Welcome to the San Francisco Tour Guide Guild
San Francisco Tour Guide Guild was organized in 1984 to provide professional development for tour guides, tour directors, and hospitality workers. Our goal is to provide tour training and certification, networking, and job matching with those needing professional tour guide services in the Northern California Region.
So if you are a professional tour guide seeking to advance your career, have a need for a local guide, or just interested in the local sightseeing information we have accumulated, welcome to SFTGG!
SF Trivia Quiz
The Value of Certification:
SFTGG provides a rigorous process for achieving professional certification, developed over time by the many professional tour guides within the Guild. Five different geographical areas are included, from Monterrey to Wine Country, and applicants are tested via both written and oral tests. Usually the process takes over two years.
By hiring a certified Guide, tour operators and private individuals are assured of the highest quality standards of performance and accuracy. For more information on Tour Guide Certification, please click here
Castro Tour, February 22, 2020
On Saturday, February 22, 2020, a Tour Guide Guild group of about twenty members enjoyed an informative tour led by Mark Leuthold and Craig Smith which began at Mission High School and Dolores Park and finished at the house where cannabis activist Dennis Peron once lived, a home morphed into a commemoration of Mr. Peron’s work on behalf of medical marijuana which began way back in the 1970’s.
With views of the California Mission style architecture embellished Mission High School draped with ornate Andalusian accents it is San Francisco’s oldest remaining still-open high school. From both street level and from the heights of adjacent Dolores Park, the tour took in the Mexican Independence Bell on the Park’s east side commemorating Cinqo de Mayo and Mexico’s independence from France. We climbed higher into the park already nicely patronized by picnickers, musicians, and lounging locals and tourists. The renovation of the Park, which cost upwards of $20 million and was completed about 6 years ago. This included much enhanced bathrooms near the richly outfitted Helen Diller children’s playground, of which there are two more at the Civic Center. Guild members dutifully inspected everything, from playground to bathrooms, and learned from co-guide Sharon Taeger about the hefty endowment provided by the estate of Helen Diller in realizing these impressive improvements. From the playground level, we viewed the former Christian Science church, which was turned into 4 huge condos, one of which is still for sale for over $5 million. The once-Lutheran church down the block once pre-dated by a synagogue on that same site many years before, has also been re-purposed as a single-family home for the wealthy broker turned real estate developer who developed the Christian Science Church a block up. Such evolution of structure and purpose seems more the rule than an exception in San Francisco’s relatively long West Coast history.
In fact, Craig explained, Dolores Park itself was once a nearly 16 acre Jewish cemetery, in particular serving the end-of-life spiritual needs of the two largest active synagogues, El Emanuel and Sherif Israel to this day in San Francisco. We found out these two congregations were one, however due to the a Kosher, or in this case not so Kosher butcher, they separated. How appropriate, therefore, that bequests from the foundation of Stanford and Helen Diller, themselves Jewish, enabled the City to renovate a park that had once served as final resting place for their co-religionaires of a bygone era.
At the top of the Park, near its northwest corner, the Guild was treated to a viewing of San Francisco’s only ‘gold-plated fire hydrant’, a favorite with throngs of local dogs, and a rather pungent brief viewing of the scandalous pissoir - an outdoor relief station for men, surrounded by a circular privacy screen composed of a profusion of scarlet trumpet vines from the Bignonia family of plants. In planning the park’s renovation, neighbors wisely suggested this pissoir, as a means of lessening the temptation for folks to ‘let fly’ on and in their nearby gardens or in the Park at large.
The group then made its way west down 18th St. towards Sanchez and took in the handsome “Maison bleue” made famous by the 1973 song, San Francisco, written and sung by Maxime Leforestier. Many French-language tour groups and individual tourists fervently hope to see this monument to a beloved song and composer when visiting the City.
