The Big Gay To Do: 50 Ways to Flaunt Your Pride
Presenting our first-ever Big Gay To-Do, just in time for Pride Month. Let your rainbow flag fly with our list of so-San Francisco essentials.
1. The gay beach (Dolores Park edition)
Locals know all too well that the Mission is the sunniest place in town, so "beach days" are usually spent far from the ocean on the uppermost "fruit shelf" at Dolores Park. It also boasts the best views in the park, because, obviously.
2. Jam out to Motown in the afternoon at Hard French
Hard French is easily the hippest and most homo-friendly party in the Mission, happening on the first Saturday of every month at El Rio. Dance in the daylight to old soul music with a gang of young queers, and see how much fun it can be when the lesbians and gays set aside their differences and get down together. They''ll be doing a special party on Pride Sunday, June 30, at Roccapulco (3140 Mission Street). Get tickets here.
3. Tinsel Tarts in a Hot Coma
The bizarre musical that the legendary gender-bending Cockettes took with them to New York – meant as a druggy, early 1970s send-up of 1930s movie clichés – has been adapted, expanded, and revived by a couple of original Cockettes, along with some young performers and drag stars. It plays three nights a week throughout the month of June, Thursday to Saturday, and seats are $30 to $35.
4. Dyke March
The Saturday night before Pride is traditionally Pink Saturday in the Castro, but before that comes Dyke March, a more loosely organized people's parade through the Mission just for the women (and some trans men).
5. Visit the sites of bars and bath houses past
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.
6. Eat some gay ice cream
Humphry Slocombe, the Mission district's hugely popular, gay-owned ice cream shop, is a great off-the-beaten path stop, with cheeky ice cream flavors like Secret Breakfast (bourbon and cornflakes), and Government Cheese. Also, Three Twins, which only sells in a few retail shops, always rolls out a few special flavors for Pride. 2790 Harrison Street at 24th
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.
8. Be a gay for a good cause
Gay for Good is a nationwide organization with eight chapters, focused on mobilizing the LGBT community to volunteer for various one-day environmental and social welfare projects. Join up to participate in monthly meet-ups to do things like path clearing in Muir Woods, planting trees on Mount Sutro, or, on June 1, helping with the check-in on the first day of the AIDS LifeCycle ride.
9. Marshall Beach
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.
10. Sip a civilized cocktail
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
11. Grab lunch at Heyday
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 Financial District crowd. 180 Spear Street
12. Take in some Tenderloin drag
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
13. Go speed-dating (for the gentlemen)
So, you happen to be single this Pride season. Join the club! If you're a male between the ages of 25 and 45, check out Date District's upcoming speed-dating event at Pause Wine Bar on June 19.
14. Check out a transgender and queer performance fest
Now in its 11th year, the Fresh Meat Festival is one of the country's only dance and performance festivals for transgender artists. Trans choreographer Sean Dorsey founded the festival in 2002, which now features other queer performers, and features everything from clogging to drumming and more. June 20 to 22, Z Space, 450 Florida Street between 17th Street and Mariposa. Get tickets here.
15. Go dancing and speed-dating with the ladies
Therapy, a monthly party at Era Art Bar in Oakland, is both a tea dance and a speed-dating event for women who love women. June 8, 5 to 9 pm, 19 Grand Avenue, Oakland
16. Tip the piano man, and sing
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
17. Get a pre-taste of Mystopia's 'Reverse Cowgirl Creamery'
There are a few spillovers from the playa that come in the form of city parties throughout the year, and the Burning Man camp Mystopia is one of the newer ones. Now hosting their third event in the city, Outlaw, on June 14, the boys (and girls) are raising funds for this year's camp, dubbed 'Reverse Cowgirl Creamery,' at which they will be serving up frozen treats, and western kitsch. Expect DJs, good times, and a youngish crowd. June 14, 9 pm. F8, 1192 Folsom Street. Get tickets here.
18. Get literary and drunk all at once
Presided over by spunky trans hostess Charlie Jane Anders (pictured), Writers With Drinks is now in its 12th year, and offers a fun and low-key window onto the Mission's lit scene. Their June 8 event will feature Anders' partner, author Annalee Newitz, among the readers. The Makeout Room, 3225 22nd Street, June 8, 7:30 pm. $5 to $10
19. Naked gay yoga
It's non-sexual, but it is naked, and just for men, with multiple classes daily in different locations.
The country's oldest LGBT film festival, Frameline, returns for its 37th year June 20 to 30. This year's centerpiece film is the documentary Valentine Road, about the murder of 15-year-old Larry King, and his killer, 14-year-old Brandon McInerney. Also featured at this year's fest will be a collaborative film version of Michelle Tea's novel of the 1990s lesbian scene in the Mission, Valencia, with different filmmakers shooting each chapter.
21. Go back Into the Woods with the Ray of Light Theater
Throughout the month of June, the Ray of Light Theater is mounting a small but ambitious production of Stephen Sondheim's brilliant fairy tale mashup, Into the Woods.
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. See more info at here. 6th and Mission
23. Swirl some Pinots and Viogniers at Swirl and Tank 18
Gay-owned wine and spirit shop, Swirl, with its small wine bar in back, is a great respite from the more raucous bars in the Castro. And gay-owned wine tasting bar and event space Tank 18 in SoMa (Howard and Dore), is a cool place to unwind and a good alternative to the more leather-y bar scene in that 'hood.
