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Map: The Castro's Most Significant Queer Locations

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As early as the Barbary Coast days, the city has also been known to be famously gay. This identity would be neither as strong nor as powerful were it not for the Castro neighborhood.

Watering holes like Twin Peaks Tavern and the Missouri Mule became safe spaces and meeting grounds; local shops like Castro Cameras and Orphan Andy's became beacons of activism. The communality of the Castro provided a platform for political reach that extended beyond the neighborhood, as made evident by the mobilization around the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

Today, even as the city undergoes its own identity crisis, the Castro's LGBTQ history can still be felt in almost every shop, every cafe, every eatery. We rounded up the most locations in the neighborhood that have contributed to the importance and stronghold of queer identity.

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1. Castro Camera

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575 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Operated by Harvey Milk from 1972 to 1978, the store became the center of the neighborhood's growing gay community. It was more than a camera shop in that it offered support to those who moved to and lived in San Francisco in search of freedom to openly express their sexual identity, and was also headquarters for Milk's various campaigns for elected office. Later turned into a much-missed toiletry store, it is now the HRC's San Francisco's office.

2. Twin Peaks Tavern

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401 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 864-9470
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3. Star Pharmacy

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498 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 861-3136

Nurse and early AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell used the front window of this pharmacy to post a flyer in 1981 warning the community of "Gay Cancer”—because neither the local nor national government would sound the alarm—showing photos of lesions caused by Kaposi sarcoma (the rare cancer was found to be a result of HIV's toll on the immune system). Star Pharmacy closed in 1985, but the Walgreens across the street has erected a commemorative plaque in honor of Campbell and those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.

4. Castro Theatre

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429 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 864-5000
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The theater opened June 22, 1922, and is the crown jewel of the neighborhood. It’s also home to the annual Frameline LGBT Film Festival, countless sing-a-longs, and Peaches Christ's iconic movie screenings.

5. Cafe Flore

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2298 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-8579
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A photo posted by RentSFNow (@rentsfnow) on

6. Pendulum

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4146 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 863-4441
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As open and tolerant as the neighborhood is, the LGBTQ community has always had issues with race. This famous bar was a regular for gay men of color who didn't feel welcome at other predominately white clubs. It closed in 2005.

7. Castro Country Club

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4058 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 552-6102

Since opening in 1983, the club has served as a clean and sober gathering place for the community. In addition to holding AA, OA, and CMA meetings, they have drag nights, a gorgeous patio, and friendly faces galore.

8. Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint

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3583 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

The cabaret ran for a decade from 1988 to 1998 as a platform for comic voices, drag shows, and activist cabaret in the gay community. Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Cho, Marga Gomez, and Lipsynka used to grace the stage here, just to name a few. It is now Starbelly, a popular brunch spot.

9. The Elephant Walk

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500 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

One of the originals in the neighborhood, the Elephant opened in November 27, 1974. The bar was a favorite of Harvey Milk, who praised it as “a place where the gay community could meet and feel safe and secure.” The bar closed in 1988 after a fire, but was reopened and renamed as Harvey’s. At the corner of 18th and Castro, it is smack-dab in the heart of the neighborhood and impossible to miss.

10. Bank of America

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501 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

The plaza in front of the Bank of America is the most spacious piece of sidewalk on Castro and, being on the east side of the street, it gets lots of sun in the afternoon. You’ll see people taking in the sun and dancing in front of the bank at all hours of the day, a tradition that started in the early '80s. The corner is also the spot of protests and a beacon for activism.

11. Harvey Milk's House

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573-575 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Milk lived above his camera store from 1975 until his death in 1978. The residence is now a historic landmark for the city of San Francisco.

12. Missouri Mule

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2344 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Rough, casual, and sparsely decorated, the first gay bar in the Castro opened pre-Stonewall way back in 1963. Over the next few decades, approximately 30 more gay bars and shops opened around the Mule. Since undergoing seven name changes—including the much-missed and sexually charged Detour—the bar is now the considerably more glammed up Beaux.

