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What to do in San Francisco at Night by:Mark Andersen

What to do in San Francisco at Night by:Mark Andersen

San Francisco is an interesting city. It's the thirteenth most populated city in the U.S. but when it comes to population density it's ranked second.

It's very expensive to live in San Francisco. The city's property values have escalated to among the highest in the nation. However, San Francisco residents have the highest income in the country.

Since it's so expensive to live in the city, middle class families have moved out and young, single, professionals have moved in.

To accommodate these affluent and childless denizens, a plethora of restaurants, nightclubs and bars have sprung up all over the city. In other words, there's a lot to do in San Francisco after the sun goes down. (If you want things to do in San Francisco with children, click here.)What to do in San Francisco at Night by:Mark Andersen

Following is an itinerary to utilize everything the nightlife in San Francisco has to offer. During your trip, you'll tour several of the city's unique districts and visit many of the city's main attractions. It won't take long for you to realize that the "City by the Bay" is just as exciting at night as it is during the day.


As the sun sets on San Francisco, you find yourself standing in the SOMA district.

SOMA stands for "South of Market." This area is located in the eastern part of the city and is home to San Francisco's top art galleries.

As night descends, you browse through the latest exhibits at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (151 Third Street) and then at the newest editions to the Yerba Buena Arts Center (701 Mission Street).

Looking at art can make one thirsty, so you grab a cocktail at one of the many art-gallery-slash-cocktail-lounges. The Minna Gallery (111 Minna Street) and the Mezzanine (444 Jessie Street) are two of the most popular.

You can stay in SOMA for dinner, but tonight you're out to see as much of the city as possible, so you continue on to your next destination.

Of course, if you had dined in SOMA you might have visited the Salt House (545 Mission Street) for some excellent American cuisine or the cozy Fringale (570 4th Street) for their exquisite French faire.

And if you had dined in SOMA, you probably would have visited the Supperclub (657 Harrison Street) afterwards. This ultra cool club has patrons dining on beds and sipping pricey cocktails while watching Cirque du Soleil-type shows. It's a feast for the senses.


Your next stop is the Castro districtcenter of the city's gay culture. It was here that Harvey Milk, recently portrayed in the movie Milk by actor Sean Penn, opened a camera shop and began his political activism.

You're traveling to the Castro district to visit the historic movie palace, the Castro Theater (428 Castro Street). This theater shows new and old, domestic and foreign, and mainstream and independent films. It's also quite the social hot spots for movie buffs.

After taking in a movie, you might want to dine at 2223 Restaurant (2223 Market Street). This affordable restaurant is known to have some of the best food in the city. If you're not in the mood for American food, the Thai House Express on Castro (599 Castro Street) always receives rave reviews.

After dinner, you partake in some wine tasting at the Swirl on Castro (572 Castro Street). You not only taste wines that come from all over the world but you also browse their showroom full of gifts and wine accessories.

Next stop is the Bar on Church (198 Church). This legendary hot spot has trendsetting deejays, retro furnishing and a patio bar. It is the place to be when you're in the Castro.


You could hang out at the Bar on Church all night, but you have places to go and a rock band to see. You head north to the historic Fillmore (1805 Geary Boulevard) to catch your favorite band live on stage.

One of the cathedrals of America music, the Fillmore has seen legendary rock bands like the Grateful Dead, The Who, The Doors and The Jimi Hendrix Experience perform on its stage. Today, it books such diverse artists as Blondie, Eagles of Death Metal and DeVotchKa.


Wanting to relax after the high energy concert (and wanting the ringing from your ears to dissipate), you venture northeast and visit the Cigar Bar & Grill (850 Montgomery Street). You unwind with a nice Montecristo and some smooth Courvosier.

The Cigar Bar & Grill has a friendly, causal atmosphere and is one of the few places open late at night in the Financial District.


The night is still young and you're still thirsty. You venture down to San Francisco's Mission District for a little bar hoping.

The Mission District is home to a slew of great neighborhood bars like the Thieves Tavern (496 14th Street), Elxir (3200 16th Street), 500 Club (500 Guerrero Street), Delirium (3139 16th Street) and Gestalt Haus (3159 16th Street).

The Beauty Bar (2299 Mission Street) is decorated with the salvaged interior from a Long Island salon. The bar offers music and cocktails seven days a week, but Thursday through Sunday you can get a manicure.


Now that you're liquored up and your nails are nicely manicured, you decide it's time to creep yourself out. So you drop in on the Presidio Pet Cemetery.

It was once the unofficial burial site for deceased pets belonging to families stationed at the Presidioa former military installation but since 1994 it has belonged to the National Park Service.

Currently, the cemetery is closed to new members, but that doesn't stop some grieving pet owners from secretly burying their departed loved ones. Of course burials at the Presidio now have to be done under the cover of night to avoid the wrath of law enforcement.


With the sun about to rise and a tear in your eye from reading Fluffy's tombstone, you stroll into the Haight-Ashbury neighbor for some breakfast.

After all, where else can you go when you reek of smoke, alcohol and dead pets but the birthplace of the hippies?

You grab a coffee at the extremely laid-back Horseshoe Cafe (566 Haight Street). And then you have breakfast at Kate's Kitchen (471 Haight Street). You had to wait for a table, but breakfast at Kate's is always worth it.

Since the morning is still crisp, you take a leisurely stroll around Golden Gate Park before returning home.


The San Francisco Giants play at AT&T Park (24 Willie Mays Plaza). The park is located in the SOMA district and is surrounded by a bevy of restaurants and bars.

Civic Center/Tenderloin is San Francisco's own theater district. There you'll find the Curran, Golden Gate, Herbst, Orpheum and Warfield Theaters. It's also the home to the War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, the San Francisco Opera (the second largest opera company on the continent) and the San Francisco Ballet.

Beach Blanket Babylon is a San Francisco institution. The zany musical spoof of pop culture performs at Club Fugazi (678 Green Street) in San Francisco's North Beach district. Now in its 34th year, it's the longest running musical revue in theatre history.

SAYING GOODBYE TO THE CITY BY THE BAYWhat to do in San Francisco at Night by:Mark Andersen

Regardless of where you start or where you finish, San Francisco is rich in culture, arts and entertainment. The city is well organized, easy to navigate and teeming with vivacious nightlife.

While it's possible to see a lot of the city in one night, it's also possible to spend multiple nights exploring just one neighborhood. For these culturally rich and fascinating districts make San Francisco a truly unique American city.

About the author

Mark Andersen enjoys San Francisco and its nightlife. He now contributes to SanFranciscoSmarts (, a site dedicated to providing entertainment information for the San Francisco area.
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What to do in San Francisco at Night by:Mark Andersen