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  • Readers' Poll

    Best Local Comedian Alex Blagg Best Local Stripper No winner Best Local Writer Dave Eggers Best San Francisco Icon Golden Gate Bridge Best Local Bartender Erin Freer, 540 Club Best Beat Cop No winner Best Place for a First Date Golden Gate Park Best Place to Propose Ocean Beach Best View Twin Peaks Best Historic Spot Sutro Baths Best Fashion Plate Gavin Newsom Best Radio DJs Sarah & No Name, Alice@97.3 (FM) Best TV Talking Head Dennis Richmond, KTVU Channel... More >>

  • Best Free Sightseeing

    Paradise Drive, Tiburon There's a reason that most of the multimillionaires in the Bay Area live in Tiburon: It's breathtaking. While all the tourists jam Sausalito, lesser-known Tiburon is a destination for local residents in the know. It's got a modest downtown with nice little ice cream shops and bike rental joints, but if you keep heading east through town there's a long expanse of sidewalk along the water that's perfect for a lazy stroll. Park in the Tiburon Railroad-Ferry... More >>

  • Best Place for Kids

    Zeum 221 Fourth St. (at Howard), 777-2800, www.zeum.org One glance in the Reality Check room at Zeum confirms it: They never, ever had anything like this when you were a kid. A handful of high-tech stations make up a whole production studio for creating media shows, all with controls so simple a child could use them (which is the point). During an afternoon, a 6-year-old could put together, say, a faux newscast complete with weather, guest interviews, green-screened field broadcasts,... More >>

  • Five Best Pre-Quake Structures

    On April 18, 1906, the greatest natural disaster in American history hit San Francisco in the form of an 8.3 earthquake that opened gas mains, ruptured water lines, cut off telegraph contact with the outside world, and started some four dozen fires that grew into an enormous, wind-whipped conflagration. When it was all over, 3,000 people were dead, 250,000 were homeless, and most of the city's busiest quadrant was leveled. Surprisingly, a few pockets of real estate survived the devastation,... More >>

  • Best Audio and Visual Collagist

    Rob Cole San Francisco has one of the highest DJ-per-square-inch ratios in the country: We're famous for it. Many DJs are insincere victims of a trend (we may be famous for this as well). But Rob Cole, aka KROB, is a man following his vision so tenaciously that San Francisco ought to be famous for housing him. In fact, it may not be accurate to call him a DJ; he runs two, sometimes three radio shows and provides mixed sounds... More >>

  • Best Street Name

    Mark Twain Plaza West of Sansome between Clay and Washington Mark Twain was not only a towering influence in the development of our native literature, one of the country's sharpest and most astute social critics, and the author of what is arguably the Greatest American Novel, but he also nurtured his talents and earliest successes right here in San Francisco. In the space of 2 1/2 years, from the spring of 1864 to the autumn of 1866, Twain worked as... More >>

  • Best $1.25 Tour of the City

    Muni Lines 29, 9, and 15 www.sfmuni.com The famed 49 Mile Drive is a rightful chestnut for out-of-towners for its spectacular views of San Francisco, but visitors and locals without cars can get a decent abridged version for half the price of a gallon of gas with some clever maneuvering on Muni. Hop on an outbound 29 at the edge of the Presidio (on Letterman near Lombard), going west, which runs by Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge before... More >>

  • Best Contemplative Spot

    The Legion of Honor Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue & Clement, 863-3330, www.thinker.org/legion Two famous meditative types have chosen this quiet hilltop retreat as their eternal musing ground: on celluloid, the mysterious Madeleine Elster in Hitchcock's Vertigo, and in bronze, Rodin's massive emblem of human cogitation, forever ruminating beside the museum's entrance. This Thinker is one of five in the world cast from the original mold, and was a gift to the city from sugar heiress Alma Spreckels, as was the... More >>

  • Best Classic Murals

    Rincon Center 101 Spear (at Mission) Built as a Works Progress Administration project, the Rincon Annex post office is among the city's finest links to a glorious art deco past. When the Rincon Center shopping and office complex was built in 1978, developers were required to preserve the splendid murals depicting California's history as executed by Russian artist Anton Refregier. Begun in 1941, his lobby frieze was finally completed in 1948, after being interrupted by World War II. The gorgeous... More >>

  • Best Parking Garage

    Royal Valet Parking Co. 525 Jones (at Geary), 440-1279 Remaining brand loyal to a parking ramp might seem a bit neurotic, until those panicked moments just before dusk on New Year's Eve, when the dinner reservations at a swish place near Union Square are scant minutes away and you've been circling the neighborhood for an hour. That night -- and many since -- we've found succor at Royal Valet, a tucked-away two-story garage that looks down on Jones Street. It's... More >>

  • Best Metaphysical Travelers

    Golden Gate Pronaos Rosicrucians 60 Tennessee Valley (near Headlands), Mill Valley, 442-1950, www.goldengate.rosicrucian.org The Rosicrucians are an unusual bunch of self-helpists. We don't mean unusual in a Tony Robbins "I am a giant who could crush your skull but will instead proffer honey-tongued advice" kind of way, but rather in a "further man's evolution through the wisdom of the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Europe" kind of way. The group believes in "self-mastery," and to achieve it draws from... More >>

  • Best Comedian

    William Franken www.willfranken.com If any comedian today could be said to embody the spirit of San Francisco, it's Will Franken. Long-haired, lanky-limbed, and mildly shabby-looking, Franken slaps his audiences about the face and neck with his cerebral, surreal blend of sketch comedy mixed with stand-up. Unlike most professional funnypeople, who specialize in one kind of humor or another -- political, gay, Jewish, whatever -- Franken makes it impossible to know what you're going to get at his shows. Audience members... More >>

  • Best Historic Marker

    Sparky 20th & Church streets Stand at the top corner of Dolores Park and you'll probably find yourself facing northeast, checking out the breathtaking view of the bay, the city, and the array of thinly veiled buttocks in front of you. The location offers pretty good free distraction, and that's not even counting the dog walkers. But if you turn the other way, across the intersection you'll see "Sparky," the fire hydrant that saved a big hunk of the city... More >>

