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Top Walking Tours
All About Chinatown. A delightful "behind-the-scenes" look at the neighborhood. Owner Linda Lee and her guides stop in Ross Alley and at a Buddhist temple. At herbal and food markets you'll learn the therapeutic benefits of fish stomachs and ponder uses for live partridges. 415/982-8839. www.allaboutchinatown.com.
Chinatown Alleyway Tours. To learn about the modern Chinatown community, join up with one of these young guides. Tour leaders, who all grew up here, discuss Chinatown's history and current social issues. 415/984-1478. www.chinatownalleywaytours.org.
Don Herron's Dashiell Hammett Tour. Brush up on your noir slang and join trench-coated guide Herron for a walk by the mystery writer's haunts and the locations from some of Hammett's novels. At four hours for $20, it's one of the best deals going. See the website for tours or arrange one of your own. Civic Center, San Francisco, CA. www.donherron.com.
Foot! Comedy Walking Tours. You'll likely find yourself breathless with laughter, not just gasping after a steep hill. The tour leaders are all moonlighting pro comedians; they've got offerings like the Nob Hill tour "Hobnobbing With Gobs of Snobs." 415/793-5378. www.foottours.com.
Local Tastes of the City Tours. If you want to aggressively snack your way through a neighborhood as you walk it, consider hanging with cookbook author Tom Medin or one of his local guides. You'll learn why certain things just taste better in San Francisco—like coffee and anything baked with sourdough—and you'll get tips about how to find good food once you get back home. Along the way, you'll gorge yourself into oblivion: the North Beach tour, for instance, might include multiple stops for coffee and baked goods. 415/665-0480 or 888/358-8687. www.localtastesofthecitytours.com.
Precita Eyes Mural Walks. For an insider's look at the Mission District's vibrant murals, this is the place to call. The nonprofit organization has nurtured this local art form from the get-go, and the folks here stay on top of the latest additions. 415/285-2287. www.precitaeyes.org.
San Francisco City Guides. An outstanding free service supported by the San Francisco Public Library. Walking-tour themes range from individual neighborhoods to local history (the gold rush, the 1906 quake, ghost walks) to architecture. Each May and October additional walks are offered. Although the tours are free and the knowledgeable guides are volunteers, it's appropriate to make a $5 donation for these nonprofit programs. Tour schedules are available online, at library branches, and at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center at Powell and Market streets. 415/557-4266. www.sfcityguides.org.
Wok Wiz Chinatown Tour. The late cookbook author and Chinatown booster Shirley Fong-Torres founded Wok Wiz, and her team continues to lead these walks. Conversation topics include folklore and, of course, food. One version called "I Can't Believe I Ate My Way Through Chinatown!" includes breakfast and lunch. 650/355-9657. www.wokwiz.com.
Discover Walks. These free, hour-long, no-reservation tours of Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, and North Beach by enthusiastic young locals conveniently happen every day, so you can drop in when it suits your schedule. The guides are paid in tips, so be sure to show them some love. Free tours run April through October; the rest of the year paid tours are available by reservation. San Francisco, CA. 415/494-9255. www.discoverwalks.com/san-francisco-walking-tours.
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