24. Butch It up at Hi Tops
While Hard French might bring together the alterna-queers of every gender identity and orientation, Hi Tops was immediately successful in bringing together gay bros, lesbian sports fans, and every preppy and jockish sort in between. The city's first dedicated gay sports bar is a great place for a game of shuffleboard, or to watch a game on one of their 16 TVs. Also: The fried chicken sandwich is pretty awesome, and Trivia Night, every Tuesday, is a blast. 2247 Market Street
25. Learn some history at the country's only GLBT History Museum
It's in the Castro, it only opened a couple of years ago, they feature rotating exhibits from the GLBT Historical Society's archives.
26. See some gay comedy in the Mission
Every Thursday in June, the 99% Comedy Fest is happening at Esta Noche, hosted by local comedian Marga Gomez. There are different lineups each week, and on Thursday, June 27, Portland's Lez Stand Up comedy troupe will be coming to town.
27. Dance to some deep vintage disco at Tubesteak
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.
28. Taste some of Yigit Pura's pastry
The openly gay Top Chef Just Desserts chef opened the first of what will probably be multiple patisseries on the third floor of Macy's at Union Square last year, and his cookies, marshmallows, and cakes are whimsical and delicious. It's called Tout Sweet.
29. Eat well at 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 three-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
30. Watch some ironic drag at Sex & the City : Live
Local drag queen bee Heklina doesn't do a weekly Trannyshack party anymore, but she does star as Carrie in weekly reenactments of episodes of Sex & the City at Rebel (1760 Market Street). Get tickets here.
31. The Lexington Club
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, or any weekday after 5 pm. 3464 19th Street
32. Take your dog to Duboce Park
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.
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
34. Watch the 'Gayest Horror Movie Ever Made'
That's what Peaches Christ calls it anyway, and it's Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. Always a staple of the camp-obsessed drag star's long-running Midnight Mass series, the film is being shown at the Castro as part of Frameline this year, with a Peaches-hosted drag pre-show, and a pre-party across the street at Q Bar. An added bonus: One of the film's stars, Mark Patton, who dances shirtless in his bedroom before confronting Freddy, will be in attendance. Castro Theater, June 22, at midnight. Get info and tickets here.
35. Volunteer, or buy a T-shirt, at GLIDE
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 between June 9 and June 30.
36. Get crafty (and drunk) at 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 starting 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
37. Gay penguin play at New Conservatory
The city's gayest small theater is doing a play all about the gay penguins who adopted a chick together at the Central Park Zoo, and the hawks that hatched a chick on a trendy Manhattan apartment building around the same time.
38. Twin Peaks Tavern
Recently declared a city landmark for being the first gay bar in the city to feature big plate-glass windows to 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
The city's gayest, and gay-owned marijuana dispensary is in SoMa, and it's the only one in town with a woman 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.
40. Pride NightLife at the Academy of Sciences
The Thursday before Pride weekend has been a gay edition of the NightLife party at the Academy of Sciences for the last few years, but this one sounds like the biggest ever. It will include local drag queen hosts Glamamore, Heklina, Juanita More, and Peaches Christ, along with RuPaul’s Drag Race stars Pandora Boxx and Willam, all doing a drag show and “transpecies” costume contest. Plus, there will be talks by the founders of the Center for Sex and Culture, and in the plaza outside DJs Carnita and Brown Amy of Hard French will go up against DJs Pink Lightnight and Rapid Fire of Stay Gold. Thursday, June 27 at 6 pm. Get advance tickets here.
41. Party with the Radical Faeries
S.F.'s tribe of Radical Faeries tend to circle around Comfort & Joy, the Burning Man Camp and collective that throws regular "Touch" parties in town. See more info here.
42. Celebrate Heklina's birthday at Daytime Realness
On Sunday, June 16, the daytime party at El Rio known as Daytime Realness will be devoted to the hostess herself, Heklina. Expect tunes from DJs Stanley Frank, Robert Jeffrey, and Hard French's DJ Carnita. Also, there will be drag performances throughout the day, and a snack stand. 3158 Mission Street
43. Hear Rufus Wainwright at Davies Symphony Hall
The man whom Elton John called "the greatest songwriter on the planet at this moment" will be live in S.F. on June 9. Get tickets here.
44. Hear an audio war: Madonna vs. Lady Gaga
Bootie, the weekly party at DNA Lounge, is celebrating Pride weekend with one of the gayer themes of the year. It's a Madonna vs. Lady Gaga mashup party, and it promises to be rowdy, young, and fun. Saturday, June 29.
45. Shake your booty at Booty Call
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 Homo Erectus (see above). But there's a party that's been running for six years hosted by Juanita MORE!
46. Visit a long-ago gay landmark downtown
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
47. Sunday beer busts at the Eagle
They're every Sunday, and locals from all stripes are glad to have this patio back after a two-year hiatus. Each Sunday's all-you-can-drink beer fest benefits a different local charity. 398 12th Street
48. Watch Beach Blanket Babylon to Benefit the Gay Men's Chorus
For the first time ever this year, the San Francisco gay men's chorus teamed up with the cast of Beach Blanket Babylon for a one-time benefit performance. Now, on June 6, they've bought out the entire theater where the iconic S.F. show is performed, with ticket sales going to benefit the Chorus. Get one here.
49. Visit Alice B. Toklas Place
San Francisco named a street after Gertrude Stein's beloved (also famous for her cookbook, and brownies), and if nothing else it's good for an Instagram opportunity in this gayest of months. It's an alley between Geary and O'Farrell that runs for three blocks, between Franklin and Larkin.
50. The Juanita More Pride Party at Jones
Obviously, this list wouldn't be complete without the party that caps off Pride Season for a good segment of LGBT locals. This year's event benefits outLoud Radio, and tickets are available at Sui Generis (2231 Market Street). Limited online sales are here, on June 15. June 30, 620 Jones Street, noon to midnight.