San Francisco, California has long been considered one of the most prominent hubs for all things counterculture and different in the United States. Considering the city’s decidedly liberal, bohemian leanings, and reputation for arts and culture, it should come as no surprise that San Francisco is an excellent nightlife destination. If after-hours fun is in your travel itinerary, you will not be disappointed with the bar and club scene in San Francisco.
If you are looking to get your dance on at the hottest nightclubs during your San Francisco stay, there are no shortage of excellent venues to suit your needs. The majority of the best nightclubs in the San Fran are in the SOMA district of the city. One of the great things about San Francisco nightclub culture is that many of the better clubs in the city feature a more eclectic assortment of music than the common House/Top 40 that often dominates the nightclub scene. The nightclubs also tend to be less pretentious than the clubs in say, Miami (think the antithesis of Jersey Shore-esque clubbing) and more about having a good time to good music in a well-appointed but not overly shallow, snobby, and exclusive environment. No venue better epitomizes the height of San Francisco clubbing culture than Mighty, which was voted the best new club in all of America by trendsetting Urb Magazine. 111 Minna Gallery, an art gallery which doubles as an event space and sometimes-nightclub is another locals favorite of those in the know. Other excellent choices in the SOMA district include Suite One8one, Icon Lounge, and Club Six.
Although San Francisco has become an increasingly wealthy and exclusive city over the years, with much of the more down-to-earth culture receding to Oakland (much like the Manhattan/Brooklyn class stratification which has gradually occurred over the years), San Francisco still retains a good bit of the gritty character it originally became known for, and it is still home to some very relevant dive bars. Molotov’s in the lower Haight Ashbury district features a jukebox stocked with the best in punk rock, and tends to attract a clientele to match, while the 500 Club in the Mission (drinking home to an eclectic assortment of steady regulars) is an old-school neighborhood dive in the truest sense of the word. The 540 Club in the Mission is the kind of place where it is easy to strike up a conversation with the friendly and interesting regulars, while the Riptide is a hole-in-the-wall gem that even some locals might not be hip to due to its location in the out-of-the-way Ocean Beach neighborhood of the city.
San Francisco is known for its rich musical history, particularly when it comes to the psychedelic rock movement that came out of the United States in the 1960s. The city is also home to a great jazz scene, and the Bay Area is known as a hub of progressive electronic music and underground hip-hop. If live music is your thing, you will be a very happy camper when it comes to the musical culture of San Francisco. When it comes to jazz, it doesn’t get better than the world-famous Yoshi’s, while if blues suits your fancy, hit up Biscuits and Blues in Union Square, which is known as one of the best blues clubs in the country. Bottom of the Hill is known as one of the city’s better rock and alternative venues, while the Great American Music Hall and the Fillmore are great venues for catching larger touring acts of various genres in an intimate, comfortable environment.
Pretty much everyone in the gay community, and most people outside of it, are aware that San Francisco as one of the most gay-friendly cities in the country and one of the top nightlife destinations for the LGBT community. Much of the gay scene in San Francisco revolves around the Castro district of the city, one of the freest havens of gay culture in the US. Badlands, located a half-block from the Castro is one of the better choices in the city if you want to get your dance on, while the Midnight Sun is a good laid-back neighborhood singles bar. The Lookout is aptly named as it literally looks out on the Castro district and is obviously a great place to people-watch, while the Mix Bar is a non-pretentious, laid-back dive which is great for a fun night out on the town minus the hoopla.
San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world architecturally, home to some of the best museums in the country, and is known as a foodie’s paradise, making it an excellent vacation destination even without consideration of the nightlife. However, the bar and club scene is thriving as well, and whether you are looking to see some great live music, visit a local dive and mingle with the locals, hit the dance club, or just about anything else, San Francisco has got you covered. Although the city is a prominent metropolitan center and has much of what you would expect across-the-board from any major US city, it is special in that the bars and clubs have their own unique flavor that you really won’t find anywhere else. We strongly suggest that you take advantage of the wee hours of the night when vacationing in San Francisco and see what the city’s nightlife has to offer.