While many visitors are content just standing on the Golden Gate Bridge and admiring the vistas of Alcatraz, the bay and downtown, others are eager to play in its internationally acclaimed nighttime venues. First-time adventurers will find fun and fascination in these downtown trendsetters.
Dining in this town is an international affair, with many of the best eateries offering their take on foreign favorites made with locally sourced ingredients. There are also quite a few Michelin stars lighting the way to some of the finer diners. Every day, fishing boats supply the freshest seafood in the world. Local farms provide produce and meat stock that is unparalleled. Visitors to the city are treated to some of the finest dining in the world. San Francisco’s multinational community offers flavorful, authentic dishes filled with spices and herbs native to foreign lands and these restaurants are open late to accommodate the late-night reveler.
Bars – Classic, Tunes, Dive
With the dinner hour closing, it’ll be time to find a glass of wine and a cocktail or two, bonus points for cocktails that were invented in San Francisco. Many of San Francisco’s bars are well known for their proprietary beverage concoctions; be sure to check with the bartender about house specialties. And they all offer more than just a drink. San Francisco's colorful history lives in its architecture, and the drinking establishments in the downtown core are designed to highlight the classic styling of their location and the throwback history to prohibition-era speakeasies. Sitting in the lobby bar of one of the city’s most prestigious hotels, it’s easy to imagine members of the world’s sophisticated and elite society enjoying the beauty of the space as much as you do.
To enhance the deliciousness of the drink, many downtown bars also host informal or formal musical venues. Like the city itself, many of them offer a multicultural ambiance that invokes an international mood. Music wafts out from small stages tucked into the corners at the back of the room. The intimacy of the smaller establishments' means you’ll be up close and personal with some of the city’s most amazing musical artists.
Dive bars, those well-worn, slightly tarnished neighborhood haunts, are some of San Francisco’s most delightful destinations. With their relaxed and informal vibe, these cozy quarters attract locals and visitors with their sometimes peculiar proprietary choices. Play a game of pool? Sure! Karaoke is in the back but only after 10 p.m. Aim the darts at the board, please. Grab a cheap beer, a bag of peanuts and a comfy corner chair and sit back to watch the true San Francisco unfold through the night.
Late Night Entertainment
There’s a lot to keep you entertained through the wee hours in San Francisco. Numerous dance floors in large and small venues across town blare live music and DJ-spun tunes from all music genres. Hip-hop, techno, funk and rock tunes keep the dance floors full and the beverages flowing. International and original tunes are heard, too, underscoring the once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Of course, San Francisco is known for its all-gender-friendly population, and many entertainment venues are focused on providing the LGBT community with a club to call home. The Castro district is LGBT-central, and there are dozens of entertainment options available to tease every gender taste. Some places cater to women, others to men, and many “all-welcome” bars and taverns offer lesbian or gay events on a regular basis. Leather, feathers, studs and more are both décor and wardrobe, making this neighborhood a theatrical fashion lover’s dream (or nightmare). Outdoor patios take advantage of the city’s warm summer nights by setting out dance floors or cocktail tables. Patrons are as entertained by what’s on the street as they are by the crowd inside. Other options offered by this imaginative community include live performances of the TV show, “Three’s Company;” all male dance shows (“Man Francisco”) and legendary drag shows.
Getting around San Francisco is easy, thanks to its compact size and excellent transportation options. The SF Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni) runs streetcars, buses and metro trains throughout the city. Visitors are safe on public transportation lines, but don't veer too far off main streets.
Within the downtown core, the "F-Line" streetcar connects the entire east side, running from the Castro to Fisherman's Wharf. It stops within blocks of the Civic Center, Union Square, SoMa (south of Market), North Beach and Pier 39. Streetcars run every 15 minutes, 365 days a year, from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Cable cars traverse the hills from 6:30 a.m. to midnight every day.
For the wee hours, cabs are available, and Lyft, a ride-sharing service, is available, too. Download their app and a friendly local will appear in minutes. For longer trips, BART is available at 4 a.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. Sundays. It stops at midnight every day.