Castro District, San Francisco
Best Things To Do
The Castro District is one of the most famous Gay neighborhoods in the world. Here you will find many nifty shops and good restaurants that cater to the Gay population though any open-minded person with money is quite welcome.
This area is still quite unique (Dorothy, you’re not in Kansas anymore) but, surprisingly to mid-western strangers, is also very safe (one of the safest parts of the City in fact). Lately the neighborhood has become extremely popular with straight young hipsters and with young families with children. The gay community was much more visible ten years ago but gentrification and tourism has chased many away. And, alas, the greatest events, like Halloween night on Castro St., are also now long gone because crowds of thousands of outsiders became too large to control. Those were the days!
Castro & Market is the historical heart of the Gay/Lesbian community so most new visitors will start from somewhere near here. Below are three good walks which take you through primary shopping areas.
This is the famous Castro Street you’ve always heard about. Over the years it has become very gentrified and a world famous tourist attraction. One small Castro St. shop we can’t resist is Hot Cookie. They have the tastiest chocolate chip cookies ever. Also, some of their cookies are shaped to look like naughty parts to provide local entertainment.
This everyday portion of the Castro District is where you will find many locals hanging out and generally doing their thing. Weaver’s Coffee is one of the many new shops we like along here. Look south from Market down the side streets as well. Orphan Andy’s (a 24 hr diner) at 3991 17th St. is just one of many examples to look into.
Now 18th St. and Castro could probably be considered the heart of local gay action. This walk takes you from the Castro District to the Mission District. From Castro & 18th St. walk east on 18th St. to Noe St. through the mostly Gay neighborhood.
Continue on to 18th & Dolores to find Mission Dolores Park (a big congregating spot for the neighborhood, especially on a nice weekend day). From 18th & Dolores you can take a short side trip 2 blocks north on Dolores St. to the Mission Dolores Gift Shop at 3321 16th St. (note: we usually enter the gift shop on Dolores St. just south of 16th St.) Old Mission Dolores is interesting because it is the oldest intact building in SF and was one of the very first European settlements (est. 6/29/1776) in San Francisco history. Take a quick tour of the chapel, basilica and cemetery for $5.
The next block east on 18th St. after you pass Mission Dolores Park is a culinary heaven. You will see Bi-Rite Creamery & Bakery (great ice cream), Bi-Rite Grocery (a small top-end grocer), Delfini Pizza, and Tartine Bakery (the best French bakery in town). Each of these, all in the same block, rank at the top of their class food-wise.
For a relative inexpensive lunch with our dogs we like to get an (expensive) sandwich or some wine & cheese at the Bi-Rite Grocery Deli and then go for a picnic in Mission Dolores Park. After the picnic we pick up an ice cream cone at Bi-Rite Creamery (across the street from Bi-Rite Market) or have some pastry & coffee on the sidewalk tables at Tartine Bakery.
Now, at 18th & Guerrero, you are in the Mission District. If you like to walk be sure to keep going for a different experience.