By Brittany Doohan
We’ve got your afternoon planned: Lace up those sneaks and get ready to soak up some sun as we take you on a walking tour through the heart of San Francisco’s LGBTQ community. With this step-by-step guide, you can learn about the history of Castro, San Francisco while getting an afternoon of leisurely exploration. (Plus, you’ll burn a bunch of calories so you can feast at all the famous Castro District restaurants!)
1. Let’s start at the famous rainbow Pride Flag that’s waving its colors above Harvey Milk Plaza at Castro and Market Streets. Here you can find the historic F-line streetcars, the rainbow neon lights at Twin Peaks Bar, and Jane Warner Plaza, which was named after a locally loved policewoman, “Officer Jane,” who passed away after a long battle with cancer.
2. After people-watching at Jane Warner Plaza, head west on Market St., make a left onto Diamond St. and walk to 18th St., where you’ll find the Most Holy Redeemer Church, aka “the gayest church west of the Vatican.” After World War II, this church welcomed gay men coming into San Francisco (when the Catholic church did not).
3. Make a right on 18th (be sure to admire the beautiful houses) and then make a left onto Douglass St. When you arrive at Caselli St., you’ll see Clarke’s Mansion, a grand Queen Anne built in 1892 on 17 acres (now it’s 11 apartment homes).
4. Next, head south on Douglass then make a left onto 19th St. Right after you cross Diamond St, you’ll arrive at the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, a public elementary school with a student-made glass mosaic out front.
5. Continue on 19th for another one and a half blocks, then turn left onto Castro St. Harvey Milk opened a camera shop called Castro Camera (575 Castro) in the early 1970s with his partner. If you’re in front of the store and you look up you’ll see a painting of Milk and his motto, “You gotta give ‘em hope!”
6. Keep on Castro St. until you hit 18th St. Here you’ll find GLBT Historical Society, where you’ll find a collection of materials related to the history, arts and culture of the GLBT and other sexual minority communities.
7. If you keep heading north, you’ll pass the famous Cliff’s Variety, Castro’s one-stop-shop for anything from feathers to kitchen wares to funny greeting cards! After you dabble in a little shopping, walk further up Castro Street towards the Pride Flag and you’ll see the Castro Theatre marquee. Here you can watch some old films and some new — but one thing you’ll enjoy looking at (and hearing) is the beautiful 1920s architecture and an organist playing some tunes before the show.
8. After all that walking, you must be starving! Across the street you’ll find Marcello’s pizza, Castro’s favorite place to get a New York style slice. If you’d rather fill up on oysters, head over to Anchor Oyster bar for a little taste of the sea. Still on a Harvey Milk kick? Hang out, relax and enjoy a burger or delicious sandwich at Harvey’s!