San Francisco Walking Tour: SoMa
Go “South of Market” for art, green space, and more.
Industrial roots give this “South of Market” neighborhood a bigger scale than the rest of downtown. (Although now industry is more often high-tech than wholesale.) Several outstanding museums cluster around Market and Third streets, yolked together by the Yerba Buena Gardens, while restaurants and clubs snap up former warehouses.
Blue Bottle Café
What could be better than waking up to the startlingly fragrant coffee made from freshly roasted single-origin beans? This airy, industrial-chic place hidden behind the historic US Mint building is home to the famous halogen-powered $20,000 Japanese coffee siphon (the only one of its kind in North America); the brewing process has all the ritualistic reverence of a Kyoto tea ceremony. Choose one of the three daily roasts with your farm-fresh poached eggs on Acme Bread Company toast.
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Think the Brooklyn Academy of Music meets Mass MoCA, all under one roof. At this arts complex, you can find groundbreaking performances—from such local companies as Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet to such visitors as the Bang on a Can All-Stars—and quirky film fare (for instance, that typographical sleeper hit Helvetica)—plus irreverent art exhibitions like the recent “Dark Matters: Artists See the Impossible,” in which eerily beautiful photographs of unclaimed cremains canisters coexisted with the compelling electronic-multimedia installation Listening Post. Set conveniently across the street from SFMOMA, Yerba Buena has been nipping at its heels—or, at least, frolicking around it like a friendly puppy eager to play. Hey, the more art in the neighborhood, the better.
Tip: The center doesn’t have its own café, but the adjacent Yerba Buena Gardens has two rooftop restaurants (B Restaurant and Bar, and Samovar) that are great on a sunny day.
Admission: $7 adults; $5 seniors and students. Closed Monday.
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has been the premier West Coast spot for modern art since 1935, with over 33,000 works from Modernists and contemporary artists. SFMOMA exhibits painting, photography, sculpture, architecture, and media arts, including important pieces by artists such as Henri Matisse, Ansel Adams, Mark Rothko, and Diego Rivera. The museum has just completed a three-year building expansion by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta, tripling its gallery space—all the better to display acquisitions like the Fisher Collection of 20th-century masters.
Home to the San Francisco Giants, AT&T Park provides views of San Francisco's skyline, Bay Bridge and McCovey Cove (named in honor of legendary Giants slugger Willie McCovey). The close proximity of right field to McCovey Cove creates the opportunity for "splash runs" into the bay. In addition to the main event, visitors can check out park attractions like the Coca-Cola Fan Lot, with its 26-foot high by 30-foot wide baseball glove; four long and twisty slides (including a couple 56-footers); and Little Giants Park, a kid-size replica of AT&T Park.
Children’s Creativity Museum
In 2011, the onetime Zeum morphed into a more inclusive children’s museum, now geared for kids age three to twelve. The expansion added updated technology activities, like green-screen video-making—but the 1906 carousel out front spins with old-school charm.
Museum of the African Diaspora
This collection celebrates the cultures and histories of people of African descent scattered around the world, from the Caribbean to South America. It’s heavy on multimedia exhibits, such as videos, music, and audio narratives.
Palace Hotel’s Pied Piper Bar
Bankers, first dates, and everyone in between find their way to the softly lit spot in this Beaux Arts hotel. The namesake Maxfield Parrish mural glows over the bar.