Visiting the city of San Francisco is truly a treat, from the moment it welcomes you as you drive over the iconic Golden Gate bridge. San Francisco, which is Spanish for Saint Francis, is the leading financial and cultural center of Northern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. It was founded on June 29, 1776, when Spanish colonists established a fort and a mission named after St. Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush of 1849, from which the city’s football team gets its name, pushed the city into a period of rapid growth, making it into one of the largest cities on the West Coast. During the 1960s it became ground zero for the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, marking San Francisco as a center of liberal activism.
The city still has a tremendous homosexual population, making it a great place to stay if you’re gay. You can take a trip back in gay history at the Castro Theatre, an iconic movie palace dating back to the 1920s that houses small, independent films. There’s also the San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender gathering in the nation, centered at the foot of San Francisco’s historic city hall, where Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, once stood and addressed the gay community over thirty years ago. It’s a gathering of exhibitors, artists, and performers that could only happen in San Francisco.
To learn about San Francisco’s gay history and culture, take a two-hour tour that winds through one of the city’s most famous districts. Or come out to Dolores Park, nicknamed the gay beach and one of the most popular parks in San Francisco. It is located at the intersection the Castro, Mission District and Noe Valley, and is known for its spectacular views of the city.
And one can’t forget the gay club scene, with nightclubs in every genre to suit a variety of tastes. They include The Lookout, Yoshi’s Jazz Club & Japanese Restaurant, the California Academy of Sciences Nightlife, the Badlands, The Rrazz Room at Hotel Nikko, and Harry Denton’s Starlight Room.
If you’re straight, San Francisco has lots to see and do as well. You can enjoy some of the finest cuisine and wine in this epicenter of epicurean delights, and check out some culture at Palace of Fine Arts. There are diverse neighborhood festivals to enjoy, featuring live music and fun. You can see San Francisco from a seat on a double-decker bus tour, or ride a cable car for fun. You can visit the largest Chinatown outside of Asia for some cheap souvenirs and great food. Or you can take a ferry ride to The Rock, also known as Alcatraz Island, which once housed a lighthouse, a military fortification, a military prison in 1868, and a federal prison from 1933 until 1963. During that time, it held some of the most dangerous and infamous criminals in the U.S., including Al Capone. In 1972 Alcatraz became a national recreation area, and it became a National Historic Landmark in 1986.
And there is a straight nightlife too, with live music, bars and lounges for every taste, huge dance clubs and stand-up comedy venues.