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Find San Francisco's Local Culture on a Tenderloin Walking Tour

San Francisco is a lively city hosting a variety of cultures and communities. Right in the center of it all you will find a neighborhood called the Tenderloin.

Despite it’s reputation for being the rough part of town, the Tenderloin is filled with vibrant people, a lot of character and some hidden gems if you know where to look. Thankfully, Del Seymour, better known as the unofficial mayor, is happy to play guide to those looking to experience the local culture with Tenderloin walking tours. A longtime resident and member of the Tenderloin community, he knows all the ins and outs of this neighborhood.

Going on one of the Tenderloin Walking Tours

A group of us from TravelBank met Del at The Hall, the official starting point of his tours, for the Tenderloin night tour. Although thanks to daylight savings, we still had a good amount of light left.

The Hall, a food court in SF's tenderloin neighborhood
The Hall, a food court in the Tenderloin

The Hall is a food court that allows new businesses to open up shop for $1,000 and test out their menu. Successful businesses go on to establish their restaurant elsewhere, and the ones that don’t take off are only out a minimal investment. A larger food court (and produce market) is scheduled to open in the old postal building down the street.

From The Hall, we set off to learn about the Tenderloin’s colorful history. It’s been home to theaters, strip clubs, art galleries, one of the largest Greyhound stations and a huge collection of single-room occupancies over the years.

On the tour we met a few longtime residents and discovered spots we had no idea existed in the Tenderloin. Our favorite had to be the Phoenix Hotel, a haven that felt more retro Miami than downtown San Francisco, perfect for hosting an event.

In terms of a local guide, you can’t do any better than Del. When we say he knows everyone, we aren’t kidding.

Del will wave to some of the locals on the street corner, checking in to say hello, before turning to tell you about the time he spent six hours at the White House in the company of former first lady, Michelle Obama. He also drops names in tech like it’s no big deal, referencing friendships he’s developed with many top founders through his career-readiness nonprofit, Code Tenderloin.

While Del hosts the walking tours for free, most offer a donation to support Code Tenderloin. It’s well worth visitors’ time and a small donation to hear his personal tales and extensive knowledge of the neighborhood.

For those living in San Francisco, it’s a great way to get to know the community that many of us work amongst every day. And if you want to get involved and give back to the community, Del is always looking for new talent to volunteer with Code Tenderloin.

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