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Arts & Entertainment

  • Best Place to Commune With 'Toons

    Cartoon Art Museum

    The only museum in the United States dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of cartoon art in all its forms, this little gem -- which got off the ground with a 1987 endowment from Peanuts creator and Santa Rosa native Charles Schulz -- is a show-stopper for 'toon lovers, whether kids or intellectuals. The 6,000 pieces in its permanent collection range from original comic strip panels to self-portraits of famous cartoonists. There are interactive and children's galleries and the museum... More >>

  • Best Movie Snacks

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    Every Friday night, the Mechanics' Institute Library hosts a classic movie in an intimate salon setting complete with cinéastes and chitchat, but what's especially noteworthy is the high quality of grub served up from the little back bar. No economy-size Mountain Dews or Formica-flavored popcorn here; snack instead upon rounds of sourdough topped with cream cheese and smoked salmon or a lusty pesto, a slice of nutty Gruyère with red grapes, a selection of candies, and, yes, popcorn -- perfectly... More >>

  • Best Deco Nightspot

    Bimbo's 365 Club

    Last October, bereft and confused a mere hour or two after the Giants had lost Game 7, we made our way to Bimbo's, much as our more devout fellow fans trekked to Grace Cathedral. It wasn't long before the rattle of the cocktail shaker, the live samba of Brasil 66, the matchlessly swanky setting, and the comeliness of Dolfina the Fishbowl Girl inspired us to forget our troubles, at least for the evening. Bimbo's has been part of the exuberant... More >>

  • Best Vertiginous Dancing

    Harry Denton's Starlight Room

    Swinging, clinging, and dipping 21 stories above the asphalt can be a truly celestial experience, especially at the Starlight Room, which offers its dancers unparalleled visual proximity to the cosmos. As you and your partner head onto the dance floor, seduced by the Motown rhythms of the Starlight Orchestra, you'll realize that your terpsichorean backdrop won't be the plywood, concrete, and laser beams de rigueur at many a lesser hot spot; beckoning your booty instead is an expansive panorama of... More >>

  • Best Floor Show

    Pachamama Restaurant

    Peña means "a circle of people coming together" and pachamama means "Mother Earth"; put the two together and you get an idea of what makes this Bolivian restaurant/nightspot so special. In the best mi casa, su casa global tradition, Peña PachaMama makes everyone feel like part of an especially fun-loving extended family. The venue's warmth and conviviality are exemplified in the regular Saturday night festivities, when the Sukay folk ensemble, the owners of the place, turns the small proscenium-arched stage... More >>

  • Best Tropical Phantasmagoria

    Tonga Room

    The Tonga Room is one of the last remnants of that giddy era when umbrellas sprouted from every coconut, Trader Vic ruled the cosmos, and ukuleles could be heard from North Beach to the Richmond. The crucial element that separates the Tonga from its Polynesian competitors past and present is, of course, the tropical downpour. Sure, the totem poles and the jungle foliage and the ship's riggings and the fertility-god icons are lots of fun, but your voyage to the... More >>

  • Best Jukebox

    Ha-Ra

    Of the many perfectly good reasons to inhabit a saloon -- clientele, atmo, billiards, booze -- the on-site jukebox is perhaps the most viable. A good jukebox can make even the simplest cocktail more sensually potent, depending upon its array of mood-enhancing selections. The Ha-Ra's box is strikingly eclectic. How about some Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, or Delbert McClintock to go with that shot of Jack Daniel's? Or a little Al Green or Marvin Gaye to smoothify your scotch and... More >>

  • Best Local Film and Video Preserve

    San Francisco Media Archive

    Tucked away in a warehouse in the Mission District, the San Francisco Media Archive is a treasure trove of historical film and video. Part time warp, part fun park, and part movie library, the archive holds clips of various lengths and in an assortment of genres, from TV commercials to trailers, newsreels to contemporary video, educational shorts to religious pictures. Run by Stephen Parr, a longtime S.F. archivist and artist with a preservationist's instinct, the nonprofit is also something of... More >>

  • Best Hair Salon-cum-Art Gallery

    Glama-Rama

    In this day and age, it pays to multitask. A full-service hair salon that doubles as an art gallery, Glama-Rama is one of the best spots to kill two birds with one stone. Proprietress Deena Davenport opened shop to get away from the "stuffy atmosphere of most salons," she writes on her Web site. And based on her eclectic crew of seasoned hairdressers and colorists, many of whom moonlight as actors, actresses, and drag personalities, it looks like she's succeeded.... More >>

  • Best Chess Club

    Mechanics' Institute Library

    The chess aficionados who frequent the Fifth and Market Street tables presumably don't know about the Chess Club at the Mechanics' Institute Library. Why else would they suffer the clamor, panhandlers, hecklers, and tourists to play a match in the chilly outdoors when this quiet, warm oasis is just blocks away? The oldest chess club in America, the Mechanics' was organized in 1854 to accommodate the Gold Rush frontier community. The library and club are housed in a historic building;... More >>

  • Best Writing School for Youth

    826 Valencia

    With dozens of kids killing kids in the Mission District every year, 826 Valencia provides a real community service -- lessons in writing as an alternative to gangbanging. Local author/celeb Dave Eggers jump-started the school, and dozens of writer volunteers teach classes in how to develop character, plot points, and narrative arc. Fiction, nonfiction, and screenplay writing and English as a second language are part of the curriculum. Workshops and tutoring are free. The nonprofit school also operates an in-schools... More >>

  • Best Place to Practice Piano (or Violin, or ...)

    San Francisco Community Music Center

    Inside a quaint yellow-and-blue Victorian, set on one of the grittiest of Mission streets, lives a quiet refuge for music. Well, maybe not so quiet: Stand in the hallway of the Community Music Center and you're likely to hear the low hum of a cello, the happy plink of piano keys, or the eerie wail of a violin -- or all three together -- coming from behind closed doors. In addition to offering numerous music classes for kids and adults... More >>

  • Best Slam Poets

    Youth Speaks

    On the front lines of the nationwide spoken-word phenomenon is Youth Speaks, the premier program for teen poetry in the country. Founded in 1996, the organization encourages Bay Area kids to write and perform, running a variety of classroom and after-school workshops to help teenagers represent their lives as they see and experience them. Since its inception, Youth Speaks has produced award-winning poets and transformed some of its participants into community leaders. The artists frequently showcase their newly honed skills... More >>

  • Best (and Oldest) Independent Arts Space

    Intersection for the Arts

    In its 38 years of existence, Intersection for the Arts has established itself as a local powerhouse, showcasing some of the most visionary, provocative art and performance in the city. In its cozy 70-seat theater and spacious gallery, the organization features a calendar with an eclectic mix of live music, lectures, theater, readings, and visual art, from the likes of Alice Walker, bell hooks, the Marcus Shelby Orchestra, and numerous other boundary-pushing artists. Intersection has also taken its role as... More >>

  • Best Gingerbread House

    Sir Francis Drake Hotel

    Every Christmas, in the grand tradition of our fathers and their fathers before them, we pull on the London Fog mackintosh, hop on the Powell Street cable car, and roll on down to Union Square. There, after feasting our eyes on the window displays and partaking of the Compass Rose high tea, we take it upon ourselves to compare and contrast the gingerbread houses that are as much a part of our yuletide hotel lobbies as a freshly butchered evergreen... More >>

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