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.
It’s been a while since a tour bus has pulled up to City Lights Books, its passengers craning their necks to catch a glimpse of one of those beatniks they'd heard so much about. Though the shop's clientele sports fewer berets these days, the beatniks’ anti-authoritarian politics continue to have a strong influence on the shop’s selection and the staff’s policy of free intellectual inquiry, which was pioneered by founders Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin in 1953. Since then, the only things that have changed about City Lights are the space it inhabits and the format of books it sells—now, it covers three stories and has added hardback titles to its former all-paperback selection. City Lights keeps its literary ideals fresh by maintaining its own publishing company, which Ferlinghetti founded in 1955. After a first big hit with its Pocket Poet series, the publishers have since added fiction, memoirs, and books on social and political issues to the ever-expanding list of titles—just one of the reasons Lonely Planet called City Lights Books one of the world's greatest bookshops.
No matter how many times his fans request it, Elton John is not going to play "Tiny Dancer." Not this Elton, at least. Thanks to Madame Tussauds San Francisco, the singer-songwriter remains frozen in a perpetual state of warm-up, which grants visitors a rather unique opportunity: a chance to step up to his piano and snap a photo.
At Madame Tussauds's brand new San Francisco location, there are no ropes. No barriers. No wax bodyguards. Visitors get up close and personal with famous musicians and Hollywood A-listers from past and present, finally making it possible to cast George Clooney and Marilyn Monroe in the same silent, motionless film. Historical figures from the Dalai Lama to President Barack Obama also make appearances, as do some of the biggest names in sports.
Madame Tussauds features local icons including Steve Jobs, Harvey Milk, and Jerry Garcia inside the San Francisco section, which visitors enter beneath a recreation of the Golden Gate bridge. The attraction is itself a piece of history, as shown in a behind-the-scenes video that profiles the process for creating new wax figures and the history of Madame Tussaud herself, who began practicing her art in 1770s Paris.
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.
The Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf introduces visitors to more than 250 of history's most notable personas with a labyrinth of realistic sculptures situated in elaborate displays. More than 50 scenes span the entire museum, providing ample room for the paraffin personalities to depict a millennium of historic milestones and portray the contemporary world's most popular candles. Wax artisans craft an array of themed exhibits including the far-reaching History section, in which humanitarians, scientists, artists, and dictators live out the impacts they placed on the world. In the Palace of Living Art, patrons witness the inception of their favorite masterpieces, admiring as Mona Lisa sits for her immortal portrait. King Tut's Magnificent Tomb unveils the life of one of the ancient world's most well-known rulers, and the Presidential Library brings past U.S. leaders together to finally determine which one left the milk out.