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Self-Guided Art Tours

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This is only one in a series of self-guided Art Tours providing an easy and fun way to explore the thriving Bay Area art scene at your own pace. Each is complete with a printable map of destinations, and suggestions on how to plan your time, and where to stop and eat along the way.

Check out the other tours:

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San Francisco Cartoon Art Tour

Last updated: October 2011

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If you just can't get enough of comic books and cartoon art, devote a day to our San Francisco Cartoon Art Tour. Along the way, you'll delve into cartooning's past, revel in its present and even get to try your hand at creating an animated film. If you want to hit every spot on the list and include time for lunch, allot at least six hours to complete this self-guided tour and schedule your adventure for Wednesday through Sunday, when all locations mentioned are open.

Here are some videos that you might want to watch to give you a better background on cartoon art in the Bay Area:

To really appreciate an art form, it helps to know a little about its history. Kick off your tour with a visit to the Cartoon Art Museum, in downtown San Francisco, for a stroll through cartooning's rich past. Not only will you find thematic installations exploring influential artists and their legacies, but you'll also find a permanent collection of more than 6,000 pieces of art, including animated film clips, comic strips, comic books, editorial and magazine cartoons, and edgy underground works.

After you've poured over all kinds of cartoon art, you're sure to have a few creative ideas of your own. Put your right brain to work at Childrens Creativity Museum's Animators Studio. A visit here is an especially fun hands-on activity for families, but all ages are welcome to use the equipment to produce short animated films using video cameras and stop-motion animation techniques. Once you've finished your original short film, you can take it with you on a CD.

Unless you've got superhero stamina, you and your fellow cartoon art fans are likely to be hungry after a morning of art appreciation and creation. For a quick bite without leaving the downtown area, try the Sony Metreon food court. If you do not have kids in tow, you may prefer the chic atmosphere and grilled fare at Restaurant Lulu. If you can wait to eat until you get to Hayes Valley -- the next stop on our tour -- you'll find plenty of options in the charming tree-lined neighborhood. For a classic San Francisco experience in American cuisine, try the expensive, but seriously tasty Zuni Café. Lunch topped off with a sinfully good dessert can be had at Citizen Cake. Kids and adults alike will love Flipper's Gourmet Hamburgers and its simple interiors, outdoor patio, and juicy burgers.

Recover from lunch with a visit to Hayes Valley's Isotope Comics. This innovative destination for comic book lovers has a lounge area outfitted with a comfy sofa and cushy chairs. Visitors regularly curl up here to flip through the shop's comic books, socialize and just relax. The venue is also home to the irreverent Comic Rock Stars Toilet Seat Art Museum, a permanent art installation featuring -- you guessed it -- toilet seats emblazoned with sketches by artists like Erik Larson, Donna Barr and Judd Winick, who've visited the store for special events and book signings. Usually done with black indelible markers, the drawings range from silly to sexy to downright scandalous.

Next, meander down Octavia Blvd to Market Street (aproximately 4 blocks) where Al's Comics offers a large selection of current comics, independent comics, back-issues, graphic novels, trading cards, action figures, toys, statues, t-shirts, and posters. If that isn't enough comics for you then head over to Comix Experience, in the Haight-Ashbury area, specializes in comic books from American publishers. The comic-obsessed staff can tell you just about anything you want to know about comic books and comic artists.

A totally different comic book experience awaits at Japan Center's Kinokuniya Bookstore. In addition to Japanese-language books and magazines, stationery, gifts, and a small selection of apparel, the store is a hit with anime and manga fans looking for the latest issues of popular Japanese comic books.

Below you'll find contact and admission information for each venue, plus our suggestions for parking and public transit for some of the destinations.

Cartoon Art Museum
cartoonart.org
Where: 655 Mission St., San Francisco
When: Tuesday through Sunday from 11am-5pm
Phone: (415) CARTOON (227-8666)
Cost: $7 adults, $5 students and seniors, $3 children (aged 6-12), free for children age 5 and under. The first Tuesday of the month is "Pay What You Wish Day."

Childrens Creativity Museum
Childrens Creativity Museum.org
Where: 221 Fourth St. (on the rooftop of Yerba Buena Gardens), San Francisco
When: Check their Web site for hours
Phone: (415) 820-3320
Cost: $10 general admission, free for children age 2 and under.

Parking: For visits to both the Cartoon Art Museum and Childrens Creativity Museum, the Fifth and Mission/Yerba Buena Garage is your best bet. The garage is open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Where: 833 Mission St., San Francisco
Public transit: If you are relying on MUNI to go from Childrens Creativity Museum to Hayes Valley, simply walk a couple of blocks to Market Street. From there, take the 21 Hayes outbound bus and get off at the corner of Grove and Gough streets. Isotope Comics is only two blocks from Grove, at the corner of Fell and Gough.

Isotope
isotopecomics.com
Where: 326 Fell St., San Francisco
When: Tuesday through Friday from 11am-7pm, and Saturday from Sunday from 11am-6pm.
Phone: (415) 621-6543
Parking: There is a parking lot on the corner of Gough and Grove. Otherwise there is street and metered street parking.

Al's Comics
alscomicssf.com
Where: 1803 Market St., San Francisco
When: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 11am-7pm, Wednesday from 12am - 8pm and Sunday from 12pm-6pm
Phone: (415) 861-1220
Parking: There are metered spots on Market and on the surrounding side streets -- but it can be a little difficult to find a spot.

Comix Experience
comixexperience.com
Where: 305 Divisadero St., San Francisco
When: Monday through Saturday from 11am-7pm, and Sunday from 12pm-5pm
Phone: (415) 863-9258
Parking: Finding a metered spot on Divisadero or surrounding side streets is your best bet.
Public transit: To go from Al's Comics to Comix Experience on Divisadero, take the 71 Haight outbound bus and get off at the corner of Haight and Divisadero. Comix Experience one block north on Divisadero near Page.

Kinokuniya Bookstore
kinokuniya.co.jp
Where: Japan Center, 1581 Webster St., San Francisco
Phone: (415) 567-7625
Parking: If you don't see a street spot near the Japan Center, you can always find parking in the Japan Center Garage at 1660 Geary Street.
Public transit: To go from the Mission to Japantown, walk half a block back to Mission and take a Mission Street inbound buses (49, 49L or 14) and exit a few blocks at 16th and Valencia streets. Take the 22 Fillmore bus going toward the Marina and get off at Geary. Walk one block up to Post and take a right to Japan Center.

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