Robert Arends

Valentine’s Day, LGBT-style, in San Diego

Walking under Hillcrest Sign
Walking under Hillcrest Sign

Feel the love in Hillcrest this Valentine’s Day

Love is in the air and for LGBT couples looking for something romantic to do this Valentine’s Day, San Diego is THE place to cuddle close and feel the warmth – especially in Hillcrest, our fabulous uptown “gayborhood” located just a couple of miles from downtown.

Following are a few unforgettable places to wine and dine your significant other or special V-day date.

Start the Night with Dinner in Hillcrest

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine's Day

Temperatures rising at Kitchen Bar & Kitchen this Valentine’s Day

In Hillcrest, begin your heart-filled evening at the comfortably modern Heat Bar & Kitchen on Park Blvd. Amber lighting radiates to create a cozy ambiance to enjoy a menu of California fusion cuisine. The steamed local Carlsbad mussels are delish, as is the duck breast and braised lamb shank!

Another tried and true Hillcrest dining option is the chic retro-modern D Bar on 5th Ave. where comfort food based on childhood favorites will have you both smiling from ear to ear – and reaching over to sample each other’s entrees! Highly recommended is the Southern Fried Belgian butter milk fried chicken with sweet potato fries. OMG 😉

After Dinner Drinks in Hillcrest


After dinner, head to The Wine Lover with its intimate little patio to toast your love as you gaze into each other’s eyes. For something extra special, ask for a dessert wine flight (which isn’t on the menu) to sweeten the mood.

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

Mix it up at Martinis Above Fourth

If decadent martinis or craft beer are more your style, grab a nightcap at Martinis Above Fourth or the Hillcrest Brewing Company, the “World’s First Out and Proud LGBT Brewery.”

Fall in Love on Coronado…or is it Italy?

Enchanting Coronado, a bridge away from downtown and Hillcrest, is gay friendly and welcoming with a renowned romantic French bistro called Chez Loma. Couples are drawn to its private candle-lit rooms and delectable French classics like Boeuf Bourguignon.

The Gondola Company's romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

The Gondola Company’s romantic cruises through the Coronado Cays

Before dinner, take a relaxing sunset gondola cruise – complete with a gondolier serenading you in Italian! – through the Coronado Cays. The Gondola Company provides chocolate-covered strawberries, and you’re welcome to bring your own wine or champagne!

Make a French Connection in Downtown San Diego

In downtown San Diego, Café Chloe holds a special place in my heart as the closest thing to a night out in Paris. The café is small and charming, and they usually do something extraordinarily quaint for Valentine’s Day couples, like little poetry verses you can recite to each other. Ahhh… 🙂

> Find more Valentine’s Day ideas and offers on

Book your dinner reservations now, as Valentine’s Day tables fill up quickly.

Robert Arends

Quick Guide to the 2013 San Diego Pride!

Walking under Hillcrest SignLet your rainbow colors fly! San Diego Pride is coming up this weekend, July 12-14. The glittery glamorous spotlight shines on Hillcrest, San Diego’s hip uptown neighborhood, during one of our city’s biggest summer events. Following is a quick guide to the big annual LGBT celebration.

Three Must-See San Diego Pride Events…

Dancers at Pride of Hillcrest Block Party!

Dancers at Pride of Hillcrest Block Party!

First, here’s the 411 on the big three must-see San Diego Pride events:

  • 2nd annual Pride of Hillcrest Block Party on July 12, 6-11pm, on Normal St.; starring former Pussycat Doll Jessica Sutta.
  • 39th Annual Pride Parade on July 13, 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM, down University Ave. Grand Marshalls are George Takei (of Star Trek fame!), his partner Brad and La Toya Jackson (really!)
  • Pride Festival, July 13-14, in beautiful Balboa Park, featuring eight dance/entertainment stages, including Ms. Jackson in concert.


Good times on tap at Urban Mo's!

Good times on tap at Urban Mo’s!

So many bars, so little time! Let’s narrow down the list a bit to these Top 10 tried and true hotspots:

  1. Baby Cakes – cocktails and cupcakes, sweet! Fab for people watching from the patio.
  2. Bourbon Street – a classy touch of N’Orleans in neighboring University Heights
  3. Brass Rail – the official Pride Parade After Party, and no cover!
  4. Flicks – Hillcrest’s #1 video bar.
  5. Gossip Grill – caters to the ladies (gents welcome too)
  6. Hillcrest Brewing Company – toast San Diego’s hop-pening craft beer scene and the world’s 1st LGBT brewery!
  7. Martinis Above Fourth – swanky digs and best martinis in town!
  8. Number One Fifth Avenue – friendly neighborhood bar with patio out back to mix & mingle
  9. Pecs – Bears, oh my! Good times on tap all weekend.
  10. Urban Mos – dance floor, 3 bars, packed patio and great food…yes please!


