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Take virtual tours of San Francisco streets, museums, and cultural institutions without leaving home

Stuck inside? You can still experience some of SF’s best cultural offerings.

A white courtyard with a tremendous statue of a muscular man lost in ponderous thought, raised on a plinth.
Some people have been sheltering in place longer than others.
Photo via Getty Images

For most people in San Francisco right now, the sights—and sites—that make this city one of the most famous and beautiful destinations in the world may seem as far away as they do to those halfway around the globe.

With all of the Bay Area under shelter-in-place orders for a second week, most denizens haven’t seen much more than the few blocks around our homes. For those with a yearning but not necessarily the opportunity to experience San Francisco again, consider these virtual options.

  • Earth Cam: Live streams of the outside world seem like tailor-made relief for 2020 cabin fever. Earth Cam’s carousel of SF perspectives features placid landscapes—including several views of the bay. The perfect visuals to get away from it all from the comfort of your sofa.
  • Farallon Islands cam: In a similar vein, the one bit of San Francisco completely unaffected by the current status quo are the remote Farallon Islands, uninhabited by humans except for the occasional research and conservation expedition. The Cal Academy of Science’s island cam brings hypnotic views of the furthest San Francisco frontier during daylight hours. Note that the academy’s wildlife cams, featuring penguins and coral reefs, remain running as well. There’s even an app to watch the penguins on your phone 24/7.
  • SFMOMA collection: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has a collection of videos that give a closer look at some of its exhibitions, including several that provide crucial insights about San Francisco neighborhoods like JR: The Chronicles of San Francisco, Hal Fischer: The Gay Seventies, Marlon Mullen: The Language of Color, Nicole Miller: To The Stars, and Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle on Intuition.
  • Legion of Honor collection: For classic art lovers, Google Arts and Culture provides a deep dive into the Legion of Honor collection with 157 separate pieces digitized for remote appreciation—the oldest created in the 13th century BCE and the most recent dating to 1917. There’s also an online exhibition featuring the sculptures of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, billed as “arguably one of the most comprehensive” collections of Rodin works in the world.
  • Presidio Twitter: Social media can be a tense place right now, but one overlooked gem in the middle of the hellish Twitterscape is the official account of the Presidio Trust, which has gauged precisely what tonic this moment calls for with its beautifully rendered photos and video of SF sunsets, shorelines, and flora.
  • Windows of San Francisco: SF artist Jon Murray created Windows of San Francisco in 2018, a video collage captured through 100 different windows scattered throughout San Francisco. A window, Murray said at the time, “is like a never-ending movie.” If you’ve tired of the show outside your own windows, there’s nothing but variety here. Although the streets of San Francisco no longer appear as crowded as they did through Murray’s lens, his work reminds us that all of the people you see—our neighbors—are still just as much a part of the city as they ever were. Windows close from time to time, but eventually they always open again.
  • Google SF photo archive: Perhaps the best way to experience SF culture via Google is with the search giant’s enormous, loosely curated collection of archived photos, featuring over 14,000 images ranging all the way back to 1906. Viewing them in mostly context-free chronological order is the closest any of us are ever going to get to time travel, as thousands upon thousands of largely forgotten moments from generations of past San Franciscans float by like a river, bearing us all to the present moment.
  • Winchester Mystery House: This, of course, is not actually in San Francisco—but as long we’re housebound why let the constraints of mere geography decide our interests? Especially when a Victorian is involved. As Curbed SF previously reported, the beautiful but bizarre home of recalcitrant gun heiress Sarah Winchester is closed, but you can still check out the supposedly haunted abode via a 40-minute video tour now free to the public through April 7. The house has withstood seismic shifts both literal and metaphorical for over 115 years—it will of course endure all of this too.