San Francisco is notoriously the West Coast’s center for LGBT arts, culture, and nightlife. The best place to scope out San Franciscan locals and tourists alike are at the various hotspots sprinkled around town- the gays are not just in the Castro anymore! Bring your gay friends and lovers from near and far to party up, boogie down, and show your prideful colors at our top ten San Francisco gay bars and clubs.
Wild Side West
Wild Side West is the neighborhood bar of the notorious lesbian neighborhood Bernal Heights. The interior resembles an old-style saloon, complete with a wooden structure, mismatched collection of tables and chairs for card playing, and lots of silly knickknacks hanging overhead. There are even couple of pool tables and television sets adorning the walls. With a friendly wait staff and a beautiful outdoor space that includes lower- and upper-level patios and a shrubbery and sculpture garden, this is a great place to spend any late afternoon!
Twin Peaks is one of the most famous bars on the Castro. This gem sits right on the Corner of Market and Castro, and beautiful glass windows all around allow you to people watch in this colorful neighborhood. The atmosphere here is very comfortable so it is easy to sit and talk with friends whether they are people you just meet and people you have known for years! If you are looking for a place that is laid back and fun, Twin Peaks is the place for you.
Cheap drinks and a prime location have started to make Qbar a sensation in the Castro, with its no-frills attitude and grungy garage glamorous feel. Each night offers a different flavor, with WANTED on Mondays, Girls Night on Tuesdays, and Booty Call on Wednesdays. This is even before weekend events kick in! This is an excellent place to get your drink on and head out to the dance floor, for there is never a dull moment at this Castro hotspot.
The Lex is full of personality! This is a dive bar with all kinds of exciting knick-knacks inside- walk in to find a jukebox, a full bar, and the friendliest of bar tenders. The quirky atmosphere offers plenty to see and do, and it is an extremely pleasant place to enjoy an afternoon. Lexington Club is notorious for its lesbian clientele, so ladies: come out and play!
Black Bird offers high-end cocktails and mature, sophisticated crowds. This is a fresh spot to see and be seen, especially during the daytime when crowds are minimal. It is worth it to go on weekends just for the people-watching though, for Black Bird patrons tend to be classy and spiffed up! With exciting specials and posh drinks on the menu, this classy San Fran gem has quite the wonderful vibe waiting to be experienced.
From day one, Trigger has been a very happening spot to go for drinks, great DJ’s, the best gogo boys & girls in the Castro, and a guaranteed good time on weekends! Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the best nights to check out Trigger for this is when the true party animals come out to show their colors. For dance floor divas and guys who like to boogie down, Trigger is the place to be.
The Cafe is teetering between the 2nd & 3rd most popular spot to go in the Castro, in close competition with Trigger that sits right across the street. I must admit that the Cafe bartenders know how to make a mean drink though. Since it’s grand re-opening, after an extensive renovation, in June 2009, The Cafe has really done a great job at pulling in the crowds again. The renovation made more space on the dancefloor, added more lounge areas, and gave us pretty flashing lights. Thursday & Friday nights are usually the busiest nights at the Cafe.
Moby Dick’s is an excellent place to grab some cheap beers and have a good conversation. If pool is your game, you can join in one of the nonstop pool games with some of the SF locals- you might even catch the occasional pool tournament from time to time! The signature fish tank that is perched above the bar is a huge point of attraction for attendees- not to mention the great variety of music and videos playing in the background of this wonderful setting. This is an excellent place to just shoot the breeze while sipping on some cold drinks.
Badlands is undoubtedly the most popular bar in the Castro district of San Francisco. This the oldest standing bar in the Castro, and it is one of the only bars that has a nice sized dance floor and plays music videos on it’s multiple televisions throughout the bar. This bar and club not only draws in locals, but also attracts various tourists from all areas. If you like to dance off your alcohol, this is the place to hit the dance floor!
The Cinch is an excellent Nob Hill/Polk respite for the Castro-weary. This venue is very friendly, relaxed with plenty of pool tables, and pinball machines. The atmosphere here is more hang-out than rock-out, and the drinks that come from the mile-long bar are potent. The best thing about The Cinch is the allegedly strongest Bloody Mary in the Bay Area.
For great places to stay while exploring our top ten picks, check out our San Francisco accommodations!