13. Harvey Milk Plaza

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Castro St
San Francisco, CA

Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office, and fought tirelessly for the rights of minorities in San Francisco and beyond. The plaza in his honor boasts a giant rainbow flag, visible all the way down Market Street.Photo by Lauren Conklin

14. Pink Triangle Park and Memorial

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Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

This powerful memorial honors the thousands of persecuted homosexuals in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. What's more, it is the only freestanding monument in the U.S. to do so.

15. Hartford Street Zen Center

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57 Hartford St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 863-2507
Visit Website

The Buddhist Hospice for those battling HIV/AIDS was opened in 1981 by former drag queen Reverend Isaan Dorsey (who died from the disease in 1990), but the Center still remains as an open and supportive community for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations to practice Buddhism or attend the occasional (free!) meditation class. Photo by Lauren Conklin

16. Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church

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100 Diamond St
San Francisco, CA 94114

The parish extended open arms throughout the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco, offering weekly support groups and sermons throughout the '80s specifically for people of the LGBTQ community. It's also a great place of worship for those who want a less fire-and-brimstone kind of spot to get holy. Photo by Lauren Conklin

17. The Mint

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1942 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 626-4726
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Originally known as a lesbian bar, the Mint is now open to all types of crowds and is one of the most famous Karaoke spots in the city. Starting in 1972, the Mint was the last stop of a charity bar to bar tricycle crawl for those dressed in drag, a tradition that has been revived by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, with the addition of the Hunky Jesus contest at the end of the race. Photo by Lauren Conklin

18. Jose Theater/Names Project

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2362 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

In 1986, San Francisco-based activist Cleve Jones created the first panel of what was to become the AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman. The Quilt numbered 40 panels when it first appeared at the 1987 San Francisco Pride Parade. It now goes up to a half a million panels. The former Names Project building is now a seafood restaurant called Catch, but is registered as one of three of the historic landmarks in San Francisco that honor the LGBT community. (The other two are Twin Peaks bar and the Castro Camera/Milk residence.)Photo via John Matney

19. Eros

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2051 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Though the city shut down all bathhouses in 1984, under pressure from then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, Eros remained and still operates today. While it no longer has private rooms, it does feature a sauna, showers, and steam room in the open and sunny first floor. Have fun. Photo by Lauren Conklin

20. Orphan Andy's

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3991 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 864-9795

Owners Dennis Ziebell and Bill Pung have been operating this Castro staple for almost 40 years. Ziebell originally owned Andy’s Donuts, one of the few 24-hour restaurants in the Castro, so naturally the place became a focal point for the neighborhood. Along with partner Pung, they eventually moved over to Orphan Andy’s, and the old-school diner has been a place to congregate and meet-up throughout the decades. Ideal for post-2AM snacking. Photo by Lauren Conklin

21. Toad Hall

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482 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

It was the first gay bar in the neighborhood to allow same-sex dancing—at least up until the police noticed they didn’t have the required dance permit. The Toad Hall bar on 18th is not the original location. Opening in 1971, it closed in 1979, becoming DJs and later the Phoenix, before being turned into an expansion for Walgreens.Via Max Kirkeberg Collection

22. GLBT History Museum

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4127 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Referred to by some as San Francisco’s “queer Smithsonian,” the society maintains an extensive archival collection of materials relating to the history of queerdom in the United States, with a focus on the LGBT communities of San Francisco and Northern California. The museum in the Castro showcases this extensive history of LGBT life in the city from 1940 until today.Photo by Lauren Conklin

23. Leonard Matlovich Rainbow Flag Mural

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18th St & Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

Mr. Matlovich, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, challenged the ban on gays in the military when he came out on the cover of the 1975 TIME Magazine under the headline “I am a homosexual”. The plaque and large flag outside his residence pays homage to his bravery, well ahead of its time. Photo by Lauren Conklin

24. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club

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2370 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

In 1971, when the Alice B. Toklas Club and others like it (e.g., the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society) were just beginning, homosexuality was still registered as a pathology by the American Psychiatric Association. The political club became a source of professional advocators working from the inside to boost leaders such as Harvey Milk, Mark Leno, and Dianne Feinstein. It is now one of two LGBT clubs who love to battle it out with each other—the other being the Harvey Milk Democratic Club.Photo by Lauren Conklin

1. Castro Camera

575 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Operated by Harvey Milk from 1972 to 1978, the store became the center of the neighborhood's growing gay community. It was more than a camera shop in that it offered support to those who moved to and lived in San Francisco in search of freedom to openly express their sexual identity, and was also headquarters for Milk's various campaigns for elected office. Later turned into a much-missed toiletry store, it is now the HRC's San Francisco's office.

