San Francisco - Lifestyle & Culture
San Francisco is a year-round destination with a vibrant calendar of cultural events - notably in jazz, blues, Chinese New Year Parade, the Fiesta Filipina and Oktoberfest and, as the world’s most gay-friendly metropolis, the yearly Gay Pride shindig at the end of June.
The city’s cluster of museums offer plenty of opportunities for sightseeing when the bay’s notorious fog makes the outdoor variety all but impossible. Try the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (Third Street, between Mission and Howard) for its eclectic and engaging programme of exhibitions and events, or The Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts - a contemporary arts centre blending film, performances and exhibitions, just over the road on Mission Street.
More traditional art lovers will adore the stunning Palace of the Legion of Honour, a grand neoclassical pile in the Presidio parkland area of town and home to regular organ recitals, touring exhibitions and a fine collection of ancient European art and sculpture.
Its sister museum, the De Young, in Golden Gate Park, regularly holds block-busting exhibitions of work by Picasso, Cezanne and the like, while its permanent collection of American paintings, decorative art and textiles is stunning.
Elsewhere, the city’s eclectic collection of smaller museums and galleries are well worth a couple of hours of your time. Try the Asian Art Museum, the Museum of the African Diaspora and the stunning Daniel Libeskind-designed Jewish Contemporary Museum.
Catching a show in San Francisco means, maybe, world class ballet at the San Francisco Ballet, a Broadway blockbuster at The Golden Gate and Orpheum theatres downtown, or opera and classical at the grand Herbst Concert Hall in the centre of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Centre.
San Francisco’s nightlife is as varied as San Francisco itself. From the sequins and show tunes of the gay bars in Castro, to the deep house grooves of San Francisco’s SOMA district, this city certainly knows how to get the party started, and how to keep it going ‘til the sun comes up, for that matter.
The city’s vibrant Mission district is the place to base your pub crawl though, with a bar (seemingly) on every corner. As good a place as any to start is the Gold Dust Lounge, Powell Street. A reminder of the town’s gold-rush heritage, the lounge is one of the city’s night-time landmarks, and offers a soundtrack of live dixieland jazz with your Buds and bourbons. This is also the area to head if you fancy a little funk, soul and Hispanic beats. Try Bruno’s on Mission Street, and the fabulous cocktails at the Latin American Club, 22nd Street.
In Downtown, you’ll find an array of Irish Bars, cool galleries-cum-drinking spaces, neon-bathed cocktail joints and flashy multi-level clubs. Try the uber-cool Impala Lounge on Broadway, with tiny dancefloors and a friendly, hipster crowd. Or the blues and Bourbon of Blue Lamp on Pine. Fluid, on Mission Street, is a popular club with a pumping sound system attracting the best DJs to the city, and Polly Esthers, Eddy Street, offers an authentic blast of 70s disco with all the trimmings.
For sheer eclecticism and unpredictability, the Haight is the place to head. Once a stoner’s paradise, now the area is home to tiny independent bars, retro clubs, chi-chi lounges and gritty pubs. Club Delux, Haight at Ashbury, is a wonderfully atmospheric retro bar with mellow tunes and punchy cocktails, while Milk, Haight at Stanyan, is a friendly, in-the-know DJ bar that stays spinning the discs until the small hours.
San Francisco loves its brew-pubs too - independent microbreweries, attracting a beer-loving crowd. Try Beach Chalet & Park Chalet at the coast in Golden Gate Park, where you can enjoy a view of the ocean with your golden pint of ale. Whether you are there on your own or as a couple you will find plenty to awaken your tastebuds.