Aunt Charlie's Lounge. (Courtesy of @thelomaprietta)

Glitz & Glama: The Bay Area’s Most Dazzling Drag Shows

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The art of drag has a long history in San Francisco, and with the growing popularity of RuPaul's Drag Race (RPDR) and with DragCon spanning both coasts, the appetite for drag performances has reached a fever pitch. Here are our favorite places to catch the drag queens and kings of the Bay Area.


San Francisco

El Rio

Get your daytime drag fix on the third Sunday of every month when El Rio hosts Daytime Realness, which returned this spring after a six-month hiatus. From 2 to 8pm, Heklina, Stanley Frank, and Carnita promise "drag, dancing, and disorder" on El Rio's back patio. Expect queens performing in the daylight, guest DJs, and barbecue from Sneaky's. // 3158 Mission St. (Mission), elriosf.com


Oasis
Owned by drag queens D'Arcy Drollinger and Heklina, this drag powerhouse is home to weekly Mother events (formerly Trannyshack), where both established and aspiring queens can share their art, typically within a theme—think Madonna, Ladies of the '80s, and more. Additionally, the club serves as a frequent venue for some of the top names in drag—including RPDR finalists and winners—doing one-woman shows, revamps of cult movies, or live musical performances. (You can also catch screenings of RuPaul's Drag Race while it's airing.) Swing by before July 1 to catch drag re-enactments of classic Sex in the City episodes, with Sue Casa, D'Arcy, Lady Bear, and Steven LeMay playing a raunchy core four, plus drag king Leigh Crow as Mr. Big. // 298 11th St. (SoMa), sfoasis.com


Powerhouse
In keeping with its more leather-leaning atmosphere and anything goes attitude, Powerhouse has options to fit your drag desires. Beatpig combines leather, fashion, and drag every third Saturday with host Juanita More!, joined by Walter Gomez and DJ Stanley Frank. Also expect go-go dancers, cheap drinks, bondage demonstrations, and rotating photographers in a leather bar atmosphere. And the first Saturday of the month, Powerhouse transforms into Powerblouse, when one lucky guy gets a full fantasy drag makeover courtesy of Juanita More! and Glamamore, with go-go dancers and drink specials. // 1347 Folsom St. (SoMa), powerhousebar.com


Beaux

With a name that translates to "boyfriends" in French, Beaux aims to be your partner in the Castro and has a selection of weekly events if your tastes trend drag. Beaux often welcomes former RPDR contestants (plus revolving DJs, club kids, and porn stars) for Big Top Sundays, and also hosts a Carnie Asada–hosted Throwback Thursday and Sunday liquid brunch. // 2344 Market St. (Castro), beauxsf.com

Asia SF

The performers at Asia SF's tightly choreographed shows identify as transgender, not as drag queens, but the same level of artistry and respect for the stage goes into each polished performance. Don't expect amateur hour or rough-around-the-edges revues—the dancers and lipsyncers here nail their songs (often Top 40 hits or club bangers), hit their marks and sometimes boast an uncanny resemblance to the pop stars they're honoring. The performers also act as servers for the dinner portion pre-show and have signature cocktails that bear their names. // 201 9th St. (SoMa), asiasf.com


Harry Denton's Starlight Room

While it may be a favorite of tourists and bachelorette parties, the Sunday's A Drag brunch at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel never fails to entertain—it's been around for more than a decade for a reason. Queens such as Holotta Tymes and Donna Sachet mix comedy, lipsyncing, and dancing with well-hooked barbs at the audience's expense. It's traditional drag glamour at its finest, with plenty of gowns, sequins, and feather boas, plus a buffet brunch. // 450 Powell St. (Union Square), starlightroomsf.com


Finn Town

While not technically a show, this new Castro hotspot will transforms into Club Finn for Pride weekend, with a strong drag focus. As an homage to San Francisco's drag culture, Club Finn will serve special Stoli cocktails inspired by some of the community's most popular drag queens, who will also serve as hosts alongside owner Rick Hamer. Look for Empress Mercedes Monro (Thursday), Sister Roma (Friday), Ruby Red Monro (Saturday), and Whitney Skye Paterson (Sunday). Visitors will walk a rainbow carpet as they enter the "tavern with a twist," and once inside, they can expect a curated Pride playlist, drag movies playing on two screens, and a variety of Pride-themed bites. // 2251 Market St. (Upper Market), finntownsf.com


East Bay

The Port Bar

Co-owned by Sean Sullivan and Richard Fuentes, the Port Bar opened last June in Uptown Oakland, delivering a seven-days-a-week gathering place for the LGBT community right by the 19th Street BART station. As a nod to its nautical name, the Port's wall and bathroom are made from former Port of Oakland shipping containers and wood and corrugated steel were sourced locally or reclaimed from nearby businesses. The permanent art collection reflects six LGBT social-justice leaders as depicted by Bay Area artists. In addition to Friday night RPDR viewing parties with BeBe Sweetbriar, Port is also home to weekly Sunday #Blessed parties hosted by drag queen Carnie Asada. For the lip-syncing and singing performances, nightly themes range from Latina Cantina Cabaret to R&B. //2023 Broadway (Oakland), portbaroakland.com


White Horse Bar
Around since 1933 and the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the country, this Oakland mainstay has long been an East Bay LGBT hang. Wednesdays are the nights for drag, with Follies and Dollies every second Wednesday hosted by Cemora Valentino-Devine. Rebel Kings lets ladies dressed as men take over every first and third Wednesday, with drag king performances followed by live DJs, drink specials, and dancing. // 6551 Telegraph Ave. (Oakland), whitehorsebar.com


Club 1220
Drag in the suburbs? You bet. Head out to the old Club 1220 in Walnut Creek (just off North Civic Drive) every other week for Sunday Unwind and the Holatta Tymes–hosted drag show, UnBoylievable. Each event features a different theme (ranging from "As Seen on TV" to "Lovin' Around the World"), performances from local queens, and a rotating roster of special guests. Holatta also heads behind the stick on Monday nights while the club plays specially selected movies. // 1220 Pine St. (Walnut Creek), club1220.com

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