A Rainbow of Activity: Exploring the Castro With Kids

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You’ve probably seen the rainbow flag swaying above the rooftops in San Francisco, but there’s only one place in the city where your little ROYGBIVs can see dozens of these colorful banners decorating every shop, cross walk, and signpost.  The Castro boasts a rich and colorful history, sweet treats on every corner, an old-school movie house and plenty of toys (yes, even the kind the kids can play with). We’ve mapped out the perfect day out with the little ones in tow.

harvey milk plaza castro rainbow flagPhoto: Rainbow flag flying in the Castro by Gazer Only via Flickr Creative Commons


Eureka Valley Playground
Inspired by The Wizard of Oz, kids can follow the yellow path or just run freestyle around this cushioned playground.The rec center onsite hosts a ton of classes, and there’s also a baseball diamond, tennis court, and a dog run!

100 Collingwood St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: sfrecpark.org

Seward Street Slides, Eureka ValleyPhoto: Seward Street Slides by Craig R. via Yelp

Seward Street Slides
Tap into you inner child at the Seward Street Slides. From 18th street walk west for four blocks to Douglass, then take a left onto Douglass and follow it until you find the Seward Mini Park. Two long, steep concrete slides are the main attraction, though they are not for tiny tots. Bring a piece of cardboard and wear sturdy pants. Closes at sunset.

70 Corwin St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: sfrecpark.org

castro_gertrude_steinPhoto: Gertrude Stein memorial in the Castro by Amber Guetebier


Walk it Out
Take a self-guided walking history tour around the Castro. From Market to 19th, the sidewalks feature plaques and information about some of SF’s most famous advocates for equality.

If you want to try a true butt buster and toddler-tiring walk, head straight up Castro to 21st Street. This hill, one of the steepest in SF, gives you an amazing view of downtown and the perfect excuse to treat yourself to some Junior Mints at the movies afterwards.

The Randall Museum
The beloved museum is technically in Corona Heights, but considering it’s a scenic 15 minute walk from the heart of the Castro, we would be remiss not to mention it. Stop by on Saturday mornings at 11:30 a.m. for the weekly “Meet the Animals” presentation.

199 Museum Way
San Francisco, Ca
Online: randallmuseum.org

Editor’s note: The Randall Museum is currently closed for a major renovation until late 2016 but their animals and program of drop-in arts and science classes are still being offered at the Mission Art Center, at 745 Treat Ave. in the Mission District (SF). For more info call the center at 415-695-5014. 


little_mermaid_singalong_castroPhoto: torbakhopper HE DEAD via Flickr 

The Castro Theatre
The jewel of the neighborhood, this theater shows kids’ movies, singalongs, and classics. It also features a rising Wurlitzer Organ, which is played before each movie, offering at atmosphere worthy of the 1920s, when the theatre was originally built.

429 Castro St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: castrotheatre.com

Close Up Toys BinsPhoto: Toy bins at Cliff’s Variety by Amber Guetebier

Cliff’s Variety
This unconventional neighborhood hardware store’s spoils include toys, quirky housewares, and year-round costume supplies like feather boas and glittery ribbons.

479 Castro St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.- Fri., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sat., 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sun., 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Online: cliffsvariety.com

Good to know: If you’ve never been, keep in mind that this neighborhood does have sex shops and occasional nudity so if your kids are as curious as ours, be prepared for inquiring minds to ask lots (and lots!) of questions.

Galati_Pirate Fun-Sausage FactoryPhoto: Manager at the Sausage Factory by Amber Guetebier


Incredible Mexican dishes await—kids and adults will go gaga over the short rib quesadillas. Drop by for dinner or Sunday brunch, and don’t leave without trying one of their killer cocktails.

2200 Market St.
San Francisco, Ca
Online: hechoinsf.com

The Sausage Factory
For comfort food like an Italian grandma used to make. Kids will dig the big pizzas and classic pasta dishes. Worried your kids won’t stay contained in the tight front dining quarters? Ask to sit in the back. If there are no big parties or special reservations you’ll get more space to yourself and be right by the restrooms. Open for dinner only.

517 Castro St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: 5-10 p.m. every day
Online: castrosausagefactory.com 

Ike’s Place
This famous sandwich shop might have a line, but one bite and you’ll see why. There’s nearly 100 sandwiches on the menu (Peg Bundy, Super Mario and the Pizzle among the choices) , so it may be best to study the list online before arriving.

3489 16th St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.-Wed., 10 a.m.-4 p.m, Thurs.-Sun., 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Online: ilikeikesplace.com

Orphan Andy’s
A hopping little old-school diner that’s open 24 hours. The menu is packed with every diner dish imaginable, and they all go great with a malt.

3991 17th St.
San Francisco, Ca

Rossi’s Delicatessen
Sammies with a great variety: salami, cheese, and even falafel. Pick up a few and take a stroll up to the Randall Museum for a picnic with the best view in town.

426 Castro St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sun., 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

chili_pies_sf_Photo: Chile Pies


Sweet Inspiration
Tarts, cakes, pies, cheesecakes and ice cream. Need we say more? Well, they are all made there and you can go in and sample the wares, then order a cake (or cheesecake) to go!

2239 Market St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Tues.-Sun., 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fri.& Sat., 8 a.m.-midnight. (Closed Mondays).
Online: sweetinspirationbakery.com 

Hot Cookie
Pick up a cookie (or ten) for your little cookie monsters. Located right next to the Castro Theater this tiny bakeshop, the treats are sweet but can come in some spicy shapes (beware that there are some shaped like dad’s naughty bits).

407 Castro St.
San Francisco, Ca
(415) 621-2350

Chile Pies
Pies, cakes, and ice cream from the Green Chile Kitchen peeps! They serve savory pies as well as sweet and the ice cream comes from Three Twins so ask for it ala’ mode!

314 Church St.
San Francisco, Ca
Hours: Mon.-Fri., noon-10 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Online: chilepies.com

F Market Line_Winnie L. via YelpPhoto: F Line at the Castro stop by Winnie L. via Yelp 

Getting There
Like many neighborhoods in San Francisco, parking can be tough.You can take a historic F Market Street Car (runs from the Ferry Plaza up Market Street to Castro) or any of the underground Muni streetcars: K, L, M, or T to Castro Street Station. Look for the giant rainbow flag to know you’ve made it! To and from Noe Valley you can take the 24 Divisadero, and the 33 Stanyan runs right down 18th Street from the Inner Richmond all the way to Potrero Hill. Cabs line up outside the Sausage Factory so one is always available.

What’s your favorite place in the Castro? Let us know below! 

—Amber Guetebier


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