Escape from Union Square to The Castro

It is that time of year when the crowds – and crowds of tourists – descend on San Francisco’s Union Square. Brave the pushy masses or choose a San Francisco neighborhood to experience the spirit of the season in a more local way. Long recognized as a hotbed of gay, lesbian and transgender activism, the Castro serves up its own unique mix of stores, restaurants and places to enjoy the scene and as much joie de vivre as Union Square, if not the gigantic Christmas tree.



Call it menswear, if you like, but Unionmade’s selection of well-made and aesthetically classic goods for men has broad appeal. Their four California stores (the Castro is their flagship location) celebrate American style, no matter where it comes from. Filson and Pendleton vie for space alongside Shinola and BLUE BLUE Japan. It’s all good.


Cliff’s Variety

Cliff's Variety

If variety is the spice of life, then Cliff’s has it in spades. From doorknobs to decoupage, Cliff’s embraces the concept of variety store. Browse the aisles of tools (it is actually a hardware store, too) then check out the gifts, home décor and holiday items. Your inner stocking stuffer will never want to leave.


Samovar Tea Lounge

Samovar Tea Lounge

Just off the Castro’s bustling main drag (pun intended), Samovar Tea Lounge beckons, its warm and cosseted interior a quiet harbor amidst the noise of the season. Savor one of over 100 infusions or enjoy the international tea service where teas are paired with Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Russian, English and Moroccan menus.


Blackbird Bar

Blackbird Bar

Walk a few blocks down Market Street to Blackbird where the scene is a bit more traditional but the drinks are anything but. The Golden Lion, a strapping mix of corn whiskey, Pommeau and white apple brandy, is aged in an oak barrel for eight weeks before revealing its witchy self. Carbonated cocktails (Pimm’s Cup, New Orleans Coffee) are on draught but the hot buttered rum and toddys hit the seasonal spot.


The Castro Theatre

Castro Theatre

Attending a sing-a-long at the Castro Theatre is a “must do once before you die” event, one in which it never hurts to come dressed as your favorite character from the movie on the screen. The classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The Sound of Music,” in wide screen with subtitles, is Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer like you have never seen them – big – and is an annual fête of song at the Theatre. With afternoon and evening showings from November 27 through December 6, the whole family can enjoy the exuberant energy of the show. Be sure to stick around after each showing to find out who won the costume contest.

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29 Dec 2015

By Christina Mueller