From there, Guild members followed Mark and Craig to the former home of Dennis Peron, a strident fighter for cannabis legalization all the way through the 1990’s and beyond. Mr. Peron, born in the Bronx in 1945, was a courageous and beloved non-conformist from his arrival in San Francisco in 1970’s after returning from exposure to agent orange in Vietnam. His story intersected with that of Brownie Mary, and he was also well-acquainted with the late Harvey Milk, among other heroes of the late 1900’s in San Francisco. His widower, Johnny Entwistle, gave an in-depth account of Dennis’ life showing us artwork and political posters in the home’s patio as well as inside the home. This amounted to a visual history of the hippie movement, gay liberation, and the cruel AIDS years when cannabis eased the suffering of countless men and women whose condition was unrelieved by medical science at that time.
Guild members explored the Castro Castle at-will. From the facial expressions it was clear that some had not previously been exposed to this colorful segment of San Francisco history. It’s quite likely that the Peron house, currently inhabited by about 10 visionary people including his widow John, may soon be a cultural museum open on request. Please contact Mark Leuthold if you would like to take a group to the Castro Castle museum.
Mark served lemonade, free of all intoxicants be they ethanol, cannabis or any other, and was perfectly timed with the wind-down of this history-rich promenade.
Craig and Mark have impressively in-depth knowledge of the City as a whole and of these neighborhoods in particular, and welcome any questions on these topics that Guild members may wish to pose.
- Newton Butler
North Beach Foodie Tour, February 13, 2020
A culinary walk in North Beach to sample different kinds of focaccia, pizza and pinsa, representing different regions of Italy. In addition, we learned about coffee roasting at Graffeo and finish our day with home made cannoli at Caffe' Cavalli.
Member Meet-up, February 5, 2020
Chill mini-golfers at Stagecoach Greens
Time for s'mores and warming up around the fire pit at Spark Social
Member Meet-UP February 5, 2020
A lovely mid-winter day made for some fun times getting in the groove playing 18 holes of mini-golf on the Stage Coach Greens. This is a SF history course course, that's right! and designed with features of The City by The Bay.
We shot the ball into a saloon with honky tonk piano music at the second hole, hit the ball over the Sierra Nevada mountains or into a rail road tunnel at hole 5, play thru a gold rush graveyard at hole 6, and mine for gold at hole 7.Each hole had a plaque with a history description to entertain kids, out of town guests or a group of guides. Our SFTGG golfers were first class beginners, so we were all well matched.
A bit cold from the slight breeze we warmed up around the fire pit at Spark Social with happy hour, some grub, and yummy s'mores. Surprised to see some of our folks needed a bit of instruction to construct this all American dessert that's always fun to share. Plenty of our guides have been stopping here for lunch as it makes a great alternative to Fisherman's Wharf. I especially like to stop here with student groups, as the variety of foods showcases our melding of culture and cuisines, and keeps everyone in an open air, yet contained venue keeping the chaperones less nervous that anyone will get lost.
Do make sure if you plan on bringing a group here to double check that none of the tech companies have bought out the entire premises. Also, Spark Social can supply food and drink coupons if a group leader or company wants to purchase in bulk for each of their guest.Generally $14 coupons for food or $20 for food and drink will suffice, but will need to be used up on that day and booked and paid for a week in advance.
I'd like to thank Stage Coach Greens and Spark Social for all of us for hosting the San Francisco Tour Guide Guild.
Fort Mason Walking Tour with John Martini
Maggie Joanidis, a relatively new Guild member contributed this short blurb on John Martini's tour of Fort Mason on Jan 21, 2020.
Thanks also to Jason Cohen for organizing the tour and all attendees.
Our afternoon could not have been any better. As the temperature rose to the mid-60s and the morning fog made way for a lovely winter afternoon sun, we were lucky enough to wander through one of the most overlooked, history-defining places in our beloved San Francisco - Fort Mason.
John Martini, a retired park ranger who knows our parks inside and out, walked a bunch of adventurous tour guides (and friends) through well-preserved neighborhoods, backyards, and hidden pathways of the Fort. The tour began at the chapel near the General’s Residence and ended outside the century-old, incomplete F-line tunnel at the piers.
