Standing at the corner of Union & Webster, the inner geek of this city might not be immediately visible. Trendy couples spill out of street side cafes, sipping smart cocktails and peering over matching Ray Bans at their matching blackberries. Chic twenty-somethings bump music on their headphones from newly leaked albums. But underneath the hip music and the fresh fashion lies the pulsing heart of a secret nerd. Think less AV club and pocket protectors and more black rimmed glasses and experimental DJ sets. It may take a bit of work to uncover, but it’s worth it to get your nerd on in San Francisco. Here’s our San Francisco nerd guide:
Rickshaw Stop – Nerd Nite
Every Wednesday night one of the best musical venues in the city, the Rickshaw Stop, hosts what it describes as “the Discovery Channel with beer.” Topics change every week but are always informative with a healthy dose of pop culture. They’ve hosted talks on everything from DIY Drones to surviving the zombie apocalypse. The speakers can get pretty technical; if you find yourself needing a break the bar serves strong drinks and there’s skeeball upstairs.
Academy of Sciences Nightlife
This popular Thursday night event mixes two things SF does best: museums and alcohol. With classy cocktail in hand, you can experience the museum in an adult setting- its 21+ so no rug rats to block your view of the aquarium. Don’t miss the Planetarium, a dome shaped theater with a a full IMAX screen that completely surrounds you in visuals of outer space. Who didn’t dream of becoming an astronaut when they were a kid? The planetarium passes are handed out (for free) separately so be sure to get there within the first half hour as they sell out quickly. The event also features a musical lineup every week which can vary from up and coming DJs to local music festival pre-parties
This nonprofit literary center, founded by local author Dave Eggers, will unleash your inner swash buckler. Students from all over SF schools collaborate to create books, magazines and newspapers with the help of teachers and tutors. The center runs a Pirate Supply store up front to help keep all programs free to students. In addition to the conventional eye patches and hooks, you can pick up some serious booty in the form of mermaid bait, siren silencers and scurvy be-gone. Don’t forget to grab a collection of short stories and poetry written by the students. And, if time permits, this is a ridiculously fun spot to volunteer.
This pop up library in the Mission doesn’t include a librarian with horn rimmed glasses incessantly shushing you, I promise. In fact Ourshelves encourages members to use the space as they please. This means book clubs, open mic nights and whatever else you can think of is fair game. Membership costs are on a sliding scale; the idea being that anyone who wants to read, can, regardless of financial situation. Local authors and book nerds curate a constantly rotating selection.
Cartoon Art Museum
Ok Marvel nerds, get excited. From Looney Tunes to your favorite superheroes, this museum covers it all. They approach the subject as a serious art form, so don’t expect to go from wall to wall reading the Sunday funnies (although they have those too). Insightful and fun exhibits have included 60 years of Mad Magazine cartoons and “No Straight Lines: 4 Decades of Queer Comics.”
Cable Car Power Plant
Cable cars in San Francisco? Cheesy and touristy. Cable car power plant? Awesome. Downstairs from the Cable Car Museum on Washington & Mason is the power plant which runs the entire trolley system. From the balcony you can overlook the industrial wheels that continuously spit out cables for each of the lines. It’s a rush to watch this mechanical epicenter pump out transportation for locals commuting to work along California Ave and amusement for exited tourists about to board their first trolley ride. Engineering nerds will eat this up.
Honorable mention: The Exploratorium: This interactive museum is a San Francisco favorite and has recently reopened at Pier 15. Definitely worth the $25 ticket price to spend a day exploring science hands on.