  • Best Popcorn Vendor

    Joe Rukus The Metreon, 101 Fourth St. (at Mission), 369-6201 This performer puts the pop in popcorn. A fixture at the Metreon's weekend flicks, Rukus wheels his red concessions cart from theater to theater, belting show tunes and songs from TV (most recently, the theme to Gilligan's Island) and dispensing snacks and life lessons. He lists Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon among his influences; once he's inside a theater, he steps in front of the screen to perform his five-minute... More >>

  • Best Redwood Grove

    Transamerica Pyramid 600 Montgomery (at Washington) "From them comes silence and awe," John Steinbeck said of Sequoia sempervirens, the majestic, towering conifers that can grow well over 300 feet in height, 7 feet in diameter, and 2,000 years in age. Not native to San Francisco, they are nevertheless the fog-nurtured essence of Northern California. Nestled against the eastern base of the Transamerica Pyramid is a half-acre grove of young redwoods transplanted from the Santa Cruz Mountains, their hushed dignity imparting... More >>

  • Best Place to Watch Pornos (and Be Considered Intellectual)

    The Center for Sex & Culture 398 11th St. (at Harrison), 255-1155, www.sexandculture.org Sex educator Dr. Carol Queen (author of Real Live Nude Girl and Exhibitionism for the Shy), with the Center for Sex & Culture, has created a safe public space where people can research issues pertaining to sexuality and participate in lively sex-positive events. The center's event calendar ranges from art auctions and nights deconstructing bad adult movies to theater performances and the upcoming "Masturbate-a-Thon" charity fund-raiser on... More >>

  • Best Place to Work on Your Laptop When You're Unemployed

    Atlas Cafe 3049 20th St. (at Alabama), 824-0298, www.atlascafe.net Unemployment sucks, no matter how much you overworked types may dream of "free" time. In reality, the long hours filled with shoulda-coulda-wouldas creep past excruciatingly slowly, as alienation and guilt set in; panic attacks often follow. But if you are unemployed, try spending your few dollars at the Atlas Cafe. The warmth of both temperature and temperament is comforting, and the wireless access is a boon if you own a laptop.... More >>

  • Best-Looking Library

    Marin Civic Center 3501 Civic Center (at Avenue of the Flags), Fourth Floor, San Rafael, 499-6056, www.marincenter.org Many people live in the Bay Area without ever realizing that there's a gigantic, beautiful building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Marin County. The Civic Center is a sprawling flying saucer with all the playful details the architect is famous for, but the library on the fourth floor is the most fun. You'll find tons of Wright information here, of course, but... More >>

  • Best Heart Attack-Inducing Stairs

    Vallejo Steps Vallejo between Mason and Taylor Tucked into a verdant slice of Russian Hill above Mason Street, the Vallejo Steps and their pedestrian cargo are easy to miss from a distance. Up close, however, it's impossible not to notice the people wheezing up the 167 stairs like fat tourists at a Mayan temple. The eyes bug. The chests heave. The tickers strain from a merciless assault on the 45-degree slope. Luckily, the fitness-challenged can rest on benches in the... More >>

  • Best Museum

    Cartoon Art Museum 655 Mission (at Third Street), 227-8666, www.cartoonart.org We were ordered, long ago, to start thinking of cartoons and comics as art, so stop fighting it. Seeing the work framed, labeled, and hanging on the walls of an austere gallery goes a long way toward legitimizing the form, but we also like the Cartoon Art Museum for its fascinating peek at the creative process. The size these artists work in is much larger than the strip or box... More >>

  • Best Scrolling View

    Amtrak to Sacramento (800) 872-7245, www.amtrak.com If you've ever taken the weekend or evening ride on Amtrak's Capitol Corridor route to Sacramento, you've likely as not seen an in-the-know couple lounging in a dining booth with a luxury picnic complete with wine, cheeses, canapés, fruit, and pastries. They may seem eccentric at first sight, but after enjoying the quiet, gently rocking ride along the bay, through the grassy Sacramento River Delta swampland between Martinez and Davis, and easing into the... More >>

  • Best Unconventional Bombshell

    Bambi Lake Born Johnny Purcell, Lake has blossomed into a cyclonic force in San Francisco. Even if you haven't seen her gorgeous, harrowing live routines or witnessed her antics (which border on brilliantly insane performance art) at any number of local dive bars, you've probably seen her walking around town clad in Betsey Johnson or some stunning vintage dress from the 1930s. One could describe her merely as a transsexual chanteuse, but she's so much more than that. Lake got... More >>

  • Best Wooded Retreat

    MacBeath Hardwood Co. 2150 Oakdale (at Industrial), 647-0782, www.macbeath.com If your wife leaves you, you lose your job, or your computer crashes with your career-hinging afternoon presentation aboard, do the following: Drive out to MacBeath Hardwood. Walk past the sales area, across the loading yard, and into the old warehouse that stores the teak, bocote, rosewood, ebony, zebrawood, mahogany, and other exotics, and breathe as much air out of your lungs as you can. Now breathe in, gently, for 24... More >>

  • Best City Campground

    Rob Hill Campground Harrison & Central Magazine, The Presidio, 561-5444 Camping in the city usually follows some horrible miscalculation, such as losing your keys or your girlfriend. But at Rob Hill on the Presidio's west edge, people engage in old-school camping, with tents and mess kits, as they enjoy views of the Pacific and the Marin Headlands through the trees. The sites are large, surrounded by eucalyptus, and calm -- you nearly forget you're within city limits until a car... More >>

  • Best Political Transformation

    Matt Gonzalez Gonzalez & Leigh LLP, 332 Pine (at Sansome), 217-3200 A grooming-challenged deputy public defender known mostly for pissing off judges -- one whose previous stab at political office, a run for DA, barely registered with voters -- might have seemed a long shot to represent the Haight-Ashbury area on the S.F. Board of Supervisors. Soon after he took office in 2000, however, Matt Gonzalez made it hard to imagine the board without him. He also seemed an unlikely... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Most of Us Can't Afford to Live In

