The Big Gay To Do: 50 Ways to Do PRIDE Right
Just in time for Pride weekend, we give you our annual Pride Big Gay To Do, brimming with queer-related merriment sure to keep you entertained, enthralled, and inebriated until the cold light of Monday morning comes. Enjoy.
The Thursday before Pride weekend has featured a gay edition of the NightLife party at the Academy of Sciences for the last few years, and this year’s will be big. It will include Hard French DJs Carnita and Brown Amy, plus DJ Rapid Fire and Juanita More. Plus, there will be talks by the founders of the Center for Sex and Culture. Thursday, June 26 at 6 pm. Get advance tickets here.
49. Pink Saturday
Looking for messy, sloppy, broken-beer-bottle fun before Sunday's big parade? Then hit the Castro to check out the annual Pink Saturday melee wherein the entire neighborhood goes off. But do be careful: the Castro also turns into a stomping ground for assaults and muggings. Last year one woman was violently attacked right on Market Street. Still, Pink Saturday remains one of the biggest night parties of the season.
Mat dos Santos and David Sternesky, also known as Two Dudes in Love, have gained a huge following over the last year. Hear why at Afterglow and Mass at the Chapel Sunday.
Who says you have to go to Civic Center after the parade? Instead, head over to SoMa and hit the Eagle’s (in)famous beer bust. Bears, leather, and natural musk preferred.
The restaurant Bix, now a high-end restaurant with a supper club vibe, was for years the home of legendary drag bar Gold Street, and still retains some of that back alley charm. Fans of gay nightlife history should definitely check it out, at least for a martini and spot of caviar. 56 Gold Street
Most locals know better than to go to the Castro on the weekends except when forced by out-of-town friends (with the exception of Hi-Tops). But there's a party that's been running for six years hosted by Juanita MORE! that’s cherished by the local gay community. Find out why Wednesday night. 456 Castro
Dandy up your PRIDE attire with a spritz or three of Comme Des Garcon’s Kyoto, L'Artisan Parfumeur’s Timbuktu, or Histoires de Parfums’ 1740 at ZGO in the Castro. (No Drakkar Noir or vile Dolce & Gabbana Blue here, kids.) Remember: this isn't Folsom Street Fair. Perfumes are welcome this weekend. 600 Castro
42. Robyn + Röyksopp
Head over to Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Saturday night to check out this month’s most anticipated concert: the pairing of Robyn and Röyksopp. If you can't get tickets, check Craig's List. It'll be worth it. Trust us.
In the spirit of educating, commemorating, and celebrating the LGBT community this Saturday and Sunday, BloomThat, the SF startup that sends flowers, will donate 20% of proceeds from all sales to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. Awwww.
Juanita More's party went from intimate, not-so-casual Pride adjacent affair to gargantuan, not-so-casual Pride-related affair. This year she celebrates a decade in heels. Basically, it remains the place to be after the parade. Dig? 620 Jones
The city's gayest and gay-owned marijuana dispensary is in SoMa, and it's the only one in town with a female bouncer at the door. If you don't yet have a medical marijuana card, get a written recommendation from a doctor and a card can be issued at SPARC.
Recently declared a city landmark for being the first gay bar in the city to feature big plate-glass windows allowing views from the street, the bar affectionately known as the "Glass Coffin" is a unique Castro neighborhood institution with friendly service, a jukebox, and a low-key vibe. 17th and Castro
A solo play by Evan Johnson that looks back at the ‘90s gay club kid revolution in San Francisco (remember Klubstitute? Baby Judy’s?), with a special in-conversation Q&A after each show. Performances nightly through June 29th.
36. Go to SomeTHING
One of the best parties with the most eclectic crowd is SomeThing, every Friday night at the Stud. There are two (or three) drag shows that start around 10:30 hosted by Miss Vivvyanne ForeverMore, a themed craft table, and plenty of dancing and boozing in between—and after. 9th and Harrison
The "radically inclusive" Tenderloin church is participating in the Pride parade once again. You can help them by volunteering to serve a meal, or by buying one of their Pride Team T-shirts.
The Castro Country Club provides the clean/sober community and supporters with a safe space to party at this year’s Pride. Live entertainment, DJs, dancing, souvenir merchandise, the Dan Cusick Clean and Sober chill tent, and more. Located at UN Plaza at Hyde and Fulton.
33. Nob Hill Theatre
The only all-male strip club in the city is far from the gayborhood, over near what used to be called the Downtown Tenderloin. Porn stars regularly make appearances, and they now boast an "underground play room." Proceed with caution. Or don't. 729 Bush Street
One of the city's most unofficial cruising grounds might be the off-leash play area at Duboce Park. Sure, it's a mixed crowd, but every dedicated dog owner in the Castro and Duboce Triangle environs ends up here multiple times a week.
