Castro-Noe Valley is an area of San Francisco made up the two neighborhoods: Castro and Noe Valley. The area is bounded roughly by the Twin Peaks on the west, Dolores Street on the east, Duboce Avenue on the north and San Jose Avenue on the south.
Originally an Irish working class neighborhood of San Francisco, the Castro has been transformed for the past 35 years and recognized by many as the gay mecca of the world. Filled with bookstores, clothing outlets, video stores and bars (and practically anything else you can think of) that cater towards the GLBT community, the Castro is a required visit for anyone even slightly interested in gay lifestyle and culture, and is truly a local authentic gem of San Francisco.
Noe Valley is a long gentrified neighborhood in San Francisco with many hip and trendy restaurants and boutique shops. The main commercial corridor is on 24th Street between Guerrero Street and Diamond Street. Walking along 24th Street during the day you will see well-attended coffee shops, chic boutiques and several baby strollers. You can learn more about the goings-on in Noe Valley by reading either the print or online edition of the Noe Valley Voice.
This is the best way to get to the Castro. The K, L, or M MUNI Metro underground lines at the Church Street station at Market and Church and the Castro Street station at Market and Castro. The J Church line can also get you to the Castro, although it comes above ground and turns south on Church Street, which runs along the eastern edge of the district. For a more scenic ride, take the historic F Market streetcar line from Fisherman's Wharf, the Embarcadero and Downtown down Market to Castro Street.
MUNI bus lines which serve the area include 24-Divisadero, which runs along Castro Street through most of the district, heading north to Pacific Heights and southeast to Bayview-Hunters Point, the 33-Stanyan, which runs east-west along 18th Street, the 48-Quintara/24th Street, which runs east-west along 24th Street, continuing east to Potrero Hill and west past Twin Peaks, West Portal and into Sunset, and the 35 and 37 neighborhood lines.
The BART system runs through the nearby Mission neighborhood, where you can either get off at the 16th Street station and transfer to the #33 bus line, or get off at the 24th Street station and transfer to the #48 bus line.
Don't drive into the area. Use public transit instead. There is a public parking garage on Noe just north of Market, but it is small. Street parking is very hard to find, especially on the weekends. If you park at the Safeway on Market and you don't go exclusively there, you will be towed. There are some metered spots along 18th between Sanchez and Eureka, but these are hard to come by. On weekends, parking is better as the 2-hour neighborhood permits don't apply. Noe Valley has one small public lot, but you will likely need to find street parking, and this can be particularly scarce on weekends during brunch and dinner times.
The Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between 17th and 18th Streets), ☎ +1 415 621-6120, . A lovingly restored Art Deco jewelbox of an independent movie theatre, with a Wurlitzer organ and splendid organist, special sing-along showings, and more. A "rep house" or repertory theater, it tends to screen a wide variety of classic or obscure but worthwhile films, and be a venue of choice of local film festivals. But showings aside, the building itself is worth the visit! $9.50 adults, $7 seniors/teens/matinee. edit
LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market Street (at Octavia), ☎ +1 415 865-5555, . M-Th noon-10PM, F noon-6PM, Sa 9AM-6PM. The Center houses the offices of various community organizations, and has space for public events and meetings. The ground floor features a cafe space, and on the third floor there is a cyber center which offers an hour of free computer time.edit
GLBT Historical Society, 499 Castro Street (Corner of Castro and 18th), ☎ +1 415 621-1107, . W-Sa 12PM-8PM, Su 12PM-6PM (except holidays). A GLBT historical exhibit, "Passionate Struggle", traces elements of the community's affinities and differences. It takes you from the bedrooms and back rooms to the bookstores and bars, from Harvey Milk’s victories to transgender sex workers’ riots, from social movements to secret fantasies.$3. edit
Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, ☎ +1 415 554-9600, . Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM. A small but fun children's museum with several interactive exhibits, including live animals, a science exhibit, a toddler play area, and a railroad exhibit which includes a model railroad layout which is open on Saturdays. The museum is perched on a hill, offering great views of the San Francisco skyline.Free. edit
There are several major cultural festivals and events in the Castro annually.