    Presidio Terrace Near Arguello & Washington Sure, Pacific Heights has many fine mansions, but there's only one neighborhood in San Francisco so affluent that it makes the gated communities of Orange County bow their heads in shame. Presidio Terrace -- located at the nexus of Laurel Village, the Presidio, and the Inner Richmond -- is small compared to its swankier sisters. Unlike the manors of Nob Hill or Sea Cliff, the homes in this 'hood have a traditional neighborhood look,... More >>

  • Best View

    Ninth Floor of the de Young Museum 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at 10th Avenue), Golden Gate Park, www.thinker.org/deyoung If you don't like Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron's design for the new de Young Museum, that's fine. It really does look like a rusting aircraft carrier. If you're pissed off about the Exhibition Concourse Big Dig, that's understandable, too. And being concerned about the additional car traffic the huge new parking garage will bring into the park wouldn't make you... More >>

  • Best Cheap Date

    Ocean Aquarium 120 Cedar (at Polk), 771-3206 The bankroll's low, the coin jar's empty, and your date's arriving in a few minutes; what to do? Escort your sweetie to Ocean Aquarium in the Tenderloin for some quality time among the cichlids, plecos, and goodeids. This friendly, hard-to-find hole in the wall carries a dazzling variety of tropical fish far more colorful and mollifying than your standard Hollywood shoot'em-up. Snowballs, green phantoms, rainbow fish, and bettas in lavender, gold, steel blue,... More >>

  • Best Place for a Walk (Indoors)

    Limn 290 Townsend (at Fourth Street), 543-5466, www.limn.com For all their still-emerging hip grandeur, South of Market's growing high-rise neighborhoods are still a bit of a rat hole. Until the city does something to narrow and calm the one-way thoroughfares, reduce the number of car-magnet parking garages, and encourage bicycle commuting with additional and safer bike lanes, the area will remain more of a traffic sewer than a decent place to live, shop, or work. Amid the worst of the... More >>

  • Best Film Programmer

    Edith Kramer Senior film curator and director, Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley, (510) 642-1124, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu From Hong Kong shoot'em-ups to Indian political documentaries, silent Swedish melodramas to forgotten '40s westerns, Edith Kramer has spotlighted every brilliant facet of world cinema during her splendid career. An old-school film buff who's happiest spending hours in a dark theater or debating a discovery with an equally obsessed colleague, Kramer joined the PFA in 1975 and became director in 1983. During... More >>

  • Best Fictional San Francisco Character

    Sam Spade With this being the 75th year since the publication of The Maltese Falcon, can the city claim a better sleuth than writer Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled 1920s crime-solver? We think not. In Falcon, Spade (or Humphrey Bogart, if you're thinking about the movie, and we know you are) sets out to track the killer of his partner, Miles Archer, and comes face to face with a colorful cast of liars, cheats, and crooks angling to get their hands on... More >>

  • Best Tantric Yoga Teacher

    Bast Sekhmet Temple, 860-5705, www.tantrictemple.org Tantra is really catching on, even among those of us who don't particularly want to be part of a 24-hour coitus session. What the method is really about is learning how to breathe, meditate, and transfer energy throughout your body -- you know, yoga. That energy is sensual and sexual, and therein lies the rub (so to speak), but once you've abandoned your preconceived notions about the practice, Bast Sekhmet is everything you could want... More >>

  • Best Public Place to Play Anagrams

    Marquee Sign Outside the Midnight Sun 4067 18th St. (at Castro), 861-4186, www.midnightsunsf.com Whether you're hitching a ride on the 12-step wagon or simply uninterested in the Castro bar scene (and really, how can you not be?), exercise your mind while having mischievous fun by using the Midnight Sun's marquee for a rousing game of anagrams. It's simple: Take a seat across the street from the video bar, pencil and paper in hand, and write down and rearrange the letters... More >>

  • Best People-Watching Spot

    Dolores Park Dolores & 18th streets Ever noticed how Dolores Park seems to be, hands down, the warmest spot in the city? Aside from the weather, it's an idyllic place -- equipped with six tennis courts, two soccer fields, a stellar downtown backdrop, and a playground that even adults can enjoy. It has also been the neighborhood mecca for cultural and political activities since the 1960s, hosting anti-war rallies, Aztec ceremonial dances, and San Francisco Mime Troupe performances year-round. But... More >>

  • Best Cable Car Gripman

    Frank Ware Powell-Mason line, 673-6864, www.sfmuni.com Don't take our word for it. Veteran gripman Ware, a native of the Philippines, is the defending champion in the annual cable car bell-ringing contest sponsored by Muni, which operates the cable cars. And while he doesn't claim to be a crooner, it probably didn't hurt that during the competition last July Ware sang -- what else? -- the Rice-A-Roni jingle that has, over the years, become synonymous with his beloved cable cars in... More >>

  • Best Place to Lose Your Heart

    Harry Denton's Starlight Room 450 Powell (at Bush), 395-8595, www.harrydenton.com Draped with chandeliers and silk and done up in ruby red and gold tones to create a 1930s opulence, the Starlight Room (formerly the Starlight Roof) occupies the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, overlooking Union Square. It would be worth a visit for nothing else but the dazzling 300-degree views of the city and the bay, but then there's Harry Denton's Starlight Orchestra, which plays several nights... More >>

  • Best Perfumer

    Yosh Han www.eaudeyosh.com After you smell Han's scents, you'll never go back to wearing department store perfume again. Unlike most mass-produced fragrances that chemically approximate aromas found in nature, Han's offerings use essences extracted from the actual plants and flowers. Some of her ingredients include oils made from Egyptian tuberose, pomegranate, Kenya lily, and white ginger. But it's the creative way Han combines them that makes each "parfum" irresistible. Some of her buccaneer-inspired scents, including Buxom and Siren, can be... More >>