From creepy piles of bones to un-used (but certainly ready to defend us from unwanted visitors) batteries and canons to an illegal senator-judge duel, John took the group back in time as he shared some of the most well-kept secrets of the area. Accompanied by Mark Kaskey, who is part of the Fort Mason Foundation, the group was regaled with many interesting facts and stories about lower Fort Mason, the people, and the different stages of history that left their mark on the grand buildings that adorn our coast.
This was certainly a walk in the park that we all shall remember.
Hotsy-Totsy Roaring 20's Holiday Party
The Hotsy-Totsy Roaring 20's Holiday Party was a great success and fun was had by all members that attended! The SFTGG speakeasy, decorated with gold and feathers, was HOPPING at the Italian American club in North Beach! Everyone was in the Roaring 20's spirit and there were flappers kicking up their heels to Suzy & the Q's where ever you looked. A delicious meal was served and the hooch was flowing at this juice joint! A "midnight" champagne toast, photo booth and a successful costume contest with our new BOT member, Roberto Natalini, serving as judge! For those who were unable to attend, you were missed and we hope to see you at next's years holiday event!
Here are a few photos to wet your whistle before we get the great shots taken by member, Michael Sullivan. Hang tight for them. They will be here soon. And if you took photos that evening that you would like to share, please contact me at email@example.com and I will tell you how you can share them.
Thanks again to all the volunteers that helped make this amazing party happen and all who participated in the event. It made it such a great success!
All the best! Happy New Year!
Muir Woods Tour, July 10, 2019
Muir Woods Training Tour Report
On July 10, 2019, with thanks to Storer Transportation for providing a bus and driver at very favorable rates, a group of guides travelled to Muir for perhaps the most informative tour ever on the upcoming changes to the Muir Woods National Monument and the rules for bringing tour groups into the site.
On the way to Muir Woods, Frances Gorman. alerted the group to a recent change for buses crossing the GG bridge. On the weekends and holidays all tour buses must now exit at Spencer Street (past Alexander exit), follow the frontage road, then go left under the 101 in order to reverse directions to return to SF.
When driving to Muir Woods all buses over 30 feet should enter via the lower Muir Woods road, staying on Hwy 1. This route passes Pelican Inn and is a safer route for buses. Do not use the Panoramic Hwy route via Mt. Tam for buses.
Parking must be reserved ahead for buses and cars. Buses can stay for 90 minutes.
There is a Taxi stand at the ADA parking area, at the entrance. Uber and Lyft can drop riders but there is no way to call them due to no cell coverage at Muir Woods.
On weekends there is a public Shuttle to Muir Woods from downtown Sausalito. Exact change of $3 is required each way.
For substantial additional information click here to see the entire report on this valuable training tour, arranged by Don Delaura and Marvin Chiu and reported on by Linda Brown. Thanks to all.
Spring General Meeting, June 17, 2019
The 2019 Spring General Meeting, held on June 17th at St Mary’s Church, was a success.
There were approximately 75 members in attendance. The meeting started off with Tour Guide Bingo while and libations and desserts were served.
In the meeting, new members were introduced, results from the Certification Survey were shared, upcoming programs were announced including member, Richard Miller’s evening at Beach Blanket Babylon on October 10th, as well as, recent Member Meetups, Community Outreach events, and Trivia Team opportunities.
With the hope of increased efficiency, a new meeting format in which a request to hold all questions till the end was made. This proved to be a success and kept the meeting flowing.
Many thanks to all the volunteers who helped with meeting set-up and clean-up alike. Your participation and time are greatly appreciated and your help made the meeting run seamlessly. THANK YOU to all volunteers!!!!
THANKS to all attendees, see you in the fall!
Storer Bus Safety Training, January 22
"Better than great!"; "Superb Training, should be required for all guides." Those and many other favorable quotes were offered by the attendees at the Storer Bus Safety training on January 22. Rebecca is a terrific trainer.
Among other training tips, we learned:
* That there is considerable variation among manufactures as to where the emergency brake, manual door opener, and other safety equipment is located
* How to open the luggage bins to get the emergency triangles and where to place them
* How to reach around a disabled driver and engage the emergency brake
All attendees were most impressed with Rebecca's and the whole Storer team's contribution to bus safety in San Francisco.
