Terrific Street: The Devil’s Playground

Neighborhood: The Embarcadero North


“Terrific Street” was the heart of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast; an underworld once filled with shady characters and risky dealings.  The saloons and dance halls beckoned slummers to dance the Turkey Trot and the Grizzly Bear to music that some have labeled the beginnings of jazz.  Here too, the “percentage girls” suggested visitors buy them a drink that might contain more than liquor, the better to allow for the riffling of pockets when stupor set in.

Near the waterfront, sailor boarding house keepers shanghaied men to serve as crews on sailing ships and the occupants of Sydney Town plied their professions as thieves and arsonists.  Throughout the neighborhood other denizens operated parlor houses or cribs which offered the majority-male population a much-appreciated service while separating many a Barbary Coast Ranger from his money.

This visit to “the devil’s playground” offers a glimpse into “Terrific Street’s” historic past in all of its tameless, shameless glory.

Next Tours

  • Saturday, June 15 at 10:00 am given by Miriam S.Sign Up
  • Sunday, June 23 at 1:00 pm given by Larry M.Sign Up
  • Sunday, July 7 at 1:00 pm given by Larry M.Sign Up
  • Saturday, July 13 at 10:00 am given by Miriam S.Sign Up
  • Sunday, July 21 at 1:00 pm given by Ethel K.Sign Up
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Approximate Length of Tour: Two hours

Tour Notes: May be windy, a jacket suggested.  Adult content may not be suitable for children.


The west side of Sydney G. Walton Square, at the Colombo Market Arch (on Front Street between Jackson Street and Pacific Avenue).

Public Transit: F-Line:  Disembark at the Washington Street or Broadway stops and walk west to Sydney G Walton Square.

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Please note: Private group tours required for groups of 8 or more.