Rainbow flags are already flying along Market Street in anticipation for San Francisco's Pride celebration, one of the largest in the country. And with an estimated 200,000 people from around the world expected to take part, the parade is one of San Francisco's biggest—and most famous—events.
The official celebration happens at the Civic Center on Saturday from noon to 6 p.m., with live music (the Backstreet Boys (!) are on the playbill this year), food and drink, and exhibitors, like the famous S&M; spanking booth ($5 voluntary donation.) On Sunday, the parade travels down Market Street between Beale and 8 street, starting at noon. But we all know the real party happens at hundreds of clubs, bars, and restaurants around the city.
The prime spot to be for Pride weekend is the Castro, of course, the epicenter of San Francisco's gay scene. There is no shortage of places to party, and the streets will be packed—even the sidewalks are places of revelry.
But this year, some of the hottest parties are happening outside the Castro. Our short list follows, so that you can take part of this 40-year-old tradition.
Kelly Mission Rock Cafe
This year, famed drag queen Juanita More is moving her pride party (perhaps the most epic of the weekend) far from the Castro, to Kelly's Mission Rock Cafe on 3rd Street near the water. Mission Rock is usually a hetero spot, but the large outdoor space and floor to ceiling windows with views of the bay, makes it ideal spot for this huge night of revelry. Moore's party will not disappoint: the drag show will feature Glamamore, Miss Rahni, and Diamond Daggers, and DJs will include Will Automagic and Sean B of NYC's SPANK, and more. Sunday, 2 p.m.-2 a.m., 817 Terry Francois Blvd. at 3rd and Mariposa. $25. Shuttle service from Market and Franklin streets. Advance tickets strongly recommended.
The Eagle Tavern
One of the city's famous gay hot spots in SOMA, the Eagle Tavern is a dive bar with a motorcycle edge and a huge backyard patio. It's packed here any sunny weekend, so expect a mad house for Pride. Saturday is a special party before the women's march starts at Dolores Park at 7 p.m.—expect a Burlesque show, a motorcycle wash, and tons of women who belong to the in for the Dykes on Bikes motorcycle contingent not to mention all-you-can-drink and eat for only $10 (from noon to 5 p.m.). Who knows? You could even convince one of the bikers to take you on a ride during the parade. 398 12th Street, at Harrison, 415/626-0880. There are other events throughout the week.
The Lexington Club
The Mission's Lexington Club has enough going on that you could stay all weekend: Thursday's Bad Reputation kick-off party will have DJs and go-go dancers, Saturday's free party starts at 3 p.m. with live bands and DJ Bunnystyle, and Sunday brings a hangover-curing mimosa brunch. 3464 19 Street, near Valencia.
Aunt Charlie's Lounge
If you're looking for a good drag queen performance, head right to Aunt Charlie's in the Tenderloin to check out the absolutely fabulous Hot Boxxx Girls on Friday and Saturday (starting at 10 p.m., $5 cover) One of the city's hottest dance parties for the hipster crowd happens on Thursday night with the Tubesteak Connection dance party featuring DJ Bus Station John's '70s and '80s discofunk that packs the dance floor. 133 Turk, SF; 415/441-2922
Note for party hoppers: Don't even think about driving this weekend. Instead take the L, K, S, or M Muni Trains. For late-night/early morning cabs, be sure to book in advance, since you won't be the only one looking for a ride.