If you’ve ever had a kid rattle off a million facts about seagulls, you know they are total sponges for any sort of trivia. These fun and weird facts about San Francisco will give the kids a little knowledge about the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco’s most famous ice cream sandwich, the iconic PIER 39 sea lions and more. Share these over your next family dinner!
1. The average speed of a cable car is 9.5 mph. Better hold on tight!
2. Popular in Chinese cuisine, the fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco by the Japanese Hagiwara family at Golden Gate Park's Tea Garden. It's free to visit the Golden Gate Cookie Factory in SF but it will cost you 50 cents to take pictures!
3. The famous 1906 earthquake and the fire that followed destroyed much of San Francisco but Redwood trees helped salvage the city. Redwood trees take in a lot of water and have a low resin content. When fire reached a building made of Redwood, it didn't burn as quickly because resin is what makes wood flammable.
4. The sea lions moved into their home at PIER 39 after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. You can check them out via their webcam. How can you tell the difference between sea lions and seals? Sea lions have flaps for outer ears (while seals have none) and sea lions are farm more vocal than their seal cousins.
5. The Golden Gate Bridge isn't really red (or golden for that matter). The official color is International Orange and it was not supposed to be the permanent color of the bridge. Suggestions of black and yellow stripes as well as candy cane red and white stripes were made by the U.S. military. But the architect Irving Morrow chose International Orange as it was able to be seen in the fog and contrasted nicely to the surrounding landscape.
6. Ghirardelli Chocolate was started by Domenico Ghirardelli in 1849 when he was selling chocolate and other goods to gold rush miners. He moved to San Francisco in 1852 to open his chocolate factory. Ghirardelli is the largest, continuously-operated chocolate producer in the U.S. There are three chocolate shops in Ghirardelli Square and you are always welcomed with a free piece of chocolate when you visit.
7. The San Francisco Municipal Railway has quite the collection of streetcars that run along Market Street. You can ride vintage streetcars from Portugal, England, Japan, Australia, Italy and more!
8. Lombard Street is known as the crookedest street in San Francisco. It was designed in 1922 when it was determined that the street's 27% grade was too steep for cars and pedestrians. But did you know that there's another street in SF that should probably take the title for crookedest street? Potrero Hill's Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd has even tighter curves than Lombard.
9. For an epic view of San Francisco and beyond, visitors often head to Twin Peaks. You can walk up the wooden stairs to the top of both peaks and see all the way to Marin. Did you know that the peaks have names? The north peak is "Eureka" and the south is "Noe."
10. Golden Gate Park is celebrating its 150th year in 2020 and this park stretches over 1,000 acres. It was designed by a 25-year-old civil engineer and the park's tallest monument is a 64-foot cross hidden somewhere behind Rainbow Falls, one of the parks two waterfalls.
11. While you are aware that Alcatraz holds a spot in history as the island prison to house Al Capone, do you know how Alcatraz got its name? The island of Alcatraz was first discovered in 1775 by Spanish explorer Juan Manuel de Ayala, who named it "La Isla de los Alcatraces," or the "Island of the Pelicans." It was later anglicized to "Alcatraz." It's actually believed that this name was meant for nearby Yerba Buena Island but maps of the day were less than accurate.
12. There used to be an aerial tram called the "Sky Tram" that passed over the Sutro Baths between the Cliff House and Point Lobos. It closed in 1965.
13. The iconic ice cream treat Its-Its were created in San Francisco. A scoop of ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies and dipped in chocolate, Its-Its come in many flavors and you can purchase them all at the Burlingame factory store.
14. Have you noticed that many San Francisco street names are stamped into the concrete (often with misspellings)? While it is largely believed that these came about after the 1906 earthquake to provide orientation when street signs were destroyed, the practice actually started in 1905 and street signs weren't common until the 1920s.
15. When the Bay Bridge opened in 1936, the toll was 65 cents.
16. Made popular by the opening credits of Full House, Alamo Square's Painted Ladies are Queen Anne Victorians designed to show off the wealth of the gold rush period with turrets, excessive windows and decorated roof lines.
17. The most popular resident of the California Academy of Sciences is Claude, the albino alligator.