  • Best Extrasensory Experience

    Tactile Dome in the Exploratorium Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon (at Marina), 561-0362, www.exploratorium.edu/visit/tactile_dome The Tactile Dome is a splendid place to suspend your overutilized sense of sight and rely instead on more primal antennae. Housed in a large geodesic dome in the middle of the Exploratorium interactive science museum, the dome is itself the hands-on experience in extremis. The interior is a pitch-black maze of tubes, chutes, and chambers that you slide, crawl, and bump through, the surrounding... More >>

  • Best Enigmatic Art Window

    Johnny Ramirez's Studio 3589 20th St. (at Valencia), 642-2844 Large brass letters embedded in the sidewalk spell out "LOUIS BAKIN." It isn't clear why, but then, if you're standing near the southeast corner of 20th and Valencia streets, there's at least one other thing that at first glance makes no sense: A large plate-glass window gives way to a carefully constructed and fantastically odd scene. It may be an underwater wonderland made of glitter and pirate's booty surrounded by sheets... More >>

  • Best Place to Hobnob With a Ghost

    Queen Anne Hotel 1590 Sutter (at Octavia), 441-2828, www.queenanne.com Planted on the outskirts of Pacific Heights, the Queen Anne Hotel is a decadent Victorian in shades of crimson and pink, pretty typical for a haunted house -- which it's purported to be. The hotel opened in 1890 and was originally Miss Mary Lake's School for Young Ladies; it passed through various hands (among others, church caretakers' and bordello owners') before 1980, when its current incarnation was born. According to one... More >>

  • Best (Affordable) Way to Impress a First Date

    The Bar at Farallon 450 Post (at Mason), 956-6969, www.farallonrestaurant.com So you have a hot date with someone you'd like to impress who doesn't know how poor you really are? Don't fret: Take her here. Not everyone can afford to eat dinner in this place, but most of us can afford to get appetizers and drinks, so pull up a comfy stool and hang out in the bar. The ambience is romantic and beautiful, like a soft-pink undersea Disney feature... More >>

  • Best Sex Tour Hostess

    Jane Tollini, S.F. Zookeeper S.F. Zoo, Sloat & Great Highway, 753-7080, www.sfzoo.org Before you get too hot and bothered, we're talking animals here -- the zoo kind. Each Valentine's Day (and on the weekend before and after) the comedic Tollini leads a "sex tour" -- really an educational stroll down lovers' lane -- highlighting the animals' mating habits, making her observations as explicit as possible since the tour is restricted to visitors 18 and older. Her hilarious, tongue-in-cheek narration on... More >>

  • Best Pet Viewing

    Valencia Between 16th and 20th Streets Start by taking BART to 16th and Mission streets, then hoof it up 16th to Valencia; stay on the east side of the street and head south. After about a block, look for Valencia Street Books (569 Valencia, 552-7200). You'll know you've found it when you see a good-size sign on the door that reads "Please close the door! Kitty inside." Do like the sign says and watch for Grumble, a tiny, golden, skittish... More >>

  • Best Wildlife Spot

    Telegraph Hill The Greenwich Steps, Greenwich above Montgomery Thanks to the unexpected success of Mark Bittner's lovely memoir The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Judy Irving's captivating, nationally distributed documentary of the same name, tourists will soon be flocking to North Beach to join stargazing locals. The lure, of course, is the extended family of colorful conures that hangs out on the power lines and in the trees on the hill's east side. The winged celebrities are blessedly indifferent... More >>

  • Best TV News Anchor

    Dennis Richmond KTVU, Channel 2 Call us crazy, but we like our TV anchors straight -- talking, that is. Richmond's banter-free, no-nonsense style (not to mention his longevity) serves him well in an era of increasingly obnoxious talking heads. The 60-year-old Ohio native came to the station as a part-time clerk-typist in the mid-'60s, won a special scholarship to Columbia University in 1969, and returned as a beat reporter before sliding into the anchor chair in 1976. His 10 p.m.... More >>

  • Best Place to Meditate

    San Francisco Zen Center 300 Page (at Laguna), 863-3136, www.sfzc.org Most of us are aware that San Francisco is a meditation cloud nine. Since Buddhism was popularized in the United States in the 1960s, monks, scholars, and peaceniks have flocked to the city to get in on the nonaction. The San Francisco Zen Center is perhaps the most established haven of the Buddhist community, maintaining the rigor, intellectual complexity, and elegance of classical Zen that its founder, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi,... More >>

  • Top Five Spots Made Famous in the Movies

    San Francisco's place in cinematic lore is assured, because the city has served as a backdrop to countless classic films (and plenty of car commercials, too). Here are a handful of places to get that sense of dramatic déjà vu. Union Square Between Stockton and Powell, Post and Geary It served as the centerpiece for Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 thriller The Conversation, in which a surveillance expert played by Gene Hackman records a secret discussion between two people walking around... More >>

  • Best Landmark

    Melvin M. Swig Interfaith Memorial Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral Taylor & California, 749-6300, www.gracecathedral.com Atop Nob Hill, surrounded by some of the priciest property in town, a space has been set aside for reflection and meditation. Just to the right of the entrance to Grace Cathedral, up a flight of stairs above the street, a circular labyrinth on the ground serves as a path, a resting place, and an art installation. The design is just complex enough to foil cheaters... More >>

  • Best Ways to Kill Yourself in San Francisco

    For years now -- this year especially -- our nation has been bombarded with stories of a massive suicide pandemic via San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Even if you missed Tad Friend's breathless New Yorker article or the numerous segments on NPR, you can Google "Golden Gate Bridge" + suicide and bring up more than 100,000 hits on the subject. It seems leaping off the Golden Gate is a morbid fascination for everyone. Everyone except the people who live here,... More >>

