Curious to know more about our beloved “Baghdad By The Bay”? Do you love a good tale of a robber baron turned socialite, or a yarn about Emperor Norton’s shenanigans? Here are a few (free and cheap!) ways to get hands-on with the *very* colorful history of San Francisco!
SF City Guides –100% FREE (donations appreciated) Guides train for months before leading these fascinating walking tours. Explore neighborhoods from Marina to the Castro, learn about Market Street’s booms and busts, or revisit the 1906 earthquake and it’s physical and political aftermath.
SF Chinatown Ghost Tours – For something a little edgier with some dark twists…. Check out the highly-rated Haunted History walking tours of Chinatown’s famous secret alleyways.
Barbary Coast Trail – One of our team’s “Top 10 Things To Do When Family Visits SF”! Ever wonder about those gold compasses in the sidewalks around downtown? They’re markers for The Barbary Coast Trail; a walk through Gold Rush history. There are audio tours and guided walking tours, but we’re partial to the good old-fashioned paper map, which you can order online or buy in person at a few select locations. A perfect end-up to the tour is a cocktail at Comstock Saloon (when they open back up).
A Good Read
Bay Lexicon Book – This newly-published book is turning heads. Billed as “A field guide to San Francisco’s shoreline”, it explores cross-sections of our local cultural history, geography, urban ecology and more. On October 6th, City Lights Books hosts a conversation with the author, Jane Wolff.
And you can visit the related Exploratorium Exhibit for a more interactive experience.
Great for Kids
The Bay Model – Have you been here yet? No? What are you waiting for?! This HUGE to-scale model of the entire SF Bay is decidedly retro but also astonishingly cool and one-of-a-kind. However big you’re thinking it is… it’s bigger. You really must see it in person. View the mountains and valleys of the bay floor, and watch the rushing tides come in and out under the Golden Gate Bridge. Bonus history: Rad WW2 memorabilia also resides in the building. Free admission!
Randall Museum – Explore the WAY way back history of our city, with a look underground. Learn about the geologic formations of our famous hills, and what causes our famous seismic activity. The oft-overlooked and locally-treasured Randall Museum is temporarily closed for COVID, but keep an eye on their website for re-opening.