Since 1963, the Chinese Historical Society of America has collected the documents and artifacts that chronicle the history of Chinese American citizens. The society's permanent collections are typified by pieces such as One Hundred Years’ History of the Chinese in America, a vivid mural by Chinatown native James Leong that charts the progress of Chinese Americans over the course of 100 years. On a smaller scale, the Chinatown Miniatures Collection depicts three-dimensional scenes of San Francisco's Chinatown as it looked before artist Frank Wong built his shrink ray. Other exhibits change frequently, often in conjunction with special events hosted for members and their guests.
The museum can't contain every bit of Chinese American history, however. With that in mind, the society’s guides lead school groups on walking tours through the bustling streets and alleyways of San Francisco's Chinatown. Free from the confines of the museum, they point out the neighborhood’s distinct architectural landmarks and underlying social significance. Throughout the year, the museum also puts out publications such as the CHSA Bulletin, which chronicles different stories within the Chinese American community.
For the past three decades, the Contemporary Jewish Museum has celebrated Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas while remaining constantly relevant. A non-collecting organization, the CJM sparks dialogue and unites people from all walks of life through lectures, classes, films, and constantly rotating exhibitions commonly centered around art. In the past, the CJM has displayed photographs of Allen Ginsberg, trained its lens on the magic of Harry Houdini and the art he inspired, and responded to Hitler's Mein Kampf with artist Linda Ellia's exhibition of 600 pages altered by artists, writers, victims, students, and other Jewish people. More recently, the CJM featured an exhibit on the contribution of Jewish architects, designers, and merchants to creative communities around the US, post-World War II.
Holding all these different facets of culture and design is a building that is itself a work of art. Designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, the 63,000-square-foot CJM combines the legacy of the historic Jessie Street Power Substation with the dynamic angles and arresting shapes of contemporary architecture. Accompanying its overall shape is a blue metallic exterior and symbolic references to Jewish concepts, such as the Hebrew phrase "L'Chaim," meaning "to life."
"If you want to aggressively snack your way through a neighborhood as you walk it," says Fodor's, "consider hanging with cookbook author Tom Medin or one of his local guides." Medin is one of the founders of Local Tastes of the City Tour/SF Food Tours, and he personally leads many of the company's walking tours, which seek out the soul of the city in its bakeries, restaurants, and cafes. The hunt for hidden gems might lead to Chinatown's oldest bakery and a fortune cookie-making demonstration, or through an authentic Western saloon. The North Beach tour, which has been recommended by Lonely Planet, presents a behind-the-scenes look at coffee-roasting by way of the favored hangouts of the Beat Generation. Even when a tour skirts the city's iconic landmarks via painted bus, each stop is replete with tastings and demos, which is why the guides recommend that visitors avoid eating before a tour or swallowing their backpacks for safekeeping.
By day, Jerry Cimino worked in the computer industry. By night, he quietly collected memorabilia from the Beat Generation, building up little piles of photographs, letters, and first editions of literature by Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and Jack Kerouac. Inspired by the beat poets themselves, who often traded what they had to pursue their passions, Cimino abandoned his 9-to-5 job and opened The Beat Museum. Located on the same ground that was once the epicenter for Beat activity during the 1950s, the museum hosts an ever-increasing collection of cultural ephemera and has been profiled in the Washington Post. The shelves and glass cases brim with various editions of Allen Ginsberg's Howl, a sweat-dappled jacket worn by Jack Kerouac on his travels, and William Burroughs?s guide to perfect table manners.
Even before you climb inside, the GoCar is clearly a car with a personality. The petite, three-wheeled two-seater has a hood that slightly resembles an eager-to-please smiley face, and an open top that seems custom-made for letting the breeze ruffle your hair. Then the real fun begins: built with the company's own software and a compassion for the voiceless robots of America, a talking GPS system guides two-seater GoCars through the city streets of San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon with cheerful, info-rich narration. Second only to having a knowledgeable local jog alongside your minivan, tours zip along at drivers' own pace and accommodate as many pit stops as time allows.
Paul Mahder Gallery showcases contemporary works of art and every two months, presents new exhibits created by painters, sculptors, and photographers from around the globe. Opened in conjunction with the gallery in 2007, Paul Mahder Framing extends the shop's services into the realm of preservation, helping customers artfully safeguard keepsakes without having to freeze them in a mixture of finger-paint and carbonite. Head designer Richard Plagmann and expert framer Jonathan W. Wind join forces to encase a wide range of items, from 3-D objects and family portraits to oversized mementos. They also offer complementary onsite consultations, and every project is completed in house.