Geeky things to see in San Francisco without a car?
August 19, 2008 9:21 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in San Francisco in two weeks (Aug 30-Sep 1). What are some geeky things to see (without a car)? I've already covered the Exploratorium and City Lights several times, but that's the sort of thing my tastes run towards.
posted by dmd to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (22 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Borderland Books in the Mission, if you're that sort of geeky. Easily accessible from either the 24th & Mission stop or the 16th & Mission stop on the BART (it's probably closer to one, but I can't remember which).

There's also Kinokuniya in Japantown (along with other things in Japantown). Accessible by bus, but I can't tell you which one.

Cartoon Art Museum is small but worth the price ($6).
posted by darksong at 9:37 AM on August 19, 2008

Take the audio tour of Alcatraz (better book now as the tours fill up).
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 9:44 AM on August 19, 2008

Seconding a trip to Alcatraz. Gear up for it by watching Escape from Alcatraz.
posted by phunniemee at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pick up a copy of the self-guided walking tour of the Barbary Coast trail; it was an EXCELLENT introduction to the city, and while it points out obvious landmarks like City Lights and a fortune cookie factory in Chinatown, it also tips you off to smaller things (like the small vest-pocket city park that is on the site where Emperor Norton once lived). And the fact that it's self-guided lets you skip the stuff you've seen if you want, and linger in the stuff you think is cool.

I was absolutely fascinated by Coit Tower, for instance -- but not by the view from the top, which most would find is the point, but by the WPA murals on the first floor.

At a leisurely clip, you can cover the whole thing in a day, including time to stop for lunch, and still have seen a lot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:49 AM on August 19, 2008

I'll 2nd the Alcatraz audio was very interesting.

I've never done it, but the Cable Car Museum always intrigued me.
posted by mmascolino at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2008

The Cable Car Museum is great, and geeky. Plus near Chinatown & North Beach for yummy eats. (Go to Spats/the Adler Museum for a perhaps-geeky drinking experience.) Also seconding Musee Mechanique and Cartoon Art Museum. The Cartoon Art Museum is near the California Historical Society museum, which is worth a swing-through. A walking tour can be good -- you can do a self-guided tour, or you can join a tour.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:54 AM on August 19, 2008

The Long Now Foundation has a museum which has prototypes of their mechanical devices. Last month they sponsored the Mechanicrawl which also went to Musee Mechanique (mentioned above), the S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien, and the USS Pampanito.
posted by zsazsa at 9:56 AM on August 19, 2008

I logged in just to say Musee Mechanique, but it looks like liketitanic beat me to it. But I will echo those sentiments. The Musee Mechanique is TOTALLY AMAZING.
posted by YoungAmerican at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2008

Oh yeah, and Arion Press, a working press and metal type foundry, has a museum and gives tours.
posted by zsazsa at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2008

The Musee Mechanique was one of my favorite spots in SF when it was out by the Cliff House. It seemed more like a hidden gem then, and I haven't been to the new location, but if it's at all similar, do be put off by the touristy location - it's totally fascinating.
posted by yarrow at 10:06 AM on August 19, 2008

N'thing the Cable Car Museum. If you're a history-lovin' geek, check out the maritime museum and historic ships along the northern waterfront (from around Fisherman's Wharf to Fort Mason).

If you visit Coit Tower, I suggest you climb up the Greenwich Steps and go down the Filbert Steps, keeping your eyes open along the way for the famed wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. (They're bright green and rather hard to see among the foliage, but they're raucously noisy so you'll know if they're around.)

It's probably not worth a special trip, but if you're in the vicinity of City Hall, it's a beautiful Beaux Arts building with a rather interesting little museum of SF history. Also if you're flying in or out of SFO, check out the displays (there's one in the corridor heading to the United terminal and one that's rather hard to find in the international terminal). Not worth a special trip but a good way to kill time at the airport.
posted by Quietgal at 10:16 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Check out the Letterman Digital Arts Center at the Presidio, which is the home of ILM. They don't do tours or anything, but there's a fountain with Yoda out front, and the lobby has a bunch of Star Wars memorabilia.
Also, I apologize for the self-post, but I run one of the local Adobe user groups in the region, and we have put together a site that contains a bunch of information for people visiting the city for those traveling to SF in November for the Adobe MAX conference. You can take a look at it at
posted by robhuddles at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2008

Oh man, go to the Pirate Supply Store. It's awesome. All of Valencia has interesting shops and food in that area.
posted by radioamy at 11:24 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you visit 826 Valencia (the pirate store) you also need to go to Paxton Gate right next door. You can take BART to 16th or 24th and walk down Valencia from one to the other. Or up one side and back the other. It's a great neighborhood for wandering.

Also I highly recommend City Guides for the free tours. The one of Coit Tower gives you access to the murals on the upper floors, which aren't usually open to the public.
posted by gingerbeer at 11:59 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you go check out coit tower, why not do some parrot hunting?
posted by Large Marge at 12:57 PM on August 19, 2008

Some people love it, some people hate it, but if your taste runs to experimental music/sound, check out Audium.
posted by anazgnos at 2:43 PM on August 19, 2008

If you're into art, there's a show of contemporary Chinese art at the SF MOMA right now that I thought was pretty interesting (they've also got a Frida Kahlo show going, which costs $5 extra and which I wasn't blown away by). While you're in the area you can walk down two blocks to Blue Bottle Coffee and check out their weird space age coffee-dripper things. The Comic Art Museum is between these.

If you are interested in biking, you can rent a bike, go over the Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito, and check out the Bay Model there. The model is kind of cool, but this trip is probably more worth it for the bike ride. From Sausalito you can catch a ferry back to SF, thus avoiding an uphill climb to get back onto the bridge and affording you a chance to get out on the bay (and enjoy a nautical beer, if you want to).
posted by whir at 2:57 PM on August 19, 2008

Geeky stuff: the Camera Obscura, Green Apple Books, the wave organ, Clarion alley murals.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 3:21 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

DNA Lounge
Seconding Green Apple Books.
posted by lukemeister at 8:43 PM on August 19, 2008

The Camera Obscura is right next to Sutro Heights Park & Sutro Baths, which are nice places to explore. There's a bus down Geary that goes right there.
posted by dreamyshade at 9:02 PM on August 19, 2008

PS - If you're willing to take BART to Berkeley, this topic of a Metafilter post today sounds pretty geeky.
posted by lukemeister at 9:12 PM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much!
posted by dmd at 11:06 AM on August 20, 2008

« Older Smartphone for Vista 64?   |   Cheapest/Best solution for remote file access? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.