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April 30, 2017

The Force Awakens: 9 Places to Feel the Force in the San Francisco Bay

Believe it or not, San Francisco's influence on one of the most iconic movie franchises extends not just to the editing bays and the creation of amazing effects, but to the machinery of your favorite metalic characters and the lands of the ewoks.

Here’s our round-up of local Star Wars-themed events and activities, as well as some trivia about the connections between the City by the Bay and that galaxy far, far away. 

Where Star Wars Is Born
The Letterman Digital and New Media Arts Center is the headquarters of Lucasfilm, creator George Lucas’ production company. Located in San Francisco’s historic Presidio National Park, the 23-acre facility may as well be the real-life Jedi Temple for Star Wars fans. Unfortunately, it is not open for tours, but visitors can see memorabilia in the lobby and get up close to the park’s iconic Yoda fountain. Take a great picture, you will.

Take A Walk on Endor
What Star Wars fan could forget the cuddly Ewoks who helped our heroes bring down the Empire? Travel across the Bay to Muir Woods and walk among the towering trees that inspired the setting for Return of the Jedi’s biggest battle. The natural beauty of this protected forest is best observed on foot, not speeder bike.

A Royal Palace?
Some fans say that San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts is what leant R2-D2 his iconic domed shape. We think it’s more likely that George Lucas was observing this gorgeous monument when designing Queen Amidala’s palace for The Phantom Menace. You’ll feel like royalty as you walk its beautiful grounds.

A Galaxy of Treasures
In Petaluma, you can find Rancho Obi-Wan. Named for the wise warrior played in the films by Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor, Rancho Obi-Wan is a non-profit museum showcasing the world’s largest privately owned Star Wars collection. Founded by former Lucasfilm employee Steve Sansweet, Rancho Obi-Wan is a place where fans can find everything from obscure action figures to real props from the movies.

A Secret Rebel Base?
The Letterman Center isn’t the only place where George Lucas’s team works their magic. Forty minutes north of San Francisco in Marin County lies Skywalker Ranch. The massive property houses Lucasfilm’s Oscar-winning sound design, mixing and audio post-production facilities. Unfortunately, like the Letterman Center, it is closed to visitors.

A City in the Clouds
Does George Lucas owe Karl the Fog some credit? True fans would find it hard to deny the similarities between Lando Calrissian’s home of Cloud City and the way the Golden Gate Bridge towers over our famous fog. See for yourself by visiting Twin Peaks for a panoramic view of San Francisco.

Imperial Troops in the East Bay?
No, the enormous cranes in Oakland’s bustling port did not inspire the design of the Empire’s intimidating AT-AT walkers, but we can see why fans might think that. For the best view of these engineering marvels, visit the Dogpatch and Potrero Hill neighborhoods. You’ll find plenty of brand new bars and restaurants. And speaking of food…

When You’re Hungrier Than Jabba the Hut
George Lucas didn’t only make Star Wars, you know. His first film, 1973’s American Graffiti, prominently featured San Francisco’s Mel’s Drive-In as a location. The diner still stands on Van Ness Avenue, as do many other franchise locations around the city. You can debate the finer points of the Star Wars saga with your friends over their famous milkshakes and cheeseburgers.

We’ll see you around the city—and at the movies. In the meantime, enjoy San Francisco and may the Force be with you. 

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