31. Go shave that beard
By the time PRIDE ends, and after seeing the overabundance of beards (the facial hair, not the fake girlfriends) now dominating mens' faces everywhere, you might want a fresher look, you hippie. We recommend Louie's Barbershop (42 Castro) or Daddy's (4102 Market) for getting rid of that not-so-fresh beard.
30. Go to Frances
Easily the best restaurant in the Castro, and still one of the toughest reservations in the city to get, is Frances. Chef Melissa Perello's four-and-a-half-year-old neighborhood gem gets high marks both for food and service, and the house wines for a dollar an ounce (in hash-marked beakers that you can pour out yourself) are the icing on the cake. Also, don't miss the Lumberjack Cake. 3870 - 17th Street
The only dedicated lesbian bar in town is still going strong in the Mission. Stop in for a game of pool, or a few beers, any weekend after 3 p.m., or any weekday after 5 p.m. 3464 - 19th Street
Openly gay Top Chef Just Desserts winner Yigit Pura opened Tout Sweet, located on the third floor of Macy's at Union Square, to much acclaim. Head over and you'll see why. His cookies, marshmallows, macarons, and cakes are as whimsical as they are delicious.
One of the longest running current parties in town is DJ Bus Station John's Tubesteak Connexxxion, Thursday nights at Aunt Charlie's. It doesn't usually pick up until close to the midnight hour, but it's a hangout for young gays and fashionistas who don't have to be up too early in the morning. And Bus Station John spins from his collection of old, underground disco LPs that a character from Dancer from the Dance might even recognize.
This Thursday, check out an all-star comedy show featuring Bay Area LGBT stand up comedians Zachary Toczynski, Ash Fisher, Kelly Doyle, Jesus Fuetes, Justin Lucas, Sampson McCormick and Karinda Dobbins; hosted by Charlie Ballard/Hella Gay Comedy Show. Plus free ice cream and cake!
It's in the Castro, it only opened a couple of years ago, and they feature rotating exhibits from the GLBT Historical Society's archives.
24. Release your inner butch queen at Hi Tops
Into sports or just like wearing a Giants cap? Then head over to Hi Tops, the Castro's favorite sports bar.
Sip or gulp local wines at these two popular wine bars: Swil (in the Castro) and Tank 18 (SoMa). Cheers!
22. Dance to deep house at MR.
The traditional kickoff of Pride Weekend for a certain set of cool kids for the past few years happens Friday, June 28 at the underground club Monarch. DJ David Harness is a headliner, with more TBA. Monarch: Sixth Street and Mission
21. Into the Woods
Before Disney ruins it with a film version now in the works (they’ve already cut several key songs, as well as altering the plot), we urge you to check out Stephen Sondheim’s brilliant fairy tale mash-up the way it's meant to be seen. Favorite songs include “Moments in the Woods,” “Children Will Listen,” and “Agony.” Tuesday–Thursday at 7pm, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. & 8 p.m., Select Sundays at 2 p.m. SF Playhouse, 450 Post
The country's oldest LGBT film festival, Frameline returns for its 38th year. Be sure to check out a film or four. On Saturday, June 28 at the Victoria Theatre, be sure to check out First Period, billed as "Sixteen Candles meets Hairspray, with a dash of Strangers with Candy thrown in for good measure."
19. Prison of Love at the Kink.com Armory
Though prison sex fetishization came under fire this year with the PC crowd, we strongly recommend checking out Prison of Love at Kink.com. Expect lots of dudes, lots of skin, and lots of jailhouse, er, rock. 1800 Mission Street at 14th, 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
Put on by nightlifers Puppy Pound, this isn't the place to go if you're looking for a rescue. No, this is for bears in SoMa looking to dance. And more. So much more. Beatbox, 314 11th Street
Those of you who deeply miss glee club or all the musicals you did in college, can work your vocal chords a bit at the city's only remaining gay piano bar, Martuni's. The crowd is always a fun-loving, mixed bag, and you'll need to get in line behind the regulars who stand up and sing a few every week. Let us just recommend sticking to basic gin-and-tonic, bourbon-and-ginger orders at the bar though—that "martini" menu is dangerous, and way too sweet. 4 Valencia Street, at Market
16. Meditate at the Hartford Street Zen Center
Former site of the Maitri AIDS Hospice in the ‘90s, the Hartford Street Zen Center is a great place to come, take off your shoes, and om your way into a centered, grateful day. 57 Hartford, at 17th Street
15. Naked gay yoga
It's non-sexual (ostensibly), but it is naked, and just for men, with multiple classes daily in different locations. WARNING: “We encourage people to refrain from wearing colognes and scented deodorants as some people are sensitive to these smells. At the same we ask that you please shower before class as some people are sensitive to natural smells as well.”
