A Rainbow of Activity: Exploring the Castro With Kids

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)

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.

Where to Play in the Castro

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
Online: sfrecpark.org

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
Online: sfrecpark.org

Photo: Amber Guetebier

Explore the Castro with Kids

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
Online: randallmuseum.org

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
Online: castrotheatre.com

Close Up Toys Bins
Photo: 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
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 Factory
Photo: Amber Guetebier

Where to Eat in the Castro with Kids

Hecho: 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
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
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
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

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

Photo: Chile Pies

Where to Get Dessert in the Castro

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
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

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
Online: chilepies.com

Getting to the Castro: 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.




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