Have you ever had that dream where you're going about your normal everyday life, walking to work, going to class, shopping for groceries and suddenly realize your naked and everyone else is dressed?
Well what if you really did walk around naked where mostly everyone else is dressed? It can happen in The Castro neighborhood in San Francisco.
San Francisco has a long history of being tolerant of birthday suits.
The city hosts a number of famous events many of which have a clothing optional element every year. One of the most famous is the Bay to Breakers Race held in May every year. It just celebrated it's 100th anniversary last year. Depending on weather, from 50,000-100,000 people participate. It's very much a party atmosphere. About half the runners wear costumes. When the weather is nice, thousands run or walk nude.
The annual Pride Parade in June has around 500,000 attendees many of whom wear nude-themed costumes.
The Folsom Street Fair is held in September every year and will have around 400,000 attendees. Nudity is very common at this event.
Finally, the World Naked Bike Ride is held every June.
Nude recreation is so popular in northern California that the San Francisco Bay Guardian publishes an annual clothing optional beach guide.
San Gregorio Beach, which is located about 20 miles south of San Francisco, is the first official nude beach in the U.S starting back in 1967.
The City of San Francisco has three nude beaches. Baker Beach in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is the most famous. On clear days, it has fantastic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin county. My wife and I went there on Monday, July 30. Although the weather was a little foggy, and it was midweek, there were around 25 nude regulars and tourists. We learned on a warm, sunny weekend day, there will be upwards of a few hundred skinny dippers relaxing on this beautiful beach.
The view here is breath-taking. Travel writer Mary Moore Mason says, "The Golden Gate Bridge's daily strip tease from enveloping stoles of mist to full frontal glory is still the most provocative show in town." We agree.
How about urban nudity? San Francisco does not have a law against being naked in public. In 2010, a small urban park was created at Castro, Market and 17th Streets. Almost immediately, neighborhood nudists started to use this park. Last fall, national news was made when city supervisor Scott Wiener proposed a law requiring nudists to sit on towels.
You've heard the expression, "when in Rome do as the Romans do." Naturally, I had to join in with the nudists of The Castro. At lunchtime, we joined regulars Craig, Robert and Lloyd plus a few other people including a tourist from Kansas City enjoying the warm San Francisco day wearing just their smiles. I learned the regulars eat lunch at this small park everyday (weather permitting). Usually from 10-15 people are relaxing here on any given weekday -- on weekends, you'll find maybe 40-50 people.
Almost everyone including the local business community are very positive and friendly towards the nudists. One of the reasons is the nudists I met were very likeable and friendly, too.
Vacationing in San Francisco, it's very easy to leave both your heart and clothes there.