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The SF Trail: 5 Cultural Hubs That Are A Must-Visit


Mark Galieo

Vybeliving #232 Mission Street


6 Mar 2020

 SF Cultural Hubs

San Francisco has always been a huge cultural hub of America and has a rich history of cultural, art, and social movements among others. If you’ve recently moved into The City or are traveling for a while, there are some places you just shouldn’t miss visiting during your time here. Having lived here for quite a while, I’ve taken it upon myself to compile a list of five such places that you should put on your list right now.

1.    SFMOMA

San Francisco Modern Museum of Art (SFMOMA)

San Francisco is a museum city through and through. I’ll be talking more about the other museums of SF later, but I felt the San Francisco Modern Museum of Art (SFMOMA) deserved a special mention of its own. 

Located in downtown SF, this museum is the place to head to if you want to start exploring San Francisco’s diverse history and art. This is where Jackson Pollock had his first exhibition, and this museum contains many of his important works. Other notable artists include Clyfford Still, Ansel Adams, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and Marcel Duchamp. It contains over 33,000 works of art and is one of the largest museums in the world for modern and contemporary art. Tickets are a bit pricey, but you can’t pass up a visit to SFMOMA if you’re spending some time in The City.

2.    Mission District

Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and Galeria de La Raza

Named after the oldest building in SF, Mission Dolores, Mission District is a diverse and exuberant neighborhood that’s particularly known for its various distinct cultures, buzzing nightlife, and extensive street art and murals. It’s also known as the place to be if you’re searching for reliably good weather in unpredictable San Francisco—Karl the Fog usually steers clear of The Mission!

Mission District has some of the hottest galleries in town, such as the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and Galeria de La Raza, but it's the street art that really steals the show here. Stepping into the neighborhood takes you into an open gallery with walls upon walls adorned with vibrant murals and works of art. It’s here you’ll really feel the reflection of cultural and social movements and expressions through art. To have the complete experience, don’t miss the Women’s Building MaestraPeace Mural, the Carnaval Mural, and Balmy and Clarion Alleys.

3.    Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park

Only a few minutes away from the architectural marvel of the Golden Gate Bridge lies the enormous Golden Gate Park, which is a good 20% larger than Central Park in New York. It’s definitely not a place you can cover in a day or two!

This expansive park contains several major museums and attractions of San Francisco, including the Conservatory of Flowers and the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Must-visits include the DeYoung Museum, the California Academy of Sciences, the Japanese Tea Garden, and the Strybing Arboretum. It’s also absolutely perfect for when you just want to sit down in the lap of nature with a good book for some peace and quiet.

4.    Castro District

Castro District

One of America’s first gay neighborhoods, Castro is the definition of gay culture in SF. It’s a lively neighborhood that’ll make its presence known as soon as you get there, what with the rainbow banners hanging from every streetlight. The Castro especially comes alive during the Pride Parade, so June’s a great time to visit!

Pay a visit to the Castro Theatre, which remains The City’s last movie theatre and is famous for its special screening programs and singalongs. There’s also the Harvey Milk Photo Centre, the largest and oldest community wet darkroom in the US, and the Seward Street Slides where you can indulge the child in you and slide down on cardboards. Castro is also the best place to learn about the history and struggles of the LGBTQ community in America. A visit to the GLBT History Museum, the Rainbow Honor Walk, and the Pink Triangle Memorial Park is a must.

5.    Chinatown

SF’s Chinatown

SF’s Chinatown is the largest and oldest in all of America, and where you should head to if you’re craving authentic Chinese food or want a look into the culture of this densely populated slice of China. You can stick to Grant Avenue, or head to Stockton Street and into the little alleys and side streets where the locals (and the mahjong parlors) are.

Chinatown will immerse you into Chinese culture and make you feel as if you’ve stepped straight into China the moment you cross the Dragon Gate into the neighborhood. Here, you’ll find herbal shops, like the Great China Herb Company, and can have authentic tea-tasting experiences. Portsmouth Square is also an important cultural spot, not just for Chinatown but for SF as a whole. Chinatown is really at the heart of The City and has been here pretty much from its beginning.

There are honestly so many culturally important places in SF that I could go on for days. The City is an amalgamation of various cultures coming together in one small city, which is perfect if you’re the type to crave authentic Italian one day and Burmese the next. One thing’s for sure if you get the chance to visit SF, try to lose the tourist goggles and tread where the locals are to experience the real San Francisco!

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