Closely associated with LGBTQ culture, San Francisco’s vibrant, brash Castro district is a lively neighborhood of shops, bars, rainbow flags, and hilly streets lined with impressively restored Victorian homes. Harvey Milk—California’s first openly gay elected official—was a famous Castro resident, honored here with Harvey Milk Plaza.
A significant Castro landmark, the GLBT Historical Society offers visitors a robust archive and three galleries. The Castro is also home to Pink Triangle Park, which includes a granite monument honoring members of the LGBTQ community murdered under the Nazis during World War II. The neighborhood boasts cafés, nightclubs, and historic buildings, including the Castro Theatre, which features a Spanish baroque facade.
Because of its great weather and cycling-friendly streets, the Castro is a great neighborhood for renting bikes to get around. Tours usually offer a choice between self-guided and guided tours, with half-day and full-day rates. Bus tours are also available, and some offer the option to add a sailing adventure or ride in a vintage minibus. Things to Know Before You Go
- To better understand the neighborhood's history, take an LGBTQ-themed walk exploring the Castro's political background.
- Adventure-seekers should consider helicopter tours to get a bird's-eye view.
- Photographers will appreciate the Harvey Milk Center—the largest community darkroom in the country.
- Wear comfortable shoes to enjoy walking around the hilly Castro.
How to Get There
San Francisco's Castro District is easy to access via the MUNI Metro system’s L, K, or M line. You can also choose the scenic route and take the storied F-Market streetcar. Hop on a historic streetcar at Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero, or Civic Center and travel above ground to the Castro. Close proximity to the Mission makes these good neighborhoods to visit together.
When to Get There
San Francisco is known for year-round pleasant weather, and autumn is often the sunniest season. If you arrive mid-October, you'll avoid peak summer tourism. The Castro is beautiful during the day, so visit early for brunch—for which the neighborhood is famous—or shopping. Restaurants and LGBTQ-friendly bars here are liveliest on weekend evenings. The Castro is particularly raucous around June’s Pride celebration and Halloween.
Mission Dolores Park
A short walk from the Castro in the Mission District, Mission Dolores Park is beloved among locals, the perfect spot for sipping a locally roasted coffee on a sunny afternoon. Find stunning views of the city from the park's Church Street side, nearest the Castro. Families will enjoy the park’s Helen Diller Playground, packed with slides and swings.