San Francisco

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
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 d
After hours, the city’s business folk and workers give way to costume-clad partygoers, hippies and hipsters, downtown di

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 are 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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  • 1. Bourbon & Branch

    Tenderloin | Bars/Pubs

    Bourbon & Branch reeks of Prohibition-era speakeasy cool. It's not exclusive, though: everyone is granted a password. The place has sex...Read More

  • 2. Cliff House

    Richmond | Bars/Pubs

    Sure, it's the site of many high-school prom dates, and you could argue that the food and drinks are overpriced, but this is our pick if you...Read More

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  • 3. Club Fugazi

    North Beach | Cabaret

    The claim to fame here is Beach Blanket Babylon, an ever-changing wacky musical send-up of San Francisco moods and mores that has been going...Read More

  • 4. El Rio

    Mission District | Music Clubs

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

  • 5. Smuggler's Cove

    Hayes Valley | 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 offbeat...Read More

  • 6. Toronado

    Haight | Bars/Pubs

    You come to one of the city's most popular dive bars for one thing and one thing only: the reasonably priced beers, about four dozen of them...Read More

  • 7. Vesuvio Cafe

    North Beach | Bars/Pubs

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

  • 8. Yield

    Dogpatch | 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. Small...Read More

  • 9. 111 Minna Gallery

    SoMa | Cafes–Nightlife

    Gallery and coffee shop by day, bar–dance club by night, this warehouse space on a small side street just south of Mission Street is usually...Read More

  • 10. 15 Romolo

    North Beach | Bars/Pubs

    Easy to miss on an alley and overshadowed by the neighboring girlie shows, this watering hole serves up artisanal drinks—including riffs off...Read More

  • 11. 21st Amendment Brewery

    SoMa | Bars/Pubs

    This popular brewery is known for its range of beer types, with multiple taps going at all times. In the spring, the Hell or High Watermelon...Read More

  • 12. Absinthe

    Hayes Valley | Bars/Pubs

    The popular restaurant's nearly two dozen specialty cocktails—or even just a plain old Manhattan—make a trip just to the bar worthwhile. ...Read More

  • 13. ABV

    Mission District | Bars/Pubs

    One of the city's top cocktail bars offers elevated small plates—think pork belly with peanut mole, burgers, and meat and cheese boards—until...Read More

  • 14. Amélie

    Polk Gulch | Wine Bars–Nightlife

    A slice of modern French life, this cozy and romantic wine bar is an ideal spot for European oenophiles. Vintage-theater seating is available...Read More

  • 15. AsiaSF

    SoMa | Cabaret

    Saucy, sexy, and fun, this is one of the best places in town for a drag-show virgin. The entertainment, as well as the gracious food service...Read More

  • 16. Badlands

    Castro | Bars/Pubs

    Shirts off! If a sweaty muscle sandwich sounds like your idea of a good time, head to Badlands, where serious party boys come to grind to throbbing...Read More

  • 17. Balboa Cafe

    Cow Hollow | Bars/Pubs

    Here you'll spy young (thirtysomething) and upwardly mobile former frat boys and sorority girls munching on tasty burgers served sandwich-style...Read More

  • 18. BATS Improv

    Marina | Comedy Clubs

    In addition to teaching workshops in improvisation, this renovated warehouse stages performances such as "Improvised Shakespeare" and "Spontaneous...Read More

  • 19. Beach Chalet

    Golden Gate Park | Bars/Pubs

    This restaurant-microbrewery, on the second floor of a historic building filled with 1930s Works Project Administration murals, has a stunning...Read More

  • 20. Big 4 Bar

    Nob Hill | Bars/Pubs

    Dark-wood paneling and green leather banquettes lend a masculine feel to the bar at the recently remodeled Scarlet Huntington Hotel, where the...Read More

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