Castro Street

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Castro Street 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... San Francisco United States 37.760889 -122.435002
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Castro Street - Culture | Nightlife Area | Shopping Area in San Francisco.
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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

  • Neighborhood:

  • Address:

    Castro Street between Market Street
    and 19th Street and surrounding environs
    San Francisco, CA 94114

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  • Hours:


  • Recommended as:

    • Day Spot
    • Night Spot

Party Earth Castro Street Review

The Scene

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...

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.

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Tip from Emma:

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!

  • Crowd

    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.

  • Entertainment / Music

    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.

  • Food / Miscellaneous

    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.

  • Prices

    Mostly low- to mid-range prices at restaurants, bars, and shops.

  • What to Wear / Dress Code

    Anything goes, from khaki shorts and a fanny pack to pants that don’t have a fanny.

  • Hot Nights / When to Go

    Daytime for shopping or just strolling the neighborhood, or Friday and Saturday nights to be here, be with queers, and get used to it.

  • Close By

    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.

Castro Street User Reviews

Average rating:
Gay Pride!
Melesimani N. Jun 29, 2013
Looking for an unforgettable night with friends? Gay or not gay Castro welcomes the open minds to a night of unpredictables. You will meet something new maybe dressed in a costume. It's a place where you can be whatever you choose to be confidently! Walk around and find out for yourself do something wicked like eat a penis shaped candy!
Happy Happy
Karine D. Apr 3, 2013
Going into The Castro is like walking into the kitchen and smelling your favorite meal. Each time I ascend the escalator at Castro station I feel a wave of happiness wash over me. I'm always tempted to buy goodies from Hot Cookie (across the street from the exit) which hosts a variety of traditional cookies as well as chocolate dipped penis shaped ones. This neighborhood is super gay, as in it is the home of SF's LGBT community. If this is something you are not comfortable with, this is not the place for you. All my LGBT's and allies on the other hand, come on down to happy town because this is the place to party. The Castro hosts an array of thumping clubs, restaurants and shops that'll leave you slack jawed at the discovery of their content. If you're looking for a good time in a friendly neighborhood then head over to The Castro for sure.
Rainbows and Sunshine
Corbin W. Mar 29, 2013
First off, The Castro, as it is called by locals, is a magical place that will somehow always be full of sunshine and rainbows even when it is raining down on the wharfs. Secondly, you don't walk straight down Castro, you walk forward. The neighborhood is fabulous, host to the famous Hot Cookie, which vends phallic macaroons, which lies right next door to the absolutely amazing Castro Theatre. If you have any opportunity to see a show there, do so, but not with kids. The street during the day is lined with sex shops advertising their latest leather contraptions and DVD covers of suggestively positioned men. During the night, queens and queers are often found fighting in the streets outside the local bars. But more than that, there's nothing here for kids anyway, besides the rainbow flags and what are hopefully Ring Pops; the place is a bastion of hope for the LGBT community, and sexuality is implicitly celebrated in every inch of the Castro. A few blocks away you can lounge out tanning with the gays on Dolores Beach, or Dolores Park as it is called on maps. Another block or two and you'll find yourself in the heart of The Mission district. And therein lies the beauty of San Francisco for the more-than-casual tourist: the hispanic cultural center, and thereby the Catholic cultural center exists with literal overlap with the gay district. So do yourself a favor, if it's what you're after, head down and grab a burrito, then see if you can't find a nice burrito.
Remi L. Nov 30, 2012
Castro is not a must-see in San Fran but definitely a funky change-up if you're looking for something interesting. Keep an open mind as it is a very openly gay/lesbian/drag neighborhood but if you go into it with the right attitude, it can be a great place to get a good bite to eat or do some silly costume shopping.
Eden M. Nov 14, 2012
If you want a place with great people watching then the Castro is the place to go. The whole atmosphere of this area is very eccentric and crazy-- people walk around in costumes or even naked on the regular. It is not uncommon to see people dressed in crazy outfits roaming the streets having fun. This is definitely not the place to eat/shop if you are uncomfortable with people who are gay, lesbian, or straight because you need to have an open mind. Overall, the Castro is a fun area with some good places to eat and some fun costume shops.
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