If you have wee folk along on your mural walk (see previous tips), this is a great place to let them out of the stroller and run wild for a bit. This little gem of a playground has been an oasis for Mission district tots since the 70's and was rescued from several decades of decline by determined and enterprising local residents and businesses. Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center (see murals tip) volunteers created stunning tile mosaics and painted murals to decorate the outer walls and unique, serpent-shaped play structure, and over a million dollars in bond money provided new benches, swings, sand box, cushioned flooring, landscaping and other improvements.
I had to be careful not to make the little ones (and moms) nervous with my camera so see the attached web URLS for more pictures, reviews and some history.
One of the best places to go for good inexpensive food is the Mission District. Browse the sidewalk markets, examining tropical fruits and Latin condiments in the many markets here, or hang out at the Spanish, Mexican, Salvadoran, Honduran, and other Latin Style restaurants (see my restaurant tips). While the neighborhood is a bit on the gritty side, it's quite safe virtually anytime, and the sunny weather in this part of town can be a warm relief from the fog and drip of downtown, Fisherman's Wharf, or anywhere on the west side of town. The center of the Mission District is at 16th and Valencia. One way to get there from downtown is to take BART to Mission and 16th, and then walk a couple blocks east. A few blocks further east, one will find Mission Dolores, the original San Francisco settlement. Several blocks back toward downtown on Mission is the old Mint, a survivor of the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire. A few blocks south, and the murals of Clarion Street can be found. Another favorite itinerary is to take a Muni trolley or the faster Muni rail line to Castro, at Church and Market. Browse the Castro District for awhile, and then hike down 16th into the Mission. The Roxie Theater is one of several theaters in town to see foreign and culture films at a discount ticket price. There are numerous bars and bookshop cafes to check out in the Mission District.
If you are looking for something truly unique and specifically San Francisco, look no further than taking a tour of the historical San Francisco Armory. Okay, so it doesn't sound all the special (unless you are a military history buff), but there is truly something amazing going on inside those large imposing brick walls. The building is now owned by Kink.com. Yes, the BDSM porn site. The tour will take you through the building, where you get to see impressive sets and props as well as the creek that actually runs through the basement. The fun and knowledgeable tour guide will happily answer any questions you have about what it is like to work for a porn company and yes, a little about the history of the building as well. Even if you aren't familiar with the company, it is a fascinating experience and one you aren't likely to have anywhere else.
Certainly the oldest building in San Francisco is Mission Dolores. Newer Catholic Churches have been built beside and collapsed during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, while the four foot thick adobe mud walls, huge hand split timbers, and lime plaster of Mission Dolores miraculously settled and survived. The tour of the Mission provides the best historical perspective on the peninsula of San Francisco prior to the cramped and congested city for which it is now famous.
A self-guided tour is easy, typically uncrowded, and soulful, about 30 minutes. The donation fee is $3-. Examine closely the Chapel's alter artwork, much of which was imported from Mexico or made by the local Ohlone Indians. The Ohlone Indian Museum helps one to appreciate the indigenous population that lived in the area prior to discovery by the Spanish in 1770's. In the cemetary in the back are buried early mission padres and a governor of Alta California, among other notable historical figures. The bookstore has an excellent collection for the fascinating and turbulent short history of California. Hours and other visiting information is provided in the mission's link below.
I disagree with VT member Karenincalifornia, numero uno among the Top 5 for SF, for her misinformed assignment of Mission Dolores to the Castro District at this website. Her assignment runs counter to both historical and geographical information. Castro District begins at the three way intersection of Castro, Market, and 17th streets. If one walks the 5 blocks east, they will walk downhill until Church Street, where the MUNI tunnel and Dolores Park are located. At that point, the terrain flattens out into the Mission District proper, with another two blocks walk to Dolores Street. Walk left on Dolores for another 2 blocks to Dolores and 16th, and you are at the center of the Inner Mission District, in front of Mission Dolores itself. However, both Castro and Mission Dolores can be appreciated within one afternoon.
I'm so amazed with the many murals all over Mission District. One alley that we stumbled upon has two rows of lively and colorful murals. What a fun way to put your creative talents to good use instead of vandalizing the walls for no reason at all!
On the picture is the Women's Building Mural called Maestrapeace on Lapidge St. You have to see it to believe how much time and effort went into it. This is truly a remarkable labor of love from women artists!
Popularly known as Mission Dolores, it is one of the oldest intact building in the City of San Francisco and the only intact Mission Chapel in the chain of 21 established under the direction of Father Serra. The rough-hewn redwood roof timbers are still lashed together with rawhide. The alter is one of the most ornate mission alters. There is a small museum. The photo is taken from behind the towers of the Basilica in the cemetery garden.
