Discover Hillcrest, San Diego

Adam Lowe

Featured image: Erik Isakson

As the wet British winter draws in, our thoughts turn increasingly to sunny getaways. July and August are full of pride events across the country and further afield – but moody December is all rain patter and cloud cover. At least, it is here in the UK – where the Brexit nonsense makes the dark days even duller.

Photo by Daniel Guerra

As far as sunny getaways go, a less obvious destination is San Diego. It’s a place where you can find gorgeous beaches and fine parks when you long to be close to nature. But it also has swanky restaurants and fabulous bars for those days when you just want to kick your heels off.

Hillcrest, which sits northwest of the famous Balboa Park, is the heart of San Diego’s LGBT scene: a trendy area with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops.


Hillcrest Mardi Gras

This annual event is held in February, meaning you can book your tickets now and still catch the fun. Hillcrest Mardi Gras is also the second largest LGBT Mardi Gras in the USA.

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The usual assortment of pop stars, drag queens and hunky men will of course be in attendance, but 2018 also saw the addition of the Party Bus Bar Hop which took revellers around Hillcrest in style.

Laura Coburn /

San Diego Pride

San Diego Pride is a three-day extravaganza, featuring live music, vibrant costumes and flowing drinks.

The parade starts at Hillcrest and is also the location of the Pride of Hillcrest Block Party. 2019’s Pride will take place 12 – 14 July with the theme of ‘Stonewall 50: A Legacy of Liberation’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.

CityFest Art and Music Festival

Hillcrest CityFest is San Diego’s largest arts and music festival. It celebrates the diversity of Hillcrest and features live music, carnival rides and hundreds of arts, crafts and food vendors.

At night, the party continues with CityFest Night, where DJs spin party tunes beneath the iconic Hillcrest sign.

Food and drink

Joanne DiBona /

Hillcrest Farmers Market

The Hillcrest Farmers Market takes place every Sunday and is filled with over 175 vendors offering a variety of locally grown produce, gifts, arts and crafts, flowers and clothing.

International cuisine is available from the street food stalls – from The Brazilian Guys to Turkish Grill – and there’s also weekly entertainment performed by local San Diego musicians.

Hillcrest Brewing Company

The first queer brewery in the world, Hillcrest Brewing Company makes exquisite craft beers. Dine in and enjoy your ice cold pint with a freshly-baked pizza, hot wings or a fresh salad.

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You can also catch regular specials such as happy hour, two-for-one Tuesdays and bottomless Saturdays.


Village Hat Shop

This epic hat shop is a cornucopia of headwear. Find over 15,000 different hats in store, from grungy beanies to femme fascinators. It’s Village Hat Shop’s flagship store and the largest hat store in the USA.

Stock up for your next same sex wedding or the next time you’re at the Cheltenham Festival, or pick up some hat cleaning tips from the staff.

Creative Crossroads

Located in San Diego’s LGBT visitor centre, Creative Crossroads is a wonder of handmade gifts. 65 local artists and makers have stalls here, with a portion of vendors’ profits being donated back to the local LGBT community (something more LGBT communities should do).

Expect boutique items aplenty, including local art, quirky home furnishings, make-up and beauty, and some elegant stationary – often with seasonal themes, including pride.

For more information about San Diego visit

About Adam Lowe

Adam Lowe is an award-winning author, editor and publisher from Leeds, now based in Manchester. He runs Dog Horn Publishing and is Director and Writing Coordinator for Young Enigma, a writer development programme for LGBT young people. He sometimes performs as Beyonce Holes.