San Francisco has long been an iconic getaway destination for LGBT travelers. Describing the city’s elysian quality, famed columnist Herb Caen once wrote, “One day if I go to heaven…I’ll look around and say, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.'” Indeed, for natives and visitors alike, San Francisco is a deity to be worshipped, a lover almost impossible to leave. The home of Harvey Milk’s movement, the Castro, entrancing gay nightlife, vivacious culture, and nicknamed the “gay capital of the world”, it’s no wonder the LGBT community has flocked to San Francisco for almost one hundred years.
Conveniently located in the city’s downtown district, the Hilton San Francisco Union Square provides the perfect home base from which to explore all that LGBT travelers seek in the city by the bay. Guests can enjoy proximity to attractions such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and the Marina, along with easy access to public transportation such as MUNI, BART and the famous cable cars at this central San Francisco hotel. Travelers can take in stunning views of the city’s skyline with the hotel’s newly renovated Skyline Bay View rooms as well as kick back and relax at the hotel’s sparkling outdoor pool and whirlpool spa located on the 16th floor deck.
A longtime supporter of the LGBT community, Hilton now offers LGBT travelers a special Stay Hilton. Go Out package, which includes:
- High-speed internet access
- A one-year digital subscription to OUT magazine – one of the world’s leading gay magazines
- Two welcome beverages
- Late checkout when available
We pulled together a perfect weekend itinerary to help you navigate the best that this one-of-a-kind city has to offer. Check it out below:
For classic San Francisco, check out mainstay Zuni in Hayes Valley. Known for slow cooked Mediterranean fare and brick oven chicken, you’ll also want to check out the wine list here. Nearby, Absinthe offers Paris in the heart of San Francisco. Locals go mad for the croque madame and Absinthe’s creative cocktails. Experience festive farm-to-table dining at State Bird Provisions in Fillmore. With adventurous offerings such as curry clams, nori crostini, pork belly grape salad, and duck liver mousse, this dim-sum meets fine-dining joint is routinely packed. For Vietnamese, head to the “apex of modern Vietnamese cuisine”, The Slanted Door in Embarcadero’s Ferry Building (above right). Sample sophisticated dishes while taking in expansive bay views. For something more casual but still bustling, try Café Flore. Located in the Castro, Flore offers eclectic American fare, great people watching and outdoor dining.
To satisfy your sweet tooth, check out local institution Bi-Rite Creamery in the Mission District. This sweet shop has lines that extend out the door, but connoisseurs will tell you it’s worth the wait. Smitten (left) in Hayes Valley offers made-to-order scoops crafted from a unique liquid nitrogen process that one reviewer describes as “heavenly.” For buttery baked goods too good to resist, head to Tartine. Described as “everyone’s favorite bakery,” Tartine serves up decadent morning buns, croissants, and hot-pressed sandwiches and incredible cappuccino.
For that sports bar vibe, head to the city’s first gay sports establishment, Hi Tops (right). This raucous bar is packed all weekend long and gets crowded on weeknights with softball leagues and sports fans packing in to watch the game. The Castro’s Blackbird is known for its diverse crowd. With an old-world feel (think Edison bulbs), a games room, and photobooth, there’s more than craft cocktails and quality wines to lure you in. Leather men will want to check out biker bar the Eagle Tavern. Head to the beer bust on Sunday and watch the fur fly.
SoMa’s Powerhouse offers a different theme each night, a (usually) shirtless crowd and house beats to make you move. Fans of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City will recognize The Stud as one of San Francisco’s most storied bars. Thanks to a special late night license, this landmark stays open til 4 AM. Twin Peaks Tavern, the world’s oldest gay bar, is known for its panoramic glass windows from which you can ‘watch the world go by’ while you sample the bar’s wares. Head here for a nightcap when you actually want to hear your plus-one talk.
For designer menswear and the best in grooming and beauty, head to Rolo (left). With two locations (the Castro and SoMa), Rolo has been known as a must-stop shop for shopaholics since it opened in 1986. Head to Body on Castro Street for great T-shirts, sneakers and funky accessories.
The Castro Theater, a famed movie palace and city landmark, is home to to the annual Frameline Film Festival and regularly shows arthouse and cult classics alike on the big screen. At the stunning Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, you can take in one of the most comprehensive collections of Asian art in the world. Pop over to nearby City Hall and witness the home to many battles in the fight for LGBT civil rights as well as countless gay weddings (the architecture isn’t bad either).
In Golden Gate Park, just a stone’s throw from the Hilton, you’ll discover the California Academy of Sciences. With over 26 million specimens, this natural history museum is one of the world’s largest. The museum was completely rebuilt in 2008 and has many stunning exhibits including the Amazonian flooded forest (right).
Also in Golden Gate Park is the Japanese Tea Garden. Originally built as part of 1894’s World’s Fair, this tea garden is the oldest Japanese garden in the U.S. and is renowned for its beauty.
If you’re looking to take in views of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, look no further than Marshall Beach.
Those itching to get out of the city and explore the Northern California countryside will want to go wine tasting in the Napa or Sonoma valleys, hiking in Muir Woods National Monument or escape down the rugged California Coast to Monterey and Carmel.