Since the 1970s, the Castro has acted as the city’s center of gay life and nightlife in the city—though with society’s changing norms, gay life has become less centralized (some might say less ghettoized) over the years. For some gay travelers, this is still The Place to Be, especially on a festival weekend, when the streets are filled with out-and-proud revelry; for others, the neighborhood is a quaint relic of the past to be visited occasionally (while shielding their children’s eyes from the sex toys in the shop windows). For other San Franciscans and many travelers, it’s a fun area with some wonderful shops.
Gays and lesbians make up a good portion of San Francisco’s population, so it’s no surprise that clubs and bars all over town cater to them. Although lesbian interests are concentrated primarily in the East Bay (especially Oakland), a significant community resides in the Mission District, around 16th and Valencia streets, in Hayes Valley, and Bernal Heights.
Several local publications concentrate on in-depth coverage of news, information, and listings of goings-on around town for gays and lesbians. The “Bay Area Reporter” (www.ebar.com) has the most comprehensive listings, including a weekly calendar of events. Distributed free on Thursday, it can be found stacked at the corner of 18th and Castro streets and at Ninth and Harrison streets, as well as in bars, bookshops, and stores around town. It may also be available in gay and lesbian bookstores elsewhere in the country.
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 954/630-1637; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses and tour operators. Purple Roofs (www.purpleroofs.com) lists gay-friendly hotels, B&B’s, travel agents, and tour operators. San Francisco Travel (www.sanfrancisco.travel/lgbt) has put together LGBT itineraries, and can help you plan your wedding in the city. Gay.com Travel (www.gay.com) owns Out Traveler (www.outtraveler.com). Both provide regularly updated information about gay-owned, gay-oriented, and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every popular destination worldwide, including, of course, San Francisco. Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. San Francisco–based Now.Voyager (www.nowvoyager.com) has been making travel arrangements for the LGBT community for nearly 30 years. Olivia (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) offers lesbian cruises and resort vacations, as well as airline discounts. The Canadian website GayTraveler (www.gaytraveler.com) offers ideas and advice for gay travel all over the world. For travel guides, try “Spartacus International Gay Guide” (Bruno Gmünder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide), or the Damron guides (www.damron.com), both with separate, annual books for gay men and lesbians. San Francisco Pride (www.sfpride.org/travel) is another good resource for LGBT friendly travel in the city. For more gay and lesbian travel resources, visit Frommers.com.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.