There are dozens of great restaurants in and around Hillcrest. Standouts include the new Great Maple, Project Pie (best pizzas!), D Bar and Snooze. Other favs: Baja Betty’s (muy bueno Mexican food), The Tractor Room, Yakitori Izakaya Tec Chan (for yummy late-night Japanese apps), Cucina Urbana and Café on Park (popular brunch spot!).


The coolest, closest gay-friendly hotel is Inn at the Park, just two blocks from Hillcrest and the Pride Festival. Their rooftop happy hour on Friday is off the charts!


Go wild at the San Diego Zoo Party!

Go wild at the San Diego Zoo Party!

Groovestars unite at Rich’s nightclub for high NRG music and dancing till 2am. For you circuit boys and gals, four Pride Parties are sure to perk you up (get tickets here or at the door):

  • Pride Ball – July 12, 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM at Spin Night Club
  • Circuit Daze – July 13, 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM at the Hall of Champions in Balboa Park
  • The famous [for some, infamous ;-)] Zoo Party – July 14, 4:00 to 11:00 PM at the San Diego Zoo
  • Fete Accompli – July 14, 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM at the House of Blues downtown

P.S. While you’re here, work on that coppertone tan at Coronado Beach, one of “America’s Manliest Beaches,” according to The Travel Channel.

Brent Bernasconi

Top Things to Do in San Diego – July 9-14, 2013

Get out and enjoy a weekend in San Diego with these top things to do:

San Diego Pride Rally, Block Party, Parade and Festival

San Diego LGBT Pride Parade and Festival - Top Things to Do

San Diego LGBT Pride Parade and Festival

This weekend, visitors and San Diegans alike will be out celebrating our vibrant cultural diversity. The festivities begin on Friday at 6:00 PM with the San Diego Pride Rally followed by a new event, the Pride of Hillcrest Block Party. On Saturday Morning, the 4th largest pride parade in the U.S. will make its way down University Avenue to 6th Avenue, ending at Balboa Park and the family-friendly LGBT Pride Festival.

When: July 12-14, 2103
> Find out more about the San Diego Pride Parade

9th Annual Switchfoot Bro-Am


The 9th Annual Switchfoot Bro-Am presented by Hurley will feature surf contests for both adults and kids 16 and under, live music performances by Switchfoot and other local bands, and nerf surf jousting exposition between surf contest heats. There will also be an official after-party at the Belly Up.

Where: Moonlight Beach – 252 5th Street, Encintas, CA 92024
When: July 13, 2103
Time: 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the 9th Annual Switchfoot Bro-Am

60th Annual Over the Line Tournament

Over the Line Tournament

Sand, Sun and OTL…a perfect San Diego Combination

Batter Up! It’s time once again for sun, sand and the annual Over the Line (OTL) tournament, a San Diego invented sport. If you have never seen OTL before, go check it out on Fiesta Island in Mission Bay. You will not regret it. Remember, observe the five B’s rule: No Babies, No Bottles, No Bowsers, No Bikes, No Boas. Enjoy!

Where: Fiesta Island in Mission Bay
When: July 13-14 and July 20-21
Time: 7:30 AM to Dusk
Cost: Free to watch
> Find out more about the 60th Over the Line Tournament

Festival of the Bells

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Hear the historic bells of the Mission San Diego de Alcalá ring during the Festival of the Bells.

To commemorate the founding of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the Mother of California’s 21 Missions, all five Mission bells are rung, including an original bell dating back to 1802. The weekend-long celebration will also include food, entertainment, dancing and traditional activities like the Blessing of the Bells and the Blessing of the Animals.

Where: Mission San Diego de Alcalá – 10818 San Diego Mission Road, San Diego, CA 92108
When: July 12-14, 2013
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the Festival of the Bells

OMMS Christmas in July Artisan Fair & Carnival

OMMS Christmas In July - Top Things to Do

Even Santa needs a little R&R along with a dose of sunshine!

What? It’s only July and we are already starting to talk about Christmas?! Why not get all that decorative shopping out-of-the-way with handmade arts and craft items from over 150 local artisans. There will also be a rummage sale, bake sale, food court, kid’s activities and live entertainment.

Where: Mission San Luis Rey Parish – 4070 Mission Avenue, Oceanside, CA 92057
When: July 13-14, 2013
Time: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Cost: Free
> Find out more about the OMMS Christmas in July Artisan Fair & Carnival

> Browse more top things to do on the San Diego Event Calendar

Know of some other top things to do this weekend? Let everyone know in the comments below.

Robert Arends

Hillcrest Neighborhood Spotlight – Home of San Diego’s LGBT community

Walking under Hillcrest Sign
Walking under Hillcrest Sign

Happening Hillcrest!

