IT'S SAN TASTIC.. Experience Offbeat Charm and Sparkling Sights in the Coolest City on America's West Coast

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Byline: By AINE HEGARTY

SAN Francisco is proud of its status as the West Coast's coolest city. With its liberal outlook on life and beautiful perch along the Pacific Ocean, the city oozes chilled out vibes.

It's offbeat charm is less obvious than brassy New York and more genuine than L.A.

Its hilly streets provide some gorgeous glimpses of the sparkling bay and its famous bridges.

The treats of San Francisco are not just for locals. The basic pleasures of life here - wonderful food, sparkling night-life and those glorious views - are there for everyone.

And with the historic open skies deal brokered between the EU and the US earlier this week, San Fran has just become a step closer for Irish travellers.

The Irish Government said the Open Skies agreement hammered out in Brussels would smash the glass ceiling curbing tourism growth with North America.

Aer Lingus immediately revealed three new routes to San Francisco, Orlando and Washington with one way fares as low as E199 on the back of the deal so the West Coast's coolest city is now only a direct flight away.

The Golden Gate bridge remains one of the city's most iconic structures. Watch the white fog fill the Golden Gate as the sunset lights up the windows across the bay, and prepare to leave your heart.

Golden Gate Park is a delight, especially on Sundays when much of it is closed to cars.

Spread across 1,000 acres are playgrounds, lakes, woods, landscaped gardens and family oriented attractions like the Conservatory of Flowers, which currently has a butterfly show Pick a month of the year and there's always a festival or street party on somewhere in San Fran.

Whether you like it or not, you'll probably find yourself at Fisherman's Wharf. The good news is that it's not all tacky and commercial.

Walk to the end of Pier 39 and watch sea lions loafing and frolicking on floating docks.

It's also a good place to browse for souvenirs and pick up a decent fish and chips.

A visit to San Francisco isn't complete without a trip to Alcatraz, the notorious island prison known locally as The Rock.

Alcatraz Island offers a closeup look at the site of the first lighthouse and US fort on the West Coast, an infamous federal penitentiary long off-limits to the public and despised by inmates.

It was also the site of the historic 18 month occupation by Indians of All Tribes where they campaigned for self-determination.

It was also home to notorious criminals such as Al Capone, George "Machine Gun" Kelly and Robert Shroud.

Hop on a ferry to Alcatraz Island to tour the notorious prison, now operated by the National Park Service. …