NOTE: This is an archive article. For an updated and expanded San Francisco article click DailyXtraTravel
San Francisco's gay evolution began in the flower-power days of the
late 1960s. The hippies were concentrated in the Haight-Ashbury
neighborhood. Gays who were part of the hippie movement eventually
migrated over the hill from the Haight and settled in what was then
called Eureka Valley. Now, we all know and love it as the Castro.
For old-timers, the 2008 movie Milk, based on the life of out
gay city supervisor Harvey Milk, brought back memories of how ugly the
Castro used to be before the gays moved in. The neighborhood had low
rents with low-rent businesses to match, vacant storefronts and
handbills plastered everywhere.
The movie's producers de-gentrified the Castro for the film,
then put it back better than ever. The filmmakers restored the front of
the landmark Castro Theater to its glory days, replacing the burned-out
neon and refurbishing its colorful facade. That means there's never
been a better time to see this slice of San Francisco gay life.
San Francisco International Airport is not in San Francisco but in San
Mateo County, about 20 minutes south of downtown. In 2003, the Bay
Area's inter-city transit system, BART, was extended to the airport,
making connections to the city easier than ever.
When you arrive at the airport, buy a one-, three- or seven-day transit
passport for unlimited rides on San Francisco's Muni transit system,
including the world-famous cable cars. Those passes cost $13, $20 and
$26, respectively. Otherwise the fare is $2 for buses and trolleys and
$5 for cable cars. Before you arrive, you can buy a CityPass, which includes a seven-day Passport plus admission to a
number of attractions, for $59.
What to see
San Francisco's newest tourist attractions are the de Young Museum and
the Academy of Sciences, in the middle of Golden Gate Park, the city's
largest green space. You can spot the de Young by its 144-foot tower,
which offers panoramic views of the park. The Academy of Sciences
houses an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and a
While you're in Golden Gate Park, stay a while. Must-sees
include the Japanese Tea Garden and the Queen Wilhelmina Tulip Garden,
which features a full-size windmill surrounded by tulips.
The Castro. Three miles west of downtown at the end of Market Street,
there's a plaque honoring Harvey Milk. It's on the sidewalk in front of
his old camera store at 575 Castro Street. A mural on the wall of the
building gives the appearance of him looking out a window.
Chinatown. San Francisco lays claim to having the world's
largest Chinatown outside Asia. It starts at Grant Avenue and Bush
Street, on the edge of the Union Square shopping area. You can't miss
the decorative archway over Grant.
North Beach. While in Chinatown, stroll over to North Beach, the
city's Italian neighborhood. It's dotted with charming restaurants,
many with outdoor seating.
Bay Area Reporter and
San Francisco Bay Times are the city's weekly
Gloss Magazine is an every-other-week entertainment
Where the (bare) boys are
Few tourists realize it's there, but San Francisco does have a gay nude
beach. It's next to the city's most famous landmark, the Golden Gate
Bridge, and is mostly unknown to pedestrians, who usually stroll along
the wider sidewalk on the eastern side of the bridge. The beach is on
the west side, reached via a sidewalk reserved for bicyclists.
The beach has many nicknames, but its official name is
Marshall's Beach. Getting there used to be a difficult and sometimes
treacherous hike, but four years ago the federal government refurbished
the area and added walking paths down to the water. That has been a bit
of a mixed blessing, because although the beach is still as gay and as
nude as ever, more unsuspecting non-gays end up there.
The parking lot (also very gay) is at the end of Langdon Court,
off Lincoln Boulevard. Langdon Court, more like a driveway than a
street, dead-ends into the beach parking lot. Finding the path at the
western end of the parking lot is tricky for first timers, but follow
the gay men. You will have a lot of company on warm, sunny days.
You can also reach the beach from the Golden Gate Bridge. From
the western side of the bridge, where the employee parking lot is
located, follow Merchant Road. It curves to the left onto Lincoln
Boulevard. Make a right on Lincoln Boulevard to Langdon Court. Make a
right on Langdon Court to the beach parking lot.
