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El Rio
Photograph: Flickr/Amy Halverson El Rio

The best LGBTQ spots in San Francisco to celebrate Pride

Queer spaces where you can feel out and proud all year long.

By Shoshi Parks

To toast Pride, we crown the Bay’s best LGBTQ-friendly clubs, shops, shows and other spots.

Best LGBTQ spots in San Francisco

The Stud
Photograph: Alyssa Pereira

Best club: The Stud

Bars SoMa

This illustrious SoMa go-to has drawn queer celebrities to its stage and dance floor for more than 50 years. In addition to the balls-to-the-wall parties, the Stud hosts free karaoke on Tuesday, happy-hour drag shows on Friday and burlesque on the reg. Best of all, when the clock strikes 2am, you can still party: A special late-night license allows the doors to stay open
until 4am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photograph: Gareth Gooch, Courtesy Oasis

Best drag show: Mother at Oasis

Nightlife SoMa

Cofounded by the beloved queens Heklina and D’Arcy Drollinger, Oasis hosts a ton of shows, including its ever-popular interpretations of Sex and the City, The Golden Girls, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other TV series. But for purists, it is Oasis’ weekly Saturday revue, Mother, that really hums. The comedy
show is different each time but always electric, with performers channeling everything from Disney princesses to A-list
pop stars.

The LookOut
Photograph: Yelp/Nicholas G

Best drag brunch: Lips & Lashes at the Lookout

Duck into the Lookout for a weekly circus that’s packed with burlesque, illusions, song, dance and grub. Drag queen Carnie Asada hosts the no-cover party, which begins with food and specialty cocktails at noon before exploding into a raucous queer variety show at 1:30pm.

Best sex shop: Rock Hard

Shopping Sex shops The Castro

Need to spice things up in the bedroom? Rock Hard stands out from the rest, thanks to its welcoming atmosphere and eye-popping assortment of sex toys, bondage accessories, strap-ons and lube.

A red lit dance floor with photos of breasts papering the walls
Photograph: Jolene's/Yelp/Nicholas G.

Best lesbian bar: Jolene's

Bars Mission

In December, Jolene’s opened its loving arms to the lesbian and queer community in the former Darger Bar–Dear Mom space on 16th Street. The self-styled “safe space” is modern in design, with a large front room that boasts booths, a pool table and plenty of bar seating, plus an alcove at the back for chilling. The dance floor, brightly lit and papered in tasteful black-and-white photos of breasts, thumps to the beats of DJs on Friday and Saturday nights.

El Rio
Photograph: Courtesy Creative Commons/Flickr/Amy Halverson

Best patio: El Rio

Bars Dive bars Bernal Heights

There are a handful of sweet outdoor queer hangs, but our favorite has to be this large, light-strung, plant-laden backyard in Bernal Heights. Most afternoons, you can spend seven hours of happiness with $5 cocktails that will help fuel your attempt to win the outdoor Ping-Pong competition. On Fridays at 5:30pm,
the bar breaks out the free oysters.

Aunt Charlie's Lounge
Photograph: Courtesy Alyssa Pereira

Best sing-a-long bar: Aunt Charlie's Lounge + The Alley

Bars Tenderloin

It’s a tie! The biggest difference between San Francisco’s Aunt Charlie’s Lounge and Oakland’s Alley is that, at the former, drag queens provideshows by the Hot Boxxx Girls (Fri, Sat at 10pm). On Tuesdays and Thursdays, DJs spin power pop, glam rock and retro homo-bar classics. Across the bay, the historic Alley, dressed up like a 1920s street scene with a piano in the back, beckons karaoke lovers with a penchant for Broadway standards.

Photograph: Yelp/ Ray A

Best escape from work: Ginger’s

Bars Union Square

Born from the ashes of Ginger’s Trois, one of the Financial District’s classic queer spaces, Ginger’s pays homage to the gay drinkeries of yesteryear. This moodily lit, brick-walled lounge has a pool table and a small stage for drag shows and karaoke nights. If you ask nicely, the bartenders will sling you a Lexington Manhattan, a Deco Lounge Sidecar or another one of their old-school cocktails.

The Mint
Photograph: Courtesy of the Mint

Best karaoke: The Mint

Bars Hayes Valley

It’s a party all day long at this karaoke joint on Market Street. Choose your favorite tunes from the supersize songbook and steel yourself with a cocktail or four before your turn on the glittering stage (the club has a two-drink minimum, but no cover). If you’re running with a crew, make a reservation in advance to secure your spot—and
keep in mind the cash-only policy.

Club 21
Photograph: Courtesy Club 21

Best Latinx-friendly spot: Club 21

Nightlife Oakland

One of the few gay clubs in the Bay Area that caters to the Latinx community, this favorite has a massive dance floor, cheap drinks and free nachos for all. Friday and Saturday nights are for the Latin Explosion and La Bota Loca (Latinx cowboy) parties, where go-go dancers shake to Latin, house, hip-hop and banda music and drag performers strut their stuff.


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