We love the Gay Motherland!
Sadly, we hadn’t been to San Francisco in
years, so this past May we carved a long weekend out of our schedule to explore one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Sure, it would be great to have a week or two there, but you can accomplish plenty in 72 hours if you have a good foundation of places to stay, eat, and perhaps get a little stoned.
Here are 11 of our top recommendations. (Because why settle for 10?)
STANFORD COURT Even though it’s been years since we last visited San Francisco, we never stayed in really great hotels—until this vacation. The Stanford Court in Nob Hill features glorious artwork everywhere, from the lobby to every floor. You can even purchase some of the lobby artwork right from a touch screen. The restaurant/bar features many brews from a partnership with Seven Stills, a local brewery, so if beer’s your thing, you’ve got to make a stop here at some point. Of course, rooms are the most important thing when it comes to choosing a hotel and these are spacious for San Francisco and feature great views, plush beds, and even a towel warmer to make getting out of the shower as much fun as getting squeaky clean. Book a room now at stanfordcourt.com
TILDEN HOTEL If you’re looking for the perfect marriage of old-school San Francisco accommodations with a modern sensibility (and a great price point), the Tilden Hotel a few blocks away from Stanford Court is just what you need. The rooms are small and don’t feature air-conditioning, but we’ve yet to be in this city when we’ve needed it. Downstairs, the Douglas Room is a fab place for a nightcap just before bed. Or a middaycap just before venturing out. Book a room now at tildenhotel.com
THE CASTRO Ok, this may fall into the Duh! category for nearly everyone reading this, but we can’t emphasize enough how magical The Castro District can be. We take our freedom to be out and proud for granted in lots of places, but there’s still something special about visiting one of the country’s greatest gayborhoods. Make sure to pop into the Human Rights Campaign Store, located in LGBT rights leader Harvey Milk’s old camera shop. You’ll likely get goosebumps. And some great souvenirs.
AUNT CHARLIE’S LOUNGE There are gay bars galore in San Francisco, of course, offering something for absolutely everyone. But we stumbled upon this one a short walk from the Tilden Hotel and had an absolute blast, despite the fact that we didn’t even check into our room until almost midnight because of a late flight. Cash-only, divey, and loads of fun. auntcharlieslounge.com
HOTEL SAN FRANCISCO For some cutting-edge craft cocktails, head to Hotel San Francisco. But first, make sure you’re headed to the one at 653 Commercial Street because Google Maps tried to take us to an old run-down motel that was sketchy as hell. Once you’re in the right place, however, you’ll know you’re in the right place. Cocktails are carefully crafted and if they’re not busy, the bartender will whip you up a special creation based on your personal desires. (Cocktail desires to be clear). Plus, there’s a new speakeasy downstairs that’s filled with readymade cocktail-in-a-jar concoctions in every color and flavor of the rainbow. hotelsf.com
POTTY POT POT DISPENSERIES We’ve never been potheads. Or edibleheads. At least not until our first visit to Denver after it was legalized. Now, any time we’re in a state where you can partake of a little THC-spiked goodies, we’re all about it. The doses are regulated, the high is fun, and it makes us feel just a little bit naughty. Even though we know we’re not doing anything wrong. Best of all, even the hotel concierges can help direct you to the right dispensary for what you’re looking for. Us, we prefer a nice little cookie. Or a gummie treat shaped like California— just don’t eat the whole state at once.
HORSEFEATHER San Francisco is known for its hip, of-the-moment restaurants and Horsefeather came highly recommended. And man are we glad we went. They don’t take reservations, so plan on showing up right at the beginning of service, or just know you’ll likely wait a bit for a table in the tiny, chic space. Of course, that just means more time to check out their wildly creative cocktails. The food features nice Asian twists on many of the dishes, from the kimchi mac-and-cheese to one of the best tuna poké bowls we’ve ever had (and we’ve had a lot). Come hungry, order a lot to share, and you’ll be in foodie paradise before you know it. horsefeatherbar.com
THE BIG 4 Whereas the Stanford Court and Horsefeather both feel of-the-moment-modern, the Tilden and The Big 4 both feel like blasts from the past—in absolutely wonderful ways. As soon as we walked past the doorman flagging down a taxi and entered into the Big 4’s wood-paneled, green leather den of opulence, we felt like we had been sent back in time to the glory days of big-ticket steakhouse extravagance. That’s what you’ll still find in abundance: classic dishes that have stood the test of time. Service is attentive and spectacular and the live piano music drifting playfully through the space put a great big smile on our face. To match the big old smile on our belly after we gobbled down a gigantic pork chop after a perfect dirty martini. big4restaurant.com
HOUSE OF NANKING Every time we return to a city, no matter which one, there’s always that “one place” we have to visit. In San Francisco, it’s House of Nanking, a no-frills eatery at the edge of Chinatown that hasn’t lost a bit of its charm, even with slightly updated interiors from our first two visits in years past. Grab a seat and don’t even look at the menu. When the server arrives at the table, simply ask her to bring out a variety. She’ll ask you how hungry you are and then you’re entirely in the kitchen’s control. Sometimes, it’s fun to surrender. houseofnanking.net
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE PHOTO SPOT Every local will tell you where you can get a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge, but until this visit, we’d never found The One. Well, we think this is one of the most perfect views, so we want to share it with the selfie-obsessed world. Of course, it’s better to have someone else shoot your photos rather than an actual selfie-selfie (trust us). The secret? Enter “ Warming Hut Bookstore & Cafe” into your GPS or on your rideshare app. You’ll be dropped mere steps from incredible vistas of the bridge in one direction (like us above!) and the skyline and Alcatraz in the other. Spend a few minutes or spend a whole day exploring. Either way, you’re guaranteed to leave with at least one priceless pic.
To learn more about things to do on your San Francisco trip, visit the San Francisco Travel Association website, which also includes a great LGBTQ section .