Halloween in the Castro, . Halloween, the holiday when everyone puts on a mask, has long been a special time for gay, lesbian and bisexual people to take off the "straight-looking mask" they sometimes wore all year, and be themselves. What remains today is a huge, sometimes poorly controlled, street party in the Castro on the evening of October 31st each year.edit
Pink Saturday, (Castro Street from Market St downhill). Saturday night before the LGBT Pride Parade, last weekend in June. A street party, organised by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.Free, donations encouraged. edit
Castro Street Fair, (On Castro Street), ☎ +1-415 841-1824, . First Sunday in October, 11AM-6PM. Vendors, dancing, fundraising for community groups.edit
Cliff's Variety, 479 Castro St (between Market & 18th St), ☎ +1 415 431-5365 (fax: +1 415 431-0803), . M-F 8:30AM-8PM, Sa 9:30AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Toys, gifts, kitchenware, hardware, and the newly remodeled annex next door is where to shop for do it yourself home decor items and is THE place to get rhinestones.edit
Under One Roof, 518 Castro St, ☎ +1 415 503-2300, . Daily 10AM-9PM. Supports 33 AIDS Service Organizations throughout the Bay Area. "The mission of Under One Roof is to generate unrestricted funds for agencies that provide HIV/AIDS education and support services."edit
ImagiKnit, 3897 18th St (at Sanchez), ☎ +1 415 621-6642, . M-Sa 11AM-6:30PM, Su 11AM-4PM. These women opened up the yarn shop that they'd like to hang out in and the whole neighborhood concurs that they're doing it right.edit
Noe Valley Farmers Market, in the parking lot between Sanchez/Vicksburg. All year Sa 8AM-Noon. edit
Just For Fun / Scribbledoodles, 3982 24th St, ☎ +1 415 285-4068, . M-F 10AM-7PM, Sa 9AM-7PM, Su 10AM-6PM. Stationery and gifts; custom color printing and calligraphy for announcements. They have also opened an art supply store across the street.edit
Church Street Flowers, 212 Church St, ☎ +1 415 553-7762, . M-F 9AM-7PM, Sat 10AM-7PM. Rated 'Best of the Bay' #1 Florist for the past six years, this adorable flower shop has the most beautiful and unique blooms from all over the world.edit
The Ark Toys, 3845 24th St, ☎ +1 415 821-1257, . 10:00-19:00. This unique local toy store carries everything from hand-carved wooden animals, play food sets, educational toys, games, and more. Established in the late 80s, this award-winning local business is one of the most beloved toy stores in the Bay Area. Carrying everything from Lego to Waldorf School favorites, The Ark has one of the most unique selections of toys in San Francisco and Berkeley. The Ark has three locations in Presidio Heights, Noe Valley, and Berkeley. Voted "Best of The Bay" by the SF Bay Guardian.edit
24th Street Cheese Company, 3893 24th Street (between Sanchez and Vicksburg), ☎ +1 415 821-6658. Carries hundreds of cheeses where you can taste before you buy.edit
Chow, 215 Church St (Castro) (between 15th St & Market St), ☎ +1 415 552-2469, . Su-Th 8AM-11PM, F-Sa 8AM-12AM. Serves Traditional American style food. Try their delicious breakfast made with fresh ingredients. They have reasonable prices, a casual atmosphere, good for kids and large groups, and good waiter service. $11-$30. edit
Eric's, 1500 Church Street (at 27th), ☎ +1 415 282-0919 (fax: +1 415 282-9989). M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 12:30PM-9PM. California Chinese cuisine (e.g.: many vegs are fresh, white or brown rice, mu shu comes with grilled flour tortillas). Tasty food in a bustling place. Accessible, vegetarian friendly, beer and wine, moderately loud.$2-6 apps, $6-$11 entrees ($7 minimum). edit
Firefly, 4288 24th Street (between Diamond and Douglass), ☎ +1 415 821-7652, . Daily 5:30PM-10PM. A favorite neighborhood restaurant among locals with creative home cooking and friendly service.edit
