Life in San Diego’s Hillcrest Community

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Hillcrest is a centrally located neighborhood in San Diego that is surrounded by Balboa Park to the south, University Heights to the north, and North Park to the east.  The neighborhood is a lively, urban part of town that is known for its hip bars, award winning restaurants, and great shopping. Hillcrest is San Diego’s de facto gay community; the neighborhood has been a safe space for LGBTQ individuals throughout the years and it headquarters many gay friendly establishments and organizations. Every July, the streets of Hillcrest are the site of the annual Pride Parade. The parade is considered to be the largest civic event in the city of San Diego.

Things to Do in Hillcrest

It’s easy to let your hair hang down and come out of your shell in Hillcrest because there is such a welcoming, inviting atmosphere everywhere you go. One of the best places to let loose and have a little fun is at Flick’s. Flick’s is one of the original video bars in the United States and is arguably one of the best gay bars in San Diego. The bar is most well-known for Welfare Wednesdays ($2 well drinks) and their karaoke from Sunday-Tuesday. 

If you’re looking for a quieter evening, head over to Hillcrest Cinemas. This theater is dedicated to independent film and foreign language cinema, so it’s not your typical run-of-the-mill movie experience. Films playing now include the dramatic comedy Their Finest and the dark comedy meets science fiction Colossal starring Anne Hathaway.

Hillcrest is a pedestrian friendly neighborhood, so take a nice stroll through the charming streets and window shop. Stop for coffee at Pappalecco or Lestat’s.

Shopping in Hillcrest

Hillcrest has a good selection of thrift and vintage stores to sift through if you’re on the hunt for something fabulous and affordable. Visit Buffalo Exchange, Flashbacks, or Luigi Vera to buy (and sell) unique, lightly used clothes. 

If you’re looking for a special gift or unique home furnishings, stop by Cody’s Home & Gift. Whether you’re looking for eclectic furniture or artwork to hang on your wall, you can always find something at Cody’s. The items you find here have character and they aren’t your typical mass-produced gift shop trinkets.

Where to Eat in Hillcrest


You’ve probably heard of Snooze if you fancy yourself a brunch enthusiast. The “A.M. Eatery” is a popular spot (the wait can be long if you show up at peak brunch time during a weekend). Snooze’s popularity is no doubt a reflection of the tasty American breakfast classics as well as the charm of the midcentury modern decor. Snooze is an award winning restaurant: The eatery was featured in The Culture Trip’s “10 Best Brunches” and Fine Magazine’s “5 Best San Diego Brunch Spots.”  Snooze is also a certified Ocean Friendly Restaurant.

Gossip Grill

Gossip Grill is a full patio bar and restaurant with a dance floor, and it is Southern California’s only 7-days-a-week women’s bar. Once the sun sets, the restaurant transforms into a nightclub, so grab your girlfriends and head to Hillcrest to eat, drink, and dance the night away.

Upcoming Events in Hillcrest

Lambda Archives Walking Tour of Hillcrest LGBT History. This walking tour will take you on a 2.5 mile journey and will highlight the history of the civil rights struggle as it played out in Hillcrest. You will visit sites of both tragedies and triumphs, and the eye-opening experience will help you learn why Hillcrest became the center of San Diego’s LGBTQ community.  The most recent tour was on April 29, but visit to catch the next one and learn more about this organization that collects, preserves, and teaches LGBT history here in San Diego.

The Hillcrest Farmer’s Market is “fresh and fabulous”, and it’s the place to be on Sundays. The local merchants set up shop at the DMV (located on Normal St.) from 9am-2pm. This is perhaps the only time you will ever enjoy your trip to the DMV. Stop by and peruse the fresh produce, support local artisans, and enjoy the community.

Getting to Hillcrest

Hillcrest is just north of downtown San Diego, easily accessed from State Route 163, which cuts through the area. From the I-8, take the 163 south and take the University Avenue exit — it drops you right in the heart of Hillcrest.

The primary thoroughfares are University Avenue and Washington Street (east-west), along with Robinson Avenue; and Sixth, Fifth, and Fourth avenues (north-south), as well as Park Boulevard on the east end. The Fifth Avenue stretch between Robinson and Washington is considered the heart of Hillcrest.

Lauren lives in OB with her French bulldog, Elvis Presley. She loves laughter and the great outdoors. You can contact her at [email protected].

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