San Francisco is home to such a diverse array of attractions — and subcultures — that it may be difficult to narrow down just where to go to experience a good chunk of what the city has to offer. To help you pare down your picks, here are a few fun, funky, and (slightly) freaky places to see and things to do in San Francisco.
1. St. Francis Fountain
The second you hop off that trolley, you’re going to want to fill your belly with something delicious. With a moniker that tips a paper cap to San Francisco’s namesake, St. Francis Fountain is the city’s oldest ice cream parlor. Located on 24th street (near the corner of York & 24th), the quaint retro diner was opened by a Greek immigrant in 1918 and still proudly serves the community to this day, slinging frosty ice-cream sodas; big, beefy burgers and some of the best mac n’ cheese on the West coast.
Once in a state of disrepair, the St. Francis Fountain experienced a renaissance when it came under new ownership in 2002. Since its renovation as a ‘50s retro-style diner, it’s become a thriving part of its neighborhood, serving delighted patrons of all ages.
2. Escape to Alcatraz Island
Sometimes known as “The Rock,” Alcatraz Island is best known as the home of one of the U.S.’s most famous prisons. Although the prison closed its doors in 1963, it was once the unofficial “home away from home” to notable inmates such as Prohibition-era gangster Al Capone and Robert Franklin Stroud, the “Birdman of Alcatraz,” who was the subject of a classic Hollywood film.
Today, Alcatraz Island plays host to thousands of tourists each year, each hoping to learn more about the island’s rich history. Visitors can see the U.S.’s first lighthouse, as well as learn more about Alcatraz Island’s important role within the nation’s military history, as well as its cultural significance to Native Americans. At the heart of it all is a beautiful, natural setting that features lush gardens, bird colonies, and tide pools.
3. San Fran Speakeasy: Bourbon & Branch
If you’re still channeling the ghost of Al Capone from your day-trip stint at Alcatraz, you can experience a taste of the Roaring ‘20s at the Bourbon & Branch speakeasy. In its former life, Bourbon & Branch was known as J.J. Russell’s Cigar Shop, a front for a speakeasy that illegally served Prohibition-era patrons alcohol between the years 1923 and 1935. Best of all, the building’s secret passageways are still intact and accessible to patrons! The stylish nightspot is open Monday through Sunday from 6m until 2am and still operates in the same Tenderloin district location it did before it “went legit.”
Today’s visitors can enjoy the speakeasy’s rich decor while enjoying top-shelf liquor, including hand-numbered bourbon offerings, rum, and tequila. Patrons are expected to observe the “house rules,” a strict code that hearkens back to the ‘20s and encourages patrons to talk quietly, keep their cell phones turned off, and refrain from asking for a Cosmo or other trendy drinks. .
4, The Defenestration Building
What do you do when you have an old, run-down hotel building in the heart of San Fran’s SoMa district? You turn it into a work of art! Art lovers and logophiles alike will enjoy seeing the “site-specific sculpture” named for the act of throwing something out of a window. Those who come to visit Defenestration (at the corner of 6th & Howard), will see various articles of furniture, each in their own state of permanent suspension. Don’t worry! The furniture is well-secured and won’t come crashing down on you!
However, it’s more than a little disturbing to see sofas that are half-shoved out of a four-story window or chairs that hover several feet above the pavement and look as if they’re going to come down hard. Over 100 intensely creative artists came together to help create this fun, freaky piece of public art.
I actually had never heard of Defenestration, so now this local girl needs to check that out!
How about you? Know other fun and funky spots in San Francisco to add to the list? How about in your town?