With one of the best annual Pride parades in the world and home to a number of gay rights movements, San Francisco has long been a hotspot for LGBTQ nightlife. From the buzzy clubs in the Castro, the historically gay neighborhood, to old-school haunts in the Mission, these are the best laid-back happy hours, over-the-top drag shows, and thumping dance clubs San Francisco’s gay scene has to offer.
Bar, LGBTQ Bar, Cocktails, Beer
For a little bit of everything (and a whole lot of dancing), head to Toad Hall in the heart of the Castro. Here you’ll find dance competitions, karaoke, drag shows, and an almost always populated dance floor for a night of letting loose. If you’re looking for a more low-key night yet don’t want to sequester yourself from the action, sip a cocktail on the spacious outdoor patio.
Bar, Gay Bar, American, Cocktails, $
Thursday nights are prime at Hi Tops, the Castro’s premier gay sports bar, where “Gym Class” – a whiskey shot and go-go boys combo – begins at 10pm. Classic sports bar dishes such as burgers, corn dogs, and “Huge Killer Nachos” are well above par. The interior features over a dozen TVs along with shuffleboard, and their cocktails are clever – The Haterade comes in a plastic water bottle that’s yours to keep.
Bar, LGBTQ Bar, Nightclub, Cocktails, Beer
Located in SoMa, Oasis is a former bathhouse converted into a spacious nightclub that is known as the spot for drag. “Mother,” the club’s popular Saturday night show, offers dazzling themed drag shows such as a Lady Gaga tribute and Sia vs Lana Del Rey. Cabaret, DJ’ed dance parties, and comedy shows are also hosted throughout the week.
Bar, Nightclub, LGBTQ Bar, Cocktails, Beer, $
Perhaps the most popular gay bar in the city, Beaux, frequently dubbed the “hot” bar, is known for its attractive patrons, clubby vibe, and go-go dancers. A daily 2-for-1 happy hour lures you in, and the transition from craft cocktails to a thumping club keeps you there. Make sure to arrive early on weekends, as Beaux draws a crowd.
Wild Side West
Bar, LGBTQ Bar, Pub Grub, Cocktails, Beer
Founded in 1962, Wild Side West has been a Bernal Heights hangout for decades. The lesbian bar features pool tables, TVs for sports fans, and a weekly Wednesday night part-trivia, part-comedy show. Don’t come expecting frills – Wild Side West is a dive bar in every sense, but the laid-back, authentic San Francisco ambiance is part of its charm.
LGBTQ Bar, Bar, Nightclub, Market, Pub Grub, Cocktails, American, $
Lookout is a bar, restaurant, and nightclub whose main draw is its open-air, wraparound balcony that overlooks the Castro. The central location makes it a great spot for pre-drinks on a mild Bay Area night before hitting other Castro gems on this list like Beaux or Hi Tops. The extensive food menu features pizzas, tacos, sandwiches, and deep-fried bourbon and tequila shots.
Bar, LGBTQ Bar, Pub Grub
El Rio has been a mainstay in the Mission since 1978 and proudly draws a diverse crowd. This is the spot to go to no matter how you’re looking to unwind – a weekend bloody mary bar opens at 1pm, a massive back patio is perfect for sipping cocktails during a sunny happy hour, and Sunday afternoon drag shows called “Daytime Realness” occur every third Sunday of the month.
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