Once upon a time, in the City by the Bay, there lived a great emperor. He wore a long, Napoleonic coat topped with epaulets, carried a saber, and was saluted by an adoring public everywhere he went. He regularly attended governmental meetings, tried to abolish congress, and made written proclamations decrying everything from racial injustice to those who would dare call his city "Frisco."
It's the classic dilemma for visitors to any big city: do you take in all the high-culture highlights a metropolis has to offer, or keep the vacation budget under control? In San Francisco, the pull of the arts is particularly strong, and the price tag can be especially intimidating.
Luckily, if your budget isn't quite as high-end as your taste in entertainment, we’ve got you covered. Read on for our guide to getting cultured without going broke in San Francisco.
It’s a typical Tuesday afternoon at Café Franco: the hiss of steaming cappuccino milk muffles the crooning of Sam Cooke. There's a low murmur coming from over in the corner, where friends are catching up over peanut butter cookies at a long, reclaimed-wood table. Behind it all, the click-clack of laptop keys keeps an erratic beat.
These sounds do not combine to make up what most people would call “typical hostel noise” – and that’s exactly the way Café Franco likes it.
San Francisco may be short on snowfall and reindeer, but come December, we’re as holly-jolly a city as you’ll find anywhere. The City by the Bay is ready to spread some holiday cheer this season with trees, lights, music, and culture galore. Best of all, it’s easy to get into the spirit no matter what your budget. As a special holiday treat for you, we’re rounding up the very best ways to make merry on the cheap in San Francisco this year.
So, you’ve hopped a ride on a cable car, gotten spooky on Alcatraz, and gone for a stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe you’ve even snapped your picture at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury and worn your legs out climbing up to Coit Tower. You’ve hit all the tourist hot spots, and now you’re thinking you've got San Francisco's go-to guidebook neighborhoods all checked off.
"I'm not going downtown," the bus driver calls over the intercom. I'm aboard the N Judah -- one of San Francisco's Muni Metro light rail lines -- and downtown San Francisco is exactly where I'm heading. I'm making the trip to go ice skating in Union Square, but that's the only set plan.