San Francisco Experience
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Offbeat San Francisco
Looking for an unusual San Francisco experience that'll give you bragging rights? Try one of these quirky choices—even a local would be impressed.
16th Avenue Steps. Just standing at the base of this glorious mosaic of a stairway in the Inner Sunset is a treat: its underwater theme gives way to daytime dragonflies and butterflies, eventually transitioning to a starry, bat-studded night sky. Hike to the top, and you may have tiny Grand View Park all to yourself. The view (after a further climb) is, well, grand. (Moraga St., between 15th and 16th aves.)
ATA. Dedicated to getting anyone's art in front of an audience, Artists' Television Access has been showing films by local artists for more than 20 years. An open-minded crowd comes to ATA's tiny space, where $6 to $10 gets you a peek at what might be the next groundbreaker. www.atasite.org
Audium. Billed as a "theater of sound-sculptured space," Audium is an experience like no other. Every Friday and Saturday a few dozen participants sit in concentric circles in a completely soundproofed room in utter darkness, and music plays over the 169 speakers strategically placed, well, everywhere. www.audium.org
Mt. Davidson. Ask most San Franciscans what the highest point in town is and they'll likely say Twin Peaks, but it's actually this "mountain," the next hill over. Visible from all over town but rarely visited, Mt. Davidson is topped with a eucalyptus-filled park. Finding the road up here is tricky (entrance at Dalewood and Myra ways), but once you get there you'll have amazing views—while all those tourists are still waiting for a parking space on Twin Peaks.
Nightlife at the Cal Academy of Sciences. Supersize snakes, waddling penguins, and taxidermy are cool anytime, but throw in a cash bar and a DJ and this science club gets even cooler. Join the trendiest of geek crowds knocking back drinks and getting up close and personal with wild animals (with help from the academy's staffers) Thursdays from 6 pm to 10 pm; 21 and over. www.calacademy.org
Nontraditional holiday celebrations. If you find yourself in town on a holiday, chances are the locals are commemorating it in an unorthodox way. Valentine's Day and you want to do something special with your honey? How about the mass pillow fight at Ferry Plaza? Easter Sunday after Mass? Check out BYOBW; at Bring Your Own Big Wheel—yes, those plastic ride ons from grade-school days—often costumed grown-ups fly down the windy bit of Vermont Street with knees akimbo. Celebrations here are a bit of a non sequitur, but that's all part of the fun.
Red Hots Burlesque. Divey Mission hotspot El Rio is hopping most any night, but the saucy ladies of Red Hots Burlesque absolutely pack the house Friday evenings with their sexy, funny, body-positive show. You can even visit their School of Shimmy and take some new moves home with you.
Slides at AT&T Park. The massive Coke bottle looming over the AT&T ballpark is a familiar sight, but most people don't know that you can slide inside. The Coca-Cola Superslide has a series of slides twisting and turning down the bottle's contours. Kids aren't the only ones who get a kick out of the 56-foot "Guzzlers" and the 20-foot "Twist-Offs." It's open for free on some nongame days.
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