The City by the Bay, known for its liberal, alternative lifestyles, is one of the best-known areas in the world for LGBTQ. In the Castro, a rainbow flag flaps in the wind above colorfully painted crosswalks, making one big statement: San Francisco welcomes the LGBTQ community with open arms. There are more than 60 gay bars and clubs, and although the Castro serves as the epicenter of LGBTQ culture and nightlife, gay-friendly businesses are sprinkled citywide—frankly, it’s the norm here. Learn more about the remarkable role the city played and is playing in the gay movement at the GLBT History Museum, or on a guided “Cruisin’ the Castro” historical walking tour.
Every June is Pride Month, which culminates on the last weekend when up to a million visitors flock to the city for the annual (and outrageous) San Francisco Pride celebration. Taking place in front of City Hall at Civic Center Plaza—a location steeped in LGBTQ history– the festivities include live music and comedy on a main stage, plus cabaret, a Country-Western Dance Corral, a Leather Alley carnival, and, pretty much everywhere you look, elaborately costumed performers. Keep your eyes open for celebrities—the celebration has become a real see-and-be-seen opportunity. The main event, of course, is Sunday’s parade, which begins at Market and Beale streets and ends near the Civic Center. If you’re in town during Pride Month, also check out a screening or one of the many events hosted by the Frameline LGBT film festival.
Attending the world’s largest LGBTQ gathering can present a few challenges; check out some tips on how to get the most of it. If you are new to the city’s gay scene, Badlands, Lookout, and Twin Peaks Tavern are legendary haunts, and The Parker Guest House, the Hotel Whitcomb, Joie de Vivre Hotels, and the W are just a few of the city’s gay-friendly hotels.
A note to parents: There are plenty of pride events that are family- and kid-friendly going on in San Francisco during Pride Month. Directly opposite the Asian Art Museum right around the corner for them Civic Center, the annual Family Garden event offers the perfect venue for kids to celebrate diversity with arts, crafts, face-painting, and more; kids are also encouraged to participate for free in the San Francisco Frontrunners Pride Run. You can also check the events calendar at Habitot.org and the Pride with Our Families page at ourfamily.org.
Insider tip: When planning a visit to San Francisco during Gay Pride Month, be sure to book well in advance, as accommodations fill up quickly.