A short visit to a city doesn’t mean it has to be a boring visit! If you’re properly equipped with the right information, you can turn 24-48 hours in any city into one of the best experiences. While my first visit to San Diego was not long, I had a few locals show me the local flavor and a handful of unique spots in Hillcrest!
Hotel: One of the coolest hotels in town, the Lafayette Hotel is filled with character and charm. Straight out of the golden age of Hollywood, this hotel recently went through an $8 MM renovation and offers one of the most welcoming scenes in town. Although its style is easily something you could find in Los Angeles, there’s no attitude here! From the hottest pool parties with great DJ’s over the summer, to live bands in the Mississippi Room and out on the terrace, the Lafayette Hotel is setting the standard for how to make guests feel welcome in San Diego. Just minutes from Hillcrest, the Lafayette Hotel attracts a good number of LGBT guests. What most don’t know about the hotel is they also offer packages for those planning a commitment ceremony or ghost tours of a few rooms of this nearly 70 year old hotel.
Food: If food is what you like, then food is what you’ll find in San Diego and Hillcrest! From Moroccan tapas to European comfort food, you can spend days exploring different restaurants in San Diego and Hillcrest. Just a brief stroll from the Lafayette Hotel is Lil B’s Urban Eatery. Trendy to a t, this is a great spot for breakfast or brunch if you’re looking to go explore outside of the Lafayette Hotel.
Uptown Tavern, on University Blvd., seems to be the spot of choice for locals grabbing lunch or a light dinner. Even if you’re traveling alone, this was a great restaurant to get food and a beer while striking up a conversation with the bartender. For dinner, I was introduced to 100 Wines Hillcrest (European comfort food) and Kous Kous (Moroccan tapas), both a modern take on traditional foods. If you’re visiting Kous Kous, make sure to ask for Frankie and tell him the Gay Travel Guru says hello!
What would a visit to Hillcrest be without gay brunch and gay church? On Sundays, you will find the gays and gals enjoying the all you can eat and drink mimosa brunch at Mo’s Urban Bar and Grill. After you make a few friends, everyone heads over to Babycakes to continue their Sunday celebration. If gay brunch and gay church aren’t exactly your scene, then stop over to the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market where they have 29 different produce vendors every Sunday. This is a great way to experience local treats and interact with the locals.
Outdoor: Whether you’re looking to go for a run in the park or take a walk on the beach, San Diego offers plenty for those that favor the outdoor lifestyle. While most of the locals spoke highly of Balboa Park, you will find just as many at Black’s Beach on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. While this is San Diego’s gay nude beach, most are just relaxing with their clothes on and enjoying the company of friends. Fiesta Island Park is another destination that allows you to explore the coastline and take in some fresh saltwater air.
If you don’t have a car, but want to get out and explore, take a quick taxi ride over to University Blvd. to stroll down the drag while checking out all the boutique stores. Mankind is the essential gay store the locals suggested I visit while in Hillcrest. If you happen to be in San Diego in July during Pride, make sure to check out the Pride of Hillcrest Block Party. Nothing brings more people out than the pride parade and block party.
Music /Clubs: There is definitely not a shortage of dance clubs and music in San Diego. With its mild climate, you can find plenty of great spaces to enjoy the California weather. Since I was staying at the Lafayette Hotel, I started my evening out by the pool listening to a wonderful bluegrass band. Even if you’re not a guest at the hotel, stop over to the Lafayette Hotel, grab one of their specialty craft cocktails at Imig’s Bar & Kitchen, and hang out for a while. With a small group of 30 people, everyone was dancing and engaged while the band played.
While you can ask any local what their favorite gay bar is, you’ll probably hear a variety of answers. My personal favorite bar was Rich’s. With a great mix of hip hop and pop beats, they had a great space with a phenomenal DJ booth and light wall. No matter where we started, we always found ourselves back at Rich’s dancing come midnight.
San Diegan’s are loud and proud to call this city home! Having erected one of the tallest gay pride flag poles in the West, and being the first in the country to rename a street after Harvey Milk, this community has taken the historically conservative neighborhood of Hillcrest and turned into one of the most walkable LGBT communities in the country. Hillcrest is bustling with activity and this community has worked hard to create a space for everyone.