Friends who visited San Francisco said they expected the city to be a lot more wild than they experienced.  I asked where they spent most of their time and they said, “Fisherman’s Wharf,” and so of course.

If the wild side is your thing, I am sure you will be motivated to figure out and find where to go all by yourself.  If not so much, the point of this post is to make you aware of what you might stumble upon.

In San Francisco’s Wild Side, I discuss:

  • Nude Beaches
  • Public Nudity
  • Celebrating Fetish
  • Green Chocolate Chip Cookies

San Francisco’s Wild Side

Nude beaches

Some of the beaches in and around San Francisco are clothing optional.   If you go, but plan to keep your clothing on, be polite and don’t stare or take pictures. The old adage: “If they are nude in public they must want people to look at them,” is just not true.  Its more about the sun than your eyes.  If you do strip down, keep in mind, clothing optional does not mean sex or lewdness permitted.

The beaches (you can google for directions):

  • North side of Bakers Beach (serious caution: watch the riptide and undertow here)
  • Marshall Beach (amazing views of the Golden Gate)
Marshall Beach past the naturalist section
  • Black Sands Beach (across the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands) – amazing views of San Francisco.
  • Muir Beach (further up route 1) – Pet-friendly clothing-optional beach.

Public Nudity

I believe being modest is over-rated.  So someone is naked in a park, whatever.  But others disagree.  Don’t be surprised if you see naked people laying out in parks like Golden Gate Park or Mission Dolores Park on a nice day.  I will leave it to you to interpret the legality of nudity in San Francisco if you chose to partake.

Some events have a lot of nudity, for example:

  • Bay to Breakers.  This USATF-certified footrace has serious runners, costumed runners, and a contingent of nude runners.  Bay to Breakers is an event worth visiting for.
  • Halloween – a birthday suit is in fact a costume!
Interesting people
I asked this guy if I could take his picture and he was fine with it.  Typical San Francisco sidewalk scene.

Celebrating Fetish

In certain neighborhoods (Castro, Polk Gulch, Folsom, and even Nob Hill) you may see a handful of storefronts specializing in Fetish.  You may also see a man (or woman) walking on all fours wearing nothing but a collar and leather shorts. Their “master” is probably holding the leash.  If that is their thing, again whatever.

You may also find meeting groups like Monday Sucks.  If you go thinking this is a movement for a shorter work week or a venting session about Mondays, um, ya. I will leave it at that.

If you really want to celebrate Fetish, there are two street fairs each year that do so:

Folsom Street Fair is a tourist-friendly Fetish Festival celebrated each year in September.  If you have never been to an event like this, be open minded.  Two pieces of advice:

  • If you are having ‘unexplored feelings’ like you want to join in, by all means do it.  It is a safe environment with friendly people.  Even if you simply want to take off your shirt and have people rub your gut (or abs), go for it. Though a gut will probably be more popular than abs.
  • If you are not local or not with a big group, maybe follow the lead of the crowd and not be the trend setter.  It may not seem like it, but there are boundaries at Folsom.

For as much as Folsom Street Fair is tame and tourist friendly, Dore Alley Festival (often called Up Your Alley) is at a different level, held around the last weekend in July.  Folsom is about 50/50 men and woman.  Dore is more men, but still has a female presence.

For full disclosure, fetish is not my thing, but I’m always up for a party or a festival.  I went to Dore Alley Festival twice and two experiences stood out to me if you want a sense of this event:

  1. I had a few beers and needed to relieve myself (beer goes right through me).  They had a “pissing tent” with a far shorter line than the porta-potty row.  Maybe I am naive, but I did not expect to see people sitting in the tub that I was to pee in. (I turned around and waited in line at the porta-potty).
  2. There was a contest in one area with some serious cash prizes:  one prize was for size and the other for distance.  You can figure it out.

Green Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you are looking for a drug scene in San Francisco, you should not have too hard of a time finding whatever you are looking for.  Be careful is my only advice.

For those of you not looking for a drug scene, you may be at a neighborhood festival or a benefit and see some beautiful, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies with a cute name to them. You may notice the slightly green tint they have and think “How festive!”  They might cost $6 each but you figure, ‘Hey it goes to a good cause’.  Trust me, do not eat the whole cookie by yourself in one sitting.  Maybe take a piece and pass the cookie on to others.  Don’t be surprised if you suddenly get an urge for Doritos.

Final Thoughts

This post just touches the surface of the more wild side of San Francisco.  For a visitor, it may be hard to quickly figure out the real wild-side events and networks in San Francisco.  They do exist thought.  Talk to people, get into the neighborhoods and go to clubs, venues, shops, and bars that support your interest.  And don’t forget a lot wild times take place at the beach as much as in the city.

*    *    *

This San Francisco travel overview is broken into 10 parts:

San Francisco Part 1 – Overview (including getting there, weather, and where to stay)

San Francisco Part 2 – Top 5 Touristy Things To Do

San Francisco Part 3 – Best Walks in San Francisco

San Francisco Part 4 – Top 5 Off the Beaten Path Things To Do

San Francisco Part 5 – Where to Eat and Drink

San Francisco Part 6 – Avoiding the Bad Side

San Francisco Part 7 – Experiencing the Wild Side 

San Francisco Part 8 – Amazing Day Hikes Around San Francisco

San Francisco Part 9 – Amazing Day Trips Around San Francisco

San Francisco Part 10 – Further Afield from San Francisco (and Worth It)