There is no better time to experience San Diego’s fabulousness than during San Diego Pride 2017. Held July 14-16, the annual event attracts more than 150,000 attendees each year and is the largest civic community event in the city.
This year’s theme, “Allied in Action. United in Justice,” invites LGBT participants and guests to be part of a rainbow-filled mile-long parade through Hillcrest on Saturday and two-day festival in Balboa Park over the weekend. The multi-platinum female musical group En Vogue will headline at the Pride Festival, which will feature more than 90 acts across four stages. Other San Diego Pride 2017 celebrations include the Spirit of Stonewall Rally, Pride of Hillcrest Block Party, SheFest, the annual Pride 5K Race and an exciting calendar of Pride parties and dances.
Whether visiting for Pride or any time of year, San Diego warmly welcomes LGBT travelers and guests with a vibrant LGBT community and wide array of activities and attractions. Visitors can enjoy year-round, near-perfect weather; 70 miles of beautiful coastline, including the well-known, gay-friendly Black’s Beach, and the spirit of a city where people from all walks of life come together to meet, shop, dine and enjoy the area’s eclectic arts, culture and nightlife.
Welcoming City and Neighborhoods
The uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest is the heart of San Diego’s LGBT community. Located within minutes of downtown and the setting of many LGBT events and activities throughout the year, this colorful neighborhood celebrates diversity year round and is known for its openness, hospitality and quaint, easy appeal.
Hillcrest’s eclectic dining, nightlife and retail scenes offer diversions for a myriad of tastes and interests. Restaurants range from charming cafes serving global cuisines to neighborhood eateries highlighting the best of local produce. Hillcrest’s nightlife encompasses everything from high energy dance clubs to unpretentious, friendly neighborhood bars. Shoppers can find everything from vintage records and clothes to the latest in fashion and home decor.
Popular restaurants include Hash House A Go Go, known for gigantic portions of playful American comfort food, and Snooze, serving creative twists on America’s favorite breakfast classics in a casual and friendly atmosphere. At the Hillcrest Brewing Company, the world’s first gay brewery, guests feast on pizzas named BBQueer Chicken, the Meatballer and Sissy Shrimp Pesto, while drinking brewery favorites named Crotch Rocket Irish Red, Hop Sucker Double IPA and Banana Hammock Scotch Ale.
Hillcrest is the LGBT after-dark headquarters with nightlife for practically every interest and style. Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill draws a boisterous nighttime (and afternoon) crowd and is especially popular on Thursday nights for line dancing. Rich’s San Diego is the largest and most popular gay nightclub, while Martini’s Above Fourth offers an upscale cabaret experience. Gossip Grill is a women’s bar known for strong drinks, good food and sassy service.
Shopping highlights include the Village Hat Shop for hats, caps and berets from around the world and Flashbacks for the hippest in retro clothes. Trendy and distinctive furniture and home décor items can be found at Lawrance Contemporary Furniture. Occurring every Sunday between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., the popular Hillcrest Farmer’s Market offers over 35 produce vendors selling the freshest, local seasonal produce; dozens of artisans also tempt shoppers with homemade crafts and food items, body products, accessories and more.
Adjacent to Hillcrest, North Park is a trendy, eclectic neighborhood that is popular with LGBT travelers and locals alike. Home to a variety of neighborhood bars and clubs that appeal to many lifestyles and styles, North Park is known for its many craft breweries, casual cafes, neighborhood eateries, one-of-a-kind stores and fashionable boutiques.
Restaurant highlights include sustainably minded restaurants like The Smoking Goat Restaurant for French-inspired fare, Urban Solace for new American comfort food and Jayne’s Gastropub for gourmet takes on English pub classics. North Park’s dynamic culinary offerings are complemented by one of the city’s most exciting craft beer scenes. Neighborhood standouts include Thorn St. Brewery, Mike Hess Brewery Company and Rip Current Brewing.
North Park’s LGBT nightspots include the San Diego Eagle for leather lovers; Pecs, a speakeasy-style, neighborhood dive bar, and Redwing Bar & Grill, an understated sports bar offering karaoke and trivia game nights throughout the week. Lips San Diego offers the ultimate experience in “drag dining” and is great for special occasions. For music, wine and cocktail lovers, Bar Pink Cocktail Lounge has playful signature drinks and live rock music performances, the Splash Wine Lounge & Bistro features 100 different wines from around the world and Seven Grand is a whiskey-centric bar serving more than 140 varieties.
Shopping opportunities range from hip urban boutiques to one-of-a-kind stores to established retailers. LGBT shoppers love Rufskin for its masculine collection of sexy underwear, swimwear, sportswear and denim. Pigment is known for products that are organic, modern and homegrown, while Simply Local is a merchant market featuring more than 55 local businesses selling everything from apothecary and apparel to food and home décor items. Occurring every Thursday during 3-7 p.m., the North Park Thursday Market brings locally grown produce, artisan grocery items, prepared foods and hand-crafted goods to the community.
Activities, Arts and Attractions
San Diego offers LGBT visitors a wide variety of experiences. Days can be filled with exciting outdoor pursuits, while nights can be spent attending Tony Award®-winning theater.
Neighboring Hillcrest and North Park, Balboa Park is the crown jewel of San Diego’s arts and culture. Spanning 1,200 acres, Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in the nation and home to 17 museums, beautiful gardens, magnificent Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture and the world-famous San Diego Zoo.
San Diego is a hot spot for theater buffs. The Diversionary Theatre is one of the oldest gay and lesbian theaters in the country. San Diego is also home to two Tony Award®-winning theaters: The Old Globe in Balboa Park and celebrated La Jolla Playhouse. Over the years, San Diego has produced and sent more shows to Broadway than any other city in the nation; notable productions include the 2017 Tony Award® Nominees, Come Fly Away and Indecent, both originally produced at La Jolla Playhouse.
A visit to one of San Diego’s beautiful beaches is always a favorite pastime for visitors. Located beneath the bluffs of Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve in La Jolla, the clothing-optional Black’s Beach is often considered one of the most beautiful gay beaches in the world. The boardwalk running between Mission and Pacific Beaches is the perfect place to spot hard-bodied surfers and cute college coeds in the season’s latest beach attire. Coronado Beach offers miles of white sand beach and the added allure of being the official training grounds of the local U.S. Navy SEALs.
Visitors who prefer to work up a sweat on land can play volleyball in Balboa Park, bike along Mission Bay’s scenic bike paths or hike in the scenic Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, home of the rare and elegant Torrey pine tree. San Diego is also home of 93 golf courses; Torrey Pines Golf Course, set on the bluffs above Black’s Beach, is truly a golfer’s paradise.
Year-round LGBT Special Events
In addition to the annual Pride celebration, San Diego offers a variety of exciting LGBT community events throughout the year.
During Halloween, Hillcrest comes back from the dead during Nightmare on Normal Street. This annual trick-or-treat bash is the traditional starting place for the LGBT community’s Halloween festivities and features a beer garden, food and an outrageous costume contest for cash prizes.
Every February, food, beer, entertainment and beads galore are part of the festive Mardi Gras in Hillcrest. Mardi Gras masks and costumes rule, as partygoers celebrate Fat Tuesday with one last dose of fun-filled “sin.”
During FilmOut San Diego every spring, acclaimed LGBT filmmakers bring cutting-edge cinema to the community with movies, panel discussions and festive parties.