Entertainment & Events

The Neighborhood Project – Hillcrest

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Located between Balboa Park and Washington Street and bordered by Park Boulevard to the East and First Street to the West, Hillcrest is the hip, kitschy section of uptown with a bustling nightlife and lots of great restaurants.

University Avenue bisects the heart of Hillcrest

University Avenue bisects the heart of Hillcrest (Photo – Katie Fisher)

But, did you know that Hillcrest is one of the city’s oldest communities and has been recognized as a part of the city since 1907? It was the year before that the 40 acre parcel of land was purchased by William Wesley Whitson at the advice of his sister, Laura Anderson, who also named this subdivision of University Heights.

A great place to live, work or play, Hillcrest won the prestigious Great Places in America, Neighborhoods Award from the American Planning Association (APA) in 2007, the award’s inaugural year. The APA touts this area as “Diverse, Urbane and Trendsetting.”

The gay community in Hillcrest is certainly not hidden from sight

Hillcrest is home to the annual San Diego Pride Parade, celebrated every summer since 1974. It was this first year that approximately 200 people marched in protest, decrying a lack of equal rights and the denial of a permit from the city. The following year began the official, permitted San Diego Pride Parade. During July every year, over 150,000 people line the streets to see floats from groups all over San Diego, including the Police and Fire Departments, local stores and restaurants as well as community groups. Traditionally, the event takes place on University Avenue beginning at Normal Street and ends on 6th Avenue at Upas.

While the Pride Parade promotes the acceptance of the gay community, many of the spectators and participants of this event are not necessarily gay, but enjoy the major community party and festival in the park. This time of year the main drag is lined with rainbow flags on many businesses, as well as decorated homes and cars. The parade is the largest civic event in San Diego and possibly the best event in Hillcrest, as thousands dress in outrageous costumes and flaunt their love for one another.

This part of town is also well known for its many historical bridges—most of which were built to connect Hillcrest to surrounding neighborhoods. Spruce Street, built in 1912 above Arroyo Canyon, is the only suspension footbridge in San Diego County and can be accessed by turning West on Spruce from First Street. Built due to the Improvement Act of 1911, First Street Bridge (also known as the People’s Bridge) is one of only a few steel arch bridges in San Diego. Built in 1931, it is said to have been completely assembled on the floor of the Midwestern fabrication plant, dismantled and shipped to San Diego. The wooden trestle pedestrian bridge on Quince Street was created for only $805 in 1905 and reopened with only 30% original wood (due to termites & dry rot) in August of 1990. Spend a day hiking in Balboa Park and you’re sure to cross the bridge on Upas Street. Built in 1946, this little bridge was primarily a bridle path for horses, now it hosts mostly bikes and people; it crosses Highway 163 through Cabrillo Canyon and connects hiking trails throughout Balboa Park and adjacent Marston Hills.

Home to many second-hand shops, this part of town is also a great place to spend a Saturday walking the main drag and enjoying the San Diego sun.

When you’re ready to eat, there’s no need to leave town. Stick around for lots of dining choices from casual to fancy.


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