You probably don’t need us to tell you that San Francisco is LGBTQ-central. When it comes to LGBTQ cities, there is no better place in the US to be. Everywhere you head within San Francisco you’ll probably find some awesome queer things to jump into. But, what if you only have a limited time in Golden Gate City? What are the absolute must-dos when it comes to queer adventures? Well, you’re on the right page. We’ll let you know the best queer things to do in San Francisco.
Do note that we are only focusing on the queer-focused experiences here. This isn’t a complete guide to tourism in the city. Plenty of other guides are out there if that’s what you’re looking for.
Visit the Castro
If there’s one thing you need to do when visiting San Francisco, it has to be a visit to the Castro. If you’ve ever so much as heard of queer life in San Fran, then you’ll know that the Castro is the foremost queer district. In fact, it was the very first designated gay district in the United States.
Once you’re in the Castro, you will be spoiled for choice when it comes to bars and nightclubs. You’ll also have plenty of gay-focused stores, museums, and things to see and do.
If you’re here, there are three things that we absolutely recommend that you do.
The first is to visit the world-famous Castro Theatre. This movie theater often plays host to multiple queer-friendly movies and events. Throughout the year, you may even spot a couple of LGBTQ film festivals happening at the Castro.
We also recommend that you visit the Rainbow Honor Walk. This is an area that pays tribute to various LGBTQ figures. It is one of the newer queer attractions in San Francisco, but one that has managed to gain a lot of tourists since its inauguration in 2014.
Finally, you may want to pay for a visit to Orphan Andy’s. It is a small cafe that is open 24/7. It is where many people will find themselves once they have left the various clubs and bars late at night in The Castro.
Do you love to dance the night away? Then a trip to the Oasis Nightclub is probably going to be right up your street. When it comes to cabaret and drag shows, we don’t think there is a single place in the world that is better than the Oasis. Because it attracts thousands of punters each and every day, you’ll also find that it is a tremendous place to socialize.
There is something happening almost every single day at the Oasis. We recommend that you keep an eye on the event list because you never know what is going to pop up. However, do bear in mind that because this is one of the top gay locations in all of San Francisco, you’ll probably need to buy your tickets in advance. Pretty much everything at the Oasis sells out very quickly, and we rarely find tickets available at the door.
Visit the National AIDs Memorial Grove
In the US, San Francisco (in particular the Castro) was at the center of the AIDs epidemic. Despite the residents begging for assistance from the central government, the response was incredibly slow. Thousands of people died. The National AIDs Memorial Grove is a tribute to this dark point in San Francisco’s history.
The National AIDs Memorial Grove is there to pay tribute to everybody in the US who fell victim to the AIDs epidemic, as well as remind visitors that we are still in the midst of a fight to wipe out AIDs once and for all.
We know that a visit to the memorial is going to be a somber trip for the vast majority of people, and we are sure that you want to get back to the more ‘fun’ queer activities that San Francisco has to offer. However, we believe that you have to learn everything about the history of LGBTQ life in San Francisco, and this is a place that really demonstrates that.
We suggest that you dedicate a good amount of time to wander around the 10-acre sight. It is important that you read as many memorials as possible. If you have somebody that you wish to memorialize in the National AIDs Memorial Grove, then there are opportunities to do that too.
Visit Twin Peaks Tavern
Opening in 1935, the Twin Peaks Tavern was one of the first gay bars in the United States and one of the oldest operating gay bars in the country.
As you can probably guess, the Twin Peaks Tavern is packed with gay people throughout the day, and it is always an amazing place to socialize and get to know the community. It is a rather small venue, but unless there is a major event going on the place is never overly packed.
We love a visit to the Twin Peaks Tavern because of its role in gay history. Before the 1970s, there were plenty of gay bars around the United States. However, many of them kept their windows shuttered. They wanted to hide their patrons inside due to any issues this may cause in society.
When culture began to shift in the 1970s, and more and more people became tolerant of the gay lifestyle, the Twin Peaks Tavern became the first dedicated gay bar in the United States that opened its windows so people could see who was sitting inside. This completely transformed how people saw gay people for the better, and it allowed gay people visiting San Francisco, in particular the Castro, to live life how they wanted. They no longer needed to be a ‘hidden secret’ in a gay bar. They could show off their sexuality to the world.
Visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum
This place is also found in the Castro (as you can imagine, most queer things to do in San Francisco are found there). The GLBT Historical Society Museum is the largest museum in the world dedicated to queer history. It places a special focus on events that have helped to shape San Francisco and the queer district.
If you want to learn more about how gay culture has changed over the years, then a visit to the museum should be in order. The entrance fee is $10, although there are free days throughout the year, particularly when there are special events going on.
One of our favorite exhibits in the museum is the original rainbow flag. Yep. The original. The flag has completely shaped every single flag in LGBTQ culture since. It is a true historical artifact, at least for the gay community. There are various other exhibitions throughout the year, so keep an eye on the exhibition list to see what is happening.
Visit the Pink Triangle Park & Memorial
The Pink Triangle Park & Memorial is an incredibly small park. It is a place that is very much ‘blink and you’ll miss it’, but it is an incredibly important memorial, and one of only a few in the world like it.
The Pink Triangle Park & Memorial pays tribute to the forgotten gay victims of the Holocaust and fascism in Europe in the 1930 and 1940s i.e. the gay victims of World War II. Over 100,000 men were persecuted during that time, and countless lesbian women were forced into prostitution.
It will take a very short while to walk through the memorial, and we know that it will stir up all sorts of feelings inside of you. You’ll see how far we have come since that era.
Enjoy the San Francisco Pride Festival
Want to visit the best Pride Festival in the world? Well, visit San Francisco in June. While there is plenty going on throughout the month of June, as the end starts to roll in, the San Francisco Pride Festival appears, and it is the place to see and be seen if you are LGBTQ. We promise you that there isn’t a single place in the world where you’ll feel more accepted.
When the San Francisco Pride Festival rolls around, there’ll be plenty to enjoy. You’ll have parties, special events at the clubs and bars, and even a parade. Of course, you’ll also be mingling with lots of like-minded people.
The exact date of the San Francisco Pride Festival varies each year, so keep an eye online for the dates for the year that you’re traveling. As soon as they go live, make sure that you book your hotel as the prices for accommodation will shoot up, and will be booked up rather quickly.
When it comes to queer things to do in San Francisco, there is something around every corner. This is a city that makes no secret of the fact that it is a very queer-friendly place to be. If you only have a limited amount of time in the area, we suggest that you get started with the places on this list (or just visit The Castro), that’s where you’ll find most of the top LGBTQ cultural events to enjoy.