You will see a number of rock shelters built to shield
sunbathers from the wind and also to provide a bit of privacy. The
beach tends to be more cruisy at its eastern tip. Keep in mind that
this is federal land, so United States Park Police, not the San
Francisco Police Department, have jurisdiction. Officers don't patrol
routinely, but they do respond to complaints and will issue citations
if they find anyone engaging in sexual activity.
Hardly anyone swims at the beach. The water is usually too cold.
But you will see some people jump in the waves and quickly jump out.
The waves can be dangerous, so stay away when the surf is rough.
San Francisco Pride
A two-day celebration held in downtown San Francisco. The parade
follows Market Street from downtown to the Civic Center.
Last Sunday of June
San Francisco LGBT Film Festival
Film lovers rub shoulders with the hottest directors and stars, discover new film favorites, both international and local gems.
June 17-27, 2010
Take a walk. Bring a good pair of shoes, as San Francisco is a walkable
city. Be sure to take a stroll around Ocean Beach, where there's a
great hike to the north side of the Cliff House.
Take a cruise. The Blue and Gold Fleet offers a variety of cruises that
showcase the best views of the city: those from the water.
Pedal power. Despite all the hills, San Francisco is bicycle obsessed.
Bike lanes are everywhere, and there are a number of places to rent
bikes when you get into town. Be sure to ride over the Golden Gate
Bridge and into Sausalito, a quaint bayside city in Marin County.
Folsom Street Fair
Billed as the world's largest leather event, the fair is spread over 13
Last Sunday of September.
Castro Street Fair
A community fair with food and entertainment founded by Harvey Milk.
First Sunday of October.
Up Your Alley
This street fair is a smaller, more intimate version of the Folsom
Street Fair. It is on Dore Alley, off Folsom Street.
Last Sunday of July.
Church (198 Church St) cocktails nightly in retro glam video lounge setting, cruisey, mostly men.
Cinch (1723 Polk St) old style Polk neighborhood bar with pinball, pool, 80's music, old-fashion drag shows, and a busy patio.
Deco Lounge (510 Larkin St) every day Tenderloin bar from 10am, home to "The White Trash Party," with drag shows, underwear parties, open mic comedy Mondays, and very popular Sunday male amateur strip contests.
(3158 Mission St) Latino/Latina mixed gay/straight Mission neighborhood bar with sunny patio, stiff Margaritas, live music, and salsa lessons. Known best for big friendly Sunday afternoon bash.
(510 17th St) new home for the latino bar with two dance floors, drag shows galore, and hot go go dancers. Special events include a recent model talent search for Nakedpapis.com.
Harvey's (500 Castro St) the "Hard Rock Cafe of Queerdom" for burgers, drag shows, and great gay central location for people watching.
(3988 18th St) friendly and comfortable neighborhood bar in the Castro, open daily, formerly the Men's Room. No attitude and great juke box.
(3600 16th St) intimate video dance bar with munchies to full meal service, spectacular Castro views, patio, and special events from drag shows to porn stars and go-go shower shows.
Valencia St) the City's only gay piano
bar, at the quiet edge of Castro, but camp-lively and friendly within.
Sun (4067 18th St) packed with people stand-and-model video bar for TV crowd-pleasers or special events to enjoy among friends. Tuesday open-mic talent nights, Saturday comedy clips.
The Mix (4086
18th St) has sports on the tube, weekend barbeques and and outdoor patio for mostly local, no-attitude regular guys.
(4049 18th St) local men's hangout, packed most nights.
"Drink, play pool and pinball, stare at
the fish!" - with big salt-water tank, and unusual videos on their screens.
Church (225 Church St) famous
for wide range of beers and peaceful
garden patio ten minutes walk from the Castro. Mixed and relaxed crowd of gay men and women, pool games, special drinks.
(1357 Folsom St) roving hands leather, muscled, tattoo'd and pierced men's cruise bar with outdoor patio, back room, pecs-and-buns contests, nipple play nights, and underwear Thursdays.
Q Bar (456
Castro St) took over the old Bar on Castro. Wednesday Night "Booty Call"
is a blast for aspiring models and onlookers, inspired by years of Juanita More's gay images from the Tenderloin, and top guest DJs playing ghetto disco house.
