As one of the last somewhat-affordable-for-San-Francisco
places to live in town, the dynamic Mission draws many Latin-
American immigrants and young, alternative types who call this
neighborhood home. In addition to charming Latino markets and
colorful Victorian-era homes, there are hundreds of vivid murals
brightening up the sides of buildings and storefronts with religious,
historic, political, or playful motifs. Next door is the Castro, a vibrant,
politically active (and largely gay) neighborhood with a strong sense
of community. Take 3 to 4 hours to explore these diverse neighbor-
hoods far off the beaten tourist path. START: Bart: 24th St.
1 Mission Cultural Center.
This nonprofit organization pro-
motes Latino cultural arts and offers
dance, painting, and folk-art classes.
Note the mural above the entrance,
which depicts Aztec gods, dancing
skeletons, and seemingly destitute
farmers in a desert. @ 30 min. 2868
Mission St. (at 25th St.). y 415/643-
org. Gallery hours: 10am-5pm Tues-
Sat. $2 admission. BART: 24th St.
2 24th Street. This leafy street
lined with Mexican bakeries and
other distinctly Latino stores is the
neighborhood's commercial heart.
Among the many colorful murals
you'll see here is one on the corner
of South Van Ness Avenue entitled
Carnaval, depicting the city's Latin
residents celebrating the Carnaval
SF festival that occurs yearly the last
weekend in May. 24th St. (from Mis-
sion to York sts.).
3 ★★ Balmy Alley. This year-
round outdoor gallery is a high point
of a visit to the Mission. The murals
first appeared some 3 decades ago,
but in 1984 a group called PLACA
began painting them everywhere—
fences, garage doors, and the
backs of the homes that flank this
tiny alley. Some murals are political,
some philosophical, some silly—
but all are great fun to contemplate.
Balmy Alley (between 24th &
4 Garfield Square. Visitors are
drawn here for the many murals,
such as The Primal Sea on 26th
Street or the 1973 Diego Rivera mural
Balmy Alley contains an array of vibrant murals.