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The Castro District

Welcome to the Gay and Lesbian Capital of the Nation

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The Castro District
San Francisco Travel Association Photo
San Francisco's famous gay village is a true neighborhood in every sense of the word and the commerical areas of Market, Castro and 18th street serve as the hub of activity for the city's huge LGBT community. During the day boutique shops, cafes and art galleries overflow with residents and visitors alike and at night the area heats up and explodes. Dining in the area is high quality, diverse and abundant and the Castro is also by far the best place in San Francisco to get a haircut.

Visiting the Castro

The Castro District is located at the west end of Market Street and the most fun and scenic way to get there is by taking the historic streetcar, which begins its route at Fisherman's Wharf and then runs up Market Street from the Ferry Building.

An alternative, and faster option, are the San Francisco MUNI Metro subway lines L,M,K and T, which all run up Market Street as well. Parking is metered and tight in the Castro.

Things to See in the Castro District

The Castro District is one of San Francisco's prettiest neighborhoods, as it is located right below Twin Peaks and features stunning examples of elegant Victorian architecture. While strolling around, make sure you check out these important sights:
  • The Castro Theater: The historic Castro theater is a San Francisco Icon and is usually the city's main venue for various film festivals including the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Seeing a film in the elegant 1922 theater is real treat and there are screenings daily, most of which begin with a live organ performance. Be sure to also check out the special sing along performances of hit musicals.
    429 Castro Street, San Francisco www.thecastrotheater.org

  • The GLBT History Museum: The first stand-alone Gay and Lesbian museum in the United States features several galleries and both audio and docent led tours daily.
    4127 18th Street, San Francisco www.glbthistory.org

  • Pink Triangle Park: This neighborhood mini-park features 15 standing triangle monuments, one for each thousand gay, lesbian, bi or transgendered person killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.
    17th Street at Market, San Francisco

Festivals in the Castro District

As the nexus for the gay and lesbian community of not just the bay area but the entire country, the Castro District knows how to throw a good party. These are the largest festivals in the neighborhood:
  • The Castro Street Fair: Started by Harvey Milk in 1974, this huge event closes Castro Street between Market and 18th Street to traffic as the entire area is filled with vendors, live music stages and costumed revelers.
    First Sunday in October www.castrostreetfair

  • The Dyke March: On the Saturday before the massive San Francisco Pride Parade, which takes place at the Civic Center, this lesbian march goes from Dolores Park to the Castro District and meets up with the Pink Saturday Party (see below), already in progress.
    Late June www.thedykemarch.org

  • Pink Saturday: This street party also shuts down Castro Street as visitors from all over the world who are in town for Pride (see above) give the neighborhood its biggest Saturday night of the year.
    Late June
Halloween used to be the Castro's biggest night, with the entire area packed with street and house parties and adults-only festivities raging late into the night. After several years of violent incidents however, some of it hate related, the city stopped sponsoring this event. There are still lots of smaller happenings in the neighborhood's bars and clubs on Halloween however, and the private parties are some of the city's best.

Shopping in the Castro District

Clothing stores dot Castro street, many of them specializing in club wear. Try Citizen and Clobba for the latest hot digs.

Home decor is also a Castro specialty and designer furniture stores are clustered around the intersection of Market and Castro streets.

Various souvenir and novelty stores cater to the area's tourists, check out Does your Mother know? for a wide selection of LGBT greeting cards, penis related gifts and other unique things.

Nightlife in the Castro District

The Castro District is one of the major nightlife areas of the city and bars and clubs pack the area like seeds in a sunflower. Most people start the night at one of the many large cafe/bar/restaurants that line Market Street and feature large sidewalk patios before moving on to a club or bar. For something historic, try the Twin Peaks bar, at the intersection of Castro and Market, which was the first gay bar in the city and always hosts a welcoming crowd.
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