San Francisco's Gay Village
No visit to San Francisco would be complete without a trip to the Castro, San Francisco’s own gay village. The main drag of the Castro runs on Castro Street from Market to 19th although the neighborhood extends a few blocks in either direction. You can tell you’re in the Castro by looking up, if there are rainbow banners lining the streets then you are in the right place.
The Castro is also the home of the Castro Theater, a popular cinema and historical monument that was built in 1922. Be sure to include a movie in your agenda as the exterior of the Castro Theater does not do the ornate interior justice and you can’t hear the live organ music from outside either. Organ player? Yes, the Castro Theater has a resident Wurlitzer organ player who comes out about fifteen minutes before a movie starts and warms the crowd up with an eclectic mix of tunes that can range from ragtime to rock-n-roll.
San Francisco’s Castro District is one of the safest neighborhoods in the city and it tends to be a little cleaner than most as well. Since it is easily accessible with public transportation you can expect to find a lively crowd of all types; families, singles, couples both gay and straight, and even those people that can’t quite be identified by either gender or sexuality.
Shopping is a must-do in the Castro and you can find items not readily available elsewhere. You can find things like leather chaps, scented massage oils, and cute totchkes for your home. For the fashion-minded there are many boutiques and specialty-clothing shops that are sure to please even the most discriminating eye. After a full day of shopping you can relax in one of the many restaurants and have a cup of organic coffee to rejuvenate yourself.
Lodging in a variety of bed and breakfasts that specialize in the Gay community are easy to find in San Francisco’s Castro district. Check out our guide to San Francisco Gay Bed and Breakfasts.
The Castro became a hotbed of political activity in the seventies when a local businessman and gay activist, Harvey Milk, became a City Supervisor. Harvey was one of the first openly-gay politicians in America and fought for equality and basic human rights for gay people. Milk was later assassinated, along with Mayor George Moscone, by disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White who beat a double-murder rap with the infamous “Twinkie Defense.”
These days the Castro is more of a party scene than a political one. There are many gay bars in the area and dancing to loud, pulsing music continues until the wee hours of the morning. Sexuality is celebrated in this neighborhood and one can find many, er, interesting items in the display widows of shops, something that out-of-towners may not be used to but quickly delight in once the initial shock has worn off. Be careful what you look at, there might be some not-so-kid-friendly items on display!
Gay Pride is celebrated during the month of June and, as you can probably imagine, is quite the party in the streets of the Castro. The other must-do event in the Castro is Halloween, which becomes the biggest eye-candy fest you’ve probably ever seen in your life. Be prepared for thousands of people on the streets at Halloween time as it is one of San Francisco’s biggest and best parties. Despite the number of people and mucho alcohol involved it is usually a safe and family-friendly event.
Castro Location / Public Transit:
The Castro is conveniently located and getting to Downtown or Union Square is a snap. The F-Market (historical street cars that run on Market Street) turns around at Market and Castro streets and there is a major underground Muni stop there as well. Numerous busses also pass by the Castro, making it easy to get to Noe Valley, Haight-Ashbury, the Mission, and Twin Peaks.
By: Drew McKinney – Copyright SFTRAVEL LLC