The website says: "Mission Dolores is the final resting place of some 5,000 Ohlone, Miwok, and other First Californians who built Mission Dolores and were its earliest members and founders. Other notables include the first Mexican governor, Luis Antonio Arguello, the first commandant of the Presidio, Lieutenant Moraga, and victims of the Committee of Vigilance, Cora, Casey, and Sullivan. Cemetery markers date from 1830 to about 1898.
"The curator of Old Mission San Francisco de Asis is Brother Guire Cleary, S.S.F. His office hours are generally 9:00am-3:00pm, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays" The mission is open daily 9-4. Admission $2. Over 64 $1.
The basilica is still an active church. It is a combination of Moorish, Mission and Corinthian styles.
Basilica Religions Services:
Saturday Evening Vigil:
5:00pm in the Old Mission Chapel
8:00am, 10:00am, and 12:00pm (Spanish Mass) in the Basilica
7:30am in the Old Mission Chapel, 9:00am in the Basilica
7:30am in the Old Mission , 9:00am and 7:00pm in the Basilica (Bilingual Mass)
Friday 6:00pm in the Old Mission, First Friday includes Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Weekdays before the 9:00am Liturgy in the Basilica
Individual - Saturday 4:00-5:00pm or by appointment
Founded by Spanish settlers in 1776, the Mission district is home to some of the city's oldest structures, as well as some of the hottest young people and places around. Colorful murals celebrate the prominent Latino presence that has long defined the Mission. The area grows increasingly diverse and gentrified along Valencia St. Politically, the Mission is the city's most radical pocket, marked by left-wing bookstores, active labor associations, and bohemian bars and cafes filled with hipsters and hippies.
This is a must-do.
It started in the 70's with a small group of muralists and has grown into a thriving community arts program dedicated to the beautification of inner-city environments, providing a creative outlet for emotional expression and nurturing positive collaborative experiences. Of an estimated 600 murals around the central San Francisco area, the lion's share are here along the streets and alleys of this vibrant, largely Latino neighborhood.
This is not graffiti.
Most of the works are commissioned pieces with the balance painted by youth and civic groups. Styles range from skilled artisans' nearly photographic detail to the wobbly brushstrokes of a child, with themes addressing everything from cultural pride to socio-economic oppression to bright, visionary dreams of the future. They are powerful, spiritual, angry, sorrowful, uplifting, joyful, peaceful, complex: impossible to view impassively.
The program, Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, offers organized tours on the weekends, or just stop by their office (2981 24th St) for a $3 self-guided map. See the website for hours, tour info, history of the project, and great photos of some of the art.
If Chinatown is Little Asia, then Mission is Little Mexico. My morning mural trek (see previous tips) wandered by shop windows of religious icons, sidewalk displays of clothing and trinkets and past outdoor markets of sunny fruits and jewel-toned vegetables. The smell of enchiladas and tamales and the sound of mariachi music wafted from tiny cafes, and mothers with little ones in tow chatted together over their marketing in soft, staccato Spanish. And everywhere there is color: anything that can be is painted, planted, dyed, tiled or otherwise adorned in vibrant, brilliant color.
I walked both 24th (Church to Hampshire) and a large section of Mission Street, down to Mission Dolores and the Women's Building, and perceived 24th to be the center of a friendly, tight-knit neighborhood. Mission St. is a main thoroughfare and while not lacking in activity, felt much more commercialized and gritty.
This is an area best visited in daylight and is rumored to have some of the best restaurants in the city for travelers on a budget. And do bring the kids - they'll be welcome here and cheerfully entertained with all the bright and shiny things to look at!
You've almost reached the end of your 24th St. mural walk (see previous tips). You are starving. Time to refuel. I'd put Dynamo Donut on my to-do list for the Mission 'cause the darn thing kept kept popping up during my research. Rumor had it that these were no ordinary donuts but hot little numbers with some big-time culinary reviewers lately so me thinks I must see what the fuss is about.
Hmmm... chocolate saffron? Apricot cardamom? Chocolate rosemary almond? Nope, not your average cop stop. The locals in the lineup swore that this Dynamo virgin must do the deed with nothing other than maple-glazed bacon apple. Bacon? Seriously? Absolutely, they say, and decide to hang around to watch the initiation. Never one to back out on a double-dog dare, I take the first, very tiny, very tentative bite - and find Shangri-La. OMG. Heaven opens. Angels sing. The locals smile.
Good coffee, too.
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