Known for its pride and LGBTQ community, the Castro District is an essential stop on any tour of San Francisco. With a nightlife as colorful as its streets, this fun neighborhood will have you dancing with the locals or soaking up smooth jazz in no time. Here are the best bars in the area.
San Francisco Badlands
Nightclub, Cocktails, $$$
San Francisco Badlands is one of the most popular LGBTQ dance clubs in the city. Always packed with revelers making moves on the dance floor to a playlist of chart-topping tunes, it’s an unpretentious place for a guaranteed good time. Two-for-one cocktails is a popular drinks special for bars in the Castro, and Badlands runs the special nightly until 9pm. Events vary, but every Thursday night features a party with shirtless go-go dancers lighting up the stage.
An LGBTQ-oriented sports bar centrally located on Market Street, Hi Tops’s slogan is “Cold Pitchers, Hot Catchers.” A great place to be during a World Series or NBA playoff game, the bar tends to get rowdy (and more fun) on game nights. The bar is often packed with sports fans catching a Giants or Warriors game on one of the bar’s many big TV screens. With a menu offering traditional sports bar fare, including sticky hot buffalo wings, it’s a great place to drink cold beer, watch the game and socialise.
Open seven days a week, 18th Street’s Toad Hall bar is a good bet for a lively night out on any given day. With an events calendar that includes drag performances, dance competitions and karaoke nights, the venue pulls in a diverse crowd of Castro residents and visitors alike. The bar itself features a large dance floor as well as comfy booths and an outdoor smoking area (complete with a bar) for breaks between dancing.
Located on Castro Street, the low-key Blush! Wine Bar is a marked change of pace from many of the neighboring dance clubs in the area. Live jazz fills the air while oenophiles converse on comfy couches. Although the focus of the bar is the wine, you’ll find a number of beers shipped in from the Belgian owner’s home country. Special events at Blush! include tarot reading nights and “dirty bingo” with prizes from nearby sex shop Rock Hard.
QBar, located on Castro Street, is the quintessential gay-focused nightclub in San Francisco. Loud pumping beats and inexpensive drinks poured with a heavy hand make it one of the most fun places to party. People come here to let loose and get sweaty while dancing to LGBTQ icons such as the Scissor Sisters. Large TVs covering the walls screen upbeat music videos to get you in the mood for movement.
San Francisco is home to The EndUp, The Bitter End and Castro’s own Last Call Bar. And although the name Last Call Bar alludes to a wild end to the night, the bar is a great place to frequent throughout the day. A happy hour drinks menu and the inviting Irish pub atmosphere welcomes guests as early as noon, where you can watch football, sip a hot toddy by the fire or later on (the bar is open until 2am), dance to the jukebox into the early hours.
Rumored to be the oldest openly gay bar in San Francisco, Twin Peaks Tavern is a comfortable cocktail bar located at the entrance of the Castro District. Across from the Harvey Milk Plaza, the bar is housed in a historic Victorian building with large glass windows strung with glittering strings of lights. Regulars sit side-by-side with tourists to sip on the signature manhattans.