Let the masses at Civic Center get as drunk as they want. Instead, head over to Aunt Charlie's Lounge to listen to DJ Myles Cooper's grooves while you sip a strong cocktail at one of the Tenderloin's last few gay bars. An oasis in a sea of Pride.
Contrary to popular believe, Pride isn’t synonymous with drinking and partying. For those of you living sober, head over to the Castro Country Club. There you’ll find a café, (fun) meetings, sunny outdoor patio (weather permitting), and some of the finest people you will ever have the pleasure meeting. 4058 18th Street, at Hartford
Aunt Charlie's Lounge is one of the last vestiges of the dark and divey gay world of the Tenderloin environs of forty years ago. The bar opens early for the elderly regulars, and on Friday and Saturday nights plays host to the Hot Boxxx Girls, an old-fashioned, non-ironic drag review. Don't expect any bearded ladies or Trannyshack raunch, but do expect them to work the aisles for tips. 133 Turk Street
A notable gay-owned business all the way downtown, Heyday is a nod to the Chez Panisse-influenced food scene, offering seasonal salads and sandwiches to the FiDi crowd. Perfect for those staying downtown and in need of some quality California cuisine on the quick. 180 Spear Street
Blackbird, opened in 2009, was the first bar to bring the craft cocktail movement to the vodka-soda-obsessed Castro. Others have followed suit, but this gay-owned, sometimes mixed bar boasts the best cocktail list and best-trained bartenders in the neighborhood. 2124 Market Street near Church
On those rare days when it's actually sunny and warm all the way to the coast, the real beach to head to that only some locals know about is Marshall, the clothing-optional, somewhat cruisy beach on the other side of the rocks between Baker Beach and the Golden Gate Bridge. Accessible only via a goat path from a parking lot up above in the Presidio, this is not a destination for timid hikers, but it can be pretty and delightfully secluded in warm weather.
On Saturday, an estimated 200 people spending Saturday morning affixing 175 bright pink tarps with 5,000 steel spikes to create a the pink triangle that graces an acre of Twin Peaks in San Francisco. Come help set up and get free donuts and a pink t-shirt!
7. Cross the Bay for the nation’s oldest gay bar
It's not much to look at, but The White Horse Inn, on the Oakland-Berkeley border, originally opened in 1933 according to official records—unofficially, though, it was likely a gay speakeasy during Prohibition. Either way, it's the oldest, continually operating gay watering hole, and it's worth stopping in for a cocktail just so you can say you've been there.
6. Eat some gay ice cream
Head over to gay-owned and –operated Humphry Slocombe, the Mission district's hugely popular ice cream shop, a great off-the-beaten path stop, with cheeky ice cream flavors like Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes), and Government Cheese. Also, Three Twins in the Lower Haight rolled out a series of cheeky flavors to honor Pride.
5. Visit the sites of bars and bath houses past: 330 Ritch, the Blackhouse, and more.
S.F. has been gay for a long, long time. And there are many bars and houses of ill repute that aren't here any more, especially in neighborhoods like Polk Gulch, SoMa, and the Haight. For nightlife history buffs you should check out these maps and resources and do your own guided tour.
4. Dyke March
Though the Dyke March has grown over the years into a gargantuan party, this loosely organized people's parade through the Mission just for the women (and some trans men), remains one of Pride weekend’s top draws. Gawkers, please, stay home.
3. Go make-out with someone of the same sex at a former gay bar
Brass Tax, Churchill, Rickhouse—reclaim a former gay space by staging a sweet make out session with someone you love.
2. Hard French Hearts Los Homos IV
The fine folks at Hard French are happy to have found a home for Hard French Hearts Los Homos IV, one that allows the popular Sunday party to throw down in the sunlight while still having the venue capacity and sound system to highlight their remarkable lineup of live performers and DJs. Mezzanine street party here we come!
While Sunday’s main parade and Saturday’s Dyke March have, for better or for worse, turned into massive affairs that draw a good chunk of tourists, Friday’s trans march is the real deal. Celebrating the transgender community, the Trans March reminds one of Gay Freedom Day, back when the parade wasn’t buoyed by Airbnb and Coors Light. A must for locals and anyone with a modicum of San Francisco civic pride. El Rio hosts the after party.
Jay Barmann helped with this article.