The Greatest Writers Who Called San Francisco Home

Jack Kerouac Sna FranciscoFrom the infamous 1906 earthquake and the Golden Gate Bridge to Alcatraz and exorbitant real estate prices, San Francisco is well-known for several fascinating reasons. What you might not realize is that many of the greatest 20th century writers have drawn inspiration from what is arguably the most beautiful city on the West Coast. Here is a handful of some the most prominent scribes to have honed their craft in San Francisco.

Jack Kerouac

Born Jean-Louis Kerouac on March 12, 1922, Jack Kerouac is probably the most influential poet/novelist to emerge from the Beat Generation. The father of spontaneous writing, Kerouac wrote about subjects many others in his generation wouldn't dare discuss, including drugs, poverty and Catholicism. His works included “The Dharma Burns,” “Mexico City Blues,” “Desolation Angels” and “On the Road.” Kerouac was born in Massachusetts, although he spent a large portion of his working life in the North Beach area of San Francisco. While there, look for Jack Kerouac Alley — a one-way stretch of road that was once a regular hangout for Kerouac and his friends during his many trips to the area.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Dubbed the inaugural “Poet Laureate of California” and founder of the famous City Lights Bookstore, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a name many in the literary world often associate with San Francisco. Born in Yonkers, New York, in 1919, Ferlinghetti eventually made his way to the Bay Area in 1951. His first few years in the city were spent teaching French and penning now-famous critiques of artists and painters in the San Francisco area. In 1953, he opened the landmark City Lights Bookstore, which later became a publishing company that exposed the masses to some of California's most famous poets and authors, including Allen Ginsberg. Ferlinghetti's most famous work “A Coney Island of the Mind” was published in 1974 and has since been translated into nine languages.

Hunter S. Thompson

Best known for his novels and pieces published in Rolling Stone, Hunter S. Thompson was the granddaddy of the 1960s California counterculture and the creator of a writing style affectionately dubbed “gonzo” journalism. Born Hunter Stockton Thompson on July 18, 1937, in Louisville, Kentucky, Thompson led a typical suburban, middle-class existence during his adolescent years. After a short stint in jail and a brief career in the United States Air Force, Thompson began travelling extensively across the United States. San Francisco's burgeoning subculture became a favourite topic of Thompson’s, and eventually the writings evolved into some of his greatest works like “Hell’s Angels” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream.”

Amy Tan

Well known for her best-selling novel, “The Joy Luck Club,” Amy Tan is a Chinese-American author who was born and raised in Oakland, California. The natural struggles and complexities of mother/daughter relationships is a major theme in many of Tan's works, including “The Joy Luck Club,” which is set in San Francisco. Today, Tan is still living in the Bay Area and spends most of her time touring, writing and playing in the Rock Bottom Remainders alongside Stephen King, Dave Barry and Mitch Albom.

Planning a Literary Tour of San Francisco

There are a handful of formal literary tours available in San Francisco, several of which will guide you through a few of the aforementioned authors’ residences and former haunts. If you're planning to sign up for a walking tour, begin by researching the company offering the experience, including pricing, availability and the itinerary. Above all else, remember to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and bring along an umbrella and plenty of water before attempting to brave San Francisco's notoriously inclement weather and treacherously steep hills.

You've enjoyed your literary tour of San Francisco but aren't sure if you can afford to lodge in such an expensive city. Luckily, there are a variety of San Francisco hotels to choose from that won’t break the bank. You might even stay in the same room occupied by Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti or any of the other famous writers who passed through the city.

Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons

About the Author: Brian Short is a guest blogger and established poet from Montreal. He's currently residing in San Francisco and working on his sixth collection of poems dedicated to the Bay Area.


California’s Beringer Winery Tour

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys are known throughout the world as producers of some of the best wines. The rolling hills and temperate climate are perfect for wine production and many of the wineries offer public tours. I was fortunate enough to have been able to tour several of these wineries, one of which was Beringer, who claims the distinction of being the first winery to offer public tours. They have been doing so since 1934.


