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Best Local History & Culture in San Francisco

By: Cityseeker
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GLBT History Museum

The GLBT History Museum, the first of its kind in all of the United States and the second in the world, sits fittingly just off Castro Street and 18th Street, home to a lot of gay culture and history. It opened 25 years to the day after the inauguration of the GLBT Historical Society which is aimed at gathering, protecting and interpreting the vast history of the LGBT community, thereby both offering exposure to and showing their support of these often marginalized groups. Pieces and exhibits at the museum come from the historical society's archives which are located at 657 Mission Street #300 and are accessible to both members and non-members (at restricted times). The organization is always looking for volunteers to help in its mission, so whether you are part of the family or an ally you are always welcome to lend a hand.

4127 18th Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94114
Cable Car Museum

If you want to know how a cable car works, the Cable Car Museum is the place to learn. The world's first cable car rests here and with it a concise explanation of how those little cable cars make their way up those famous San Francisco hills. In an underground viewing area, you can look at the system's enormous cable wheels, which pull 11 miles (18 kilometers) of cable at 9.5 miles (15 kilometers) per hour. Closely examine the steel cables, gears, and pulleys that bring this city's most famous transportation to life. Don't miss the gift shop, where you can purchase your very own length of used cable!

1201 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94108
Pacific Heritage Museum

This private museum, established in 1984 by the Bank of Canton, features Pacific Rim art, culture, and historic exhibits. Learn more about the Pacific Rim economic history. View sculptures and paintings by renowned and emerging artists. The 10,000 square feet of this Embarcadero District museum resides in the historic US Sub treasury Building, which was used as a U.S. Mint until 1874. Find featured exhibits that are periodically rotated as well as permanent displays. Free admission.

608 Commercial Street, Between Montgomery and Kearny Streets, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94111
Galeria de la Raza

Galeria de la Raza is deep in the heart of the Mission and worth getting to. The walls are lined by works of multiple artists. See different mediums of local talent present their work in this down-home, yet sophisticated gallery. There are no prices on the work, but that will not deter those who appreciate unique products of the mind. Check out the Chicano/Latino drawing and works on paper, the documentary on jail-art, or beautiful black-and-white photos of the Latinos in and outside of the neighborhood. The gallery offers rental spaces too. Visit website for more information.

2857 24th Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94110
San Francisco Fire Department Museum

The San Francisco Fire Department Museum showcases the history of firefighting in the city of San Francisco. Exhibits date back to 1849, when it was mandatory for each household to have an emergency bucket filled with water. You can find the various uniforms, fire-fighting equipment, fire engines, water pumps, and other essentials that have been used by the fire department over the years.

655 Presidio Avenue, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94115
Beat Museum

Located in North Beach, The Beat Museum celebrates Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and all who influenced the Beat Generation. Offering a variety of Beat memorabilia and paraphernalia including fine art, prints, posters, photos, new and used books, CDs, DVDs, t-shirts and more, this is a must stop for all collectors and Kerouac fans. The museum also hosts open mic poetry nights, movie screenings, and other cultural events.

540 Broadway, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94133
San Francisco Railway Museum

San Francisco Railway Museum embodies San Francisco's transportation history with everything from a reconstructed portion of a Market St. Railway Co. 100-class street-car to cable car note cards designed by local artists. Enjoy pictures of the famous ferry-building street-car loop, fare boxes and a Wiley birdcage traffic signal, which allows attendees to see how intersections were patrolled over 100 years ago. Striving to be an interactive museum, knowledgeable docents give talks and answer questions while a resourceful database with an audio & video touch screen is on hand to further educate. If the J-street cars or Powell street trolley cars have always been of interest to you, then enter this museum, which explains their evolution and continues to pave their future.

77 Steuart Street, San Francisco, CA, United States, 94105
Angel Island Immigration Station

A trip to Angel Island is incomplete without a visit to the Immigration Station. This is the site where a large number of Asian and other immigrants were detained in the early 20th Century. Nicknamed the "Ellis Island of the West" after its New York counterpart, this station features recreated rooms with bunk beds as well as spaces and original graffiti that are a window into the life of an immigrant. A part of the National Register of Historic Places, the station is an important piece of the island's history.

Off North Ridge Road, Angel Island, Tiburon, CA, United States, 94920
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