Television has a way of making “stars” out of destinations.
Carrie Bradshaw, sashaying through the streets of New York City, spurred a cottage industry of “Sex and the City” tours. Norm and Cliff, sidling up to a bar in “Cheers,” made people want to head to Boston and find a place “where everyone knows your name.” That impossible view of Seattle’s Space Needle out Frasier Crane’s window still draws people to the Emerald City.
We recently had the chance to go to San Francisco and visit the set of HBO’s understated but bleeding-edge show, “Looking.” The story of three best friends navigating the complexities of modern gay life serves as a perfect vehicle to showcase a beautifully framed (but still realistic) San Francisco. The show only has aired for one season (Season Two starts in January 2015), but Looking has already elevated San Francisco’s caché. On our visit, we took some time to discover some of the places that have played prominent roles in the sweetly provocative show.
On the set of HBO’s Looking
USS Hornet Museum. When Patrick (Jonathan Groff) meets his new boss, he does so while straddling a torpedo on the deck of this National Historic Landmark. Fortunately, you can forgo the awkwardness and simply explore the historic Naval ship. Docked on Alameda Island, the ship is best known for recovering the first two lunar-landing space missions, Apollo 11 and 12.
Morrison Planetarium. Early in their relationship, Patrick and Richie (Raúl Castro) play hooky and spend an entire day exploring the city. At the Morrison (part of the California Academy of Sciences), under a 75-foot dome of digital universes, they have a “Ross and Rachel” moment. If you go, make sure to leave plenty of time; with an aquarium, planetarium, natural history museum, and four-story rainforest, there is a lot to learn here, even if you’re not figuring out a new relationship.
Viewfinder Tip: The Caesar Salad at Zuni Cafe is considered one of the best in the country. Don’t miss it.
Zuni Café. This upscale, Hayes Valley restaurant is where Dom (Murray Bartlett) works while figuring out what he wants to do with his life. The iconic eatery was established long before this section of Market Street began its rapid shift from “look over your shoulder and walk quickly” to “where can I park my Tesla?” Make a reservation, block out several hours, and order the brick-oven roasted “Chicken for Two,” which takes about an hour to prepare but is definitely worth the wait. You can use that time to figure out what your next big thing is going to be.
The Stud. On the corner of 9th and Harrison streets, not far from the Looking stage set, sits one of San Francisco’s oldest and most iconic gay bars. Since 1966, The Stud has served as a gathering place for the LGBT community (as well as famous folks such as Janis Joplin). The Stud is where Patrick and Richie reconnect after a cringe-worthy almost hook-up the previous night.
Mission Dolores Park. To celebrate Dom’s fortieth birthday, the entire group throws down some blankets in this sunny-day San Francisco mainstay. It’s also where Augustín (Frankie J. Álvarez) “throws some shade” on Richie. Definitely head this way to enjoy a few golden rays and take in views of the city; just leave the shade at home.
Which TV-show inspired destination are you most interested in visiting and why?