Superlist no. 805A walk on the wild side
Adult sightseeing tours that specialize in the kinky and bizarre.
By Abigail Kramer
SURE, IT'S a San Francisco tradition to laugh at the tourists as they wonder why there's no sunshine in July. But the fun wanes fast when you're calling your friends' names through the fog, trudging your way across the Golden Gate Bridge yet again.
Luckily, there is an alternative to the worn-out San Francisco sightseeing standards. Next time you find yourself entertaining visitors from more seasonally predictable lands, try chilling their spines instead of freezing their buns. From R- to XXX-rated, the city offers several mature-content sightseeing tours that promise destinations fishier than the wharf and far more crooked than Lombard Street.
Foot! Comedian Led Walking Tours offers various neighborhood-based tours of the city led by professional comedians. Those seeking sex and scandal can choose between "Drugs, Thugs, Crimps, and Pimps: San Francisco's Original Red Light District" and "Nude, Lewd, and Crude: The Rise of Strippers, Comedians, and Beats in San Francisco's North Beach." The first is a two-hour meander through the Barbary Coast epicenter of the city's original brothels, opium dens, and gambling joints. The second is a two-hour perusal of the seedy side of North Beach nightlife, including a stop at the home of the nation's first topless dancers. "Drugs, Thugs, Crimps, and Pimps" departs from the corner of Jackson and Davis; "Nude, Lewd, and Crude" departs from Vesuvio Cafe, 255 Columbus. Reservations required. $30, $20 seniors and students (discounts available for groups). (415) 793-5378, www.foottours.com.
The Haunted Haight Walking Tour is a paranormal journey to the other side of Haight-Ashbury. Visit haunted houses, hear scary stories, and finish up with drinks at a haunted neighborhood bar. If you're lucky, you'll sense its ghost watching you in the bathroom. Tour departs from Planetweavers Treasure Store, 1573 Haight. $20 (discounts available for groups of four or more). (415) 863-1416, www.hauntedhaight.com.
Russell's San Francisco True Crime Tour offers a two-and-a-half-hour limousine ride through the city's historical hotbeds of crime. Highlights include the headquarters of San Francisco's gold rush-era vigilante committees, responsible for bringing the city's early criminals to justice, as well as that of Jim Jones, the 1978 Kool-Aid Killer. 388 Second Ave. $150 for up to six people. (415) 387-1549, www.sfcrime.com.
The San Francisco Chinatown Ghost Tour is a one-and-a-half-hour lantern-lit walk through the oldest Chinese community in the United States. Visit the haunts of specters past and present, offer respect to local spirits, and learn the power of the magic moon cake. Tour departs from 736 Washington. Private tours are available. Reservations required. $20, $10 for ages 16 and under. (415) 474-9855, www.magicaljourneys.com.
San Francisco City Guides is a nonprofit that trains volunteers to lead free historical and architectural walking tours. On its menu are the "Bawdy and Naughty" tour through the history of downtown prostitution and two ghost walks one starting at City Hall and the other at the Palace Hotel. "Bawdy and Naughty" departs from the corner of Maiden Lane and Kearny; ghost walks are offered in October only. No reservations required. Free. (415) 557-4266, www.sfcityguides.org.
The San Francisco Ghost Hunt is a three-hour, one-mile walking tour of S.F.'s most notorious haunted places. While supernaturalist Jim Fassbinder can't guarantee an actual ghost sighting, he will tell you spooky stories and teach you how to catch a ghost yourself. Tour departs from the lobby of the Queen Anne Hotel, 1590 Sutter. $20, $10 for ages 16 and under (not recommended for 8 and under). Groups of six or more adults receive a 25 percent discount. (415) 922-5590, www.sfghosthunt.com.
San Francisco Sex Tours offers racy rambles at three speeds. "Sex, Death, and Scandal" acquaints visitors with the historic hanky-panky highlights of the old Barbary Coast. "San Fransexual Shops" is an information-filled sex-store shopping spree, stopping at erotic establishments in North Beach, the Tenderloin, and the Castro and on Polk Street. For the bold and the horny, "Frisky in Frisco" swings through the city's truly adult emporiums and bars, ending the evening at the nation's largest sex club. Guide and certified clinical sexologist Paul Potocky makes certain all his patrons know that "this ain't Kansas, Toto." "Sex, Death, and Scandal" costs $45. "San Fransexual Shops" and "Frisky in Frisco" are $69 an hour (club entrance fees not included). (415) 577-8642, www.sanfranciscosextours.com.
Each February, the San Francisco Zoo celebrates the month of love wild-style, with its annual Valentine's Day Sex Tour. Drink champagne, eat chocolate, and learn a little more about the birds and the bees (or the monkeys and the elephants) on this three-hour tour, which includes a ride on the Zoo Train, up-close encounters with animals, and a mashed-potato bar. February only. 1 Zoo Rd. $55. (415) 753-7165.
The Vampire Tour of San Francisco is a two-hour trek through the nefarious byways of Nob Hill. Encounter the undead with Vampress Mina Harker, exiled to North America more than 100 years ago by Count Dracula himself. Learn about the marks vampires have made on the history of such upstanding San Francisco institutions as the Pacific Union Club and the Fairmont Hotel. Tour departs from the corner of California and Taylor. Private tours available. $20, $15 seniors and students ($15 a person for groups of 10 or more). (650) 279-1840, www.sfvampiretour.com.