All year long, San Diego supports and celebrates the rich cultural tapestry of its community and neighborhoods. And during July, San Diego’s fabulousness shines bright for San Diego Pride 2023. Here’s a look at what’s happening.
San Diego Pride
Held July 8-16 this year, the annual event attracts more than 250,000 attendees and is the largest civic community event in the city. LGBTQIA+ participants, allies and guests are invited to be a part of a rainbow-filled, mile-long parade through Hillcrest on Saturday and a two-day festival in Balboa Park over the weekend. The multi-day event boasts a full schedule, including 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 you’re visiting during Pride or any other time of year, San Diego warmly welcomes LGBTQIA+ travelers, allies and guests with a vibrant community and a wide array of activities and attractions. Visitors can enjoy a creative city; 70 miles of beautiful coastline; pristine beaches, including the well-known, queer-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. Here are seven ways travelers can celebrate pride and support local businesses all year round.
Drink and Eat
The uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest is the heart of San Diego’s LGBTQIA+ community. Hillcrest’s diverse dining scene offers delights for a myriad of tastes. At the Hillcrest Brewing Company, the world’s first gay brewery, guests feast on pizzas with such names as BBQueer Chicken, the Meatballer and Sissy Shrimp Pesto while drinking such brewery favorites as the Crotch Rocket Irish Red and Banana Hammock Scotch Ale.
Travelers looking for cross-border cuisine can indulge in tantalizing flavors at Ortega’s, A Mexican Bistro. Must-haves include the eateries’ signature pomegranate margarita, savory queso fundido and zesty Baja shrimp ceviche. The LGBTQIA+-owned Négociant Winery offers an approachable urban wine experience with local craft food and a focus on sharing great wine through openness, engagement and participation in the winemaking process.
Hillcrest is also the LGBTQIA+ 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 Gossip Grill is a woman-owned LGBTQ+ bar known for strong drinks, good food and friendly service.
Adjacent to Hillcrest, North Park is a trendy, all-embracing neighborhood that is popular with LGBTQIA+ travelers and locals alike. Shopping opportunities range from hip urban boutiques to one-of-a-kind stores to established retailers. LGBTQIA+ 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 Connect San Diego is a space whose walls are lined with paintings, clothes and other merchandise that artists are selling. The space is free to enter for non-members 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Occurring every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., the North Park Thursday Market brings locally grown produce, artisan grocery items, prepared foods and hand-crafted goods to the community.
Sand, Waves and the Outdoors
A visit to one of San Diego’s beautiful beaches is always a top to-do. Located beneath the bluffs of northern 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 picturesque bike paths or hike in the scenic Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, home to the rare and elegant Torrey pine tree.
Arts and Culture
San Diego is also a hot spot for theater buffs. 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 the celebrated La Jolla Playhouse. Over the years, San Diego has produced and sent more shows to Broadway than nearly any other city in the nation; notable productions include the Tony Award® nominees Come From Away and Jersey Boys, both originally produced at La Jolla Playhouse, and Almost Famous and Bright Star, from the Old Globe.
Travelers looking to laugh should swing by Finest City Improv, San Diego’s premier club for professional improv comedy. Located in Hillcrest neighborhood, it’s a place where laughs come fast and furious, as comedians make up scenes on the spot and weave together hilarious stories. Offering another opportunity for laughs and entertainment, Lips San Diego provides the ultimate experience in “drag dining” and is excellent for special occasions.
Events and Festivals
In addition to the annual Pride celebration, San Diego offers a variety of exciting LGBTQIA+ community events throughout the year. Held in August, CityFest is the ultimate summer art and music festival that takes over Fifth Avenue, one of the main streets in Hillcrest. This annual celebration of community spirit features live bands, electric dance music DJs, arts, crafts and food, attracting more than 150,000 locals and visitors to party, mingle and make new friends. During Halloween, Hillcrest gets spookily fun with Nightmare on Normal Street. This annual trick-or-treat bash is the traditional starting place for the LGBTQIA+ community’s Halloween festivities and features a beer garden, food and an outrageous-costume contest for cash prizes. And during FilmOut San Diego every spring, acclaimed LGBTQIA+ filmmakers bring cutting-edge cinema to the community with movies, panel discussions and festive parties.