Along the tree-lined streets of San Francisco, peppered into rows of colorful Victorian houses, you’ll discover many locally-owned and operated shops worthy of your support.
GayCities rounded up a few favorites that stand out–not only for their goods and services, but for the experience they provide– not to mention nearby world-class bars, cafes, restaurants, and only-in-San Francisco sights.
This holiday season, skip soulless online buying and experience local color at these 10 fabulous LGBTQ-friendly stores across San Francisco.
Sui Generis in the Castro
This impeccably curated, designer consignment store on Market Street has something for every occasion. Sui Generis, Latin for one of a kind, lives up to its name with a wide selection of gay-fave high-end threads, from Gucci to Rick Owens, making the outfits of your dreams come true at affordable prices.
After your visit, show off your flashy finds just up the street at popular sports bar Hi Tops, where the big screens play the local teams while the bartenders strut their stuff. The custom cocktail menu pays homage to local legends such as Giants first baseman Will Clark with “Will The Thrill,” a yummy concoction of Bulliet, jalapeno, simple syrup, lemon, and barrel-aged bitters. If sports are not your thing, order a local IPA draft and sit in their outdoor parklet, which has become a permanent and welcome part of the neighborhood streetscape.
The next day, make a brunch rezzie at Starbelly, located around the corner on 16th Street. The cozy backyard patio (and a pitcher of bloody marys) creates a perfect mood for an impromptu insta-photo shoot.
Take a permanent piece of San Francisco home with some fresh ink. This visibly queer, tourist-friendly tattoo parlor, located in the heart of the Castro on 17th Street, will take excellent care of you. Though the name has changed, this shop remains one of the city’s oldest, gayest tattoo parlors.
After your session, dull your nerves and excite your mind with a stiff drink at nearby Lookout. Perched right above the main drag at Market and Noe streets, the outdoor balcony is a fabulous place for sipping cocktails and people-watching at one of the gayest intersections on earth below.
Need some tchotchkes for folx back home? Don’t settle for last-minute airport kitsch, hit up Local Take on 17th Street. This queer-owned outpost showcases more than 130 Bay Area artists and designers. Help a small business give back to San Francisco’s vibrant local art community.
After picking up a few stocking stuffers, visit the guys at Hot Cookie for something sweet in your mouth. The tiny storefront displays a wall of photos of local hotties decked out in their Hot Cookie undies, which are available for sale, the perfect gift for Mr. Right or at least Mr. Right Now.
If you’re looking for even more holiday cheer, climb aboard a vintage streetcar on Market Street and take a scenic ride to Union Square. During the holidays, this famous shopping district transforms into a winter wonderland, with window displays, decorations, and an ice-skating rink.
Arcana in the Mission
Just a stone’s throw from Dolores Park, you’ll find a verdant plant shop, owned and operated by notable queer activist Naz Khorram. Tucked in among the foliage and locally made homewares, Khorram hosts a shared living room experience featuring events and wine tastings. Don’t have a green thumb? No need, Arcana’s staff of knowledgeable botanists has great advice for first-time plant zaddies.
After your visit, go a few doors down to El Techo for happy hour. This rooftop tapas bar serves delectable Argentine treats and has a breathtaking view of downtown.
Stuff in the Mission
Among the many bougie boutiques on Valencia Street, you’ll come across a bright orange, bi-level, BIPOC-owned antique collective called Stuff. A treasure trove of retro goods, Stuff offers a unique selection of vintage clothing, jewelry, furniture, homewares, vinyl records, and—uh, stuff. As you meander through the aisles, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your holiday gift list.
Shop until you drop, then make your way a couple of blocks down to Milk SF, the all-day queer cafe. Try the latte-of-the-day while admiring the huge collection of queer artwork. If you need something a little stronger than coffee, venture back toward Market Street and try a hand-crafted cocktail at Orbit Room.
Need a present for someone on the naughty list? Alongside its rolling hills, stunning architecture, and welcoming gay community, San Francisco is also known for its large leather scene. At the center of it all, in SoMa’s Leather District, is Mr. S Leather, designer and purveyor of fine leather goods, sex toys, and apparel since 1979.
Once you’re stocked up, take a break at Wicked Grounds on Eighth Street. Come for the coffee and milkshakes, stay for the fetish furniture, friendly baristas, and community-organized classes. After dark, walk a few blocks to Powerhouse to explore everything the SoMa scene has to offer.
Keep the party going with a dark look from this trendy SoMa boutique. Specializing in men’s wear, The Archive offers handmade, designer clothing and accessories from emerging brands across the globe. The owner, Arthur, is nearly always on hand to help you discover the perfect piece for any occasion. You’ll want to build your entire wardrobe around them.
Exhibit your newly found wearable work of art a few blocks north at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. One of San Francisco’s finest museums, the SFMOMA houses rotating contemporary exhibitions alongside a huge permanent collection of paintings and sculptures. Ask the docents to turn your admission ticket into an annual membership, and give the gift of art all year round.
No trip to San Francisco would be complete without an adventure in North Beach. Birthplace to the Beat Generation– the original hipsters, including queer activist Allen Ginsburg– this quintessential San Francisco ‘hood is steeped in history. You can learn about the beats at the stalwart publishing house, City Lights Bookstore on Columbus Avenue. This is not your average bookstore. With sections like Muckracking, Anarchism, and Class War, as well as an entire wall dedicated to local authors, you’re bound to find a good read or five.
Be sure to keep your receipt. Across the alley at Vesuvio’s Cafe, if you show the bartender your purchase, they might reward you with a free beer. Sit in this storied drinking hole and enjoy your new City Lights read.
Held Over in The Haight
Haight Street has a well-deserved reputation for fantastic second-hand shopping. Picking only one thrift shop on Haight was a bit of a challenge. If you are in need of some vintage Levi’s and leather, Held Over is at the top of our list. You’ll want to head to the back of the store and check out their Meat Locker.
After the fact, break in your new jeans over cheap drinks and a game of pool at Trax.
Amoeba is an indie-music lover’s dream and one of the few remaining brick-and-mortar music shops of its size in the world. Set aside plenty of time to filter through the racks and racks of vinyl, cassettes, and CDs, featuring both deep cuts and new releases. San Francisco has become home to a treasure trove of amazing artists, from the Grateful Dead to the Pansy Division. You’ll find homages to such home-grown bands here in droves.
After hanging out on Haight Street, take a stroll across Stanyan Street through to Golden Gate Park. San Franciscans love this park for its fun activities like disc golf, paddle boating, polo, archery, and bocce ball.
Considering Golden Gate Park is the largest urban park in the US, it’s no wonder there’s so much to do. We recommend grabbing some rollerblades and hitting the outdoor rink on Sixth Street. Roller skating is having a renaissance right now, particularly with the younger crowd, and the rink on Sixth is the place to cruise Friday nights. There are lights, speakers, a DJ— it’s a full-on outdoor disco. BYOB: Bring your own bandana.