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San Francisco, California - History, Hiking & More During Your City By the Bay Visit

By Bill Malcolm | April 13, 2021

No sooner had I stepped off my Southwest Airlines flight at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) than I was in a LGBTQ history exhibit like none other.

The new Harvey Milk Terminal (aka Terminal One) which has been open less than a year at SFO showcases the life of former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk. Milk was a LGBTQ political trail blazer in so many respects. He was the first openly gay individual elected to office in California (in 1977) and served just 11 months before being murdered by another Supervisor, Dan White who also murdered Mayor George Moscone. The amazing life of one of the nation’s first openly LGBTQ politicians is showcased in a half mile exhibit as you walk down the new terminal named in his honor.  The terminal exhibit alone is worth a visit to the City by the Bay. 


I always stay at Beck’s Motor Lodge near the Castro right on Market Street. Shops and restaurants are nearby and the rates are reasonable. It is also out of the touristy areas and in the heart of the gayborhood. It has free parking but you won’t need a car. Other options nearby include the Parker Guest House and The Willows.


A walk along Castro Street is another history lesson with famous LGBTQ folks embdedded in gold sidewalk displays. Learn about the lives of LGBTQ legends, many from the Bay Area. The City was and is a magnet for LGBTQ folks and is still cutting edge today.

San Francisco safe outdoor hiking options abound. From my motel (Becks Motor Lodge), you can hike up to Buena Vista Park for great views of the Bay Area and Twin Peaks.

Then hike over to Corona Heights for more great views of the City by the Bay (with lunch at the Josesphine Café at the Randall Museum). A hike up to Twin Peaks is another option from the Castro.

A bit further is the amazing Golden Gate Park and the beaches on the Pacific Ocean.

We took BART from 24th/Mission down to the Embarcadero. We stopped at Rincon Center with 1930 era murals of the history of California. Then we headed over to the Ferry Building for lunch and shopping.

Head over to the new rooftop gardens at the Salesforce Tower Transbay Transit Terminal that features a display in the mile-long garden of the various types of ecosystems that thrive in the Mediterranean climate of this amazing state. Don’t miss the redwood garden.

A walk thought the Financial District up to Union Square is another must.

If you have a car, try Edgewood County Park on the Peninsula just down I-280 south of the City on the world’s most beautiful freeway (really).


The bars are open in the Castro Street neighborhood are slowly re-opening and include The Lookout (3600 16th Street at Market) has a great deck overlooking the street scene.

Twin Peaks Tavern at Market and Castro (401 Castro) bills itself as the Gateway to the Castro and features Irish Coffee and drink specials. It also has outdoor seating and great views of the street action. Hi Tops at 2247 Market is another fun sports bar with outdoor seating.


Eric’s on Church Street (accessible via the J Church Metro Line) has great lunch specials. It is a Chinese restaurant with tasty home-cooked healthy ingredients.

In nearby West Portal, enjoy Italian food at the amazing Spiazzo Restaurant. Try the salmon. (Catch the K or L line bus from the Castro.) West Portal also abounds with other options for dining.

Peet’s Coffee is across the street from Beck’s Motor Lodge is a great breakfast option for to go selections.


I took Southwest to SFO and flew back out of Oakland International Airport (OAK). Both are convenient options served by the BART transit system. Get a Clipper Card and you can also use it on the San Francisco bus system, Muni. 


Check out the Bay Area Reporter ( or pick up a printed copy). They just celebrated their 50th anniversary.  Bay Times is the other local LGBTQ publication. Both are great sources for ideas on what to do while visiting and current updates on what is open and what is not.

Bill Malcolm is the nation’s only LGBTQ value travel syndicated columnist. He lived in San Francisco for 12 years after attending college at UC Santa Cruz and working at Yosemite National Park.

He co-founded the San Francisco Hiking Club, a LGBTQ group which is still going strong today. Check its website for upcoming hikes

( although COVID limits the number of attendees.

Check with the CDC, the State of California, and the City and County of San Francisco for travel updates, COVID 19 travel restrictions, and other regulations before considering travel to the Bay Area. This column can help you plan your travel when it is safe for you to do so. Until then, you can use it to learn about other cities.


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