Stop in to peruse the largest collection of Asian art and artifacts outside of Asia and examine Gae Aulenti?s amazing building redesign at the Asian Art Museum ( 200 Larkin St; 415-581-3500), in the Civic Center area. The California Academy of Sciences (415-379-8000) is in Golden Gate Park and includes the Steinhart Aquarium (the oldest in America), the Kimball Natural History Museum, the 4-Story Rainforest, and the Morrison Planetarium.
A stone?s throw from California Academy of Sciences is the H.M. de Young Memorial Museum (415-750-3600), another strikingly dramatic structure with good collections of African art, American art, Oceanic art, and textiles, among other areas of specialization.
San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA, 151 Third St; 415-357-4000) occupies spacious quarters south of Market, across from the Yerba Buena Gardens and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (415-978-2700), which runs a wide assortment of performances and exhibitions. SFMOMA's stunning building is worth a separate trip to the museum. If there's a big line out front, you may consider passing through the café and exiting onto another, occasionally active ticket line. Be sure to check out the Daniel Libeskind-designed Contemporary Jewish Museum across from Yerba Buena Gardens (736 Mission St; 415-655-7800).
San Francisco has world-class performing arts institutions, especially its opera and ballet companies. The San Francisco Ballet performs at the Civic Center's War Memorial Opera House (401 Van Ness Ave; 415-621-6600), which is also the home of the San Francisco Opera Company. Also at the Civic Center, in Louise Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Symphony (201 Van Ness Ave; 415-864-6000) performs from September through May. The American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) (405 Geary St; 415-749-2228) is perhaps the city's best-known theater, and produces classic and contemporary theater to consistent acclaim.
Theater Rhinoceros (2926 16th St; 415-861-5079) is San Francisco's (and the country's) oldest gay theater company. Quality varies from show-to-show, but there's always ample eye candy in the audience and on stage. The New Conservatory Theater Center (25 Van Ness Ave; 415-861-8972) showcases cutting-edge new works, including an entire "Pride Season" of gay theater.
The major theatrical tourist draw is Beach Blanket Babylon (at Club Fugazi, 678 Green St; 415-421-4222); Shakespeare it ain't, but something's kept it running for 30 years. The cast is energetic and talented, and the costumes are over-the-top, and include wacky and unbelievably large headpieces. The show is constantly updated, incorporating bits and pieces of local, regional, and national news and gossip. Half-price tickets for theatrical productions can often be obtained on the day of the show at Tix Bay Area (870 Market St at Powell St; 415-430-1140).
Performance art is big in San Francisco, and there are several experimental, gay-friendly venues. Notable among such establishments are Intersection for the Arts (446 Valencia St; 415-626-2787), Theater Artaud (499 Alabama St; 415-621-4240) and counterPULSE (1310 Mission St; 415-626-2060).
Concerts are presented at the Fillmore (1805 Geary Blvd; 415-346-6000), The Great American Music Hall (859 O'Farrell St; 415-885-0750), and The Warfield (982 Market St; 415-345-0900). Or check out the numerous jazz, folk, and rock clubs throughout the city: free weeklies the Bay Guardian and the SF Weekly have the best listings of current performers.