Every year, there are first-timers who might accidentally miss out by just showing up, without being on the right party lists, and not knowing where to go. So, I'm using this space to gather together everybody's suggestions and shared wisdom based on experience.
• Start by reading this article from Leatherati, posted in 2011. It contains a lot of great wisdom, particularly on the best way to find private parties.
As I say in the 24-minute audio, the following is advice from an older, kinky and dominant gay-male, who has zero interest in big, hot parties. If those are your interest, there is NO lack of fun for your tastes.
My audio recording talks about the PRACTICAL stuff, such as packing some bandage wrap. Why? There is a LOT of walking (San Francisco blocks are very long), and even the best-fitting boots can wear holes in your feet.
My primary reason for passing this information along is to give advice to the men who are in my Tuesday Night Top Trainings. They are ready to step out and try some new things at their very first Folsom Street Fair. If this doesn't describe you, please feel free to check it out anyway, because there is a lot of practical information that may help you.
Lost TreasuresI am sad to say, I have had to delete a LOT of great recommendations from the previous versions of this article. Places like Stompers Boots, Worn Out West, Butler Uniform, Bear Magazine headquarters, Madame S and so many other long-time kinky destinations were driven out of business by sky-high rental costs, thanks to Silicon Valley millionaires driving up the value of the land.
I used to gather together at least twenty first timers together and give them a guided tour of San Franciscos Leather District. We'd start at one end, and work our way over, street by street. We NEVER made it to our final destination, though. We'd be walking toward the last place on the list, and we would walk right by the Factory Outlet Lamps and Fixtures store display window. These butch leathermen would squeal "Oh, my god! Did you see those cunning little SCONCES?"
So, they'd head inside, and that would be the end of the tour.
Ah, well. At least I have happy memories. I've been going to Folsom Street Fair for 34 years. A lot has changed, but in the case of the Fair itself, it's just gotten HUGE!
In my own case, I like to arrive EARLY for the Street Fair on Sunday, and then leave around 3:30, because it's just SO CROWDED. As in, if somebody following closely around me gets separated, it can take them ten minutes to catch up to me. From twenty feet away. Bring sunscreen, drink lots of water, and carry a backpack if you plan to strip down.
Take the time in the days before the Street Fair to really, thoroughly visit the local gay-male tourist sites:
The day BEFORE the Street Fair is when you want to visit Mister S. The place is JAMMED. See and be seen. Cute boys are everywhere, serving free beer, answering questions and decorating the place with their beauty.
When he reports back in, he is dizzy with pleasure. He has never been naked in public for so long, and everyone that interacts with him starts by asking "Who collared you?" When he points at me, they say "You are very lucky!" He is finally understanding what being collared by a Sir can be like.
One block away from Mister S at 1201 Folsom Street is Leather Etc. It is a treasure for those of us in the know. Why? It is run by a family that makes the leather shirts and pants that are sold at Mister S for a LOT more money. You can buy them a block away at the factory outlet store for quite a bit less! The staff is TRUSTWORTHY - they will never steer you wrong. Let them help you find your heart's desire in leather form!
As soon as you pull into town and dump off your luggage, be sure to take the trolley to the Castro and have breakfast in a window-seat at The Cove on Castro at 434 Castro Street (across the street from the Castro Theater), particularly on Saturday before the Street Fair. The kinky tourists will be swarming past the place in full regalia, and it makes for a GREATLY entertaining meal.
If you are going to San Francisco for ANY reason, sample the superb restaurants. North Beach has some spectacular Italian restaurants, all competing on the basis of their excellent reputations. Expect to lick the plates when you are done. I like to visit Mona Lisa when I am in town.
If you like seafood, I strongly recommend Tadich Grill. It's a tradition for me to get my seafood urges satisfied there.
Obligatory San Francisco Joke
One time, my husband and I decided to do a few typically touristy San Francisco things while we were in town. We rode the cable cars, visited several museums, and headed over to Fisherman's Wharf. We wandered by an outdoor seafood restaurant, where tourists sat at picnic tables, eating seafood and tossing shells into 55-gallon drums.
I saw a King Crab carapace in one of the trash bins, and picked it up. I pulled the legs off, and then placed it on my forehead. In my deepest voice, I said "IT IS A GOOD DAY TO DIE! I AM FISHERMAN'S WORF!"
What other places/parties/events would you recommend?
If you have more tips that would help others, please pass them along to me at papatony @mac.com - I will archive them over the years, and keep sending them out!