A MLK-Day brunch in San Francisco with friends reminded me that we have free museums close to home, worth a visit and suitable for visitors of all ages. The Beach Chalet is my favorite––I’ll come back to that one.
For truly San Francisco fare, you can’t beat the Cable Car museum––fun for history buffs and engineers, and normal people too.
The museum is located on an upper level overlooking the actual working power house pulling the cars. Down a flight of stairs, you can see underground cables. Wander around the museum area, and watch the video. It’s all free. Cable Car Museum
For a bit of history and art, check out the fresco murals at the base of Coit Tower. The art deco Coit Tower was completed in 1933, and the frescoes completed a few years later as a Public Works of Art Project. Various artists, primarily faculty and students of the School of Fine Arts, many of them followers of Mexican artist Diego Rivera, depicted life of the 30s with a decidedly leftist bent. Murals in the stairway leading to the second floor are open only with a tour guide, and concentrate on recreation (“they say,” I’ve not been up the stairway).
Moderately priced tickets get you to the top of the Tower and some great views of the city, but I think the murals are the best part of a visit. Currently there is no charge to visit the first floor.
Parking is limited, but you can take a bus, or for some great exercise and beautiful city and garden views, hike up from Filbert or Greenwich. The last time we walked up, just as we panted our way to the top of many, many steps, a guide-led tour group arrived on Segways. It looked fun. More about Coit Tower murals.
My favorite––Beach Chalet:
Murals by artist Lucien Labaudt depicting life in the San Francisco of the 1930s.
The frescoes, a WPA project of 1936-37, are located at the Beach Chalet, 1000 Great Highway, where Golden Gate Park meets the ocean. Paths on both sides of the highway are great for walking or biking, free parking on the restaurant side of the highway or in the Ocean Beach lot. The building boasts beautiful tile work alongside the restored frescoes and houses small displays of historical artifacts. The restaurant upstairs looks out toward the ocean. Beach Chalet
The food is good too––if you are there on a holiday or weekend brunch, try the Crab Cake Benny. Yum!