Beringer is the oldest continuously operating vineyard in the Napa Valley, starting in 1876 when the Beringer brothers originally crushed 18,000 cases of grapes to make 40,000 gallons of wine. Seven years later Frederick Beringer built his mansion, the famous Rhine House, although he names it Villa Beringer. Four years later in 1887   Beringer Wines began winning awards. Even during Prohibiton Beringer wineries operated legally as they processed and manufactured sacramental wines for religious services.California Beringer Winery, Napa Valley  By Alaskan Dude

Winery Tour

Located at   2000 Main Street, St. Helena, California, Beringer Winery has some of the most beautiful grounds throughout the valley. Just browsing the grounds here is a photographer's delight. There is even a 200 year old leaning oak tree that is a favorite of many visitors, and you easily enjoy an hour strolling around this property, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Rhine House Taste of Beringer tour is priced at $40 a person and the Old Stone winery tour through caves and tunnels begins at $25 a person. Each tour offers something different.

The Old Stone winery tour lasts 30 minutes and delves into the history of the Beringer winery and includes tasting two wines for those 21 and older. There is no charge for guests under the age of 21. Reservations are suggested and tours start at 11:00 a.m. with the last tour scheduled at 4:00 p.m.

For those wanting a little more the Taste of Beringer tour is for you.  This one hour tour explores the history of the Napa Valley, and also explains the winemaking process as well as the Beringer winery history. The tour culminates with a wine tasting of three wines and some appetizers at a sit down event in the Rhine Mansion. Tour times are 10:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Reservations are required and guests must be 21 or older.

Some reviews complain that the price of the tour is too high, and occasionally you can find deals on Groupon for a better price so keep your eye open.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Visiting Yosemite National Park

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

Established in 1890 Yosemite National Park is one of the most visited of all the National parks, with over four million visitors in 2011. Covering 1169 square miles this UNESCO World Heritage site is the home of  waterfalls, giant sequoia trees, and elevations over 13,000 feet.

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite's peaks and valleys offer very different experiences and weather patterns; Yosemite Valley is one of the most popular and most crowded areas in the park. It is considered the heart of Yosemite even though it only covers seven square miles. To make things easier with traffic flow the park has free shuttle buses that you can take from the day use parking lot near Yosemite Village. The shuttle buses are great since they are the only way to access many areas which are closed to car traffic.

With the shuttle buses you can visit the Valley Visitor Center, Lower Yosemite Falls, Happy Isles, Mirror Lake, Tunnel View, and Bridalveil Fall.El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California

High Country camping

In the higher elevations of Yosemite you can expect snow at any time, and some of the roads are closed due to weather so it is best to check ahead of time. One time on a whim we decided to drive from Las Vegas to Yosemite and camp. It is a seven hour drive and we arrived via the eastern entrance and Tioga Pass. It was late so we ended up camping in the high country. We pitched our tent and went to sleep, only to awaken in the middle of the night freezing. When we looked out it was snowing and we ended up sleeping in the car!

It was 110 degrees in Las Vegas and Death Valley and in less than 24 hours we were in freezing temperatures. Tioga Road and Glacier Road are usually closed due to snow until May or June and we were lucky the road was still open that morning. Yes the weather can change in a moment, and we were able to move to a lower elevation and enjoy the park.


Yosemite has over 20 waterfalls and they are gorgeous, although not all have water flowing all year round. Yosemite Falls, the nation's highest waterfall has a drop of 2425 feet and stops flowing in late August since it is totally fed by melting snow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Its peak flows are in late may, and the falls start flowing again sometime in October.

Most areas require advance reservations for camping since Yosemite is such a popular destination. Five months ahead is the suggested time to make a reservation to get the campground of your choice.

