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San Diego LGBT Community Guide

Top spots to hang out in Hillcrest and Mission Hills

  • Urban Mo's
  • Baja Betty's
  • Hillcrest
  • Lips
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San Diego is known as a lot of things, American’s Finest City and a military nucleus just to name a few.  But what makes the city truly unique is the friendliness and acceptance of San Diegans making it an awesome place for the LGBT community. The communities of Hillcrest and Mission Hills both have a large gay population and host a number of Pride events throughout the year.  San Diego State University (SDSU) recently received a five-star rating for being a safe haven for LGBT students for the second year in a row from Campus Pride.  Check out the must see places and things to do below. 

  • The LGBT Community Center

The San Diego LGBT Community Center started in 1971, with an answering machine and a closet.  From the beginning The Center’s mission was to enhance the health and well-being of the LGBT community and to promote human rights.  Today, it is the second oldest and third largest LGBT Community Center in the nation.  The Center is led by a 20-member board of directors, employs over 40 paid staff and utilizes more than 800 community volunteers. The Center provides direct program services to the many different facets of the LGBT community, including men, women, youth, seniors, families, LGBT Latino community members and their families, and those struggling with HIV. Last year The Center provided more than 46,000 direct service visits to San Diego community members, and through its events, activities and advocacy, touched the lives of thousands more. For more info on the center visit its site: www.thecentersd.org 

  • SD Pride

San Diego Pride was formed in 1974 and produced the first Lesbian and Gay Parade in San Diego.  Today, Pride produces and sponsors many events Equality Torch Relay, Walk For Equality and the annual LGBT Pride Celebration. Pride’s biggest event is its Festival and Parade, which both occur in July.  The two events, held in Balboa Park, typically attract 250,000 participants.  Each year, the Pride Festival has 300 participating booths, an art exhibit, cultural presentations, food and more than 80 musicians, bands, comedy and dance performers.  Highlights include Beer Gardens, Wine Grotto, Farmers Market, Youth Zone and Children’s Garden.  The annual San Diego LGBT Pride Parade is the fifth largest in the United States attracting 150,000 cheering spectators and significant media participation. For more information on Pride, visit their website www.sdpride.org 

  • Hillcrest

The community of Hillcrest is located just outside downtown San Diego.  While this community used to be home to conservative middle-class families, it is now home to a prominent gay and lesbian community.  In fact, the APA selected Hillcrest as one of the 10 Greatest Neighborhoods in America because of its acceptance and legacy of activism. Although it’s modernized and urbanized, it still has that small town feel.  Storefronts and restaurants, like Crest Café, have a nostalgic 50’s vibe.  Hillcrest is known for its award-winning restaurants, boutiques, salons and spas—the community has the largest concentration of gay and lesbian-owned businesses in the city. Hillcrest also has numerous community events throughout the year that are worth checking out.  Some of the major events are Mardi Gras in the spring , the Pride rally and parade in July and CityFest in August. 

  • Urban Mo’s Bar and Grill

Mo’s is the number one watering-hole for the LGBT community, providing a good time any time of day.  The restaurant is located in the heart of Hillcrest and is as colorful and fun its patrons. The restaurant has three bars, a dance floor and an outdoor patio.  Monday through Friday you can get an early start on Happy Hour (2 p.m.- 6 p.m.) with $3 wells and $3 half appetizers.  For early morning weekend fun, Mo’s has a Sunday Champagne Brunch, served buffet-style with all you can eat and drink.   

  • Baja Betty’s

Baja Betty’s is home to the most fabulous margarita this side of the Mexican border.  Besides the margaritas, Betty’s is famous for its Mexican cuisine and colorful atmosphere.  They also stay stocked with over 100 tequilas which they feature in many of their shooters and cocktails like the Tequila Popper and Pink Pussy.  Betty’s has a $4 Papi Hour and specials every day of the week, from Tostada Tuesday to Cerveza Saturday.  Mondays are half off and you can “buy one, get one” on Wednesdays. 

  • Lips

Lips is the ultimate drag experience.  The restaurant combines fabulously fun entertainment with great food and is a must-visit spot in San Diego. Hit up Lips for dinner an a show six nights a week to enjoy some fun food choices with names like RuPaul (chicken breast and veggies) or Divine (grilled veggie plate).  Stop by on a Sunday for Lips’ famous Sunday Gospel Brunch which includes bottomless champagne, bloody mary’s and mimosas for under $20.  Lips features a full bar and is known for its Frozen Cosmopolitan. The restaurant has special events weekly, like 80’s Night on Tuesdays, “Bitchy Bingo” on Wednesdays and “High Gloss Glamour Night” on Fridays and Saturdays.  It’s a great place to have a good time in an absolutely fabulous setting. 

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  • Rating: 3 of 5