  • People & Places

    Best Classic Murals Rincon Center 101 Spear (at Mission) Built as a Works Progress Administration project, the Rincon Annex post office is among the city's finest links to a glorious art deco past. When the Rincon Center shopping and office complex was built in 1978, developers were required to preserve the splendid murals depicting California's history as executed by Russian artist Anton Refregier. Begun in 1941, his lobby frieze was finally completed in 1948, after being interrupted by World War... More >>

  • Readers' Poll

    Best Local Comedian Alex Blagg Best Local Stripper No winner Best Local Writer Dave Eggers Best San Francisco Icon Golden Gate Bridge Best Local Bartender Erin Freer, 540 Club Best Beat Cop No winner Best Place for a First Date Golden Gate Park Best Place to Propose Ocean Beach Best View Twin Peaks Best Historic Spot Sutro Baths Best Fashion Plate Gavin Newsom Best Radio DJs Sarah & No Name, Alice@97.3 (FM) Best TV Talking Head Dennis Richmond, KTVU Channel... More >>

  • Best Free Sightseeing

    Paradise Drive, Tiburon There's a reason that most of the multimillionaires in the Bay Area live in Tiburon: It's breathtaking. While all the tourists jam Sausalito, lesser-known Tiburon is a destination for local residents in the know. It's got a modest downtown with nice little ice cream shops and bike rental joints, but if you keep heading east through town there's a long expanse of sidewalk along the water that's perfect for a lazy stroll. Park in the Tiburon Railroad-Ferry... More >>

  • Best Place for Kids

    Theater at the Children's Creativity Museum

    One glance in the Reality Check room at Zeum confirms it: They never, ever had anything like this when you were a kid. A handful of high-tech stations make up a whole production studio for creating media shows, all with controls so simple a child could use them (which is the point). During an afternoon, a 6-year-old could put together, say, a faux newscast complete with weather, guest interviews, green-screened field broadcasts, stop-motion animation, and theme music, all cut together... More >>

  • Five Best Pre-Quake Structures

    On April 18, 1906, the greatest natural disaster in American history hit San Francisco in the form of an 8.3 earthquake that opened gas mains, ruptured water lines, cut off telegraph contact with the outside world, and started some four dozen fires that grew into an enormous, wind-whipped conflagration. When it was all over, 3,000 people were dead, 250,000 were homeless, and most of the city's busiest quadrant was leveled. Surprisingly, a few pockets of real estate survived the devastation,... More >>

  • Best Audio and Visual Collagist

    Rob Col

    San Francisco has one of the highest DJ-per-square-inch ratios in the country: We're famous for it. Many DJs are insincere victims of a trend (we may be famous for this as well). But Rob Cole, aka KROB, is a man following his vision so tenaciously that San Francisco ought to be famous for housing him. In fact, it may not be accurate to call him a DJ; he runs two, sometimes three radio shows and provides mixed sounds for... More >>

  • Best Street Name

    Mark Twain Plaza West of Sansome between Clay and Washington Mark Twain was not only a towering influence in the development of our native literature, one of the country's sharpest and most astute social critics, and the author of what is arguably the Greatest American Novel, but he also nurtured his talents and earliest successes right here in San Francisco. In the space of 2 1/2 years, from the spring of 1864 to the autumn of 1866, Twain worked as... More >>

  • Best $1.25 Tour of the City

    Muni Lines 29, 9, and 15 www.sfmuni.com The famed 49 Mile Drive is a rightful chestnut for out-of-towners for its spectacular views of San Francisco, but visitors and locals without cars can get a decent abridged version for half the price of a gallon of gas with some clever maneuvering on Muni. Hop on an outbound 29 at the edge of the Presidio (on Letterman near Lombard), going west, which runs by Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge before... More >>

  • Best Contemplative Spot

    Legion of Honor Cafe

    Two famous meditative types have chosen this quiet hilltop retreat as their eternal musing ground: on celluloid, the mysterious Madeleine Elster in Hitchcock's Vertigo, and in bronze, Rodin's massive emblem of human cogitation, forever ruminating beside the museum's entrance. This Thinker is one of five in the world cast from the original mold, and was a gift to the city from sugar heiress Alma Spreckels, as was the palace itself. Designed by George Applegarth after the Parisian prototype to... More >>

  • Best Classic Murals

    Rincon Center

    Built as a Works Progress Administration project, the Rincon Annex post office is among the city's finest links to a glorious art deco past. When the Rincon Center shopping and office complex was built in 1978, developers were required to preserve the splendid murals depicting California's history as executed by Russian artist Anton Refregier. Begun in 1941, his lobby frieze was finally completed in 1948, after being interrupted by World War II. The gorgeous work speaks for itself, but... More >>

  • Best Parking Garage

    Royal Valet Parking Co.

    Remaining brand loyal to a parking ramp might seem a bit neurotic, until those panicked moments just before dusk on New Year's Eve, when the dinner reservations at a swish place near Union Square are scant minutes away and you've been circling the neighborhood for an hour. That night -- and many since -- we've found succor at Royal Valet, a tucked-away two-story garage that looks down on Jones Street. It's an easy place to pass by if you aren't... More >>

  • Best Metaphysical Travelers

    Golden Gate Pronaos Rosicrucians

    The Rosicrucians are an unusual bunch of self-helpists. We don't mean unusual in a Tony Robbins "I am a giant who could crush your skull but will instead proffer honey-tongued advice" kind of way, but rather in a "further man's evolution through the wisdom of the mystery schools of ancient Egypt and Europe" kind of way. The group believes in "self-mastery," and to achieve it draws from myriad religio-scientific practices that emphasize skills such as visualization, meditation, psychic enhancement --... More >>

  • Best Comedian

    William Franken www.willfranken.com If any comedian today could be said to embody the spirit of San Francisco, it's Will Franken. Long-haired, lanky-limbed, and mildly shabby-looking, Franken slaps his audiences about the face and neck with his cerebral, surreal blend of sketch comedy mixed with stand-up. Unlike most professional funnypeople, who specialize in one kind of humor or another -- political, gay, Jewish, whatever -- Franken makes it impossible to know what you're going to get at his shows. Audience members... More >>