Giant Sequoias

The Mariposa Grove is home to the giant California sequoias of Yosemite and some of these trees are 3000 years old. Near the south entrance of Yosemite, this grove has over 500 of these giant trees. From the parking lot there is a tram tour you can take to see more of the trees, or you can hike the 0.8 mile uphill trail to view the Grizzly Giant and California Tunnel Tree. The tram tour lasts about an hour and fifteen minutes and costs roughly $25.

Rock Climbing

Two of the other highlights in Yosemite National Park are not only beautiful but attractive to rock climbers. El Capitan or "The Chief" is considered to be the largest granite monolith in the world, and extremely challenging to mountain climbers. This is a sheer vertical wall of granite, measuring 3593 feet from its base to its summit, attracting climbers from all over the world.

The other giant rock is Half Dome, which is so huge it is larger than the Rock of Gibraltar. At 8842 feet high, the summit is typically 15 to 20 degrees cooler than Yosemite Valley. This also is quite a challenging climb.

Yosemite has much to offer and really requires several days to truly enjoy the park. It has been awhile since I have been to there and would love to go again soon, although this time probably not with a small tent.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Things to do in San Diego in the Fall and Winter


Guest Post By: Maria Papadopoulou

One of my favorite places to visit during the fall and winter months is San Diego, California.  The activities offered in that city are many, that I find it quite difficult to actually choose between them!  Some of what I consider to be the most interesting activities are listed below.

For beer lovers like me, the San Diego Beer Festival on September21th is a delight.  It offers sampling from over 60 different breweries, as well as a variety of food items and wines that can be purchased. Furthermore, the first 3000 guests receive a free tasting mug as a present to take home.San Diego Bay, San Diego , California

On October 1st, an interesting free event titled ‘’Fall For The Arts’’ takes place in the San Diego Bay Area, allowing people to interact with many different organizations through a number of workshops, exhibits and demonstrations.  It is an amazing opportunity for creative people to join forces and express themselves in many different ways

The Desert Festival running from October 26 to October 28 is on the top of my list, as it includes wonderful craft exhibitions, live music shows, dance parties and a beauty pageant.

The Apple Harvest that takes place at Julian, at the Cyamaca Mountains, officially starts on November 15th and is one of my absolute favorites.   Admission is free and visitors are given the chance to enjoy besides some of the most delicious homemade apple pies ever, also magnificentart and music shows.

 Also known as Jungle Bells, the Festival of Lights at the San Diego Zoo provides a variety of animal –themed displays, face painting andcraft making activities, even a meeting with belovedSanta, offering longhours of entertainment to both parents and kids.  That Festival usually runs from December 13 to December 23 and from December 26 to December 30.

Another great activity for the entire family is the Sea World’s Holiday Celebration running from November 27 to December 31.  What I love the most about this Celebration is the Polar Express 4D experience it offers, that is like no other, as well as the competitive ice-skating through the Holiday Tree of Lights.


The Balboa Park December Nights Festival is ideal to watch young actors from the San Diego Junior Theatre, as well as young dancers from the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet.  Delicious food from around the globe is also offered at the Festival.


Make it a habit to visit San Diego once every year during the fall or winter months. You certainly won’t be disappointed. 

Maria Papadopoulou  is a freelance writer at as well as a translator and a proofreader.


Spending the Day at Pier 39 in San Francisco


Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


One of my favorite places to visit in the heart of San Francisco is Pier 39. This family-oriented shopping and entertainment complex is huge, covering 45 acres and conveniently located just two blocks Fisherman's Wharf at Beach Street and the Embarcadero.

With 110 California specialty shops and 14 restaurants, Pier 39 is a great place to spend part of the day when visiting San Francisco. It is touristy and there is plenty to do for the whole family. Kids and adults alike will love watching the sea lions as they laze about on a nearby barge built just for them. 

