Guide to LGBTQ Travel in the San Francisco Bay Area

I never get to look out the airplane window from my seat and see the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco perched on the edge of the bay.

San Francisco always inspires me with adventure and excitement. From its heady gold rush days to today’s tech boom, the city is known for adventure, experimentation and innovation. It’s also the gateway to multiple experiences throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, especially in California’s premier wine regions of Napa and Sonoma.

I’m a little biased, though, since San Francisco is my home. On a typical weekend, I dine and drink with my girlfriend in the city, wine country, or Bay Area, where we enjoy many LGBTQ events and cultural offerings with our friends.

San Francisco, Sonoma and the Greater Bay Area are once again welcoming visitors and events. Here’s an insider’s guide to a fabulous week of exploring San Francisco and the rainbow wonderland of Sonoma.

What is happening

Pride month is fast approaching. Visitors can attend Pride events in San Francisco (June 24-26) and Sonoma (June 3-5), as well as Out in the Vineyard, Pino on the River (dates TBD), The Laugh Cellar (year-round), and the many themed weekends, such as Women’s Weekend (May 20-22), Sloth Bear Week (August 1-8), and the well-known Gay Rodeo as Best Buck in the Bay, which takes place on the Russian River. If you’re in San Francisco in September, the leather crowd will gather for the Folsom Street Fair on September 25.

A carnival dancer at San Francisco Pride.San Francisco Travel Association

“We have gay people,” Gary Saperstein, a former New Yorker who has lived in Sonoma for more than 25 years, said of LGBTQ events in Sonoma this season.

Out in the Vineyard, a gay wine travel and hospitality company, kicks off its season on April 9 with Black Vines. Guests will sip wine crafted by gay winemaker Jérôme Chéry at Fog Crest Vineyards, a black woman-owned vineyard in the Russian River Valley.

Later this year, Out in the Vineyard will host Pink Saturday (May 14), a day celebrating rosé, and Gay Wine Weekend (July 15-17), which attracted up to 800 LGBTQ wine lovers. Saperstein said other smaller events may be announced throughout the season.

One of the hottest events is The Laugh Cellar’s annual Wine Country Comedy Festival. Before the pandemic, it drew up to 1,200 people to some of Napa and Sonoma’s iconic wineries. The dates for the 2022 festival and the lineup of comedians are about to be announced. Check The Laugh Cellar’s website for festival updates.

San Francisco

Live the experience of San Francisco when you arrive. Book a bay room at the Harbor Court Hotel, which is perfectly located on the Embarcadero and features a YMCA. It is just steps from the world famous Ferry Building and offers easy access to the Castro and popular areas of the city – Union Square, North Beach, Chinatown, Mission District and Haight Ashbury.

There are things to do in San Francisco, especially for LGBTQ visitors: explore the Castro and Transgender neighborhood, join Cruisin’ The Castro walking tours, visit the GLBT History Museum, and check out the all-new Art Gallery. city ​​gay art. , Schlomer Haus Gallery, in the Castro.

Stop by lesbian-owned cafes like Equator Coffee, the newest location of the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor Center, and refuel at Dolores Park Café on the edge of the Castro and Mission neighborhoods.

Get a different view of the city from the observatory’s SkyStar Wheel in Golden Gate Park. The wheel will be open until March 2025.

At night, enjoy the neighborhood’s vibrant nightlife, from the historic landmark, Twin Peaks Tavern, to Harvey’s, named after Harvey Milk. Go out to dinner and dance at AsiaSF.

On weekends, treat yourself to Oasis or enjoy brunch at Vault Steakhouse.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a foodie paradise. It’s hard to go wrong dining here. Some of my favorite restaurants in town are Boulevard, Fiorella, Foreign Cinema, Mandalay Restaurant, Ozumo, Kabuto, Osha Thai, Fior d’Italia, and Harris Ranch, to name a few.

Sonoma

Whatever style and ambiance you’re looking for on your vacation, you can find it when you cross the Golden Gate Bridge on the hour-long drive to wine country. Head to the Flamingo Resort for a retro-chic vibe in Santa Rosa or try the Hotel Duchamp in Healdsburg for modern wine country. The Kenwood Inn and Spa offers the classic wine country experience. Other options include the lesbian-owned Boon Hotel + Spa or the gay-owned The Carriage House at Olive Queen Farm in the Russian River Valley.

A view of the Sonoma vineyards from MacRostie Winery in Healdsburg, California.Heather Cassel

Delight in California’s food and wine offerings with guided and self-guided food tours with Sonoma Food and Wine Tour and Savor Healdsburg. Otherwise, venture the California Cheese Trail on your own.

There are so many great restaurants to choose from in Sonoma. When I’m hungry, one of my favorite places is Boon Eat + Drink. I also head to Brava Bar de Tapas, Spoonbar, Campo Fina, Catelli’s, Girl and the Fig, El Dorado Kitchen or Salt and Stone.

To start my day right, there’s no place like The Spinster Sisters or Brew Coffee and Beer House, owned by a queer couple.

To satisfy my sweet tooth, I grab an ice cream cone or a pie at Noble Folk, a gay establishment.

Mike Kobler, gay co-founder and COO of Kobler Estate
Winery, explains the wine process with a gay couple in the winery’s tasting room in Healdsburg, California.
Heather Cassel

I pair great food with the amazing Sonoma wines of Corner 103, owned by black gay men. Owner Lloyd Davis truly elevates the wine tasting experience in downtown Sonoma. There are over 425 wineries and many LGBTQ wineries in Sonoma, such as Gary Farrell Vineyards and Winery’s Latina lesbian winemaker Theresa Heredia, as well as gay wineries like Equality Vines, Mercury Wine, Kobler Estate Winery, and Roadhouse Winery.

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