Friday, Sep. 26, 2008

2. Coit Tower

Every great city needs its proud civic phallus — the Empire State Building, the Washington Monument, the Eiffel Tower. At best, they're scenic lookouts; at worst, boring tourist-trap monstrosities. I'll leave it to the architectural critics to appraise the aesthetic merits of Coit Tower, which some say resembles a fire hose nozzle. It gives good views of the city, though, perched as it is atop historic Telegraph Hill (home to sea captains in the days of the Golden Bough) in North Beach. The views aside, you're really here for the murals. Inspired by the social-realism style of the great Diego Rivera, and commissioned by the federal Works Progress Administration, the paintings inside the tower were completed in 1933 and are great fun to look at. Pay special attention to the depiction of the newsstand, because it is so wonderful and bygone.

It's free to get inside the city-owned monument, but if you want to take the elevator to the top to dig the views, it's $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $2 for kiddies aged 5 to 12. Get here by walking uphill on Lombard Street from North Beach, or take Muni bus 39 from Washington Square Park.