Hahn's Hibachi, 1305 Castro Street (at 24th Street), ☎ +1 415 642-8151, . The place to go for cheap, fast, and tasty food. Choose from the grilled chicken, mountain of meat, or saute chicken.$8.50-$15. edit
Haystack Pizza, 3881 24th Street (at Sanchez), ☎ +1 415 647-1929, . Su-Th 11:30AM-11PM, F-Sa 11:30AM-Midnight. A neighborhood favorite with a full menu with many choices for various diets.edit
Incanto, 1550 Church St (at Duncan), ☎ +1 415 641-4500, . Su-Mo 5:30PM-9:30PM, W-Sa 5:30PM-10PM. Eclectic Italian food (often involving offal) from iconoclastic chef Chris Cosentino, with an extensive and varied selection of Italian wines.edit
Kasa Indian Eatery, 4001 18th St (at Noe), ☎ +1 415 621-6940, . 11AM-10PM. Indian food in a casual setting emphasizing from-scratch cooking with fresh ingredients.$5-$12. edit
La Ciccia, 291 30th St (at Church), ☎ +1 415 550-8114, . Tu-Su 5:30PM-10PM. Gourmet Sardinian food, Italianate but often surprisingly spiced. Large list of unusual Sardinian and other Italian wines. edit
Lovejoy's Tea Room, 1351 Church Street (at Clipper), ☎ +1 415 648-5895, . W-Su 11AM-6PM. Combination antique store and one of the best places to have a cosy High Tea in the city.edit
Noe Valley Bakery, 4073 24th Street (at Castro), ☎ +1 415 550-1405 (email@example.com, fax: +1 415 550-1485), . M-F 7AM-7PM, Sa-Su 7AM-6PM. Considered one of the best local bakeries in the area. They supply some of the better SF restaurants as well as neighborhood demand for baked goods.edit
Sausage Factory Italian, 517 Castro Street (between 18th Street and 19th Street), ☎ +1 415 626-1250, . Daily 11:30AM-midnight. It's larger than it looks from the outside, extending back into the middle of the block. Delivery.edit
Savor, 3913 24th Street (at Sanchez), ☎ +1 415 282-0344. Su-Th 8AM-10PM, F-Sa 8AM-11PM. A popular brunch spot.edit
Sparky's 24-Hour Diner, 242 Church Street (between Market and 15th), ☎ +1 415 626-8666, . 24/7 daily. Delivery. Full-on diner fare, good salads and baked items.edit
Thai House Express, 599 Castro Street (at 19th), ☎ +1 415 864-5000, . Daily 11:30AM-10:30PM. Excellent Thai food in a gay atmosphere, with some dishes that are not on the menu of most American Thai restaurants, such as Kao Soy, chicken with soft and crispy noodles in mustard sauce.edit
440 Castro, 440 Castro St, ☎ +1 415 621-8732, . Heavy gay bar with a rowdy crowd and lots of bears, but for some this is the definitive Castro bar.edit
The LookOut, 3600 16th Street, ☎ +1 415 431-0306. Very popular gay bar with great food, a nice balcony, and a much calmer crowd than the 440 Castro.edit
Mix, 4086 18th Street, ☎ +1 415 431-8616, . Daily 6AM-2AM. Billing itself as a "neighborhood bar", Mix has strong drinks and a great back patio.edit
Moby Dick, 4049 18th Street, . M-F 2PM-2AM, Sa-Su Noon-2AM. Great bartenders, cheap strong drinks, music videos, and pinball.edit
Pilsner Inn, 225 Church Street (between 15th St and Market St), ☎ +1 415 621-7058, . Daily 10AM-2AM. A low-key, unpretentious gay bar with plenty of room inside.edit
Twin Peaks Tavern, 401 Castro Street (between 17th St and 18th St), ☎ +1 415 864-9470, . Very nice gay bar with a great atmosphere and nice staff. Historically this was the first gay bar in the US to display its patrons to the public, offering large windows looking IN to the bar. Until this addition, most all gay bars were underground bars/clubs that kept the clientele hidden from the general public.edit
Cafe Flore, 2298 Market Street (at Noe), ☎ +1 415 621-8579, . Su-Th 7AM-11PM, F-Sa 7AM-Midnight. Go for the good tea or latte and the prime people watching, not necessarily the food.edit
Samovar Tea Lounge, 498 Sanchez Street (at 18th Street), ☎ +1 415 626-4700, . Daily 10AM-10PM. Live jazz on Fridays, a Stitch-and-Bitch knitting aficionado gathering on Sunday afternoons, over 100 kinds of tea. Comfortable hangout.edit
Noe Valley also has the nickname "coffee gulch". While Starbucks is popular, the locals prefer Martha's (24th Street between Church and Sanchez)  and Bernie's (24th between Noe and Sanchez) .