If you want to explore San Francisco’s rich gay and lesbian culture, the Castro neighborhood is its beating heart. Not only is the Castro the center of the city’s LGBTQ community, but it’s considered by many to be the gay capital of the world. And once you learn the Castro’s history, it’s easy to see why. In the 1970s, the Castro was home to Harvey Milk, California’s first openly gay public official and one of the first in the USA. His steadfast efforts in the gay rights movement not only earned him the title the “Mayor of Castro Street,” but his political efforts helped put San Francisco at the forefront of the gay rights movement. His former camera shop, Castro Camera, that also served as his campaign headquarters, still stands on Castro Street and now serves as a Human Rights Campaign retail shop.
Visitors found the Castro laid-back, fun and above all colorful, citing its friendly residents, plentiful amenities and striking aesthetics as its best assets.The neighborhood is lined with picturesque Victorian homes, previously built by immigrants who moved to the Castro in the 19th century seeking cheap land (the area was once a dairy farm). Travelers say a stop at Harvey Milk’s old camera shop is a must, even if there is only a plaque commemorating his presence there now. Those wanting to delve further into the neighborhood’s history should head on over to the GLBT Museum on 18th street. The unmissable Castro Theatre, situated along the neighborhood’s main drag, is another neighborhood gem and a registered city landmark.
The neighborhood is also lauded for its lively dining and nightlife scene. Visitors recommended a visit to the delectable Hot Cookie, located on the same street as the Castro Theatre. There are also multiple 24-hour eateries available and as expected, loads of gay bars, including the Twin Peaks Tavern, considered a classic in the neighborhood. However, there are no bars in the Castro dedicated to lesbians. While the Castro is consistently praised for its overall safety, those traveling with kids might want to be mindful of the number of sex shops present in the neighborhood.
Getting to the Castro is easy: You can take the F-Market & Wharves street car line, which picks up at many points of interest including Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf and Market Street near Union Square. Adult fares for a streetcar ride are $2.25 and $1 for youths and seniors.