Stairway to Heaven

In 1976, George Moscone asked city librarian Gladys Hansen to find volunteer docents to lead tours of City Hall. It wasn’t hard. Academics, amateur historians, librarians, and corner store dons were eager to share what they knew -- the building is a monument to the City Beautiful Movement of the late 1800s, boasting one of the largest domes in the world -- but they didn’t want to stop with the building. Slowly, San Francisco City Guides was born, a quiet coterie of urban specialists who provide up to a dozen free walking tours every day. Whether you choose by neighborhood (from Chinatown to West Portal), by setting (Japanese Tea Garden to Lands End), by topic (murals to ghosts), or by difficulty (stroller strolls to vigorous hikes), you are guaranteed edification. This mid-week summer solstice offers adventures from the South End warehouse district to the Golden Gate Bridge, but if you can only do one walk, we recommend the Telegraph Hill Stairway Hike. Ascend the dizzying Filbert Street steps and enter a semi-tropical paradise inhabited by wild parrots and dotted by otherwise inaccessible Art Deco bungalows. At the top, take in stunning views of the bay and explore Coit Tower (designed by City Hall architect Arthur Brown Jr.). These walks are meant to be intimate, so arrive early and be gracious about numbers.
Thu., June 21, 5:30 p.m., 2012

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