The Perfect Day in the Castro District: Make the Most of Your Day in this Colorful LGBT SF Neighborhood

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

The colorful Castro district always brings a smile to my face. The people are friendly, everyone has a great sense of humor and there are colors everywhere you look.

On my perfect day in this LGBT district, I like to visit Pink Triangle Park, learn about LGBT history at the local museum and enjoy meals at some of its top restaurants. I also have fun shopping in the stores and, of course, eating a yummy treat from Hot Cookie!

This tour is best on Wednesday - Sunday when the GLBT Historical Society Museum is open. 

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

10 am: Remember the LGBT Victims at Pink Triangle Park

Pink rocks in a triangle at the Pink Triangle Memorial Park in SF's Castro District.

A new addition to the Castro is Pink Triangle Park. This small park is a memorial to the almost 15,000 LGBT people that lost their lives during the Nazi Regime between 1933 and 1945.

Each pylon represents 1,000 people that died during this time.

Walk around the park and learn more about this terrible time in the LGBT community's history. Also, pick up a pink stone from the triangle on the ground (shown in the picture above) as a way to never forget about those that lost their lives.

10:30 am: Take Photos of Harvey Milk's Old Camera Shop

From Pink Triangle Park, walk down Castro Street to Harvey Milk's old camera shop.

One of the most famous residents of the Castro District is Harvey Milk. This political activist turned politician started his time in this district in his camera shop at 575 Castro Street.

Here you can read more about his time here on the informational write up on the door and windows.

Make sure you also look up for a small mural of Milk as well as down to see a plaque in the sidewalk in his honor.

11 am: Soak in the History of the Local Community at the GLBT Museum

After you visit the camera shop, walk down to 18th Street and head west a half a block to the GLBT Historical Society Museum.

This small museum dedicates its space to the history of important people in this community. You will also learn more about specific events in San Francisco that shaped this community.

In addition, you will find a small exhibit dedicated to Harvey Milk, so you can learn even more about this local hero.

A visit here takes between an hour to an hour and a half. Click here for a few pictures and more details on what to expect during your visit.

1 pm: Grab Lunch

You will find a variety of places to grab lunch along Castro Street. Here are a few options:

  • La Tortilla: Inexpensive Mexican food with a lively atmosphere, 495 Castro Street
  • Bhoga: Modern California/Indian food, 468 Castro Street
  • Marcello's Pizza: Pizza by the slice, 420 Castro Street
  • Orphan Andy's: Old school diner, 3991 17th Street

2 pm: Check Out the Neighborhood

A colorful mural on the side of a school in San Francisco's Castro District.

After you stuff yourself with a hearty Italian meal, I recommend walking around the neighborhood. It is one of the few districts that still has several gorgeous Victorians.

After lunch, I recommend walking up hill to 19th Street. Take your time to admire the beautiful homes along the way.

Take a right on 19th Street and walk one block to the school on 19th and Collingswood. This is where you will see a few beautiful murals supporting the local community (including the one in the photo above).

Continue down 19th Street and take a right on Diamond. Off to your right, you will see another colorful mural on the side of one of the buildings.

Continue down Diamond Street and take another right on 18th Street. On this block, you will see a few more Victorians as well as some local shops.

3 pm: Shop in the Funky Neighborhood Stores

At this point, I recommend spending a little time in these fun, local stores. One of my favorites is "Does Your Mother Know." They have some interesting items throughout their store. You'll find them at 4141 18th Street.

If you are hungry for a sweet treat, then I recommend stopping by Hot Cookie at 407 Castro Street. They have some of the best cookies in town!

5 pm: Grab a Drink at Harvey's

When you are ready to sit down for a while, head over to Harvey's on the corner of Castro and 18th Street. This gay bar welcomes everyone and is a great place to do some people watching.

The original name for this bar was The Elephant. In its early days, Harvey Milk and his friends often frequented this bar.

After it burned down in the mid-1990s, the owners decided to reopen it under its new name "Harvey's" to honor Milk for everything he did for the neighborhood.

They have different specials throughout the week on both drinks and food.

You can also grab some pub food such as burgers and fries. Their all-day menu includes Chicken Wings, Turkey Sliders and Garlic Fries.

6:30 pm: End the Day with Dinner at a Local Restaurant

If you didn't have dinner at Harvey's, here are a few other options:

  • Fable (New American) at 558 Castro Street
  • Canela Bistro & Wine Bar (Spanish, Tapas) at 2272 Market Street
  • Anchor Oyster Bar (Seafood) at 579 Castro Street

How to Get to the Start of Your Adventure

It's easy to get to the Castro from both Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf.

From Union Square, you will head to the underground train station at Powell and Market Streets. Pick up the K, M or L trains and take them to the Castro Street Station.

Walk across Market Street (away from the rainbow flag) and you will find the small Pink Triangle Park near the corner of Market and Castro Streets.

From Fisherman's Wharf, take the F Streetcar all the way to the Castro. Pick it up on the corner of Beach and Mason Streets. Get off at the 17th and Castro Street stop. From there, you will walk to the northwest corner of Market and Castro Streets to find the park.

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

Suggested Itinerary for Castro District

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