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Rainbow Flag | © Benson Kua/Flickr
Rainbow Flag | © Benson Kua/Flickr

The Best Ways To Experience SF’s LGBT History & Pride

Picture of Michael Glasmacher
Michael Glasmacher
Updated: 15 November 2016
Known for being one of the most proud cities, San Francisco shows its colors in many different ways, from its numerous street fares to its art installations. Here are the seven main ways San Francisco shows its LGBT pride and how you can experience them.

Harvey’s Camera Shop

During the legendary election of Harvey Milk into the San Francisco Board of Supervisors as the first openly homosexual man to be elected into public office, Milk’s camera shop on Castro St. was the campaign headquarters. While this location is no longer his camera shop, the spirit of equality still resides there as a location for The Human Rights Campaign. There you can see a small exhibit and purchase some inclusive merchandise.

The Human Rights Campaign Action Center and Store, 575 Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 431 2200

Crosswalk and Lights

The crosswalks and the street lights even show their pride in San Francisco. At the intersection of 18th Street and Castro Street, there are four fabulous and functional rainbow crosswalks that serve as a reminder of what city you’re in. Along Castro Street, there are also many LED street lights that are anything but ordinary. They can display a range of colors of the rainbow. Sometimes the colors reflect a current holiday, but most times they alternate through colors of the rainbow, sending a rainbow continuously down the street.

Street Plaques

Along the sidewalks around the Castro District, every few steps, you can find these bronze plaques at your toes. Much like the Hollywood Stars Walk of Fame, but only with important LGBT activists and icons, there are many different people, all who lived at very different times and have contributed to the community in very different ways. Unlike the Stars in Hollywood, these plaques around the Castro feature the person’s name, face, and a short synopsis of who that person was or did. 

GLBT Museum

The GLBT Museum, also located on Castro Street, holds artifacts, footage, art, and stories from the last 100 years. The museum offers contemporary and historic exhibits depending on what is on display. Be in the place where some of the major pushes toward equality started, and learn about the struggles and triumphs in a visceral way.

GLBT History Museum, 4127 18th St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 621 1107

 

Flag

The rainbow flag that flies high over Harvey Milk Plaza and the Castro Muni station has become an iconic symbol of the Castro and San Francisco as a whole. The gargantuan flag has long been a symbol of the gay rights movement and taking a stand for gay love. You can purchase your own flags or other rainbow regalia at stores on the Castro, such as Puff and Stuff, to show your own support – just in a smaller way.

Puff and Stuff, 504 Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 701 7833

Harvey Milk Plaza, Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA

Up Your Alley Fair / Folsom Street Fair / Castro Street Fair

If street fairs are more your style, then San Francisco has you covered (in sweat mostly). The three major festivals and fairs that celebrate the different subcultures of the gay community happen at different times of the year and offer three different experiences. While both Up Your Alley Street Fair and Folsom Street Fair celebrate homosexual subcultures such as leather, kink, and other fetishes, Up Your Alley is arguably the more extreme of the two, with some people bringing their kids to Folsom. The other fair is the Castro Street Fair, basically a sampler platter of all the different aspects that gay culture has to offer, from all that is mentioned above to drag shows and apparel.  

Pride

Pride is arguably done biggest and best in San Francisco. Every June, the entire city explodes in color and love, with events occurring at all times anywhere you look and multiple massive street parties that draw in thousands of people from all over the world. The main thoroughfare, Market Street, gets shut down for the parade that goes through the center of the city. 

Art and Photography in Shops in the Castro

You don’t have to be on the hunt for a piece of history; instead, you can drink an iced New Orleans Iced Coffee at Eureka Cafe or purchase jeans at the Levi’s Store on Castro, and the neighborhood’s history will still be ample. Many of the stores and restaurants have many famous and unknown photographs of the Castro during different times, but they each tell a story of courage, acceptance, and love.

Eureka Café, 451 Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 355 9110

Levi’s Store, 525 Castro St, San Francisco, CA, USA, +1 415 255 6726