Party Earth Review Arguably the first – and easily the most famous – gay neighborhood in the country, the Castro first experienced the tides of LGBT activism during the 1970s, and nowhere is this history more alive than along... ... read full review
Castro Street between Market Street
and 19th Street and surrounding environs
San Francisco, CA 94114
MUNI KT, L, M Lines: Metro Castro Station
Castro, San Francisco –
Arguably the first – and easily the most famous – gay neighborhood in the country, the Castro first experienced the tides of LGBT activism during the 1970s, and nowhere is this history more alive than along its namesake main drag.
Emporiums for libidinous shoppers are easy to find – especially with names like Chaps and Rock Hard – but Castro Street is about much more than just ass-less pants and sex toys. Apart from the frenetic debauchery of annual events like Pride, Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and the Castro Street Festival, a relaxed atmosphere prevails along this gay mecca, even among the bears in head-to-toe leather who linger outside Starbucks.
Do-it-yourselfers head to Cliff’s Variety, a neighborhood institution that crams an assortment of tools, cookware, and gifts into its always-bustling shop, while edgy boutiques like Citizen entice fashion hounds on the hunt for tight-fitting club wear. The mammoth Diesel store aside, major retailers are scant, but myriad kitschy novelty shops, independent bookstores, mom and mom furniture showrooms, vintage shops, and small wine collectives take up the slack.
Restaurant options run the gamut on the surrounding streets, but Castro itself trends toward casual eateries like Slider’s Diner, where everyone from bleary-eyed post-clubbers to life-long couples and families enjoy hearty American cuisine. Even the bar scene tends to be mellow, with long-standing watering holes like Harvey’s and Twin Peaks Tavern catering to old queens and relaxed denizens of every sexual permutation, although a more frenzied pace thumps down nearby 18th Street.
A visit wouldn’t be complete without catching a show at the 1920s-era Castro Theatre, a lavish Art Deco-landmark that showcases movies, film festivals, and special events. Yet even when the marquee is dim, the bars are shuttered, and the chaps are at the cleaners, strolling down Castro Street is a quintessential San Francisco experience nobody should go withOUT.
No matter what’s playing, check out one of the shows at the Castro Theatre. The experience is worth it for the massive screen and architecture alone, but what really sets the place apart is the giant Wurlitzer pipe organ. The sound is incredible, and it’s frequently played live before, after, and even during a show!
Pumped up and stylish young men, artists, alternative types, hipsters, fun-loving heteros, families, grizzled veterans of the gay-rights era, dapper middle-aged businessmen, and loads of “curious” tourists. All ages.
Popular Bars: Harvey's (500 Castro Street) and Twin Peaks (401 Castro Street), both of which feature prominent windows great for people-watching.
Theaters: The landmark art deco Castro Theatre (429 Castro Street) showcases films and live performances.
Events: Annual events include the Castro Street Fair (October), Halloween celebrations, the San Francisco Pride celebration and parade (last weekend in June), the Frameline SF International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (June), and an absolutely fabulous New Year’s celebration.
Shopping: Rock Hard (518 Castro Street) for more bedroom accessories than most bedrooms could hold, Chaps just off the main drag (4057 18th Street) for a ridiculous selection of chaps, Diesel (400 Castro Street) and Injeanious (432 Castro Street) for apparel, Citizen (489 Castro Street) for club wear, and Worn Out West (582 Castro Street) for Western apparel.
Other shops include Cliff’s Variety (479 Castro Street) for everything for the home, Does Your Mother Know (4141 18th Street) and Under One Roof (518A Castro Street) for kitschy gifts, and Isgro & Co (541 Castro Street) for antique furniture.
Casual eateries on Castro Street include Thai House Express (599 Castro Street) and Thailand Restaurant (438 Castro Street), Escape from New York (508 Castro Street) for pizza, Slider’s Diner (449 Castro Street), Cove Café (434 Castro Street) and Orphan Andy’s (3991 17th Street) for diner fare, and The Sausage Factory (517 Castro Street) for Italian cuisine.
Mostly low- to mid-range prices at restaurants, bars, and shops.
Anything goes, from khaki shorts and a fanny pack to pants that don’t have a fanny.
Daytime for shopping or just strolling the neighborhood, or Friday and Saturday nights to be here, be with queers, and get used to it.
Mission Dolores Park (18th Street and Dolores Street) is a lovely little park that sits right on the border of the Castro and the Mission, and is guaranteed to be packed with all kinds of frolickers on a sunny day.