Lefty O'Doul's Meet-up
A great time was had by all who attended the Member Meetup at Lefty O'Douls yesterday afternoon. Nick Bovis, owner of Lefty O'Douls, set a a delicious spread from their buffet and treated us to come great wine and cocktails. Lots of great conversations, getting to know each other, networking and laughs were had yesterday. It was a great turn out! Turns out that the "new" Lefty O'Douls is a really cool spot!!
Thank you again to Jean Feilmoser for getting such a fun event together.
SFO Airport Training Event
An informative time was had by members at the San Francisco International Airport yesterday morning. A group of about 10 members was trained by the fabulous Sunny LaGardo and she was a wealth of knowledge on meet and greets, group pickups and departures and all things SFO. I know everyone walked away with several new feathers in their caps yesterday!
Sunny gave us the insiders guide to strategic locations to meet groups, how to stay visible to groups arriving, how to work with drivers, best areas to stage and brief groups, how to read/rearrange a manifest to work for you, as well as, the busiest places to avoid, and even "secret", time-saving ways to get from terminal to terminal, where to score free luggage carts and where the medical clinic is located in the International terminal. As well as other great info to have such as where guests can freshen up and find a quiet nap room to where guests can store their luggage or mail a letter, if needed, to the slowest and fastest food/coffee places in the terminals to my favorite, where all the art exhibits are located in the terminals!!! We were lucky to get to gaze at the SIlversmithing exhibit from England and the model airplane exhibit in the museum in the international terminal.
This program is HIGHLY recommended for all guides whether you do DMC work or not! There is much to learn and is invaluable as a tour guide, director or working for DMCs! I can honestly tell you that after this training, I feel more prepared to take on DMC and actually think that SFO can be a cool place just to hang out!
2018 SFTGG Holiday Party
The 2018 SFTGG Holiday party was held for the third time running at the Italian American Athletic Club. As usual the gathering was a smashing success.
New and long time members alike mingled in the festively decorated hall, thanks to Linda Reynolds and her team. Toys for tots again were collected , thanks to Mia, in a Fire Department barrel for the benefit of the Paradise fire victims.
Following the plentiful repast, music from the Suzy Q quintet, songs by Suzy Q herself, and a unique if abbreviated performance of the 12 Days of Christmas by Mark Kasulen (CTG) regaled the crowd!
Mark happily shares his creation with the intention that guides add some fun to San Francisco holiday season tour. It is a playful song to sing with holiday spirited guests, as the guide intersperses factual commentary of each "Day" throughout the song. "try it and see for yourselves!
Mia announced the results of the nomination and election to the 2019 Board of Trustees. The three nominees who accepted their nomination will be formally seated at the first Board meeting in January. Ed Franklin and Garrett Ethridge will each serve a second term, and Suzy Abbott will step on to the Board for her first term. Thanks you to all.
Len then introduced the anticipated next President of the Guild, Helen Hickman, who as usual, had enthusiastic words on the Guild and it's members.
Retiring members Bruce Marinace, Linda Reynolds and Len Holmes were all thanked for their past dedicated service.
Len and Linda have both indicated a willingness to serve on some of the Guild's committees.
City Hall and Veterans Building Tour
On December 6, 20 enthusiastic guides toured City Hall and the Herbst Theater in the Veteran's Building across Van Ness Avenue.
The first phase covered the logistics of doing a tour in City Hall, including the location of interesting photos, statues and busts of former mayors, and a description and discussion of the base isolation systems for earthquake protection.
Sharon at the Veterans building gave us a wonderful, if short, tour of the Herbst Theatre and a view of the spectacular murals from the 1915 PPIE,
Then it was back to City Hall. City Hall Historian, and docent leader, Ellen Schumer, presented in her delightfully unique fashion many of the interesting details of City Hall and it's history.
There will be a sequel to this tour in the spring. It will cover Symphony Hall, Opera House, the War Memorial and the Veterans Building in greater detail. Stay tuned for more info.