  • Best Historic Marker

    Sparky 20th & Church streets Stand at the top corner of Dolores Park and you'll probably find yourself facing northeast, checking out the breathtaking view of the bay, the city, and the array of thinly veiled buttocks in front of you. The location offers pretty good free distraction, and that's not even counting the dog walkers. But if you turn the other way, across the intersection you'll see "Sparky," the fire hydrant that saved a big hunk of the city... More >>

  • Best Popcorn Vendor

    Metreon

    This performer puts the pop in popcorn. A fixture at the Metreon's weekend flicks, Rukus wheels his red concessions cart from theater to theater, belting show tunes and songs from TV (most recently, the theme to Gilligan's Island) and dispensing snacks and life lessons. He lists Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon among his influences; once he's inside a theater, he steps in front of the screen to perform his five-minute routine, a machine-gun monologue that changes every month and... More >>

  • Best Redwood Grove

    Transamerica Pyramid

    "From them comes silence and awe," John Steinbeck said of Sequoia sempervirens, the majestic, towering conifers that can grow well over 300 feet in height, 7 feet in diameter, and 2,000 years in age. Not native to San Francisco, they are nevertheless the fog-nurtured essence of Northern California. Nestled against the eastern base of the Transamerica Pyramid is a half-acre grove of young redwoods transplanted from the Santa Cruz Mountains, their hushed dignity imparting a bit of reflective quietude to... More >>

  • Best Place to Watch Pornos (and Be Considered Intellectual)

    Center for Sex & Culture

    Sex educator Dr. Carol Queen (author of Real Live Nude Girl and Exhibitionism for the Shy), with the Center for Sex & Culture, has created a safe public space where people can research issues pertaining to sexuality and participate in lively sex-positive events. The center's event calendar ranges from art auctions and nights deconstructing bad adult movies to theater performances and the upcoming "Masturbate-a-Thon" charity fund-raiser on May 28. The Web site contains a convenient "firecracker" system for rating... More >>

  • Best Place to Work on Your Laptop When You're Unemployed

    Atlas Cafe

    Unemployment sucks, no matter how much you overworked types may dream of "free" time. In reality, the long hours filled with shoulda-coulda-wouldas creep past excruciatingly slowly, as alienation and guilt set in; panic attacks often follow. But if you are unemployed, try spending your few dollars at the Atlas Cafe. The warmth of both temperature and temperament is comforting, and the wireless access is a boon if you own a laptop. Of all the places in the city with... More >>

  • Best-Looking Library

    Marin Civic Center 3501 Civic Center (at Avenue of the Flags), Fourth Floor, San Rafael, 499-6056, www.marincenter.org Many people live in the Bay Area without ever realizing that there's a gigantic, beautiful building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Marin County. The Civic Center is a sprawling flying saucer with all the playful details the architect is famous for, but the library on the fourth floor is the most fun. You'll find tons of Wright information here, of course, but... More >>

  • Best Heart Attack-Inducing Stairs

    Vallejo Steps Vallejo between Mason and Taylor Tucked into a verdant slice of Russian Hill above Mason Street, the Vallejo Steps and their pedestrian cargo are easy to miss from a distance. Up close, however, it's impossible not to notice the people wheezing up the 167 stairs like fat tourists at a Mayan temple. The eyes bug. The chests heave. The tickers strain from a merciless assault on the 45-degree slope. Luckily, the fitness-challenged can rest on benches in the... More >>

  • Best Museum

    Cartoon Art Museum

    We were ordered, long ago, to start thinking of cartoons and comics as art, so stop fighting it. Seeing the work framed, labeled, and hanging on the walls of an austere gallery goes a long way toward legitimizing the form, but we also like the Cartoon Art Museum for its fascinating peek at the creative process. The size these artists work in is much larger than the strip or box you find in the newspaper, revealing otherwise hidden details.... More >>

  • Best Scrolling View

    Amtrak to Sacramento (800) 872-7245, www.amtrak.com If you've ever taken the weekend or evening ride on Amtrak's Capitol Corridor route to Sacramento, you've likely as not seen an in-the-know couple lounging in a dining booth with a luxury picnic complete with wine, cheeses, canapés, fruit, and pastries. They may seem eccentric at first sight, but after enjoying the quiet, gently rocking ride along the bay, through the grassy Sacramento River Delta swampland between Martinez and Davis, and easing into the... More >>

  • Best Unconventional Bombshell

    Bambi Lake Born Johnny Purcell, Lake has blossomed into a cyclonic force in San Francisco. Even if you haven't seen her gorgeous, harrowing live routines or witnessed her antics (which border on brilliantly insane performance art) at any number of local dive bars, you've probably seen her walking around town clad in Betsey Johnson or some stunning vintage dress from the 1930s. One could describe her merely as a transsexual chanteuse, but she's so much more than that. Lake got... More >>

  • Best Wooded Retreat

    MacBeath Hardwood

    MacBeath Hardwood Co. 2150 Oakdale (at Industrial), 647-0782, www.macbeath.com If your wife leaves you, you lose your job, or your computer crashes with your career-hinging afternoon presentation aboard, do the following: Drive out to MacBeath Hardwood. Walk past the sales area, across the loading yard, and into the old warehouse that stores the teak, bocote, rosewood, ebony, zebrawood, mahogany, and other exotics, and breathe as much air out of your lungs as you can. Now breathe in, gently, for 24... More >>

  • Best City Campground

    Rob Hill Campground Harrison & Central Magazine, The Presidio, 561-5444 Camping in the city usually follows some horrible miscalculation, such as losing your keys or your girlfriend. But at Rob Hill on the Presidio's west edge, people engage in old-school camping, with tents and mess kits, as they enjoy views of the Pacific and the Marin Headlands through the trees. The sites are large, surrounded by eucalyptus, and calm -- you nearly forget you're within city limits until a car... More >>

