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San Francisco Civic Center

San Francisco Sightseeing Attraction

San Francisco’s Civic Center is a bustling part of San Francisco’s downtown area. It is home to many of San Francisco’s civic government buildings, and a number of cultural institutions, like City Hall and the War Memorial Opera House.

Civic Center, though a beautiful section of the city distinguished by the Revival and Beaux Arts architecture and concentration of cultural institutions, has a reputation for its large number of homeless and drug-addicted denizens. Here is an example of San Francisco’s fascinating and unique dynamic: beauty, elegance and style are side-by-side with grime and poverty. This produces an interesting environment, epitomized in Civic Center. While walking from Davies Symphony Hall to the Asian Art Museum, a visitor to San Francisco’s Civic Center is likely to be petitioned for spare change, or watch someone set up their bed for the evening in a door way. It is hard to say why Civic Center is such a paradoxical part of the city. It’s proximity to the Tenderloin, one of San Francisco’s rougher neighborhoods, is only one of many possible factors. But visitors shouldn’t let themselves be put off by the concentration of homeless. That too is a part of San Francisco, and it doesn’t need to ruin anyone’s day.

Civic Center has two plazas, Civic Center Plaza and United Nations Plaza, which was built in 1975 at the same time as the BART subway station. These plazas provide a tree-lined contrast to their urban setting. A full list of Civic Center’s landmarks includes City Hall, The Supreme Court of California, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch, the War Memorial Opera House, Davies Symphony Hall, Herbst Theater, the Asian Art Museum, the California Automobile Association Building, Phillip Burton Federal Building and United States Courthouse for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, University of California Hastings College of the Law.

Civic Center is also extremely well-located in terms of transportation. The MUNI underground has a stop on Van Ness and Market, also the BART stop, and the F Market runs down Market Street to the Embarcadero. MUNI bus lines that run up Van Ness include the 1, the 47, and the 49. Most of these bus routes are handicap accessible and allow bike transportation.

Civic Center is just a short train ride from Powell Street, and just a bus ride away from Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. Civic Center in San Francisco is the site for the festival following the Gay Pride Parade. A number of stages for different types of music are set up, and a multitude of booths for food, community projects, and sex education line the streets. The main stage is at Civic Center Plaza, where famous artists and speakers perform. There is also a leather gallery for the curious and adventurous adult visitors. Civic Center hosts a number of demonstrations and events every year for any number of causes, including abortion rights, immigrants’ rights, and environmental awareness. Civic Center is in many ways an under-the-radar hub of San Francisco’s life and economy. The government institutions provide thousands of jobs, as do the cultural institutions. Events like the ballet, the symphony, and the opera provide San Francisco with a classy, elegant side that attracts thousands of visitors every year. A gateway to other vital parts of the city, like Powell St., Embarcadero, and Fisherman’s Wharf, Civic Center is often passed by one the bus or in the car and just not appreciated. A beautiful, honest part of the city that flaunts both San Francisco’s best and worst aspects side by side, Civic Center epitomizes and reflects San Francisco’s evolving culture. It is a place that isn’t easy to explain or summarize. But Civic Center is an easy place to spend a lot of time, probably because it is so complex and interesting. Museums, nearby restaurants, and political and cultural events make Civic Center a great place to spend an afternoon. Perhaps the best way to explain its multifaceted nature is to give an example: Civic Center was the location of both the signing of the United Nations Charter at Herbst Theater, and the granting of gay marriage licenses by Mayor Gavin Newsom. Civic Center is, simply put, beautifully unafraid.

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