Gay Pride history runs deep in San Francisco. It was among the first gay prides in the US (along with Chicago, NYC and LA) in 1970, and the iconic rainbow flag debuted as a gay pride symbol at San Francisco Pride Parade in 1978. An original “influencer,” San Francisco Gay Pride sees an estimated one million annual visitors who flock here in solidarity while exploring award-winning restaurants, distinguished neighborhoods and all things “San Fran,” like the Castro. Book your Amtrak ticket and pack your bags for an unforgettable weekend over June 23 – 25.
June 23, 2017
Check into Ritz Carlton San Francisco, which recently completed a major renovation with 336 redesigned guest rooms and suites that are chic and modern. A complimentary house car gives your Uber app a break, refined California cuisine is served in signature Parallel 37 and the city’s historic cable car conveniently stops right in front. Set within a 1909 landmark building in Nob Hill, Ritz Carlton San Francisco (San Fran’s only AAA Five Diamond hotel) often donates to San Francisco LGBT Center with packages and charities.
In Nob Hill, Top of the Mark crowning the 19th floor of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins is the ultimate spot for small bites and cocktails thanks to million-dollar views of the skyline, bay and Golden Gate Bridge. A San Francisco must, Top of the Mark sports 360-degree vistas that are so captivating, you’ll wish you could bottle it up and take it home with you. Expect a 100+ martini menu, a live jazz band, romantic vibes, and, of course, the money shot. Now’s not a bad time to propose to your partner.
A cruise on the bay may be super tourist-y, but Pride Sunset Cruise is a unique, booze-fueled, all-gay party experience. Presented by Brian Kent Productions and Lookout’s Chris Hastings, Pride Sunset Cruise on an open-air passenger vessel is essentially a gay nightclub on the water with full bar, live DJ Barry Harris behind the decks and plenty of eye candy. Best of all, the sunset sail passes major highlights like Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Bay Bridge. Boarding starts promptly at 6 p.m. at Pier 40, with a sharp sail at 7 p.m. Expect to return at 10 p.m.
With new friends you made aboard the sunset cruise, head to The Eagle. This trademark “bear” bar is legendary in San Francisco, and it’s always packed with a true, eclectic mix of gays (not just bears) with a large outdoor patio that’s perfect for mingling and cruising. Tonight, Puppy Pride with Bouffant Bouffant (a notable DJ/nightlife guru from New Orleans) is bringing a younger, club-kid, house music-loving crowd that likes to party to the wee hours of morning. Expect your standard gay-bar mayhem.
June 24, 2017
Book a table at Foreign Cinema, a notable fixture in the Mission District. The industrial/modern space is half casual restaurant/half film screening venue (foreign films are shown in their outdoor courtyard), but the busy weekend brunch is the true star here. Expect an outstanding raw bar (from oysters to caviar, with Bloody Marys garnished with fresh prawns), and rich, delicious dishes, like champagne-truffle omelet and Dungeness Crab Frittata.
Civic Center Plaza is home to the annual San Francisco Gay Pride Celebration (from noon to 6 pm), the can’t-miss afternoon event. With 200 exhibitors, a main stage for live performances at the steps of city hall and twenty other smaller stages and venues, there’s never a dull moment at this exciting gay-pride event.
Grab a table at restaurant-of-the-moment, Benu, a minimalist, New American restaurant helmed by multiple award-winner Corey Lee (formerly head chef of French Laundry). Corey was awarded Best Chef West this year at the James Beard Foundation Awards (he was nominated in 2016 as well). Benu serves up an elevated tasting menu comprising ultra-fresh, imaginative small plates. Be adventurous as there’s everything from foie gras xiao long bao to fried river eel, but also familiar plates like beef rib plate. Reservations necessary.
Have a nightcap at The Treasury in the Financial District. It’s quite posh yet approachable, dimly lit with sexy interiors, including soaring walls, mosaic tiles and bulbs strung from hanging chains. The Treasury has subtle Mad Men/Gatsby vibes, but with San Francisco heart. Craft cocktails are refined, elegant and perfectly executed, and there’s a great wine list to boot.
June 25, 2017
Spend your afternoon at the 47th Annual San Francisco Pride Parade on Market, from Beale to 8th Street. Last year, there were 30 floats and 30,000 marchers, ensuring it’s intimate yet festive. This year features six grand marshals, all of whom are local movers and shakers who have made significant contributions to the LGBT community. The parade starts at 10:30 am, though you’ll want to be closer to 8th street to catch all the action. The Pride Parade also offers Grandstand seats, located on the north side of Market Street between 7th and 8th, which are arguably the best seats for viewing ($40, you can reserve here).
Thanks to San Francisco’s strong Asian communities, you’ll find some of the west coast’s best Asian food in the city by the bay. Hong Kong Lounge II in Laurel Heights is essential for unforgettable Chinese fare with the best dim sum in town. You can expect all your favorite classics (as well as unique dishes) like steamed Shanghai dumplings, Peking duck and coffee pork ribs. Hong Kong Lounge II closes at 2:30 p.m.
One last cocktail before you hit the road? Saddle up at Lookout, a popular gay watering hole with a wraparound balcony overlooking Market Street in the Castro. It’s the best place to perch for prime time people watching, and a farewell drink completes your San Francisco experience. Sunday is JOCK night (from 3 – 10 p.m.), so gear up and play hard before you board your Amtrak back home.