Pier 39 crowds San Francisco, CaliforniaYoung children will enjoy the two-story carousel near the end of the pier, and at all hours of the day and evening there is live entertainment on the pier in the way of street performers. They regularly perform outside to enthusiastic crowds and depending on the schedule, there are magicians, jugglers, mimes, comedians, and other surprises.Pier 39 Carousel San Francisco, California

Pier 39 also features live music throughout the day and evening, featuring boogie-woogie piano, guitar, dulcimer, saxophone, and singing. There is never an admission fee although the performers are happy to accept donations.

I love going to Pier 39 because there is so much outside activity there, and I also love browsing through the shops. Here I always find something unique to San Francisco that can't be bought anywhere else.  The shopping complex consists of two levels so you can spend a whole day shopping here if that's what you like.Alcatraz , San Francisco Bay, California

Where else can you find The Alcatraz Gift Shop with black and white striped aprons, or Le Beastro, a gift shop that specializes in doggy gifts? There is also a shop called Lefty's for anyone who is left-handed.View of Marina and San Francisco, California


Most of the full-service restaurants offer a large selection of freshly prepared seafood entrees. If you dine at one of these restaurants, they will validate your parking voucher for the Pier 39 parking garage across the street, and credit you the first  two hours of parking for free, after 6pm. If you are there before 6, it is worth one hour of free parking. The parking can be expensive at $8 an hour and $40 for the day.


The cool thing about the parking garage is the view. From the top deck you can have awesome views of some of San Francisco's most well-known landmarks, like Alcatraz, the Coit Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge and the city landscape.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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Enjoying California’s Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas


California is home to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. These are two separate parks but are managed as one and named accordingly.  Sequoia National Park is the second oldest national park, created in 1890 by an Act of Congress. The only national park that is older is Yellowstone. Kings Canyon National Park was originally created the same year and was called General Grant National Park. Today these two parks are managed as one entity.


Much less crowded than Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon are known for giant sequoia trees, narrow winding curvy roads with plenty of S-bends, spectacular views of the Sierra Mountains and Mt Whitney, and scenic waterfalls.

Tree Trunk Cut Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, CaliforniaGiant Forest

General Sherman Tree Kings Canyon Sequoia National Park, CaliforniaRanked as the top attraction in these parks is the Giant Forest, located in Sequoia National Park. The Giant Forest   contains many of the largest sequoias in the world, all in the space of approximately three square miles. This is the home to one of the most popular attractions in the park, the General Sherman tree, which is the largest tree in the world. Its height is 275 feet and the tree has a circumference which measures over 100 feet.

Moro Rock

Another popular feature in this park is Moro Rock, a large granite dome not too far away from the Giant Forest. Rock climbing enthusiasts love to climb this rock and other visitors can reach the pinnacle the easier way by climbing the 350 winding steps from the parking lot. This one-third mile ascent will definitely challenge most tourists, but the panorama views from the top are breathtaking.Grizzly Falls Kings Canyon National Park, California

Trail of 100 Giants

In Long Meadow Grove there is a one mile loop trail, which you can walk and see 125 giant sequoias that exceed ten feet in diameter. There are 700 giant sequoia trees here that have smaller diameters but nevertheless are huge trees. This grove contains a tree which is 20 feet in diameter and 220 feet tall. The oldest trees in this grove are considered to be 1500 years old.  I recall it being a very humbling experience to be under these giant sequoias and looking up and all around.


Kings Canyon Scenic Byway


This 50 miles stretch of road is the only way to drive through Kings Canyon, one of the deepest canyons in America. It requires nerves of steel for all the switchbacks and winding sections of road but the views along the way are totally worth it. It begins at the Hume Lake Ranger Station in Sequoia National Forest on Hwy 180, and ends at Cedar Grove in Kings Canyon. One of the waterfalls close to the road is Grizzly Falls, and there are also awesome limestone caverns near the Kings River.  Boyden Cavern tours are available as well as rappelling opportunities.Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park, California

The natural beauty of our national parks is all around us and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are among my favorites. I will always remember the winding drive and the awesome scenery there.

Guest Post By: Margie Miklas

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