California Historical Society

Downtown, Civic Center & SoMa

Enter a Golden State of enlightenment at this Californiana treasure trove, featuring themed exhibitions drawn from the museum's million-plus California photographs, paintings and ephemera. Past exhibits have unearthed Prohibition-era wine labels, protest posters from the Summer of Love and 1971 instructions for interpretive-dancing your way through San Francisco by dance pioneer Anna Halprin. Events are rare opportunities to discuss 1970s underground comix, 1940s SF gay bars and gold rush–era saloon menu staples (whiskey, opium and tamales).

If there's a Californian topic you'd like to pursue, call the research library ahead so that librarians can pull related materials from vaults full of rare manuscripts and ephemera.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Downtown, Civic Center & SoMa attractions

1. SPUR Urban Center Gallery

0.02 MILES

Cities are what you make of them, and urban-planning nonprofit SPUR invites you to reimagine San Francisco (and your own hometown) with gallery shows that…

2. Museum of the African Diaspora

0.03 MILES

MoAD assembles an international cast of characters to tell the epic story of diaspora, including a moving video of slave narratives told by Maya Angelou…

3. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

0.08 MILES

When the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art expanded in 2016, it was a mind-boggling feat that nearly tripled the institution's size to accommodate a…

5. Palace Hotel

0.11 MILES

A true SF survivor, the Palace opened in 1875 but was gutted during the 1906 earthquake. Opera star Enrico Caruso was jolted from his Palace bed by the…

6. Lotta's Fountain

0.13 MILES

Lotta Crabtree made fortunes as San Francisco's diminutive opera diva, and she never forgot the city that paid for her trademark cigars. In 1875 she…

7. One Montgomery Terrace

0.15 MILES

For great Market St views of old and new SF, enter through Crocker Galleria, take the elevator to the top and then ascend the stairs, or enter Wells Fargo…

8. Crown Point Press

0.15 MILES

Bet you didn't think anyone could capture Chuck Close's giant portraits, Robert Bechtle's hyper-realistic street scenes or Kiki Smith's painstaking wall…