San Francisco has always been a city of innovators. What other city is home to a secret mosaic staircase, infinite mirror maze, and sound movement theater? On this uniquely curated tour, we’ll bypass the usual tourist sites and dive into the lives of the creators, artists, and eccentrics who bring the city’s creative spirit to life, whether through graffiti, vintage arcades, or burger-making robots.
While it’s now known as the center of the tech world, San Francisco has been continually reinventing itself since day one—when, in 1847, when the small township of Yerba Buena was renamed after St. Francis of Assisi. The city has been evolving ever since, and doesn’t have any plans to slow down. Over the course of this three-day exploration, we’ll try to keep apace as we delve into overlooked aspects of the city’s art, design, bar culture, and cuisine.
This trip is best for people who are...
- Curious to learn about what ideas and inventions sprouted in San Francisco (other than Twitter).
- Ready to walk 3 to 5 miles per day, including climbing those famously steep city streets.
- Eager to get creative during hands-on graffiti and cocktail-making workshops.
We’ll set out together to explore unusual galleries, test our cocktail-making skills, and visit the city’s best unofficial museum. From the Autodesk Gallery to Mary Ellen Pleasant Park, we’ll meet with an eclectic host of innovators and artists who call San Francisco home as we get to know the city’s history of reinvention.
This trip is limited to a small group of 12 travelers.
- Hip-hop history: Learn about the influence of San Francisco’s greatest MCs and artists and create your own graffiti stencil.
- Psychedelic city: Take a trip to the LSD museum. Sorry, no samples.
- Robot chef: Enjoy a meal prepared by the world’s first burger-making robot.
- Moody drinks: Learn about the mixological history of San Francisco and enjoy a customized cocktail inspired by your mood.
YOUR LOCAL GUIDE
Kate Nickles, originally from northern Nevada, has been a San Francisco local since 2013. Since then, Kate has developed and led non-traditional experiences in some of the best cultural institutions in the Bay Area. She has also worked with museums across the country to develop unique, modern programming.
Welcome to San Francisco
- Arrive in San Francisco and check in to your accommodations for the weekend.
- We’ll meet at 6 p.m. at Comstock Saloon, a historic cocktail bar that’s been in operation under various names and owners since 1907. Here, we’ll get to know each other over dinner and drinks before jumping into the exciting weekend ahead.
A Robot Chef & Mood-Inspired Cocktails
- We'll begin the day with an insider walking tour of the oldest parts of the city. We’ll hear about the innovative spirit evidenced throughout San Francisco’s history, from Native Americans to Spaniards, gold seekers to beatniks. On our tour, we’ll see where two of the city's founders dueled out their issues; pay homage to the city’s unofficial royal, Emperor Norton; and unearth why Mary Ellen Pleasant Park is so haunted.
- We'll then make our way to the Autodesk Gallery, a one-of-a-kind space where art meets tech in unexpected ways. We'll get a glimpse at innovations on the cutting edge of technology, art, and design, like a car grown from seeds or a dress that interacts with its wearer's movements.
- Afterward, we'll rest and enjoy a private lunch at the restaurant Creator, where we’ll feast at the hands...er...clamps of the world’s first burger-making robot.
- Next, we’re off to BIIG, a new-age cocktail lounge, for a drink-making lesson and bespoke cocktail experience. We'll each enjoy a custom cocktail mixed to match our mood.
- This evening, you’re free to relax, wander, and dine on your own, though you're also welcome to join your guide at one of her favorite local spots.
Hip-Hop, Graffiti & Psychedelic History
- This morning, we'll kick off the day with a visit to 1AM Gallery, named after the First Amendment. 1AM is an art space supporting graffiti and street art culture through urban art exhibitions, public murals, and interactive experiences. While here, we’ll learn about the history of hip-hop and the influence of San Francisco's greatest artists and MCs. Then we’ll get our hands dirty, learning how to create our own stencils and graffiti art.
- Next, we’ll make our way to the LSD Museum. Sorry, no samples, but you will receive a private tour of the largest blotter paper collection in the world,, led by the museum's curator.
- For lunch, we’ll be eating at San Jalisco, a casual Mexican spot in the heart of the Mission District.
- Bellies full, we’ll shuttle across town to the best unofficial museum in San Francisco, Musée Mécanique. This playable museum boasts the largest vintage arcade collection in the country (possibly the world). Learn how four quarts of motor oil kickstarted this museum and how it's known to have inspired the creation of Disneyland. You'll have free time to try your hand at classic games and get a behind-the-scenes peek with the son of the original collector, now the museum's owner.
- After freshening up, we’ll head back out and celebrate our time together over a festive farewell dinner at one of San Francisco's most innovative restaurants.
YOUR ATLAS OBSCURA SAN FRANCISCO TRIP INCLUDES
- Two dinners and two lunches.
- Welcome cocktails and a cocktail-making workshop.
- A knowledgeable local guide, as well as special guests along the way.
- An unlimited public transit card for the duration of the trip.
- Admission to all proposed activities, workshops, and museums.
- A great group of fellow Atlas Obscura fans, excited to explore all that San Francisco has to offer!
NOTE ON ITINERARY
Itineraries are subject to change. This particular tour has been designed with specific activities and events in mind. Schedules and availabilities may change in coming months or be affected by weather during the trip. If any activity or attraction that is advertised is missed or not available, we will always replace it with another activity or location of significant interest and value. We do expect to have the chance to see everything on this itinerary, if perhaps not in the same order. However, flexibility and an adventurous spirit are key.
NOTE ON PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
This tour is moderately active. Travelers should be reasonably fit and feel comfortable walking three to five miles over the course of each day, traversing San Francisco’s famously hilly streets and remaining outside and on their feet for long periods of time.
ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE
Our trip begins with welcome cocktails at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 19. We recommend you arrive in San Francisco on the afternoon of September 19, so you can settle into your accommodations and make your way to Comstock Saloon to meet our guide and group. Our trip concludes in the evening on Saturday, September 21. If leaving San Francisco following our tour, we recommend departing on the morning of Sunday, September 22.
Accommodations are not included in this trip; however, our guide is happy to suggest a variety of hotels and neighborhoods for booking Airbnb accommodations. If you need any help selecting accommodations, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The total cost of this trip is $860. A $500 deposit is required to hold your space. This deposit is nonrefundable after three days. The final payment of $360 will be due by August 5, 2019. All reservations will be final after this date and subject to our cancellation policy. By submitting your deposit, you agree to the trip's Terms & Conditions.
TRAVELERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR
- Flights and other transport to and from San Francisco.
- All accommodations in San Francisco.
- Airport transfers.
- Travel insurance (recommended).
- Additional food and drink outside of Atlas Obscura offerings, including most alcoholic beverages.
- Applying for a U.S. visa, if applicable.