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How To Spend 24 Hours in the Castro, San Francisco

The Castro is home to a large LGBTQ community
The Castro is home to a large LGBTQ community | © Diego Grandi / Alamy Stock Photo
One of the most authentically San Francisco neighborhoods in the city, the Castro was the hub for several history-making decades of the LGBTQ rights movement. Nowadays, you’ll find an abundance of activities and sights, from strolling over the iconic Castro Rainbow Crosswalk to bar-hopping around its boisterous nightlife scene.

Morning

Start with breakfast at a cozy eatery

Wooden Spoon is a charming breakfast, brunch and lunch spot with an extensive menu (including cocktails) that features savory brunch classics like soft scrambled eggs with dungeness crab and sweeter dishes like lingonberry-topped swedish pancakes and vegan morning pastries. If the walk-in-only policy proves too long a wait, Duboce Park Café is a five-minute walk away and has a menu full of breakfast sandwiches and smoothies. Another great food option in the Castro is Kitchen Story and its $22 bottomless mimosa brunch, also within walking distance.

The Castro, San Francisco © Naeblys / Alamy Stock Photo

Visit historic LGBTQ-movement spots

Castro Camera was the headquarters for Harvey Milk during his bids for elected city positions and was an epicenter of the burgeoning gay rights movement of the 1970s. Today, the space is used as a Human Rights Campaign action center and store, but the location still holds the memory of the world-changing activist. Right around the corner is the GLBT History Museum that houses a collection of memorabilia and exhibits that celebrate San Francisco’s inclusive past and the trajectory of LGBTQ rights as a whole in the United States.

Sidewalk plaque where Harvey Milk's ashes were interred on the sidewalk outside his camera store on Castro Street, Castro District, San Francisco © AztecBlue / Alamy Stock Photo

Midday

Grab a coffee and pastry at one of the Castro’s many cafés

Spacious and soothing, Réveille Coffee Co. is centrally located in the Castro and makes for a convenient midday coffee break. Since 1970, Castro Coffee Company has been serving coffee from around the world to both residents and visitors alike, and as it’s nudged up against the Castro Theatre, it’s hard to miss. The community is at the core of Spike’s Coffees and Teas, a neighborhood café that serves coffee, pastries and teas while regularly donating to local schools and organizations.

American Vintage diner Window, The Castro, San Francisco © Directphoto Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

Take a stroll through Mission Dolores Park

Right on the cusp of the Mission and the Castro sits Mission Dolores Park, home to clusters of palm trees and panoramic views of San Francisco. Its green open space practically begs for picnickers and Frisbee-tossers; on warm weekends, you’ll find hundreds of blankets sprawled across the park. Stop at Marcello’s Pizza for a few slices of the best pizza in the Castro followed by a short 10-minute walk to the edge of Mission Dolores Park for an easy lunchtime break.

Dolores Park in Mission District, San Francisco © Godong / Alamy Stock Photo

Evening

Get drinks and dinner at favorite neighborhood joints

The Castro has plenty of neighborhood bars frequented by local people. To wind down (or up) your night, go for pre-dinner drinks at Twin Peaks Tavern, whose neon signage and vintage interior is a throwback to old Castro days. Blush! Wine Bar is more upscale, serving only wine and beer in an intimate setting, while Moby Dick, a Castro classic, offers more laid-back vibes with a pool table and an over-the-bar aquarium. Easily walkable from the main Castro drag, Frances is an upscale, quiet dinner spot that features a locally sourced menu that changes daily. Contemporary and casual, Starbelly serves comfort food with a twist, such as house-made butternut squash dumplings and blackened catfish with okra and sweet pepper risotto.

Moby Dick, awning sign above entrance of old-time Castro hangout © Dorling Kindersley ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Catch a show at the Castro Theatre

Dating back to 1922, the Castro Theatre is a landmark of its eponymous neighborhood and a popular movie and event venue, playing host to a number of film festivals throughout the year. Its iconic marquee signage and Mexican-cathedral-inspired facade bore witness to the LGBTQ rights movement of the 1970s and ’80s that cemented the Castro as a haven for gay residents and travelers. Check the calendar for showings.

Iconic Castro Theater, on Castro Street, in the Castro District, San Francisco © AztecBlue / Alamy Stock Photo