9th St) retro style harking to 1966 with dance floor, comedy nights, live music, theme parties and genial bar staff.
Castro (572 Castro St) a general public wine bar at the center of the gay district with globe-spanning selections, and special tasting events.
(4146 18th St) modern swanky setting with nightly dancing, covered patio, similar young jeans and t-shirt crowd to Badlands, it's sibling bar across the street.
Haight St) laid-back neighborhood bar with cheap beer, the only gay bar
in the Haight.
(2344 Market St) lavish, fashionable decor New York style dance club and lounge, with good music plus eye-candy barstaff and go-go boys; special events and guest performers too.
Truck (1900 Folsom St) longtime bartenders' labor-of-love neighborhood bar with Sunday drag shows, and busy Speakeasy Tuesdays when you need the password to enter. Make-it-your-way juicy hamburgers or veggie patties, weekday lunch, cute and friendly crowd, special events.
(401 Castro St) classic decor with big glass windows overlooking Castro at Market intersection, and an older crowd who've come here for years. Affectionately called "the
glass coffin" they have all the comforts of home and a warm welcome for newcomers too.
(1081 Post St) tranny and drag bar with dancing, shows, costume contests, and special nights for every theme they can dream up.
(488 Hayes St) tranny and drag talent HQ, with singers, syncers, dancers and more, for Follies each Saturday night in Hayes Valley.
Bars: Levi, leather, bears, and bikers
(440 Castro St) the former Daddy's, a Levi/leather institution directly opposite the Castro Theater, is reaching out to all men, with a cruisy patio, Monday underwear nights, cheap beer all-hours Tuesdays, and Outlaw Wednesdays with go-go boys.
Tavern (398 12th St) big old-west style bar favorite of guys from leathermen to old hippies, bikers to bears, young and old. Capable, outgoing bartenders, live music Thursdays, big Sunday beer blast, expansive outdoor bar area, easy-going, often shirtless crowd.
18th St) neighborhood bar with some leather, some bears, older crowd.
(1225 Folsom St) fetish/kink, jock, skinhead, leather cruise bar in SOMA with loyal following; Sunday beer busts and cheap drinks for the shirtless each Monday.
The Hole in the Wall
Saloon (1369 Folsom St) bigger and cleaner than the original place, the Hole still has men, gay bikers, dark corners, easy-going staff, cheap drinks and 4-7pm Saturday beer busts. The metal light installation spanning the ceiling has to be seen.
Saloon (1354 Harrison St) "the original bear bar USA" they say, in SOMA with a popular patio, leather and shirt shop, and Thursday beer busts from 8pm to midnight.
(4121 18th St) well-attended modern decor pop music dance club for younger blue jeans and A&F-dressed set, open daily from 2pm. Comfortable chill-out video lounge, and Sunday beer busts, 2-8pm.
Market St) newly renovated, high tech dance club at the epicenter of gay nightlife in the Castro. Weekly nights include: hip-hop Wednesdays, Pan Dulce Thursday Latin dancing and hot Papi dancers, and Boy Bar Fridays with a range of hotties and erotic dancers. First Sunday Tea Dances from 6pm and many special parties fill out the month.
Crib (718 Harrison St) the City's 18+ gay Thursday night hip-hop, and rap dance club for a varied and youthful throng.
Club Eight (1151 Folsom St) has two dance floors at the heart of SOMA, hosting weekly parties such as
Club Dragon the big Friday gay Asian event with go-go boys; and
Club Nur on Saturdays with Middle Eastern dance mixes, and free hookahs.
Club Papi San Francisco is now at Space 550 (550 Barneveld Ave) each Thursday night for Latin music, Papi strippers, dancing and shows.
6th @ Harrison St) laid-back urban scene that's set and reflected music and cultural trends of 35 years in San Francisco; the epitome of it's funky, freaky diversity. Seven nights of music and dancing, most popular on weekends
after other bars close. At Sunday Church, dance from 6am to 8pm, with surprise guest DJs from around the world.
Skye (430 Mason St) big, packed monthly top quality dance party draws many of the hottest area men to go shirless and dance their asses off. Click the name for website for upcoming Sunday night dates beyond December 20, 2009; January 17 and February 14, 2010.
