It’s Pride Week and as usual, the gayest city in the world is going a little bananas with the rainbows. That means LGBT peeps are visiting San Francisco in bigger droves than ever. And Oakland too – seeing as it’s become a big, gay destination in its own right (and with far better weather in June). When the hotels are booked solid and the guidebooks have staled, the sharing economy takes over. After all, nobody knows the hotspots like a local who’s already used to dispensing wisdom on where to party, eat, and sightsee.
In celebration of Pride and the diversity of fun things to do in S.F. year-round, we found five unique individuals and couples from around the Bay Area’s diverse community of Airbnb hosts to share their favorite neighborhood spots and explain why they love opening up their homes to visitors. They all stick around while they’re hosting and provide charming, delightfully quirky extras for their guests, LGBT or otherwise.
Toby and Joe
Neighborhood: Bernal Heights
A bit about Toby and Joe: Toby and Joe are well-established artists who’ve been together for almost a quarter century. They own two adjacent homes that have since been connected; each houses their respective art studios. Guests stay in a 9x12 cottage in Toby and Joe’s fully enclosed garden, with separate access to laundry, a private bathroom, and the kitchen. Guests may make appointments to see (and purchase) paintings, prints, wooden objects, and more.
Pride picks: Hard French, a monthly dance party normally held at El Rio in Bernal Heights, moves to Mezzanine during Pride for Hard French Hearts Los Homos. The Wild Side West, a Bernal institution for women-loving-women since 1962, is a home for blueberry mojitos, trivia, and more.
Neighborhood can’t miss: All guests at Toby and Joe’s get a huge welcome envelope bursting with suggestions on where to go and what to eat, including: Paulie’s Pickling in the 331 Cortland incubator space for the delicious chopped liver; cozy locals spot Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack for good ol’ pasta and more; 3rd Cousin, a forthcoming restaurant (opening in September) that will feature Toby’s work; and New Wheel for renting electric bikes.
Neighborhood: the Castro
Hosting since: 2008
A bit about Geo: Geo’s beautiful flat (and garden full of native plants with hummingbirds) earned him 223 reviews in five-and-a-half years. He also is a giver: “I want to offer something not everybody does – breakfast! I make homemade coffee cakes, homemade granola, and get fresh fruit every day. I set the table the night before and have the coffeepots ready.” Geo has become highly politically engaged, hosting meetings, volunteering with Airbnb on community projects, and organizing postcard-writing campaigns to elected officials.
Pride picks: While Geo is most excited about the Faerie Village after the Pride parade itself, the Frameline Film Festival is at the Castro Theatre, and the shows at Harvey’s are but a block away. He’s keen on showing everyone the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. Also, the Queen Dilly Dally’s Castro Pub Crawl virtually surrounds his house for a month straight.
Melinda and Colleen
Neighborhood: Twin Peaks
Hosting Since: 2011
A bit about Melinda and Colleen: Melinda, a multi-instrumentalist, and Colleen, an interior designer, live in an unusual space – an apartment-within-an-apartment. “Europeans really get this, because it’s like a pension.” With easy access to the Castro, Cole Valley, and Golden Gate Park, and offering a space with a piano and a great view from their rooftop garden, Melinda and Colleen get lots of traveling musicians.
Pride picks: The Pink Triangle installation on Twin Peaks is within walking distance of their home. Melinda is an ordained intentional interim pastor in the United Church of Christ, the first denomination to sanction same-sex marriages – in 1972! – and there is a Pride Mass at Beaux. She and her wife will be hosting a singer for a production at the SF Opera – they’re more interested in music than partying, so there’s Dazzle (the Gay Men’s Chorus Pride Concert). And Melinda recommends Cafe Flore to everyone, all year long, but especially in June.
Neighborhood can’t miss:
Melinda and Colleen tell guests, “Bring your walking shoes and make SF your gym.” These establishments are a short walk from their home in Twin Peaks: Ice Cream Bar, Frances, Blue Bottle, and Thorough Bread and Pastry (“Get the croissants!”). “And walk down Caselli Street because the Victorians – you’re right next to them and there’s no traffic – there’s a renovated church, the Caselli Mansion, and the House of the Rising Sun on Douglass.”
Neighborhood: Lincoln Highlands, Oakland
Hosting since: August 2013
A bit about Nancy: Nancy’s five-bedroom home with panoramic views was already in her family when she began renting rooms out to employees of her now-defunct startup. It’s now a mix of Craigslist and Airbnb tenants, and has become something of a commune. (Hosting has become her full-time job.) As San Francisco has grown more and more expensive, Oakland’s queer community has burgeoned – especially among the under-35 set – and Nancy’s block is no exception. It’s a great option for visitors who realize, whoa, half my friends are in the East Bay now.
Pride picks: The East Bay sometimes gets short shrift, and although Oakland Pride isn’t until August 31, there’s plenty to do in June, including Ships in the Night, a party for queer people of color. Rebel Kings at the White Horse has a “bunch of cute little boyish girls singing and dancing.” Country-dance night Texas Rose offers “once-a-month, women- and trans-friendly dances and lessons. It’s everywhere from 20-year-olds to 80-year olds. At the beginning, it’s structured a lot, so shy people get to switch, lead, and follow.”
Oakland can’t miss: Nancy loves Pizzaiolo in Temescal; Thornhill Coffee, the Montclair Farmers’ Market, and Farmer Joe’s in the Oakland Hills; and First Fridays all over Oakland. “I don’t believe in golf. I hate golf. I hate fertilizers. I hate the elitist mentality. However, I do like driving balls off the range at Lake Chabot. It’s efficient because there’s a lot of people doing it, you get a bucket of balls and a lot of satisfaction.”
Hosting since: 2011
A bit about Chris: Chris works in Airbnb’s HR department and also moderates Bearbnb, a host group on Airbnb composed of gay men who tend toward the furry, burly side of things. When hosting in his garden apartment – whose tastefully tiki-themed yard he landscaped himself – Chris relinquishes his “big-ass bed” for a mancave. He has a French bulldog named Celie who “gets mentioned more than I do in the reviews.”
Pride picks: Chris volunteers for the Rainbow World Fund (best known for its Brady Bunch–themed bus) and will be marching with the Airbnb contingent. He has a strict “No Sleeping with Guests (No Matter How Hard They Try)” rule, but can be slightly naughty. And in that vein there is the Men’s Spanking Party. Since he’s a cowboy, there is the Sundance Saloon Pre-Pride Country-Western Dance. And for light travelers suddenly in need of a costume, he sends them to Decades of Fashion and, nearer by, Costumes on Haight.
Neighborhood can’t miss: The Pilsner Inn. “People really like the atmosphere, because it’s a pub.” For younger guys, he recommends Toad Hall, 440, and the Midnight Sun for a slightly older crowd. To soak it up, he suggests Crepevine and Chow. And for thrifting, LGBT-owned Out of the Closet.
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