  • Best Political Transformation

    Matt Gonzalez Gonzalez & Leigh LLP, 332 Pine (at Sansome), 217-3200 A grooming-challenged deputy public defender known mostly for pissing off judges -- one whose previous stab at political office, a run for DA, barely registered with voters -- might have seemed a long shot to represent the Haight-Ashbury area on the S.F. Board of Supervisors. Soon after he took office in 2000, however, Matt Gonzalez made it hard to imagine the board without him. He also seemed an unlikely... More >>

  • Best Neighborhood Most of Us Can't Afford to Live In

    Presidio Terrace Near Arguello & Washington Sure, Pacific Heights has many fine mansions, but there's only one neighborhood in San Francisco so affluent that it makes the gated communities of Orange County bow their heads in shame. Presidio Terrace -- located at the nexus of Laurel Village, the Presidio, and the Inner Richmond -- is small compared to its swankier sisters. Unlike the manors of Nob Hill or Sea Cliff, the homes in this 'hood have a traditional neighborhood look,... More >>

  • Best View

    Ninth Floor of the de Young Museum 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden (at 10th Avenue), Golden Gate Park, www.thinker.org/deyoung If you don't like Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron's design for the new de Young Museum, that's fine. It really does look like a rusting aircraft carrier. If you're pissed off about the Exhibition Concourse Big Dig, that's understandable, too. And being concerned about the additional car traffic the huge new parking garage will bring into the park wouldn't make you... More >>

  • Best Cheap Date

    Ocean Aquarium

    The bankroll's low, the coin jar's empty, and your date's arriving in a few minutes; what to do? Escort your sweetie to Ocean Aquarium in the Tenderloin for some quality time among the cichlids, plecos, and goodeids. This friendly, hard-to-find hole in the wall carries a dazzling variety of tropical fish far more colorful and mollifying than your standard Hollywood shoot'em-up. Snowballs, green phantoms, rainbow fish, and bettas in lavender, gold, steel blue, and every color in between flare... More >>

  • Best Place for a Walk (Indoors)

    Limn

    For all their still-emerging hip grandeur, South of Market's growing high-rise neighborhoods are still a bit of a rat hole. Until the city does something to narrow and calm the one-way thoroughfares, reduce the number of car-magnet parking garages, and encourage bicycle commuting with additional and safer bike lanes, the area will remain more of a traffic sewer than a decent place to live, shop, or work. Amid the worst of the traffic, however, there does exist a solace-giving sanctuary... More >>

  • Best Film Programmer

    Edith Kramer Senior film curator and director, Pacific Film Archive, 2575 Bancroft (at Bowditch), Berkeley, (510) 642-1124, www.bampfa.berkeley.edu From Hong Kong shoot'em-ups to Indian political documentaries, silent Swedish melodramas to forgotten '40s westerns, Edith Kramer has spotlighted every brilliant facet of world cinema during her splendid career. An old-school film buff who's happiest spending hours in a dark theater or debating a discovery with an equally obsessed colleague, Kramer joined the PFA in 1975 and became director in 1983. During... More >>

  • Best Fictional San Francisco Character

    Sam Spade With this being the 75th year since the publication of The Maltese Falcon, can the city claim a better sleuth than writer Dashiell Hammett's hard-boiled 1920s crime-solver? We think not. In Falcon, Spade (or Humphrey Bogart, if you're thinking about the movie, and we know you are) sets out to track the killer of his partner, Miles Archer, and comes face to face with a colorful cast of liars, cheats, and crooks angling to get their hands on... More >>

  • Best Tantric Yoga Teacher

    Bast Sekhmet Temple, 857-0811, www.dakinitemple.org Tantra is really catching on, even among those of us who don't particularly want to be part of a 24-hour coitus session. What the method is really about is learning how to breathe, meditate, and transfer energy throughout your body -- you know, yoga. That energy is sensual and sexual, and therein lies the rub (so to speak), but once you've abandoned your preconceived notions about the practice, Bast Sekhmet is everything you could want... More >>

  • Best Public Place to Play Anagrams

    Midnight Sun

    Whether you're hitching a ride on the 12-step wagon or simply uninterested in the Castro bar scene (and really, how can you not be?), exercise your mind while having mischievous fun by using the Midnight Sun's marquee for a rousing game of anagrams. It's simple: Take a seat across the street from the video bar, pencil and paper in hand, and write down and rearrange the letters on the sign. For example, "The Simpsons" becomes "Shits on meps"; "Comedy... More >>

  • Best People-Watching Spot

    Dolores Park

    Ever noticed how Dolores Park seems to be, hands down, the warmest spot in the city? Aside from the weather, it's an idyllic place -- equipped with six tennis courts, two soccer fields, a stellar downtown backdrop, and a playground that even adults can enjoy. It has also been the neighborhood mecca for cultural and political activities since the 1960s, hosting anti-war rallies, Aztec ceremonial dances, and San Francisco Mime Troupe performances year-round. But the delicious dichotomies of Dolores Park... More >>

  • Best Cable Car Gripman

    Frank Ware Powell-Mason line, 673-6864, www.sfmuni.com Don't take our word for it. Veteran gripman Ware, a native of the Philippines, is the defending champion in the annual cable car bell-ringing contest sponsored by Muni, which operates the cable cars. And while he doesn't claim to be a crooner, it probably didn't hurt that during the competition last July Ware sang -- what else? -- the Rice-A-Roni jingle that has, over the years, become synonymous with his beloved cable cars in... More >>

  • Best Place to Lose Your Heart

    Harry Denton's Starlight Room

    Draped with chandeliers and silk and done up in ruby red and gold tones to create a 1930s opulence, the Starlight Room (formerly the Starlight Roof) occupies the 21st floor of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, overlooking Union Square. It would be worth a visit for nothing else but the dazzling 300-degree views of the city and the bay, but then there's Harry Denton's Starlight Orchestra, which plays several nights each week (call for the current schedule), and to which... More >>

