Visiting San Francisco
November 10, 2010 8:34 PM   Subscribe

Going to be in San Francisco from the 13th to the 22nd of this month. Looking for some suggestions of things to do and check out.

I'm a 32 yr old man, travelling by myself.
I'm interested in the arts, especially literary and visual arts.
music ("indie" generally) shows would be good to check out.
Probably staying somewhere around the North Beach area, in a hostel. But happy to check out stuff all over the city and nearby.
For bonus points, suggest a good San Francisco-ish book I should read while I'm there!
posted by troubles to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just answered this exact question for a friend of mine, so apologies for the cut and paste and excessively chatty tone, but here are my off-the-top-of-my-head art- or museum-related recs for her (a former art history student of mine):

"For places to visit: obviously all the big museums are good (SFMoMA, the de Young and the Legion of Honor, the Jewish Museum and the Museum of the African Diaspora are both good if they have exhibitions that look intriguing to you; same goes for Yerba Buena, which is all contemporary). Slightly more random: at the Piers/Embarcadero (supertouristy) there's the Musée Mécanique, which is all old (like, 1920s) arcade machines; and Underwater World, which is an aquarium where you basically walk through tunnels in the SF Bay. Kinda pricey, but way cool if you like that sort of thing. The Columbarium is a must-see if you like Victorian/post-Victorian death culture type stuff (that sounds so creepy! But it's neat). There's also the often-overlooked Cartoon Art Museum, right near SFMoMA -- again, if you're into that sort of thing, it's pretty great.

"For one-time or temporary events, particularly of the artsy variety, the squidlist (it'll come up on google) is the place to check. And something that comes highly recommended (although I've never done it), is the jejune institute. The instructions I'm told to pass on are "don't look up anything about it other than the address and times it's open (and you need id)" -- but apparently it is awesome fun for people like me (so, er, take all that with a grain of salt!)."

I hope this is helpful; it's all making me miss SF quite a bit (thankfully I'm going to be back in mid-December!).
posted by obliquicity at 8:58 PM on November 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, looks like we're having a meetup on the 13th, so check IRL for the details and join us!
posted by rtha at 9:13 PM on November 10, 2010

The Subterraneans by Keroac comes to mind.

Also, for a definitive music guide: I give you THE LIST!!!1!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 9:56 PM on November 10, 2010

... oh and i suddenly remembered loving Meat Science Essays by Michael McClure ... another bit of North Beach nostalgia ...
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:19 PM on November 10, 2010

You are planning to stop at City Lights right? It's om yang-errific!
posted by Rube R. Nekker at 10:37 PM on November 10, 2010

If you like music stores, I would suggest visiting Ameoba Records. I absolutely geeked out the last time I was there.
posted by hellojed at 11:49 PM on November 10, 2010

Best answer: De Young Museum, and while you're there, Golden Gate Park.
Seconding Amoeba Records. There's also Rasputin.
Again, seconding City Lights Bookstore. Vesuvio is next door and there's Kerouac Alley.
Chinatown's pretty fun, although super touristy is a good website to look for something free (or cheap) to do in the bay area.
posted by mrspeacock at 2:27 AM on November 11, 2010

Contact Mefite Primalux. She's a tour guide on Alcatraz and will give you a VIP, behind-the-scenes tour that you will never forget.
posted by raisingsand at 6:04 AM on November 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get the San Francisco CityPass - it gets you into most of the major museums with line-skipping privileges, and it is a 7-day transit pass (including unlimited cable car rides).
posted by Gortuk at 6:11 AM on November 11, 2010

The pirate shop at 826 Valencia.

In the event that a mop head falls on you from the ceiling, don't worry. They have a list of instuctions posted on the wall that will be very helpful.
posted by smirkyfodder at 7:03 AM on November 11, 2010

Green Apple Books on Clement is actually my favorite bookstore in SF. You would need to get to it by bus. . .it is sort of out of the way, but in addition to City Lights, it will round out your bookstore experience there.
posted by Danf at 8:10 AM on November 11, 2010

You should also visit William Stout which has many beautiful books.
posted by vacapinta at 9:19 AM on November 11, 2010

Best answer:
  • Some North Beach bars I like enjoy:
    • Church Key—specializes in beer; mellow atmosphere
    • La Trappe—specializes in beer—mostly Belgian/Trappist Ales, but don't stay upstairs/ground floor—go downstairs to the "cellar"—that's where everyone goes!
    • 15 Romolo—specializes in cocktails—it's probably the most "indie" bar in North Beach
    • Mojito—live music and (obviously) varieties of mojitos
    • Rogue—large selection of beers; trivia on Thursday nights
    • Golden Boy—pizza, in case you're hungry after a night of drinking/partying in North Beach
  • Catch a show at The Fillmore—you (almost) always get a free "Fillmore" poster of the show at the end! Also nearby: Japantown—good for shopping, eating, & exploring

  • Art at Legion of Honor—but if art's not your thing, there's lots of other stuff nearby: like walking/hiking around the trails at Land's End, or around Sutro Baths & Ocean Beach (plus the Dutch Windmill at Golden Gate Park)

posted by 0x88 at 9:47 AM on November 11, 2010

There'e a Glen E. Friedman show at 941 Geary right now, which is pretty great. Just a few blocks from White Walls Gallery too, which is generally a good stop for art in the 'Loin.

Wednesday nights at Amnesia is Gyspy Jazz night - Belgian beers, flappers dancing and one of the best Gypsy jazz bands I've ever heard. worth a look.
posted by Pecinpah at 11:31 AM on November 11, 2010

If you like straight-ahead jazz, Bird & Beckett Books and Records has live jazz every Friday from 5:30 to 8 pm, played by retired (and a couple of still-working) professional musicians. On the 19th, it's Chuck Peterson, Don Prell, Scott Foster, and Ron Marabuto; you can see pictures of past shows on flickr.

It's free. There will also be cheap wine and whatever snacks people bring in, and of course there are books.
posted by phliar at 5:43 PM on November 11, 2010

Seconding the Musee Mecanique; I haven't been to it since it moved to Fisherman's Wharf, but it is very cool and an old sf institution. I suggest reading Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, and/or his Continental Op short stories, as Hammett used real buildings and streets in his stories. If you are a serious Hammett fan, there is the excellent Dashiell Hammett Tour, and although it's not regularly scheduled this month, he sometimes does tours by arrangement.

Also, I've been meaning to check out City Guides, where knowledgeable local people give tours of neighborhoods or places they know well.

If you like any of the films playing, the Castro Theatre is worth a visit. It is a beautiful old movie palace with a mighty Wurlitzer organ! (Though the film selection is a bit limited during your visit).
posted by sumiami at 8:14 PM on November 11, 2010

2nding 826 Valencia (pirate supply store) and its neighbor in the Mission, Paxton Gate (skulls, insects, and bromeliads).

For smaller interesting bands, try Bottom of the Hill.

Also, SF is a great cocktail town. If you like cocktails, try Bourbon and Branch, Absinthe, Elixir, Rye et al.
posted by benzenedream at 12:26 AM on November 12, 2010

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