March 8  is the official launch date for CityExplorerSF, an app that provides quirky walking tours of San Francisco that are fully downloadable to smart phones and tablets.   Six different tours will be offered at launch.  Three will be free to download; the other three will cost $1.99 each.   One dollar from every $1.99 tour downloaded will go to benefit 826 Valencia, a San Francisco based non-profit that helps close the academic achievement gap for under-served youth in the Bay Area.

All CityExplorerSF tours are available now to the media and reviewers free of charge.  Simply search CityExplorerSF in iTunes or Google Play.  Pricing will not take effect until March 8.

Initially funded through a Kickstarter campaign, the app offers audio commentary, as well as historic photos and maps.  It's available for Apple and Android devices.  Because all CityExplorerSF tours are fully downloadable, they don’t depend on maintaining an internet connection along the route.  In fact, early testers reported using the CityExplorerSF app to preview a neighborhood from home.

 CityExplorerSF is the brainchild of Gloria Lenhart who leads tours of San Francisco as a San Francisco City Guide, as well as for private groups.  

“CityExplorerSF lets you explore at your own pace, whenever it’s convenient for you,” Lenhart says.  “The app can also take you places that can be difficult with a tour group – like inside St. Peter and Paul church in North Beach, or to explore the wonderful maritime murals inside  the Merchants Exchange downtown.”

Each tour is designed to be completed in 1 or 2 hours.  Tours include audio,  a map and a list of stops, making it easy for users to create their own route or cherry-pick the sites of most interest.  There are even recommendations for eating and shopping – CityExplorerSF accepts no advertising, so the choices are simply Lenhart’s favorite places.

At launch, the free tours available are: Chinatown, Victorians of Lafayette Park, and North Beach Washington Square.  The $1.99 tours, which will benefit 826 Valencia, are Sunken Ships, Hidden Treasures in the Financial Districts, and two Art Walks -- Urban Gardens SOMA and Murals in the Mission.  Additional tours will be launched in the coming months, including a Barbary Coast Barhop, an exploration of Victorian architecture in the Mission, a historic stroll up Market Street and more.  

 A portion of the proceeds from the $1.99 City Explorer tours benefits 826 Valencia which offers a range of programs -- all free of charge --for students, classrooms, and schools in the Bay Area.  826 Valencia was founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari. Learn more about their programs and volunteer opportunities on their website, at www.826Valencia.org.  Or visit  their Pirate Supply store in San Francisco's Mission District at 826 Valencia St., open 12 noon to 6 p.m every day, except holidays.