Castro: San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ District

Written by Ashley Malloy

San Francisco’s Castro district is one of the most highly recognized LGBTQ+ communities in the United States and for good reason too. Historically, it was the gay community where Harvey Milk led his campaign (check out “Milk” on Netflix if you don’t know what I’m on about). Today, it’s known for its gay bars and a plethora of rainbows. But what is there actually to do when you visit? Let me tell you, there is some incredible food and a ton of fun things to explore while taking this place in.

Hamburger Mary’s
A delicious hamburger restaurant chain that’s a load of fun. Though it’s not always cheap, there are many factors that more than make up for the prices. Their menu offers scrumptious vegetarian options and appetizers. They have drag shows, including drag brunch available. Plus, your check is brought to you in a high heel, something you’ll only see in Castro.

Hot cookie
If you’re on the hunt for a sweet treat, this is the place for you! Close to where Castro street meets 16th, you’ll find this small building, with just enough room for a couple of people to walk in and grab their cookies. They’ve loads of delicious options, always warm and fresh!

Castro Camera
This was its original name while run by Harvey Milk. Now, the inside is a shop that sells merchandise for the Human Rights Campaign. When you purchase something here, you’ll also receive reduced admission for the LGBTQ+ museum located nearby. It’s a win-win!

Dog-eared books
With a wide selection of LGBTQ+ books, this bookstore is unlike any other. If you’re looking to read more about the history of the community, or read writings by iconic queer folk, this would be a great place to check out. My favorite part of this store has to be the activist stickers and pins you can purchase from the checkout counter. I’ve been able to find some of my favorite books here for a discounted price, and cute journals. They even have free books in a box outside #score! Also, be sure to check out the gay mysteries section!

Phillz
I know there are plenty of “Phillz” in in San Francisco but, you have to give this coffee chain a try. They have creative options you won’t find in other places such as “sex on the beach” and a “mint mojito.” Oh, and those are both coffee/tea beverages. Even though they sound a little alcoholic, they are not.

Spike’s
Another great coffee shop! They have all of your coffee options, and more yummy treats. A personal favorite of mine is the lemon butter cookie (give it a taste… just trust me). This is the perfect place to get breakfast if you don’t want to spend a lot, because they have reasonably priced breakfast sandwiches and pastries! The space is decorated so cute and they even have environmentally friendly compostable cups.

Those are just a few of the many places to visit in Castro. But remember, the sights are all around you! As you walk through the streets, keep an eye out for the bronze squares with LGBTQ+ icons on them and read all about their accomplishments. Overall, just being in the Castro is an experience. Spend some time strolling down Castro street, and take note of all the rainbows, love, and positivity surrounding you. I’ve even spotted a shop that sells garden hoses display their merchandise in rainbow order! Oh, and be sure to cross the street with the rainbow crosswalks!


Have you ever been to Castro? What are some of your favorite LGBTQ+ places? Let’s hear about it in the comments below!

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