San Francisco City Guides


City Guides volunteers are serious about sharing the fun of discovering San Francisco and its neighborhoods. Our purpose is to preserve and perpetuate the history and folklore of San Francisco and celebrate its rich history of cultural diversity. And in the spirit of our primary sponsor, the San Francisco Public Library, we provide this service free of charge.

Featured Fun

As a San Francisco History Days 2020 partner, San Francisco City Guides is offering eight individual walking tours throughout the weekend.

See our Program Page for a full list of events and registration links.

Saturday, September 26, 2020, 10:30AM – (In-Person) Golden Gate Park East 

It was the 1860s, and everyone had heard about New York City’s Central Park — a spacious plot of green that contrasted sharply with the metallic landscape beyond. To recreate such a space in San Francisco, city officials looked west, where the unincorporated Outside Lands lied dormant and unused. By the turn of the century, Golden Gate Park had developed into an enormous playground for a recreation-starved city, earning its nickname as the “Lungs of San Francisco”.

Extending from the Conservatory of Flowers to the Music Concourse, the East End is home to sites both historically significant and contemporarily beautiful — including AIDS Grove, the Shakespeare Garden, Children’s Playground and the Music Concourse. We’ll also take a trip (optional, but encouraged) to the De Young Museum’s tower for a panoramic view of the park. Breathe deep and enjoy a natural oasis on the Pacific.

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required. 

Saturday, September 26, 2020, 1:00PM – (In-Person) The Presidio 

From Spain, to Mexico, to the United States — The Presidio has been home to more militaries than almost any other fortress in America. And for good reason: it’s a sprawling, fortified estate strategically located at the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula. During the Spanish-American War, it was where America’s troops were trained and shipped across the Pacific. A decade later, it would be an oasis for earthquake survivors, housing refugees and coordinating rescue efforts.

Lawmakers transformed the space into a National Park in 1996, and since then the Presidio has become one of the greatest (and greenest) places to explore in all of San Francisco. Join us on a walk through San Francisco’s panoramic, luscious park, with wooded areas and scenic views as far as the eye can see.

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.

Saturday, September 26, 2020, 1:30PM – (In-Person) 1850’s Paris of the Pacific 

Everyone in France heard the rumors. Or saw the news reports “of gold mines…fabulous riches awaiting only the hands of miners to be picked up.” Some packed their bags and set off for California. These French left their mark on the culture of the booming city. The French influenced society, especially in food and fashion. Without them, it’s hard to imagine San Francisco becoming our sophisticated, cosmopolitan metropolis.

We will walk through the heart of Gold Rush San Francisco and learn the stories of some of the thousands of French who influenced the City’s development with restaurants, bakeries, shops, laundries, banks and bordellos. From the Gold Rush to today, San Francisco has been the “Paris of the Pacific!”

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.

Saturday, September 26, 2020, 2:00PM – (In-Person) Japantown 

In the late 1800’s, what is now known as San Francisco’s Japantown hosted a vibrant Jewish community, as the sites of three present or former synagogues attest. Japantown per se dates from the earthquake and fire of 1906. During World War II, Japanese American residents were sent to internment camps and replaced largely by African Americans, whose thriving businesses included many jazz clubs. Beginning in the 1950’s, a decades-long urban renewal project reshaped both the neighborhood’s population and its physical landscape. Today we see classic Victorians next to Japanese-style architecture, as well as the ghosts of historic jazz clubs replaced by modern structures of glass and steel.

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.

Sunday, September 27, 2020, 11:00AM – (In-Person) Haight-Ashbury 

It’s 1967 and the sun is shining on San Francisco. You’re walking through the Haight-Ashbury, weaving through groups of long-haired kids smoking joints and laughing. As you pass the legendary Straight Theater, you hear Jerry Garcia and the Dead letting loose a psychedelic storm of sound. You’re in the Hippie Capital of the world.

But the story of Haight-Ashbury is much more than just tie dye and bell-bottoms — it’s an epic cultural transformation spanning from the 1906 earthquake, through the Great Depression and World War II, all the way to the ‘60s. See where the counterculture was born, and learn how the area’s unique position and community enabled its growth. Bring a smile and plenty of good vibes.

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.

Sunday, September 27, 2020, 11:00AM – (In-Person) Golden Gate Bridge

What more is there to say?

It’s an international symbol of San Francisco, a mind-blowing feat of engineering, and one of the most-photographed places in the entire world. The iconic Golden Gate Bridge has captivated locals and tourists alike since it opened in 1937. It was the world’s longest and tallest suspension bridge at its opening, and almost a century later, remains one of the most impressive structures ever built by humans.

Immerse yourself in the story of the Golden Gate, featuring soaring architectural design, stunning engineering, terrifying geology, ripping currents and tides, famous fog, sailboats, ships, marine mammals, fearless ironworkers, naysayers, conservative bankers — oh, and an absolutely breathtaking view. Experience a true wonder of the world — with guides who can tell you how it all happened.

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.

Sunday, September 27, 2020, 2:00PM – (In-Person) Murals & The Multi-Ethnic Mission

See how the culture, lore, and history of this neighborhood have literally left their mark on its walls! We start with a four-story mural at the Women’s Building and view many others, including an eight-story example at Bethany Center. We’ll invoke ghosts from the past, including Catholic missionaries, orthodox Jews, German Lutherans, and Palestinian refugees. But we won’t wallow in the past. The neighborhood is now a hipster magnet, full of modern construction and re-purposed buildings on the Mission Street “Miracle Mile.” Specific destinations may vary in this dynamic district where change is the only constant!

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.

Sunday, September 27, 2020, 2:00PM – (In-Person) Castro: Tales of the Village

When Harvey Milk won his historic 1977 race for the Board of Supervisors, he ran the campaign out of his humble Castro District camera shop. For the past decade, a vibrant gay community had been taking root in the Castro — one that would come to transform San Francisco politics out of sheer collective willpower.

But long before it popped onto the national stage, the Castro was just dairy farms and dirt roads. Follow its journey through Scandinavian, and Irish hands, immigrants who started businesses, social organizations and political groups to create a community of their own.

You’ll learn about the evolution of the Castro’s architecture, historic businesses and the people and places that played a role in making the Castro one of the epicenters of the gay rights movement — a tradition that continues today.

Pay what you can on a sliding scale of $0-15; pre-registration required.