You can’t beat a visit to the city and county of San Francisco. The Castro and San Francisco were the mecca for many in the LGBTQ community and the destination is still a draw today. 

San Francisco and the Castro district lay claim to many significant historic first accomplishments in the United States for our community: the lesbian organization Daughters of Bilitis; the first gay community center in the country created by the Society for Individual Rights; the rainbow flag, the Gay Games, and the influential column-turned-book-turned mini-series, “Tales of the City” written by Armistead Maupin (who grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina). 

The city has also seen more than its fare share of tragedy: the assassinations of gay city supervisor Harvey Milk and committed ally Mayor George Moscone; and one of the first cities nationwide to feel the impact of AIDS pandemic.

Indeed, the City by the Bay is steeped in LGBTQ history.  

As a side note, the city’s bars are as popular as they ever were. In a word, the City continues to be a magnet. 

What to do

Enjoy a stroll on the new Presidio Tunnel Tops and visit the new visitor center. It features stunning overlooks including the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge. An official National Park, it’s located on the northwest corner of the city and a free shuttle provides service from the Embarcadero BART station downtown. Details at

Take a hike with the San Francisco Hiking Club. This LGBTQ hiking club features mainly weekend hikes, as does the Rainbow Sierrans. Both hike the many parks throughout the region. From February through April, the Bay Area hills are ablaze with native wildflowers, including California poppies. 

Work out at SF Fitness at Market and Noe Streets (2301 Market). Day passes available.

Catch a film or show at the historic Castro Theater (just south of Market and Castro).

Enjoy Golden Gate Park, which includes the DeYoung Museum. Don’t miss Ramses the Great and the Gold of the Pharaohs. 

Visit the LGBTQ History Museum on 18th Street near Divisadero. 

Where to eat

The Santeria has great food and Margaritas. 

Alice’s in the Noe Valley has great Chinese food. 

Starbelly at 3582 16th Street has great comfort food, cocktails and brunch.

La Mediterrannee at 288 Noe is very good. 

Orphan Andy’s at 3991 17th Street in the Castro has great breakfasts and dinner. It is a mainstay. 

Where to stay

I always stay at Beck’s Motor Lodge, 2222 Market Street, in the Castro. Peets Coffee is across the street, as is the gay sports bar, Hi-Tops. Nearby Rosenburg Deli (276 Noe) has everything you need including an It’s It (a San Francisco treat which is ice cream covered by 2 graham crackers and smothered in chocolate).  Beck’s is family owned and offers free parking (although you don’t need a car). 


The Castro features many of the most fun bars. My favorites include the Midnight Sun which has great (strong) drink specials and more. They feature Boogie Wonderland, a disco dance club party and beer bust every Sunday. The 4440 Castro had $3 beer the evening I attended and it was packed. Toad Hall nearby has Karaoke while Harvey’s (on the corner of Castro and 18th Street) had drag queens the night I was there. It also features great food. 

Beaux has Latin Night on Wednesday including go-go dancers. Friday features a DJ and the Beaux-torious GoGo Beasts. See their calendar at You will find the popular club at 2344 Market Street.  

The Lookout at Market and Noe features a large balcony with great views, which allows easy and fun perusal of the crowds below. 

The Twin Peaks Tavern (at Market and Castro) is where you can also scope out the Castro scene. Twin Peaks is the first openly gay bar in San Francisco. The famous nightspot was a hit because it was one of the few that had big windows that allowed passersby on the street to see who was inside and patrons to see out, which was considered quite scandalous at the time. Now official San Francisco Landmark #264, the crowd is welcoming for older patrons. 

Moby Dick, which boasts a huge aquarium, is also very popular. It’s located on 18th Street.

Travel Tips

Grab a Clipper Card to enjoy easy one tap admission to all the transit in the city, including the historic streetcars, the Muni Metro, BART, and more. Muni is your intown subway while BART goes all over the Bay Area. 

Read the BAR (The Bay Area Reporter), which comes out every Thursday. The SF Bay Times is a monthly LGBTQ periodical. Both list current events. Gloss Magazine also is a good source of nightlife information. 

The Castro Clones are long gone (do younger gay guys know what this means?) and the area has many homeless individuals, dirty streets and property crime has skyrocketed (don’t leave anything in your car). But the Castro neighborhood and San Francisco itself, is a great city to visit. It’s so walkable. With a mild climate and lush green hills in the spring after the winter rains end, it’s a dream environment. Yes, you will leave your heart here. 

Bill Malcolm lived in the Castro in San Francisco for 12 years after graduating from UC Santa Cruz. He founded the San Francisco Hiking Club which is still offering weekend hikes today.

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