San Francisco’s hidden gems: 16th Avenue tiled steps

This time last year I wrote a bucket list post. It described all the weird and wonderful places in San Francisco that I wanted to visit. Fast forward one year and I’ve done maybe half of those things – if I’m being generous with my definition of “half”.

The thing is, San Francisco is bursting with new and different things to do and see. So ticking things off a bucket list isn’t so simple when you’re as easily distracted as I am.

I mean, I could go to Alcatraz, but there’s a chocolate festival this weekend, and a beer festival. There’s also some cool markets that I want to check out and a street fair that demands my attention. You get the gist.

There are also a bunch of hidden gems – things you might not get to if you’re only visiting for a week or a few days, but when you live here it’s easy to get side tracked.

Ever since I read about the 16th Avenue Tiled StepsĀ I was a little obsessed with getting to them. You might think that they’re “just” a set of stairs (163 steps to be exact), but to me they’re about bringing art, beauty and creativity into urban spaces that sometimes end up just being blank and boring.

They’re tucked into a quiet residential area on the corner of Moraga Street and 16th Avenue – a place you’d never get to unless you knew about them.

What I love most about this artwork, is that while it was designed by artists Aileen Barr and Colette Crutcher, they were joined by more than 300 San Franciscans in bringing the mosaic panels to life.

Not only that, but some also sponsored parts of the mosaic and now have their names forever tiled into the staircase.

The mosaic starts with fish and sea life before moving up to animals on the banks, birds and stars in the skies and finally the sun taking pride of place at the very top of this impressive set of stairs.

Where is it?

How much?

You’re in luck! It’s completely free.


Visit sun, rain or fog (like I did).

43 thoughts on “San Francisco’s hidden gems: 16th Avenue tiled steps

  1. I loved these – they were on my list for our stay in San Francisco as well and each day we kept running out of time. Then the last morning, on our way down the coast, I insisted we drive a route out of the city past these – so glad I did, they're just as you describe and a lovely creative inspiring burst in an otherwise ordinary street. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

  2. I've never been to San Fran, but I definitely want to. These mosaic staircases are wonderful and so detailed. I think it's actually better to be distracted from bucket list items because then you're experiencing the unexpected and embracing spontaneity. Great find. #wkendtravelinspiration

  3. We love SFO! I've done a few of the staircase climbs (good workouts too) but I didn't know to look specifically for these, thanks for the tip for our next visit.

  4. It gives me a bit of a headache just trying to think about how they put this mosaic together. It must have taken a lot of planning. It is nice to be distracted from the bucket list. I always start out my day with a plan but then end up wandering in a completely different direction.

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