BARS AND RESTAURANTS

7 Old School San Francisco Birthday Party Venues

 

If there’s one thing that can be said about San Francisco, it’s that the city knows how to party. From gold rushers drinking moonshine to revelers making merry at the World’s Fair in the ‘20s to the Castro’s drag queens discoteque-ing in the ‘70s, SF’s locals have always been bacchanalians of the highest order. Make your city proud and throw a birthday fete worthy of its legendary past. Here are seven San Francisco birthday party venues where you can celebrate another year in a quintessentially San Francisco way.

 

Forbes Island

News Flash: There’s a man-made island off of Fisherman’s Wharf complete with a lighthouse, white sand, a view of the Bay, and the former private home of eccentric millionaire Forbes Kiddoo—who hosts guests for dinner in an underwater wood-paneled dining room full of nautical antiques. Not kidding. You can book their Tahitian banquet room for an only-in-San Francisco (and probably a once-in-a-lifetime) experience, especially when you add their full island bar into the mix. Forbes Island should be a historical landmark.

Photo of Forbes Island by Colleen B on Yelp

 

The Tonga Room

The Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill is definitely one of the most grand and jaw-dropping historical hotels in the city, and in its basement is the lush Tonga Room. Tiki drinks have been consumed in this kitschy, swank island bar since 1945. Invite your guests to join you for happy hour around the lagoon and watch their reactions as a live band floats by under a tropical rainstorm complete with thunder and lightning. The dance floor is hopping later on in the night, and the floorboards are fashioned from the remnants of an old sea ship.

Photo of the Tonga Room by Darling N on Yelp

 

Li Po Lounge

This old dive bar, tucked away between dim sum restaurants and hanging laundry in Chinatown, is the closest you’re ever going to get to an underground opium den experience. With a cave entrance and opulent Buddha-esque decor from the 1970s, it’s a favorite of Anthony Bourdain as well as regulars playing Chinese Checkers. Be sure to order the mai tai—a super strong concoction made from “Chinese liquor” and some secret recipe only known to the bartendress. On weekend nights Li Po Lounge gets packed and everyone heads down to the subterranean basement to see live bands and DJs.

Photo of the Li Po Lounge by Janice C on Yelp

 

Cable Car

Yes, you can party on an original and authentic San Francisco cable car from the late 1800s/early 1900s. You’ve seen those annoying people on Market Street, right? The ones drinking on a Classic Cable Car Charter and having an “amazing” time while they obnoxiously make their way to whatever fabulous place they’re going? This can be you. Your driver can take you and 30 of your friends to a specific destination in the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge and back, or on a Holiday Lights tour during Christmas when San Francisco is arguably the most magical. Just don’t forget to BYOB.

Photo by Classic Cable Car Charters on Yelp

 

Beach Blanket Babylon

Beach Blanket Babylon is a campy San Francisco institution and small theater production playing host to a cast of singing and dancing characters with gigantic hats and crazy costumes. The show takes place at the vaudeville-esque red-lit theatre Club Fugazi in North Beach, and it seems like it’s on every local’s bucket list for “what to do in SF.” The storyline is typically a play on the “Snow White” story, but they keep it fresh yearly with satire and spoofs on current events. If you want to bring your birthday party here you can get a nice group rate.

Photo of Beach Blanket Babylon by Michael C on Yelp

 

Musée Mécanique

Just near Fisherman’s Wharf there’s a warehouse full of vintage penny arcade games—the private collection of a man obsessed with Playland at the Beach and other seaside amusement parks of the early 1900s. A ginormous and creepy “Laffiing Sal” towers above as you walk in the door, and a roll of quarters will get you your fortune told by a typewriter, a tune by the player piano, a show by dancing mechanical puppets, and a look at some “naughty” peep shows. The owner of the Musée Mécanique wheels around on roller skates fixing machines just as fast as tourists can break them. You can rent out the whole shebang for a private event.

Photo of the Musée Mécanique by Kathleen C on Yelp

 

“Wilson & Wilson” at Bourbon & Branch

Shhh… the secret may be out about the speakeasy Bourbon & Branch, but your birthday guests will be wowed when you lead them through a hidden door to Wilson & Wilson (a bar-within-a-bar) for a proper Prohibition-style shindig. Bourbon & Branch is housed in an actual speakeasy that operated illegally during the 1920s bootlegging alcohol through its secret passages. You need a password to get into the joint, so don’t forget to make an advance reservation for your private party. The hand crafted cocktails and speakeasy ambience will make it well worth the extra effort to get in.

Photo of Bourbon & Branch by Mary W on Yelp