Hidden Gems of San Francisco

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San Francisco is like an artichoke.

It’s not an onion, whose layers are stinky and may make you cry — but rather a big, beautiful bud that makes you really work to get to its rich center. Oddball visionaries, lesser-known histories, and unconventional destination spots arguably make up the meat of our city’s beloved urban heart. See anything missing on this map? If you’re feeling benevolent, add your secret spots to the comments section below.

MarinaA jetty made by Exploratorium artists in residence in the ’80s that uses cemetery stones with inlaid pipes to create an organ when the waves come in at high tide.  

CastroNearly 40 feet of steep cement sliding fun … if you don’t burn your biscuits (bring cardboard).

NobhillBathe in extreme surround sound with 176 speakers filling a dark, circular room meant to create a “sound sculpture.”  

SomaAppointment-only (and only open on Wednesdays), this privately owned library is filled with rare books and ephemera categorized in the Prelingers’ anti-Dewey “serendipitous” style. 

HaightWhat began as a silk screening print shop has now also become an impressive vintage arcade, housing 20 pinball machines, skeeball, and scores of other classic games at ’80s arcade prices. 

Musee_3An antique penny arcade with artifacts from the Zelinsky family who had previously displayed their games at Playland at the Beach in the 1920s. 

TreasureislandA hidden stretch of beach to the south of Treasure Island’s yacht harbor is shielded from the wind and offers great views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. 

ColevalleyThe inside of the forest at Mount Sutro is just as lush and majestic as it looks from afar, with easy-to-navigate trails along its ridges that may be more fun to explore through the fog than on a sunny day.

WestportalThe artistic director of the Velocity Circus opens his home to the public (by appointment) in experimentally themed rooms and a labyrinth to symbolize “the path of life.” 

MissionMission muralist collective founded in 1977 with a large storefront, art classes, and several mural tours.

PresidioRumor has it that cavalry horses and military guard dogs were buried here before military families turned it into an unofficial pet cemetery in the 1950s.

ChinatownThousands of fortunes have been created here daily since 1962 – buy them by the bagful or take a couple samples with you for the road.  

InnersunsetInspired by the Escadaria Selarón in Brazil, local artists covered 163 precipitous steps with mosaic tiles, portraying a shimmering path from the sea to the sky.

InglesideAt the time this giant, climbable sundial was erected in 1913, Ingleside was a new housing development project where a large racetrack once stood. 

LsdThis psychedelic art collector’s home, aka the “LSD museum,” holds more than 33,000 sheets of LSD that the DEA has tried him for – twice. 

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Published on August 14, 2013, 2013

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