The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose is really a must-see if you're coming to the Bay Area (although I'm putting this tip as an Off the Beaten Path of San Francisco). This museum is great for your kids and yourself. You can experience and learn the newest technologies that have recently been developed, including cool games, robots, communication, etc. There is also an IMAX theater too. Tickets are $9 each (for exhibits, or IMAX individually) or $16 for combo (exhibits and IMAX). See the web site for more information.
You will find plenty of commercial galleries around Union Square, especially along Geary and Sutter. But for more interesting (for me), contemporary stuff, in downtown I would head to the easternmost block of Geary (between Grant and Kearney). Galleries here occupy upper floors of the buildings. The largest collection of them are in 49 Geary, on the south side of the street, Another important colony is in 77 Geary; Don't overlook Paule Anglim across the street (14 Geary, second floor), either.
Two blocks north on Grant is John Berggruen (228 Grant), an important gallery featuring the best of bay area artists like Diebenkorn and Lobdell.
Worthwhile galleries can also be found around SFMOMA, especially the magnificent Crown Point Press (20 Hawthorne).
Pick up a copy of San Francisco Bay Area Gallery Guide, available from the hotel concierge or at any of the galleries, and start exploring!
The North Beach museum is a cute little repository of old photos and whatnots from the colorful history of this vibrant neighborhood. It was really interesting to me to see the people who built the city and read their stories.
Kids would enjoy a little schooldesk from earlier times.
This museum is tiny and REALLY hard to find. It's at 1435 Stockton. Which is an unmarked address. But there is a bank there. Just charge into the bank and head UP the stairs, and that's where you'll find the museum!
When in Sf, don't miss an oppurtunity to go to the famous Fillmore Auditorium and step into the most famous musical venue on the west coast and perhaps the entire US.
The Doors have played here, so have The Who, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin you name it and the fillmore has hosted them.
They serve alcohol at the bar inside and the crowd is young and very into the music.
Recently the Fillmore has hosted some of the world's top dj's playing their sets in the same halls that echoed the voices of jim, jerry, janis, jimi and the likes.
The fillmore is located on Geary blvd and Fillmore Street in the Western Addition. Take the Geary bus (31) and get off near the Boom Boom Room (John Lee Hooker Blue's club is across the street).
Down in Woodside, set on 650 rolling acres is the Djerassi Ranch, home to the Resident Artist program where artists come to create writing, art, sculptures and music. Every so often (check the website for dates) 2-mile and half day tours of the sculptures and grounds are offered. I've included one of my favorite sculptures that artists in residence have created. St. Denis Tower is set up on a hill and is created out of willow branches woven together. I've too many pictures to include here, so check my 'Djerassi travelogue' for pictures of more sculptures
Every first Thursday of the month, local art galleries stay open until about 7:30 so art lovers, social butterflies, and curious geaorges can check out the latest exhibits, drink some wine, and improve their aesthetic tastes. The downtown galleries that participate in this are at 49 Geary and 75 Geary (you can't miss the people streaming in and out of the buildings). A few blocks up are the Sutter Street galleries including HangART and Hang Art annex. (www.hangart.com).
This piece of art is standing in Justin Herman Plazza, close to the Embarcadero center.
In short, this is rather puzzling!
You are supposed to climb on and through it and water is supposed to fall from inside...
However when I have seen it in january, it was closed and there was no falling water, that's probably why I was not that impressed...
The Franklin Bowles Galleries (in between Ghiardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf) - they were showing some Picaso's in the window as I walked by, but then I was extremely please to find out that they are one of Leroy Neiman's galleries.
The image you see here is his 'Portrait of the Lion'
Different people have different interests. If you like airplanes, there are 2 museums that are not too well advertised. The Hiller Aviation Museum is more well known having opened in the last few years. Located in San Carlos (in San Mateo county, south of San Francisco), they're specialty is helicopters. They have a website at http://www.hiller.org. The Pacific Coast Air Museum in Santa Rosa is north of San Francisco. They are not open every day. They have a somewhat rare N version of the F-16.
From the Mexican Museum at Fort Mason Center at Laguna and Marina Blvd. in San Francisco..this is a detail from the work 'Illegal Landscape' by artist Gronk, dated 1980-1986...Must be a very intriguing collection!