Varying in altitude from sea level to 938 feet, the city of approximately 882,000 residents rests on a series of hills at the end of a narrow peninsula bounded on one side by the Pacific Ocean and on the other by the San Francisco Bay, which is one of the largest land-locked harbors in the world. Connecting the bay with the ocean is the Golden Gate, traversed by the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco was an early center for fur trade, whaling, trapping and gold and silver mining. The Gold Rush of 1849 spurred quick growth that led to the founding of the city in 1850. Early San Francisco entrepreneurs such as Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker and Mark Hopkins financed the transcontinental railroad, which contributed to the city's prosperity. Since its early days, San Francisco has been an important trade and shipping center. World War II started a local boom in defense industries, resulting in a high-tech industry that continues to flourish. San Francisco became a magnet for America's counterculture.
Beat Generation writers fueled the San Francisco Renaissance and centered on the North Beach neighborhood in the 1950s. The term “hippie” was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, startup companies invigorated the economy. Large numbers of entrepreneurs and computer application developers moved into the city, followed by marketing and sales professionals. Many of these companies remain mainstays of the San Francisco economy today.
Its heterogeneous population, mild climate, fine restaurants, fashionable stores, sidewalk flower stands, and clanking cable cars make San Francisco unusually charming. San Francisco enjoys a temperate climate; temperatures range from 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. Peak tourist season is the fall as it is the warmest temperature wise and there are typically plenty of full sun days. Both a city and a county, San Francisco is the financial center of the Pacific Coast, an important corporate headquarters location, and an instrumental port. The wine country of Napa Valley is north of the city and Silicon Valley, a center of the electronics industry, is to the south. Along the coast runs scenic Highway 1, where high cliffs and beautiful beaches attract tourists and locals alike. San Francisco is governed by a mayor-council form of government. It is the only city in California that is also a county. The major educational institutions include University of San Francisco, Stanford University, San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. The city's attractions include the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, Embarcadero Center, Alcatraz Island, and Lombard Street.