; once the exposition ended, it returned to Philadelphia.
So, there you have it—38 fun facts and things you probably didn’t know about San Francisco. From its fascinating history to its vibrant culture, the City by the Bay never ceases to amaze.
Next time you visit, take a moment to appreciate the rich tapestry of this incredible city and all its hidden gems.
Want to explore the City of San Francisco?
One of the best ways to see many areas where the big tour buses cannot go is with San Francisco Jeep Tours. Our 2 or 3-hour San Francisco Private Group City tours can be customized to see the sites on your bucket list.