Follow in the footsteps of Barbary Coast sailors, Beat writers, Italian immigrants and anarchists during this walking tour of North Beach, one of San Francisco’s most intriguing neighborhoods. A local expert guides you past storied hotspots including jazz clubs, coffee shops, a plethora of speakeasies — and even Broadway Street strip clubs. You’ll see notable landmarks including City Lights Bookstore, Vesuvio, Kerouac Alley, The Cellar and 1010 Montgomery. Then, even examine memorabilia at the Beat Museum to continue your journey into the city’s colorful past.
Begin your cultural underground tour in Kerouac Alley of North Beach, where the Beat Generation congregated in the 1950s. Follow your guide into the streets to learn about the lives of writers and visionaries such as On the Road author Jack Kerouac, and discover some of the edgier stories behind this famous neighborhood.Learn about the Gold Rush days when the Barbary Coast was home to sailors who got ‘shanghaied’; get an overview of Italians who settled and hear of the anarchists among them; discover why gay bars, drag shows and Broadway’s adult entertainment thrived here; and get a pulse on the punk scene of the 1980s. You’ll understand why the Beat movement, marked by tolerance, rejection of censorship, environmental awareness, experimental drug use and spirituality seeking really took off in San Francisco. In addition to walking past a secret underground tunnel, speakeasies and the infamous Broadway Street strip joints, your guide shares old photos of places that existed during the Beat Generation heyday and reads literary excerpts referencing the historical sites on your tour. See City Lights Bookstore, co-founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who was involved in a high-profile obscenity trial for publishing Ginsberg's famous collection Howl and Other Poems. Check out Vesuvio, a bar frequented by Beats, and The Cellar, which was an influential jazz and poetry club. Pass by places Beats once called home — including 1010 Montgomery, where Ginsberg wrote part of Howl. Your 2-hour cultural tour concludes at Washington Square Park but you can head back to the Beat Museum (admission included) after your adventure if you wish. Be sure to explore the first-edition manuscripts, letters and personal memorabilia at the museum on your own to learn more about the influential and passionate lives of the Beat Generation.