San Francisco, home to SPIE Photonics West – the industry’s largest conference and exposition – is a city of neighborhoods. In this issue of Sneak Preview – Photonics West Edition #1 – Photonics Media Senior Editor Justine Murphy explores some of what makes this town so distinctive and exciting. In the mid-1800s San Francisco got a bit of a kick-start when it became the central port and depot of the west’s initial Gold Rush frenzy. The infamous earthquake and subsequent fires of 1906 destroyed much of the city, but it was rebuilt rather quickly and by the 1930s it was growing exponentially into outlying neighborhoods. SOMA, or South of Market, district is home to many interesting places and attractions, including the renowned Moscone Center, where Photonics West is held. This venue – named for former San Francisco mayor George Moscone – has hosted other events such as Microsoft's Build conference, the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, and the Democratic National Convention. Given its art galleries and other cultural events, SOMA – for South of Market – is often compared to New York City’s SOHO neighborhood. SOMA is home to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Yerba Buena Arts Center and the Cartoon Art Museum. But this district doesn’t stop fine art — a number of major software and technology companies are headquartered here, including Yelp, LinkedIn and Foursquare. San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point district is situated on the bay, and is another popular neighborhood. The Bayview Opera House and the historic Hunters Point Shipyard call this district home. It’s known for diversity among residents, large community gardens, and a strong artists' community, similar to a number of other districts in San Francisco. The Mission features a lively music scene — touting former residents including Carlos Santana. Mission in the Rain by The Who was inspired by this district. It offers a diverse art scene, too, with sites including the Cultural Center for the Latino Arts. Chinatown and Japantown provide even more diversity to San Francisco. Each continues to retain its own culture, while also attracting tourists year-round. There are more visitors annually to Chinatown than to the Golden Gate Bridge. The Cherry Blossom Festival and Nihonmachi Street Fair bring Japanese culture to the masses each year, along with events at the Kabuki Theatre and the Peace Pagoda. There really is so much to see and experience in all 28 districts in this grand city….this city by the bay. Judy Garland had the right idea about San Francisco when she said, “Right when I arrive, I really come alive.” Doesn’t everyone? Join Justine next week as she explores even more of San Francisco! There are some really cool things happening citywide, as Photonics West approaches.