Beat Museum


in North Beach & Chinatown

The closest you can get to the complete Beat experience without breaking a law. The 1000-plus artifacts in this museum's literary-ephemera collection include the sublime (the banned edition of Ginsberg's Howl, with the author's own annotations) and the ridiculous (those Kerouac bobblehead dolls are definite head-shakers). Downstairs, watch Beat-era films in ramshackle theater seats redolent with the odors of literary giants, pets and pot. Upstairs, pay your respects at shrines to individual Beat writers. A seismic retrofit may mean closures; call ahead.

Enter the museum through the adjoining museum store, stocked with poetry chapbooks and obscure Beat titles you won't find elsewhere. Entry to the store is free, and so are readings held here (check the website). You'll notice there's a dusty old car parked downstairs: that's a 1949 Hudson roadster, and it's covered with dust accumulated over 4000 miles of driving coast to coast for the filming of 2012's On the Road movie. Guided two-hour walking tours cover the museum, Beat history and literary alleys.