San Francisco is known as the destination for the American counterculture; it is one of the most radical and ethnically diverse cities in the United States. With the presence of Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the gay rights movement and home to many cultural districts, including Chinatown, Haight-Ashbury, The Castro District, Japantown (Nihonmach), Mission District, and many more, San Francisco encompasses a long-standing reputation of enriched diversity.
Ash Gujral, San Francisco native and founder of the Gujral Community Fund, shares some of the city’s cultural highlights and attractions.
Ash Gujral on the Early Years of San Francisco
The origin of San Francisco rests in 1769 as a part of Spain’s mission to convert the area’s Native American inhabitants to Catholicism and was briefly part of Mexico during the mid-19th century. The area was originally called “Yerba Buena” by Spanish-speaking explorers and was officially changed to San Francisco in 1847.
During the Gold Rush of 1849 and with the arrival of the railway system, San Francisco’s economy began to thrive. Since then, the city has been known worldwide as a center for counterculture.
Throughout San Francisco’s history, inhabitants like Ash Gujral have welcomed a vast range of enriched culture that has become the heart and soul of the city.
In the 1950s, San Francisco was the home of the Beat poets. In 1967 the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood became home to the lively, diverse crowd looking to soak up the historic hippie vibe. And the Castro neighborhood became known for one of America’s first identifiable LGBTQ communities. Chinatown dates back to the 19th century, while the Mission district has been a hub for Latino and Chicano arts and culture since the 1700s.
Ash Gujral on San Francisco Today
San Francisco remains as one of the largest number of culturally diverse experiences per capita in the United States. Today, the city celebrates an eclectic lineup of festivals and celebrations, some which date back more than 100 years. The city’s creative and cultural scene attracts tourists from all over the world, making San Francisco a world-renowned, must-have travel hotspot.
Ash Gujral highlights the biggest must-have attractions and festivals to experience in San Francisco for every season:
Chinese New Year (February) – This month-long festival, located in Chinatown, begins in early February and ends with the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade, complete with Chinese acrobats, lion dancers, stilt performers and a 268-foot Golden Dragon.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival (March) – The largest Irish event on the West Coast that celebrates Irish history and culture, attracting 100,000 partygoers every year.
Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival (April) – Held over two weekends in San Francisco’s Japantown, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival features a parade, traditional Japanese music, dance performances and more.
Carnaval (Feb – May) – More than a festival, Carnaval is a season that takes place over three months, concluding with a large parade on the last weekend in May. Carnaval is the largest annual multicultural event in California, drawing in crowds of more than 400,000 to celebrate San Francisco’s vibrant Latin-American and Caribbean communities.
SF Pride (June) – With a long-standing reputation as the LGBTQ capital of the world, it’s no surprise that San Francisco shines even brighter during SF Pride. For over 50 years, millions have gathered in Castro on the last weekend in June to join their voices in solidarity, giving the city even more vibrancy than it already has.
Fillmore Jazz Festival (July) – Every July, this annual celebration of Jazz history is hosted by the legends of the time.
Outside Lands (August) – This is one of the most diverse music festivals in the country. Hopping from stage to stage, concertgoers can experience a variety of live music in one, sonic landscape.
Illuminate SF Festival of Light (November–December) – An illuminating city-wide event that features nearly 40 installations in 17 neighborhoods, lighting up parks, bridges, and buildings.