Pride Guide: How to Celebrate in San Francisco

Navigating the LGBT festivities and the Castro neighborhood

In 1969, a series of spontaneous riots at New York City bar the Stonewall Inn sparked a national conversation about civil rights by highlighting the long-simmering tensions between the pub’s largely gay, lesbian and transgender clientele and the police. The following year, an American tradition was born. To celebrate the slow but sure victories in the fight for LGBT equality, the nation’s first Pride parades took over main thoroughfares in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City in 1970.

Pride Parade in San Francisco

San Francisco Pride, now in its 45th year, is a weekend-long affair (June 27-28). Official festivities celebrating this year’s theme, “Equality Without Exception,” commence in Civic Center on Saturday, June 27 at noon and continue until 6 pm. On Sunday, June 28, the festivities go from 11 am-6 pm. Unofficial celebrations take over large swaths of the city, with parties filling the streets of the historically LGBT neighborhood, the Castro.

On Sunday, the Pride Parade kicks off at 10:30 am, moving up Market Street from Beale to 8th. Tickets to sit on the grandstand are $40 in advance, but it’s free to line up along the parade route and position yourself for a view from the sidewalk. If the crowds are too fabulous for you to handle, follow the festivities on social media with the #MyPride hashtag.

The Castro

The Castro became a full-fledged LGBT mecca by the 1960s, cementing its status during the Summer of Love in 1967. In the 1970s, before he became California’s first openly gay publicly elected official, Harvey Milk owned a camera store on Castro Street. Today, the area is still home to numerous LGBT-friendly (and often LGBT owned and operated) businesses and bars. If you see a billowing rainbow flag and rainbow pedestrian crosswalks, you know you’re in the heart of inclusivity, and probably near a good party.

Mekong Kitchen

With its vibrant nightlife scene and historic LGBT landmarks, the Castro is an obvious spot to celebrate Pride weekend away from (or in addition to) the official parade route. It’s also full of filling food and thirst-quenching cocktails, all served with a side of eye candy. Start your day with some Millionaire’s Bacon at Kitchen Story, or grab a coffee from local favorite Philz. Sweets from Thorough Bread and Pastry are best for a quick bite on the go. The new Mekong Kitchen serves comforting Vietnamese pho and noodles with a creative spin. For California comfort food, head to Starbelly and ask for a cozy corner table on the back patio. If you’re craving high-end contemporary fare, check out Fable or Frances.