The Castro picture
Marco Simoni/Getty Images

Key Info

The Castro

Price & Hours

Free
24/7 daily

Details

Free, Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.4scorecard
  • 5.0Value
  • 3.5Food Scene
  • 4.0Atmosphere

If you want to explore San Francisco's rich gay and lesbian culture, the Castro neighborhood is its beating heart. Not only is the Castro the center of the city's LGBTQ community, but it's considered by many to be the gay capital of the world. And once you learn the Castro's history, it's easy to see why. In the 1970s, the Castro was home to Harvey Milk, California's first openly gay public official and one of the first in the USA. His steadfast efforts in the gay rights movement not only earned him the title the "Mayor of Castro Street," but his political efforts helped put San Francisco at the forefront of the gay rights movement. His former camera shop, Castro Camera, that also served as his campaign headquarters, still stands on Castro Street and now serves as a Human Rights Campaign retail shop.

Visitors found the Castro laid-back, fun and above all colorful, citing its friendly residents, plentiful amenities and striking aesthetics as its best assets.The neighborhood is lined with picturesque Victorian homes, previously built by immigrants who moved to the Castro in the 19th century seeking cheap land (the area was once a dairy farm). Travelers say a stop at Harvey Milk's old camera shop is a must, even if there is only a plaque commemorating his presence there now. Those wanting to delve further into the neighborhood's history should head on over to the GLBT Museum on 18th street. The unmissable Castro Theatre, situated along the neighborhood's main drag, is another neighborhood gem and a registered city landmark.

The neighborhood is also lauded for its lively dining and nightlife scene. Visitors recommended a visit to the delectable Hot Cookie, located on the same street as the Castro Theatre. There are also multiple 24-hour eateries available and as expected, loads of gay bars, including the Twin Peaks Tavern, considered a classic in the neighborhood. However, there are no bars in the Castro dedicated to lesbians. While the Castro is consistently praised for its overall safety, those traveling with kids might want to be mindful of the number of sex shops present in the neighborhood. 

Getting to the Castro is easy: You can take the F-Market & Wharves street car line, which picks up at many points of interest including Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf and Market Street near Union Square. Adult fares for a streetcar ride are $2.25 and $1 for youths and seniors. Several of the city's top walking tours also stop in the Castro. For more information about how to get to the Castro, consult the SFMTA

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California Academy of Sciences1 of 26
Golden Gate Bridge2 of 26
Type
Time to Spend
#1 California Academy of Sciences

Attention all traveling families: recent visitors said this is the perfect place to bring kids in San Francisco. The California Academy of Sciences brims with plenty of things to see, including an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum and even a rainforest. 

The Steinhart Aquarium is home to about 40,000 animals representing more than 900 different species, including a penguin colony from Africa, a swamp with an albino alligator, a shark lagoon and a separate 100,000-gallon tank that mirrors the ecosystem of the California coast. Meanwhile, the Osher Rainforest houses 1,600 animals, including 250 free-flying birds and about 100 reptiles and amphibians in its four-story complex. The Morrison Planetarium is known for its 75-foot-diameter screen, which screens "Tour of the Universe" shows daily. And the Kimball Natural History Museum boasts dinosaur fossils, an interactive science exhibit and a unique earthquake simulator. 

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