Fort Mason Center

Area in The Marina, Fisherman’s Wharf & the Piers

San Francisco takes subversive glee in turning military installations into venues for nature, fine dining and out-there experimental art. Evidence: Fort Mason, once a shipyard and embarkation point for WWII troops, now a vast cultural center and gathering place for events, drinking and eating. Wander the waterfront, keeping your eyes peeled for fascinating outdoor art-and-science installations designed by the Exploratorium.

The mess halls are replaced by vegan-friendly Greens, a Zen-community-run restaurant, and also the Long Now Foundation, whose compelling exhibits reconsider extinction and the future of time. Warehouses contain cutting-edge theater at the Magic and improvised comedy workshops at BATS Improv. The Herbst Pavilion counts major arts events and fashion shows among its arsenal – see the website for upcoming events. Hidden art exhibits include the 'Tasting the Tides' water fountain, which lets you taste, with the touch of a button, the varying salinity of the bay – it's next to the firehouse, with glorious water views.