Hella Gay at the Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave, Oakland) a montly dance party "for boys, girls, everything in between, queer, straight" with something for everyone.
Saturdays at Mighty (119 Utah St) is a popular
weekly dance event best after 1am.
Queer Ballroom (151 Potero Ave) promotes same-sex Swing, Jitterbug, Salsa and Ballroom dancing. Outside venues for their events include
Magnet (4122 18th St at Castro) each second Saturday.
Saloon has Country-western dancing and lessons Thursdays, and Sundays at Space 550 (550 Barneveld Av). On third Saturdays they do the same at Magnet (4122 18th St) in the Castro.
(424 Haight St) eclectic-mix crowd with small dance area at the end of a long bar, happy and rambunctious go-go boys atop the bar some nights, gayest on Saturdays.
Adult theatre/saunas/sex clubs
Buddies (933 Harrison St) large warehouse sex club in SOMA with backyard patio, glory holes, slings, cells, water sports facilities, that attracts hundreds of men each night from among their over 180,000 members worldwide. Open 24 hours Thursdays through Sundays, also the Wednesday theme events include leather, bear, and naked nights.
Market St) 18+ sex club has sauna, steam, showers and professional massage, on Fridays and Saturdays until 3am. Indulge, their day spa, is open from noon, on weekdays.
Prison (1285 Folsom St) membership-only sex club, mostly for leather guys, with five prison-lofts and a "gas chamber" (for smokers). Their "sweatbox" with infra-red heating is unique. Free internet and high-definition plasma screen porn provide inspiration.
Theatre (729 Bush St) features nude male strippers on stage and in showers, porn videos, and a cruisy video arcade. Amateurs strip here every Sunday at 9pm for $200 cash prizes. A retail store sells adult DVDs, sex toys and accessories.
(2107 4th St, Berkeley) the Bay Area's
favorite bathhouse, has full gym, eucalyptus steam room, whirlpool, lockers and fetish and sling private room options. A 16-channel DVD video system, public play-spaces with hexagonal booths, and maze, plus snacks, live DJs, and free wi-fi are additional attractions for the many hotties who come here.
(1277 Mission St) is a duel level community dungeon playspace for weekend sex parties and relaxation, equipped with everything required for bondage, fetish, and play, and home to the sexiest kinky BDSM men and women in the region.
Market St) tablecloth dining and an eclectic cuisine that combines Californi American with Asian and Mediterranean influences, plus an excellent wine list. They also boast "the best brunch in the Castro."
(201 9th St) Asian-influenced tapas-
style dishes with service and performances by pretty-as-women transgender Asians.
Chilanga (235 Church St) replaces Azteca
Taqueria at this location, with good quality Mexican burritos, tacos and guacamole made to order, for eat-in or take-out.
(2295 Market St) an inexpensive 24-hour
diner has tofu burgers as well as the traditional ones, soups, salads, sandwiches, munchies and old-fashioned meatload, turkey breast or BBQ chicken. A wide choice of breakfasts from Benedicts and omelets to Chorizo, Eggs and bagels are served all day long.
Market St) has comfort foods like burgers, mac and cheese, meatloaf, tuna casseroles plus entress such as grilled salmon and pork shanks; also salads and sandwiches.
(2298 Market St) also known as Cafe
Hairdo, has great views, colorful San Francisco patrons, a full bar and they serve tasty Californian food every day of the year from 7am to 10pm. They also have free Wi-Fi.
(2362 Market St) serves fresh, affordable, scrumptious seafoood with subtle preparation to preserve natural flavor, in a casual and cozy location in the Castro. Lunch, brunch and dinner is served on the heated patio or inside with nightly live piano jazz.
Church St), one of four locations, has breakfast, lunch and dinner every day in bright and airy surroundings; with hearty American fare and old-fashioned deserts like ginger cake and pumpkin ice cream.
