In my article more than three months ago, I talked about San Francisco as a haven of counterculture and multiculturalism in a broad sense. I also discussed the city’s current scenester and hipster scene and touched upon some of my first impressions upon arriving there. And like any good fan girl, I recommended that you visit the city so as to share my enthusiasm (and/or obsession) with it. In this installation, we’ll be talking about how to best explore the city.
Since it was my first time visiting back in May/early June, I most definitely wanted to learn more about what San Francisco was all about, and not merely base my interpretation of it on projections of movies and TV series I’d seen. So I thought of perhaps taking a guided tour of the city, to hear a San Franciscean native’s take on it. I didn’t want to go on any old tour, though. After skimming through a couple of offers, I decided to go on a walking tour with Wild SF. What’s that? Well, gentile reader, let me let you in on one of the most fun ways to explore the city:
Wild SF Walking Tours is a charming, young company (the founders are currently in their mid-twenties) offering walking tours of San Francisco. The company is run by San Franciscean artists who’ll show you parts of the city from their point of view. I personally went on tours of the Mission District and The Castro, with Guppy and J.Jo respectively. And J.Jo, one of the founders and a most delightful person, was kind enough to sit down for an interview with me a couple of days later:
*tba: How did Wild SF start?
J.Jo: Okay, so, Wild SF started with my best friend, Wild Wes, and I. We had a band together and we’d do song writer circles. And we just had a lot of projects together, so we knew we could work well together. We both went abroad for a year, he went to Madrid, Spain, I went to Queretaro in Mexico. And after that, Wes had this great idea to create a quirky musical walking tour. I went on it and thought: ‘mmh, this is pretty dope!’ And the rest is history.
*tba: So, the tours all cost 15-18 dollars now (note: well worth the price of admission). And it used to be free, right?
J.Jo: Yeah, it used to be all free, it was on a pay what you wish basis at first. Until we realised we wouldn’t be able to expand very easily; we wouldn’t be able to pay more guides and do more tours and just wouldn’t be sustainable as a company. It was also a way of guaranteeing that the guides we hired would be paid regularly.
*tba: How would you describe the tours?
J.Jo: We are a passionate group of artists who tell uproarious and uplifting stories of the city’s past via the different neigbourhoods. Each neighbourhood has its own story. And together they tell a whole story of San Francisco as a place for the eccentric, the innovative, the dreamer, the outcast. We embody that spirit as a performer and welcome people from all over the world as innovators and dreamers coming to San Francisco, looking to explore the city.
*tba: Your tours are pretty interactive. Why’s that?
J.Jo: We want to get people invested in what we’re doing. We’re artists, so in many ways we feed off our audience’s energy. We sing on tours, and want people to get to know each other on the tour. That way they can get to know people and perhaps hang out with them later. That’s also why on some of our tours we invite participants to come join us for lunch afterwards.
*tba: What tours are you currently offering?
J.Jo: There’s the tour of the Mission District and the Castro (ed.: The Radical SF Route), then we also have a Height and Ashbury tour, and tours of Chinatown and Barbary Coast (ed.: The Classic SF Route).
*tba: Do you have any plans for new tours in the future?
J.Jo: Yes, we’re planning a night tour (ed: already available), and we’re really looking forward to it.
*tba: Alright, thank you so much for the interview!
J.Jo: Sure thing! Thank you.
So if you’re going to San Francisco, I’d absolutely recommend you take one of the Wild SF Walking Tours. You’ll learn about the city in a wonderful atmosphere, and if you are inquisitive and want to know more, the tour guides will take the time to give you extra insights into what’s happening around town. Both Guppy and J.Jo followed up on me and the other tour participants later and let us know about upcoming concerts and events in San Francisco, and all of the tour guides will encourage you to keep in touch with them during your stay.
If you’re still not sold, you should check out the company’s wonderful website – it will give you a first impression of what they are all about (and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be immediately drawn in by its design).
So, that concludes – somewhat belatedly – the second part in this three-part series. Join me in a couple of weeks (or months), when we’ll have a look at San Francisco’s bohemian scene, both past and present, and the city’s representation in current TV shows and movies.
Simone was listening to “Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this once before” by The Smiths.