San Diego’s uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest, home of San Diego’s LGBT community, celebrates diversity year-round with a vibrant rainbow mix of accommodations, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, chic boutiques, vintage clothing stores, kitschy novelty shops and so much more.

With San Diego Pride coming up next month (July 12-14), now is the perfect time to spotlight a few of my favorite places worth checking out:

Where to Stay

The historic Inn at the Park, located right across the street from Balboa Park, is home to the best happy hour in Hillcrest: Top of the Park, a Friday night tradition where hundreds gather on the rooftop to soak up the sunset and kick-off the weekend over cocktails.

Stay at Ann Callahan’s Hillcrest House Bed & Breakfast for a relaxing escape in the heart of Hillcrest and still just a short walk away all the shops, restaurants and bars on University Avenue.

Bar Hop

Bar hopping in Hillcrest

Bar hopping in Hillcrest

Urban Mo’s is fun and boisterous with strong margaritas and booming dance music on a packed outdoor patio and indoor dance floor. Hillcrest Brewing Company, claiming to be the World’s First “Out and Proud LGBT Brewery”(wow!), has 9 tasty in-house craft brews on tap to quench your thirst. If crafty cocktails are more your thing, Martinis Above Fourth is a swanky go-to spot.

Gotta Dance

If you’ve got to get your groove on, Rich’s with its two dance floors and sexy go-go boys can’t be beat!

Java Joint

Filter Coffee House is the place to see and be seen while sipping espresso and “studying” the crowd for cuties, day or night.

Dinner & a Show

D Bar restaurant is my new fav with its sleek moderne design and delish dishes like Southern fried Belgian – a sweet waffle with fried chicken (yep!). Their macarons are also off the charts! Afterward, head to Diversionary Theatre for cutting edge theater at its finest.

Brunch ‘n Lunch

Colorful Café on Park with its deliciously imaginative breakfast dishes like egg scrambles, Captain Crunch pancakes (yep!) and crab cake benny, is sure to satisfy!

Shop till you drop

Shopping in Hillcrest

Shop-portuunities galore in Hillcrest

Stroll along Fifth Ave. and University Ave. for funky, one-of-a-kind finds. Park Blvd. is great for retro, mid-Century modern treasures.

> Discover more of San Diego’s Hillcrest

Robert Arends

Quick Guide to San Diego Pride!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…San Diego Pride, that is, coming up this weekend July 20-22! Pride is one of our city’s biggest summer events, especially for Hillcrest, the hip LGBT uptown neighborhood.

With SO much to see and do, I thought I’d narrow it down for our out-of-town guests with some favorite local hotspots to mix & mingle, unwind and boogie down.


Hillcrest offers a wide range of dining options (hey, a girl’s got to eat! 😉 ), especially along University Ave. and 5th Ave. Jimmy Carter’s Mexican Cafe on 5th is THE place for great Mexican food (you’ll love the carnitas), and it’s right across the street from Inn at the Park (see DRINK below). Asian Bistro on University (right down the street from Urban Mo’s – see DRINK below) is perfect for a late-night nosh after getting your groove on (the duck soup is delish!). Café on Park is my fav for brunch where you can nurse a hangover with Captain Crunch pancakes – yum!


Good times on tap at Urban Mo’s!

Start your Pride pub crawl at Top of the Park, the fab Friday night happy hour on the rooftop of Inn at the Park. Enjoy phenomenal views of downtown, Balboa Park and San Diego Bay while sipping cocktails and socializing. Then head to Hillcrest’s most popular “family” of bars: Urban Mo’s (the patio is jumping!), Gossip Grill (for the girls!), Baja Betty’s (ole!) and Hillcrest Brewing Co. – the FIRST gay brewery in the world! Also be sure to check out Bourbon Street, our little slice of New Orleans on Park Blvd.

& Be Merry!

Picture-perfect Hillcrest!

Kick things off on Friday at the first-ever Pride of Hillcrest Block Party with DJs, dancing, food, drink and “Hillcrest Pride Flag Viewing” Ferris wheel (!) at the intersection of Normal St. and University Ave.

San Diego Pride Parade down University Ave.

On Saturday, the colorful Pride Parade takes to the streets (University Ave. and 6th Ave.) from 11am-1pm, with Grand Marshal Sandra Bernhard and actor Alex Newell from the hit TV Show “Glee.” This year’s theme is “America’s Pride” (translation: active duty men and women in uniform!).

The Pride Festival takes place Saturday (12 noon-10pm) and Sunday (11am-8pm) at Marston Point in Balboa Park (along 6th Ave.). Music headliner is Wynter Gordon, known for her smash hit single, “Dirty Talk.” One-day ticket is $20; two-day tix are $30.

For all you grooovestars, dance the night away at spacious Rich’s nightclub (with two outdoor patios) and the chic new discothèque Eden just across the street.

Let your rainbow colors fly proudly in San Diego!