(511 Jones St) casual and authentic Pakistani and Indian food, combining traditional recipes with their unique combinations of spices, in the
(500 Castro St) bar and restaurant with tasty daily brunch items until 3pm; then snacks, salads and sandwiches; followed by dinner service until 11pm (2am on weekends). Known as Elephant Walk when Harvey Milk did community work over meals here, the restaurant was renamed to honor him in 1996.
Market St) large diner with simple classic comfort food to dazzle your taste buds in home-cooked ways, with outdoor covered patio warmed by a roaring fireplace. Weekend bruch from 10am, dinner nightly 5pm to midnight.
Eatery (4001 18th St) delightfully simple and inexpensive homestyle Indian food using natural and local ingredients. Local delivery after 6pm.
Mediterranee (288 Noe St)
delicious Greek, Armenian and Middle-
Eastern meat or vegetarian fare for dining in, or take-out.
(580 Geary St, within Hotel California) gourmet vegan heaven using only fresh daily produce, organic when possible, with recipes to seduce most anyone.
Andy's (3991 17th St) classic American diner with big portions, "fishbowl" windows, good and fresh food, and playful waitstaff, open 24 hours a day. Playboy named it among America's top ten of it's kind.
(2020 Market St) often referred to as
the Gayway, the queerest supermarket
around. Great cheap wine
Sparky's 24 Hour
Diner (242 Church St) with breakfast at any time they're very crowded after the bars close. Lunch and dinner include not only usual diner fare, but also a variety of pizzas, NY Steak, or Chicken Scallopine.
Gobble (3600 16th St) cafe and creperie, one of five area locations, is a casual place with crepes, omelets, burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta; also more substantial chicken, beef, pork or curry entrees.
(3499 16th St) has marvelous breakfasts and dishes of meat, seafood, vegetables and spices, blending the flavors and styles of countries bordering the Pacific Ocean.
For more San Francisco restaurant options click here.
Bookstore (489 Castro St) gay-
interest fiction, erotica, comics, photo books, magazines, movies,
clothing, movies, music, guest authors and more. Also online for those who no longer have a local gay bookstore.
Taste of Leather -
SoMa District (1285 Folsom St)
"Where the Bad Boys Shop" for leather
and bondage items, toys, cockrings, lubes, party supplies and other adult stuff.
Erotica (4077-A 18th St) for
lubes and sex toys, vintage porn and physique magazines, dvd videos, 8mm films, books, photos, and more.
Chaps (4057 18th St) taking over the old Jaquar bookstore location, Chaps has added leather garments, uniforms,
underwear, combat boots, flight jackets and accessories.
Does Your Mother
Know? (4141 18th St) once just a stationary store, now with adult toys, lube and erotic party favors too.
Wingard (2319 Market St) with
wall art, vases, lamps, candle holders, frames, clocks, mirrors and other household wares.
Mr. S Leather &
Fetish (385 8th St) "world's
largest" collection of quality leather,
and latex clothing, plus all kinds of bondage and fetish gear and sex toys.
(518 Castro St) adult retail and
Leather (1158 Howard St)
leather/fetish boutique with a
(2301 Market St) co-ed muscle factory
with all the gear and cruisy locker-room area.
The Gym SF
(2275 Market St) men-only gym with
Lodge (2222 Market St; 415-621-
8212) rooms with a wraparound balcony,
Americania (121 7th St; 415-626-
0200) nice amenities, free wi-fi, heated pool, central South of Market
(440 Geary St; 415-885-0200) cutting-
edge boutique hotel in
Twain (345 Taylor St; 415-673-
2332) bear-friendly downtown boutique
hotel, affordable rates.
Hotel Monaco San
Francisco (501 Geary St; 415-
292-0100) four-star comfort, near
Union Square, part of Kimpton Hotels
Hotel (45 McAllister St; 415-
626-5200) historic boutique hotel,trendy bar and lounge.
(1707 Market St; 415-621-6775) between
downtown and the Castro,free wi-fi,
(50 Third St; 415-974-6400) swanky four-
star digs by Union
(24 Henry St; 415-864-5686) long-
standing gay B&B.
House (598 Belvedere St; 415-
731-6654) Cole Valley gay B&B,
some rooms with full private baths, some with shared showers,
short walk to Castro.
Suites (927 14th St; 415-437-
1783) apartment rental service.
