A beacon for gay travelers and emigrés for over half a century, San Francisco needs no introduction as an LGBT landmark. However, while you may be familiar with San Francisco’s iconic reputation, you may be less familiar with the vibrant neighborhood of SOMA (South of Market Street). Resplendent with great eateries, hangouts and nightlife locales, SOMA has everything LGBT travelers headed to the city by the bay crave. And the best place to stay to make sure you’re close to the the action is the chic and modern W San Francisco.
We created the ultimate insider’s guide to checking out SOMA’s must-see hot spots and the city’s hidden gems off the beaten track, all while making the W your home base. Check it out below.
Head to AsiaSF for dinner and a show–the show being the restaurant and bar’s famous transgender stars, The Ladies of AsiaSF, strutting their stuff hourly atop a bar-turned-runway. DNA Lounge has a different scene for every day–from Goth night on Monday to Bootie night on Saturday–this spot is known for its drag shows and dancing. If you’re a live music lover, journey no further than The Warfield for a concert hall experience or Slim’s for Live Music for a more intimate vibe. OMG Lounge draws guests in with its underwear parties, happy hour, and dance floor underneath an audio-visual dome built to entrance you.
The Stud, one of San Francisco’s most iconic gay bars, is famous for its leather daddies but also plays host to furries, drag nights, lesbian punk-rock bands and more. For those with an anything-goes mentality and for serious fans of leather, check out Powerhouse and be prepared to leave your inhibitions at the door. If you’re looking to explore Old-School San Francisco, check in at Lone Star Saloon, popular among bears and once frequented by Harvey Milk. Hosting both live musicians and DJs, Beatbox is home to some of the city’s hottest dance parties. Housed in a completely renovated warehouse, Beatbox offers club-goers a private mezzanine, oversized bar and wood dance floor. The Cat Club, a favorite lesbian bar, also has plenty to entice you with two dance floors and a popular 80s night.
Start your stay at the W by dining at the hotel’s own TRACE Restaurant. An Open Table Diner’s Choice in 2014, TRACE fuses signature Bay Area cuisine with a commitment to responsible food and locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. The restaurant also features an “Energized Brunch” each Sunday with a Live DJ to amp things up. Head over to Marlowe Burger for scrumptious sandwiches and burgers. Simplicity is the name of the game here, with burgers being next to godliness. Housed in a 1917 brick and timber warehouse is 25 LUSK, a modern, elegant and inventive restaurant, lounge and bar with creative cuisine served in a romantic setting.
The rustic but chic Radius Café offers guests the choice of dining in the restaurant’s main dining room, casual-cool café, or outdoors on their sun-drenched patio. Radius delivers California cuisine with ingredients sourced from within a 100 mile radius. If you’re looking to party like a rock star but still maintain a sense of old world panache, go to Bergerac. Billed as equal parts craft cocktail bar and impromptu house party, Bergerac was inspired by the Villa Nellcote, an old French mansion where the Rolling Stones recorded “Exile on Main Street.” Bar Agricole offers a modern-minimalist take on craft cocktails and inventive, seasonally driven California dishes with a popular bunch that locals go nuts for.
For slightly more ethnic fare, try Fly Trap. Chef and owner Hoss Zaré serves up a Persian-accented California meets Mediterranean menu that is as flavorful and robust as Zaré’s personality.
Grab a cocktail in the W Living Room before you begin your exploration of SOMA, or head to the Upstairs Bar on Thursday nights for #TBT nights with throwback cocktails, beats and bites–all at throwback prices. Venturing into SOMA, check out Beach Blanket Babylon, the world’s longest running musical revue that is a satyrical send-up of the latest and hottest goings on in pop culture. For an actual beach, stroll along the sand or pop an umbrella at famous Baker Beach which offers picturesque views of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Or you can check out San Francisco’s “gay beach”, Dolores Park. On sunny weekends this place is packed with men in speedos soaking up some rays. Just across from the W is Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center. The center, which offers year-round ice-skating, is perfect for families. Baseball fans will want to check out AT&T Park and watch the World Champion San Francisco Giants play ball. A must see for food truck aficionados, SoMa StrEat Food Park has roughly 10 food trucks present at any time, covering a diverse assortment of cuisines. Vendors change daily so check back more than once while you’re in town. If leather, kink, and S&M are your thing, visit SOMA in September when the city plays host to leather and fetish enthusiasts from all over the world at its annual Folsom Street Fair. For a more musical festival experience, check out Outsidelands Music Festival in August that will feature Elton John, Sam Smith, The Black Keys, Kendrick Lamar, Mumford & Sons, among many others.