Walking tours are a great way to explore San Francisco’s most vibrant neighborhoods, including the somewhat infamous Tenderloin district.
Located near the Union Square shopping district, on the southern slope of Nob Hill, this neighborhood is situated next to some of the most expensive real estate in town.
However, it often gets overlooked by potential residents and visitors alike due to its seedy reputation. But should it?
Here’s what you should know about the neighborhood today.
The neighborhood has always had a dark, gritty feel to it.
In fact, it used to be known as the place to catch some of the most legendary performers of the 50s and 60s, including Miles Davis and John Coltrane.
Today, the neighborhood is famous for its underground art spaces, secret speakeasy-like bars, and historic theaters staging indie shows and Broadway hits alike.
Is the Tenderloin as bad as people say? If you are considering participating in one of Tenderloin walking tours, here’s what you should know.
The name “Tenderloin” was first coined by a police captain named Alexander S. Williams in 1931.
At a time when vice and corruption ruled the city streets, policemen who took bribes were said to be able to afford better cuts of meat for their dinner tables.
Almost every city has its own Tenderloin, and San Francisco is no exception.
Did you know that, before the earthquake of 1906, San Francisco’s Tenderloin district used to a be a relatively quiet, residential neighborhood?
However, by the time the 1920s rolled around, this part of the city had become rather infamous for its after-dark entertainment (and earned its new title as the Tenderloin of San Francisco).
The Tenderloin definitely has a dark side.
The streets are very busy with people, and the crime rate is higher than that of other San Francisco neighborhoods.
Tenderloin has always served as a home to the downtrodden and out of luck. Therefore, the homelessness rate in the neighborhood is very high.
However, as long as you are respectful to the neighborhood’s residents (and employ the same safety precautions you would elsewhere in the city), you should be just fine.
In recent years, high-tech investors have taken an interest in the neighborhood, inspiring chatter of a new tech bubble and changing the way the district looks and feels.
Uber, Squarespace, and Zendesk have all moved in, and it appears they are here to stay.
What does that mean for Tenderloin walking tours?
The neighborhood is unlikely to lose its dark and gritty charm, but you may be seeing a new, more futuristic angle of the Tenderloin soon.
While the Tenderloin district may seem dangerous and unwelcoming from the outside, it would be a shame to miss out on the unique experiences it provides.
We actually take our visitors right by this neighborhood during one of our walking tours, Haunted San Francisco Ghost Tour.
Some of the neighborhood’s stories are truly fascinating (if a bit macabre!), and there’s plenty of that grittiness to discover in the rest of San Francisco as well.
Ready to discover the dark side of San Francisco?