Field Trip: The Haute 5 Cultural Institutions in San Francisco

There are a million and one reasons that San Francisco is one of the best cities in the U.S. To wax on about the brilliance of the culinary scene would be rather passé, because anyone who has ever lived here and called themselves a foodie knows that it is second to none. So what else makes us proud to call this city home? Today we have decided to outline the cultural institutions that make this City by the Bay worthy to become one of Haute Living’s most coveted markets. Get ready for a field trip guys, because here are the top five picks, from our very own readers, on places that you must explore if you dare to call yourself a true San Franciscan.

Davis Symphony Hall

We checked in with Haute 100 member Roberta Economidis, the great legal eagle of the city, to find out what made the top of her list for favorite cultural institutions. As the chair of chair of the Advisory Council of Symphonix, which supports the San Francisco Symphony, it came as little surprise that she chose the cultural nonprofit. With the annual Black and White Ball just more than a month away, no doubt the city is going gaga over the line up that includes the likes of Tony Bennett and k.d. lang in concert at Davies Symphony Hall. The official history indicates that, “In the wake of the 1906 earthquake, establishment of a permanent orchestra was high on the civic agenda, and in December 1911, the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) gave its first concerts, revitalizing San Francisco’s cultural life.”

Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Ave.

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Certainly a museum that has seen the comings and goings of 115 years of visitors is worthy of this list. The de Young Museum, as part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, was established in 1895, but saw a rebirth, and renaming in the mid 2000s when famed architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuro, along with Fong + Chan designed the newly rebuilt structure. As we mentioned in a previous Haute 5 that detailed San Fran art galleries, the FAMSF is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco, and one of the largest in the United States. The museum has two locations, de Young and Legion of Honor, both housing very different styles from very different periods. Collections at the Legion of Honor include European decorative arts and paintings, a multitude of works on paper, and a variety of ancient art from all over the world. Both buildings are a must see, and one could easily spend an entire day in either location.

de Young Museum is located in Golden Gate Park at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr. and Legion of Honor is located in Lincoln Park at 100 34th Ave.

Contemporary Jewish Museum

Both Jeff Farber, CEO of Koret Foundation, and Richard Baumbert, the managing director at Millennium Partner, listed the Contemporary Jewish Museum on their “Insider’s Guide to the City,” so naturally, it makes an appearance here. The museum first saw the light of day back in 1984, but was graciously welcomed to its new home in Yerba Buena Gardens in SoMA in the summer of 2008 in a magnificent space designed by Daniel Libeskind, of the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen fame. His work on the 63,000-square-foot San Francisco museum has been widely acclaimed, including by critics at such prestigious publication as The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Time. Connie Wolf, from New York City’s Whitney Museum curates the space today.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum is located at 736 Mission St.


And since we’re talking museums here, it would be quite the huge faux pax not to mention SFMOMA, another favorite of Chip Conley, as well as Madera Executive Chef Peter Rudolph. What was born in 1935 as the West Coast’s first museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art, today encompasses a collection of more than 26,000 artworks, photographs, and design objects. And it’s not just the collection that has the country talking about this importance of SFMOMA, it is the building itself as well. “Mario Botta’s 1995 SFMOMA building is an iconic presence within the cityscape of San Francisco. Located in downtown San Francisco’s South of Market (SoMa) area, the five-story structure features a stepped and patterned brick facade topped by a soaring cylindrical turret. In the architect’s signature style, the turret is finished in alternating bands of black and white stone and topped with a radial pattern of the same material.” In the midst of its 75th anniversary celebration year, the 225,000-square-foot museum has already sold out tickets to its Birthday Party Rooftop Dinner on May 14. If you didn’t get yours, check back on the Haute Living Events Page for photos from the fete.

SFMOMA is located at 151 Third St. (between Mission and Howard)


If you don’t live here, then you may be tempted to think that the inclusion of a church on such a list implies something religious. However, for those of us in the know, Glide Memorial Church is so much more than a religious institution. Founded in 1929, the organization has gone through several incarnations, and in the 60s experienced a counter-culture revolution, along with other parts of our city. Today, however, respected political leaders and influential voices of our times have publically recognized the importance of Glide, including Warren Buffett, former president Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, and Oprah Winfrey. It was forever immortalized in pop culture when it was depicted in Will Smith’s The Pursuit of Happyness as one of the entities that helped mogul Chris Gardner turn his life around. And not to mention that this cultural institution was listed as a favorite by Sommelier Stephane Lacroix of The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco and Joie de Vivre Hospitality’s Chip Conley.

Glide Memorial Church is located at 330 Ellis St.