View of Ayala Cove at Angel Island (credit: Randy Yagi)
People visiting the San Francisco Bay Area for the first time typically have a list of places they want to see. For some, there are the iconic must-see attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island. For others, the list might include a visit to the California Wine Country or to some of the world’s most famous tech companies in Silicon Valley, such as Facebook, Google, and Apple. But those interested in getting a more in-depth look on the history of the Bay Area, they might want to consider some of the best historical tours.
Tiburon, CA 94920
Although neighboring Alcatraz Island garners far more attention and interest from tourists, Angel Island is the much better choice from an historical perspective. Managed by the California State Parks system, Angel Island has been used in several ways over the past 155 years, including as a U.S. military base, a quarantine station, and U.S. Immigration station, known as the “Ellis Island of the West”. Accessible only by private boat or public ferry from San Francisco or Tiburon, Angel Island offers spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline and the San Francisco Bay.
Computer History Museum
1401 N. Shoreline Blvd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
What seems to be an ever-present sight in Silicon Valley is a parade of visitors stopping by leading tech companies to take photos. But perhaps the way to get a better understanding of how this once quiet agricultural region transformed into the world’s premier center for technology and innovation is to visit the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Just down the road from the site where the world’s first silicon semiconductor devices were developed, the museum traces the history of the information age and has on display many of its more than 1,100 historically significant artifacts, including early computers from the 1940s and 1950s, an original Apple I computer, early Cray computers, autonomous vehicles and an Enigma machine.
Rosie The Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park
1414 Harbour Way S., Ste. 3000
Richmond, CA 94804
Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park is in part a memorial honoring the patriotic women who contributed to the war effort on the homefront, as well as a protected area for historic landmarks and naval ships. Established in 2000, the historic park features several attractions across 145 acres, including a popular visitor center, Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the Richmond Shipyards and a former Ford Assembly plant used to build military vehicles. Open year round, Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historic Park is admission free and visitors can meet with park rangers for tours and special programs as well as see several historical artifacts from World War II.
USS Hornet Museum
707 W. Hornet Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
Triumphantly perched in the waters surrounding the former Oakland Naval Air Station, the USS Hornet is a highly decorated aircraft carrier now serving as a museum. Commissioned in 1943, the 893-foot ship has a long history of service to the country, including 18 months of action during World War II and was also the recovery ship for the Apollo 11 command module, the only section of the spaceship to return to Earth from the world’s first landing on the moon. First opened to the public as a museum in 1998, the wonderfully restored USS Hornet is a national historical landmark and features exhibits from the NASA Apollo spaceflight program, 15 historic airplanes and helicopters and thousands of artifacts on display.
San Francisco City Guides Tours
100 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
San Francisco City Guides is a non-profit organization with volunteers who lead free history and architectural tours throughout San Francisco. Sponsored by the San Francisco Library, the non-profit offers more than 100 different tours and beginning at multiple locations throughout the city. Among the suggested tours are “Gold Rush City,” “1906 Earthquake and Fire,” “Mission Dolores and Neighborhood,” and “Presidio: From Military Post to Earthquake Refuge to National Park”. More than half of the listed tours are offered year round while the others are offered during specified times of the year.