  • Best Perfumer

    Yosh Han www.eaudeyosh.com After you smell Han's scents, you'll never go back to wearing department store perfume again. Unlike most mass-produced fragrances that chemically approximate aromas found in nature, Han's offerings use essences extracted from the actual plants and flowers. Some of her ingredients include oils made from Egyptian tuberose, pomegranate, Kenya lily, and white ginger. But it's the creative way Han combines them that makes each "parfum" irresistible. Some of her buccaneer-inspired scents, including Buxom and Siren, can be... More >>

  • Best Extrasensory Experience

    Exploratorium

    The Tactile Dome is a splendid place to suspend your overutilized sense of sight and rely instead on more primal antennae. Housed in a large geodesic dome in the middle of the Exploratorium interactive science museum, the dome is itself the hands-on experience in extremis. The interior is a pitch-black maze of tubes, chutes, and chambers that you slide, crawl, and bump through, the surrounding shapes, textures, and circumstances changing at every turn. The experience forces you to depend... More >>

  • Best Enigmatic Art Window

    Johnny Ramirez's Studio 3589 20th St. (at Valencia), 642-2844 Large brass letters embedded in the sidewalk spell out "LOUIS BAKIN." It isn't clear why, but then, if you're standing near the southeast corner of 20th and Valencia streets, there's at least one other thing that at first glance makes no sense: A large plate-glass window gives way to a carefully constructed and fantastically odd scene. It may be an underwater wonderland made of glitter and pirate's booty surrounded by sheets... More >>

  • Best Place to Hobnob With a Ghost

    Queen Anne Hotel

    Planted on the outskirts of Pacific Heights, the Queen Anne Hotel is a decadent Victorian in shades of crimson and pink, pretty typical for a haunted house -- which it's purported to be. The hotel opened in 1890 and was originally Miss Mary Lake's School for Young Ladies; it passed through various hands (among others, church caretakers' and bordello owners') before 1980, when its current incarnation was born. According to one of the concierges, inexplicably sealed doors and ominous... More >>

  • Best (Affordable) Way to Impress a First Date

    Farallon

    So you have a hot date with someone you'd like to impress who doesn't know how poor you really are? Don't fret: Take her here. Not everyone can afford to eat dinner in this place, but most of us can afford to get appetizers and drinks, so pull up a comfy stool and hang out in the bar. The ambience is romantic and beautiful, like a soft-pink undersea Disney feature with a Cocteau Twins soundtrack, while the bar is... More >>

  • Best Sex Tour Hostess

    Jane Tollini, S.F. Zookeeper S.F. Zoo, Sloat & Great Highway, 753-7080, www.sfzoo.org Before you get too hot and bothered, we're talking animals here -- the zoo kind. Each Valentine's Day (and on the weekend before and after) the comedic Tollini leads a "sex tour" -- really an educational stroll down lovers' lane -- highlighting the animals' mating habits, making her observations as explicit as possible since the tour is restricted to visitors 18 and older. Her hilarious, tongue-in-cheek narration on... More >>

  • Best Pet Viewing

    Valencia Between 16th and 20th Streets Start by taking BART to 16th and Mission streets, then hoof it up 16th to Valencia; stay on the east side of the street and head south. After about a block, look for Valencia Street Books (569 Valencia, 552-7200). You'll know you've found it when you see a good-size sign on the door that reads "Please close the door! Kitty inside." Do like the sign says and watch for Grumble, a tiny, golden, skittish... More >>

  • Best Wildlife Spot

    Telegraph Hill The Greenwich Steps, Greenwich above Montgomery Thanks to the unexpected success of Mark Bittner's lovely memoir The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill and Judy Irving's captivating, nationally distributed documentary of the same name, tourists will soon be flocking to North Beach to join stargazing locals. The lure, of course, is the extended family of colorful conures that hangs out on the power lines and in the trees on the hill's east side. The winged celebrities are blessedly indifferent... More >>

  • Best TV News Anchor

    Dennis Richmond KTVU, Channel 2 Call us crazy, but we like our TV anchors straight -- talking, that is. Richmond's banter-free, no-nonsense style (not to mention his longevity) serves him well in an era of increasingly obnoxious talking heads. The 60-year-old Ohio native came to the station as a part-time clerk-typist in the mid-'60s, won a special scholarship to Columbia University in 1969, and returned as a beat reporter before sliding into the anchor chair in 1976. His 10 p.m.... More >>

  • Best Place to Meditate

    San Francisco Zen Center

    Most of us are aware that San Francisco is a meditation cloud nine. Since Buddhism was popularized in the United States in the 1960s, monks, scholars, and peaceniks have flocked to the city to get in on the nonaction. The San Francisco Zen Center is perhaps the most established haven of the Buddhist community, maintaining the rigor, intellectual complexity, and elegance of classical Zen that its founder, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, intended, while keeping its doors open to laypeople of... More >>

  • Top Five Spots Made Famous in the Movies

    San Francisco's place in cinematic lore is assured, because the city has served as a backdrop to countless classic films (and plenty of car commercials, too). Here are a handful of places to get that sense of dramatic déjà vu. Union Square Between Stockton and Powell, Post and Geary It served as the centerpiece for Francis Ford Coppola's 1974 thriller The Conversation, in which a surveillance expert played by Gene Hackman records a secret discussion between two people walking around... More >>

  • Best Landmark

    Grace Cathedral

    Atop Nob Hill, surrounded by some of the priciest property in town, a space has been set aside for reflection and meditation. Just to the right of the entrance to Grace Cathedral, up a flight of stairs above the street, a circular labyrinth on the ground serves as a path, a resting place, and an art installation. The design is just complex enough to foil cheaters who want an easy visual solution, so you must walk it to unravel... More >>

  • Best Ways to Kill Yourself in San Francisco

    For years now -- this year especially -- our nation has been bombarded with stories of a massive suicide pandemic via San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Even if you missed Tad Friend's breathless New Yorker article or the numerous segments on NPR, you can Google "Golden Gate Bridge" + suicide and bring up more than 100,000 hits on the subject. It seems leaping off the Golden Gate is a morbid fascination for everyone. Everyone except the people who live here,... More >>

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