575 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

2. Twin Peaks Tavern

401 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114
401 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

3. Star Pharmacy

498 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Nurse and early AIDS activist Bobbi Campbell used the front window of this pharmacy to post a flyer in 1981 warning the community of "Gay Cancer”—because neither the local nor national government would sound the alarm—showing photos of lesions caused by Kaposi sarcoma (the rare cancer was found to be a result of HIV's toll on the immune system). Star Pharmacy closed in 1985, but the Walgreens across the street has erected a commemorative plaque in honor of Campbell and those who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.

498 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

4. Castro Theatre

429 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

The theater opened June 22, 1922, and is the crown jewel of the neighborhood. It’s also home to the annual Frameline LGBT Film Festival, countless sing-a-longs, and Peaches Christ's iconic movie screenings.

429 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

5. Cafe Flore

2298 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

A photo posted by RentSFNow (@rentsfnow) on

2298 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

6. Pendulum

4146 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

As open and tolerant as the neighborhood is, the LGBTQ community has always had issues with race. This famous bar was a regular for gay men of color who didn't feel welcome at other predominately white clubs. It closed in 2005.

4146 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

7. Castro Country Club

4058 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Since opening in 1983, the club has served as a clean and sober gathering place for the community. In addition to holding AA, OA, and CMA meetings, they have drag nights, a gorgeous patio, and friendly faces galore.

4058 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

8. Josie's Cabaret and Juice Joint

3583 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

The cabaret ran for a decade from 1988 to 1998 as a platform for comic voices, drag shows, and activist cabaret in the gay community. Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Cho, Marga Gomez, and Lipsynka used to grace the stage here, just to name a few. It is now Starbelly, a popular brunch spot.

3583 16th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

9. The Elephant Walk

500 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

One of the originals in the neighborhood, the Elephant opened in November 27, 1974. The bar was a favorite of Harvey Milk, who praised it as “a place where the gay community could meet and feel safe and secure.” The bar closed in 1988 after a fire, but was reopened and renamed as Harvey’s. At the corner of 18th and Castro, it is smack-dab in the heart of the neighborhood and impossible to miss.

500 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

10. Bank of America

501 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

The plaza in front of the Bank of America is the most spacious piece of sidewalk on Castro and, being on the east side of the street, it gets lots of sun in the afternoon. You’ll see people taking in the sun and dancing in front of the bank at all hours of the day, a tradition that started in the early '80s. The corner is also the spot of protests and a beacon for activism.

501 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

11. Harvey Milk's House

573-575 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Milk lived above his camera store from 1975 until his death in 1978. The residence is now a historic landmark for the city of San Francisco.

573-575 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

12. Missouri Mule

2344 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Rough, casual, and sparsely decorated, the first gay bar in the Castro opened pre-Stonewall way back in 1963. Over the next few decades, approximately 30 more gay bars and shops opened around the Mule. Since undergoing seven name changes—including the much-missed and sexually charged Detour—the bar is now the considerably more glammed up Beaux.

2344 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

13. Harvey Milk Plaza

Castro St, San Francisco, CA

Milk was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office, and fought tirelessly for the rights of minorities in San Francisco and beyond. The plaza in his honor boasts a giant rainbow flag, visible all the way down Market Street.Photo by Lauren Conklin

Castro St
San Francisco, CA

14. Pink Triangle Park and Memorial

Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

This powerful memorial honors the thousands of persecuted homosexuals in Nazi Germany during the Holocaust. What's more, it is the only freestanding monument in the U.S. to do so.

Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

15. Hartford Street Zen Center

57 Hartford St, San Francisco, CA 94114

The Buddhist Hospice for those battling HIV/AIDS was opened in 1981 by former drag queen Reverend Isaan Dorsey (who died from the disease in 1990), but the Center still remains as an open and supportive community for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations to practice Buddhism or attend the occasional (free!) meditation class. Photo by Lauren Conklin

57 Hartford St
San Francisco, CA 94114

16. Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church

100 Diamond St, San Francisco, CA 94114

The parish extended open arms throughout the HIV/AIDS crisis in San Francisco, offering weekly support groups and sermons throughout the '80s specifically for people of the LGBTQ community. It's also a great place of worship for those who want a less fire-and-brimstone kind of spot to get holy. Photo by Lauren Conklin

100 Diamond St
San Francisco, CA 94114

17. The Mint

1942 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102

Originally known as a lesbian bar, the Mint is now open to all types of crowds and is one of the most famous Karaoke spots in the city. Starting in 1972, the Mint was the last stop of a charity bar to bar tricycle crawl for those dressed in drag, a tradition that has been revived by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, with the addition of the Hunky Jesus contest at the end of the race. Photo by Lauren Conklin

1942 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94102

18. Jose Theater/Names Project

2362 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

In 1986, San Francisco-based activist Cleve Jones created the first panel of what was to become the AIDS Memorial Quilt in honor of his friend Marvin Feldman. The Quilt numbered 40 panels when it first appeared at the 1987 San Francisco Pride Parade. It now goes up to a half a million panels. The former Names Project building is now a seafood restaurant called Catch, but is registered as one of three of the historic landmarks in San Francisco that honor the LGBT community. (The other two are Twin Peaks bar and the Castro Camera/Milk residence.)Photo via John Matney

2362 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

19. Eros

2051 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Though the city shut down all bathhouses in 1984, under pressure from then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein, Eros remained and still operates today. While it no longer has private rooms, it does feature a sauna, showers, and steam room in the open and sunny first floor. Have fun. Photo by Lauren Conklin

2051 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114

20. Orphan Andy's

3991 17th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Owners Dennis Ziebell and Bill Pung have been operating this Castro staple for almost 40 years. Ziebell originally owned Andy’s Donuts, one of the few 24-hour restaurants in the Castro, so naturally the place became a focal point for the neighborhood. Along with partner Pung, they eventually moved over to Orphan Andy’s, and the old-school diner has been a place to congregate and meet-up throughout the decades. Ideal for post-2AM snacking. Photo by Lauren Conklin

3991 17th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

21. Toad Hall

482 Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

It was the first gay bar in the neighborhood to allow same-sex dancing—at least up until the police noticed they didn’t have the required dance permit. The Toad Hall bar on 18th is not the original location. Opening in 1971, it closed in 1979, becoming DJs and later the Phoenix, before being turned into an expansion for Walgreens.Via Max Kirkeberg Collection

482 Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

22. GLBT History Museum

4127 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Referred to by some as San Francisco’s “queer Smithsonian,” the society maintains an extensive archival collection of materials relating to the history of queerdom in the United States, with a focus on the LGBT communities of San Francisco and Northern California. The museum in the Castro showcases this extensive history of LGBT life in the city from 1940 until today.Photo by Lauren Conklin

4127 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94114

23. Leonard Matlovich Rainbow Flag Mural

18th St & Castro St, San Francisco, CA 94114

Mr. Matlovich, a Vietnam veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, challenged the ban on gays in the military when he came out on the cover of the 1975 TIME Magazine under the headline “I am a homosexual”. The plaque and large flag outside his residence pays homage to his bravery, well ahead of its time. Photo by Lauren Conklin

18th St & Castro St
San Francisco, CA 94114

24. Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club

2370 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94114

In 1971, when the Alice B. Toklas Club and others like it (e.g., the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society) were just beginning, homosexuality was still registered as a pathology by the American Psychiatric Association. The political club became a source of professional advocators working from the inside to boost leaders such as Harvey Milk, Mark Leno, and Dianne Feinstein. It is now one of two LGBT clubs who love to battle it out with each other—the other being the Harvey Milk Democratic Club.Photo by Lauren Conklin

2370 Market St
San Francisco, CA 94114