Tivoli (1057 Steiner St; 415-
776-5462) gay-friendly Victorian
mansion, lavish rooms and suites.
Castro (321 Castro St; 415-861-
0321) upscale gay B&B, closest tothe
action on Castro.
House (520 Church St; 415-621-
3222) primarily gay,
conveniently located, Edwardian style.
(710 14th St; 415-431-4770) 12 rooms
with shared bathrooms, all-gay clientele, convenient location.
For more places to stay in the Bay Area click here
SF Gay Lesbian
Bisexual Transgender Community
Center (1800 Market St;
Sfcenter.org) has a little something for everyone.
Sanfrancisco.travel/gaytravel and information.
Chamber of Commerce
(Gayrussianriver.com) Sonoma County's
City Pass San
admission to five famous attractions
plus unlimited cable car access for
Come OUT to the Castro with
California Academy of Sciences and
Steinhart Aquarium (55 Music
Concourse Dr., Golden Gate Park;
Calacademy.org) aquarium, planetarium,
natural history museum and its own
Castro Theatre (429
Castro St; Castrotheatre.com): not-to-
be-missed historic landmark.
(Sanfranciscochinatown.com) they claim
the largest Chinatown in the western
world. Get your Goji Berries here!
Babylon (678 Beach Blanket
Babylon Bd; Beachblanketbabylon.com)
longest-running musical spoof in theater history with extravagant costumes and huge hats.
(Fishermanswharf.org) waterfront tourist trap full of fastfood and free
Harvey Milk Plaza
(corner of Castro and Market) a small
brick plaza and plaque dedicated to a
very big man. Also check out 575 Castro, the site of his camera store.
Museum of Gay, Lesbian,
Bisexual, Transgender History (657 Mission St, Suite 300; 415-777-5455) is
a project of the GLBT History Society.
National AIDS Memorial
Grove (Bowling Green Dr at Middle Drive
E, Golden Gate Park) the only federally
sanctioned memorial to the struggle
Pink Triangle Park
(near intersection of Market and Castro,
behind City Athletic Club) the first of
its kind in the US, dedicated to
remembering the many gays
and lesbians killed in the Holocaust.
San Francisco City Hall (1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Pl; Sfgov.org/cityhall)look for the Harvey
Milk memorial inside.
Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third St; Sfmoma.org) the West Coast's premier modern and contemporary art museum.
San Francisco Public
Library Civic Center (100 Larkin St, 3rd floor;415-557-) holds the fabulous James C. Hormel Gay and Lesbian Center.
Theater Rhinoceros (2926
16th St; Therhino.org) is America's oldest gaytheater.
Among other stages of gay interest is the New Conservatory Theatre Center (25 Van Ness Ave).
Golden Gate Bridge
(Goldengatebridge.org) a world-class
vineyards and wine tasting.
Valley (Sonomavalley.com) like Napa, but without the attitude.
Beach (Stinsonbeachonline.com) romantic
getaway by the sea near Muir Woods and
Don't call The City "Frisco."
"San Francisco has
only one drawback.'Tis hard to
-- Rudyard Kipling
"San Francisco is a city where people are never more abroad than when they are at home."
-- Benjamin F Taylor
International LGBT Film
The world's longest running and largest gay film
June 17-27, 2010
celebration and parade
June 26 and
Up Your Alley
Smaller version of
Folsom Street Fair
July 25, 2010
leather event, part of Leather Pride
Castro Street Fair
A community fair with food and entertainment founded by Harvey Milk.
Sunday October 3, 2010.
About an hour
south of San Francisco, San Jose is more than a world center for the software industry. There's plenty for gays here in Silicon Alley.
Lesbian and Gay Community Center
(938 The Alameda;Defrank.org)
San Jose's community space.
(349 South First St) bar franchise with
siblings in Palm Springs
and the Chicago area.
Masters (969 Park Av) boutique
for leather apparel and SM
goodies. Another store in Dallas
Out Now Mag (Outnowmag.com) resource for Silicon Valley, with online
(1010 The Alameda) spotless "not-shame-
based" destination bathhouse with sex
educators on hand.