San Francisco Nightlife

After hours, the city’s business folk and workers give way to costume-clad partygoers, hippies and hipsters, downtown divas, frat boys, and those who prefer something a little more clothing-optional. Downtown and the Financial District remain pretty serious even after dark, and Nob Hill is staid, though you can't beat views from penthouse lounges, the most famous being the Top of the Mark (Hopkins).

Nearby North Beach is an even better starting point for an evening out.

Always lively, North Beach's options include family-friendly dining spots, historic bars from the city's bohemian past (among them Jack Kerouac's old haunts), and even comedy clubs where stars such as Robin Williams and Jay Leno cut their teeth. In SoMa there are plenty of places to catch a drink before a Giants game and brewpubs to celebrate in afterward. SoMa also hosts some of the hottest dance clubs, along with some saucy gay bars. While Union Square can be a bit trendy, even the swanky establishments have loosened things up in recent years.

Heading west to Hayes Valley, a more sophisticated crowd dabbles in the burgeoning "culinary cocktail movement." Up-and-coming singles gravitate north of here to Cow Hollow and the Marina. Polk Street was the gay mecca before the Castro and still hosts some wild bars, but things get downright outlandish in the Castro district. Indie hipsters of all persuasions populate the Mission and Haight districts by night. Keep in mind, though, that some of the best times San Francisco has to offer can be found off the beaten path. And a good party can still be found in even the sleepiest of neighborhoods, such as Bernal Heights and Dogpatch.

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Fodor's Choice

Area

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SoMa and Civic Center 36

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Civic Center 1

Hayes Valley 7

SoMa 24

Tenderloin 4

Mission District 22

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Bernal Heights 3

Dogpatch 2

Potrero Hill 1

The Haight, the Castro, and Noe Valley 17

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Castro 12

Haight 5

North Beach 12

Nob Hill and Russian Hill 11

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Nob Hill 4

Polk Gulch 7

Union Square and Chinatown 10

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Chinatown 1

Union Square 9

On the Waterfront 10

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Embarcadero 3

Financial District 4

Fisherman's Wharf 3

The Marina and the Presidio 7

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Cow Hollow 3

Marina 4

Pacific Heights and Japantown 5

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Pacific Heights 1

Western Addition 4

Western Shoreline 2

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The Richmond 2

Golden Gate Park 2

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Category

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Bars/ Pubs 84

Brewpubs/ Beer Gardens 4

Cabaret 2

Comedy Clubs 4

Dance Clubs 9

Gathering Places 1

Music Clubs 16

Themed Entertainment 3

Wine Bars–Nightlife 10

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Best For

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Gay and Lesbian 22

Green 1

San Francisco Nightlife

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Bourbon & Branch

  • Bars/Pubs

The address and phone are unlisted, the black outer door unmarked, and when you make your reservation (required), you get a password...

Cliff House

  • Bars/Pubs

Classier than the nearby Beach Chalet, with a more impressive view of Ocean Beach, this is our pick if you must choose just one oceanfront...

Club Fugazi

  • Cabaret

The claim to fame here is Beach Blanket Babylon, a wacky musical send-up of San Francisco moods and mores that has been going strong...

El Rio

  • Music Clubs

A dive bar in the best sense has a calendar chock-full of events, from free bands and films to Salsa Sunday (seasonal), all of which...

Great American Music Hall

  • Music Clubs

You can find top-drawer entertainment at this eclectic nightclub. Acts range from the best in blues, folk, and jazz to up-and-coming...

Smuggler's Cove

  • Bars/Pubs

With the decor of a pirate ship and a slew of rum-based cocktails, you half expect Captain Jack Sparrow to sidle up next to you at this...

Toronado

  • Bars/Pubs

You come to what may be the city's most popular dive bar for one thing and one thing only: the reasonably priced beers, about four dozen...

Vessel

  • Bars/Pubs

Enticing, romantic, and ultrahip in one package, Vessel has a cavalier glamour that embraces you as you descend the staircase into its...

Vesuvio Cafe

  • Bars/Pubs

If you're only hitting one bar in North Beach, it should be this one. The low-ceiling second floor of this raucous boho hangout, little...

Yield

  • Wine Bars–Nightlife

A stone's throw from the bay, the city's greenest wine bar serves up sustainable, organic, and biodynamic wines from around the world.

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