Whether you're new to the city, looking for something to do with visitors, or just enjoy learning more about the city you love, the SF Public Library free City Guides tours never disappoint.
When I first moved to SF five years ago, I went on oodles of these tours and might just be their #1 fan. Fast forward to now, and despite everything I know about the city, I still find these tours exhilarating. The volunteer guides are always so knowledgeable, and they always make sure you learn or see something in the city that you wouldn't have otherwise. My friend told me that the Haight Ashbury City Guides walk (which I have yet to take myself) stops right in front of my house and compares the architecture of my building to the one right next door!
Chances are, unless you live in a cave, you consider this all old news. So, I tasked executive director of the City Guides programming Michael Cushing with sharing some fresh angles and additions to the regular mix of offerings. So what was old is now new again. Here's what he had to recommend. The following tours are about a year or so old and are still very much under the radar.
Fairmont Hotel Tour - City Guides has been working for years to offer a tour of SF's famous Fairmont Hotel, and with the blessing of the hotel, this amazing landmark is now finally a tour! It's reservation only, so book this one in advance.
Hitchcock's San Francisco - This tour focuses on why Hitchcock loved SF and reveals a few movie locations, from Nob Hill to Union Square.
Chinatown Family Associations, Tongs and Gangs: A Historic Look - This tour shines a light on a challenging part of SF history and possibly today as well. Delicately, the City Guides volunteers lay a foundation of information on the historical marginalization of the Chinese in SF and how that shaped Chinatown and those who made a living there. Content may not be appropriate for children under 14 years of age.
Tastes and Tales of North Beach - In North Beach, one gust of wind can carry the sound of sea lions, the salty mist of fog, and the smells of this village's basic food groups - coffee, chocolate, wine, and focaccia. Meet our local purveyors on this charming walk and find out why the American Association of City Planners rates San Francisco's Little Italy one of the ten best neighborhoods in the country.
Michael also graciously recommended some great food and drink pairings that "complement the history of the neighborhood and create a larger, more curated experience." I'm going to turn more than one of these into a date night.
North Beach by Night tour with dinner at Chubby Noodle
Fairmont Hotel and the Tonga Room
Gold Rush City and the Tadich Grill or Old Ship Saloon (both were there during the Gold Rush years)
Palace Hotel and the House of Shields or Pied Piper (if you are feeling real fancy)
Telegraph Hill Hike followed by a trip to Al's Attire and Tosca for a nightcap
If you're as big a fan as I am of City Guides, be sure to make a donation so that we can keep this unique SF tradition alive for years to come.
Tours are offered every day of the week, year round. sfcityguides.org