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Expansive beaches, weather that’s mild year-round, a thriving local culinary scene — gay San Diego has long been a favorite travel destination. Right on the coast of the Pacific, San Diego is a city with various neighborhoods to explore and a ton to experience. From San Diego Zoo and the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park to locally owned cafes and restaurants in South Park, the city has plenty to offer LGBT travelers.
And let’s not leave out the city’s nightlife scene. Hillcrest, an intimate and affluent area of San Diego, is home to the bulk of the city’s LGBT community. If you’re planning a trip to gay San Diego in the future, check out all that the city has to offer.
San Diego has some of the most beautiful beaches in California, as well as a few gay-friendly options, too. Black’s Beach, the unofficial nude beach of San Diego, is a reclusive spot for sunbathing. Close to the UC San Diego campus, it requires a bit of a hike to get here. The clothing-optional portion of the beach begins about 100 yards south of the trail leading to the Torrey Pines Gliderport, but is worth the trip once you get there.
Ocean Beach, another gay-friendly spot, is equally stunning. This miles-long beach, close to Ocean Beach Pier, is also the perfect place for people-watching, sunbathing and surfing. And after a long day at the beach, you can check out fine dining options and local shops in the nearby culturally diverse neighborhood.
La Jolla Beaches, another favorite gay San Diego spot, has some of the best scenic views in Southern California. Surrounded by chic hotels and excellent restaurants, locals and visitors alike pack this mile-long beach for extended days of swimming and sports activities.
The Bars of Gay San Diego
San Diego has a thriving, diverse gay nightlife scene, and Hillcrest is the gayborhood to head to. For those who love to party, Rich’s is one of the city’s most popular spots for a night of dancing. This massive venue has two dance floors, a VIP section with bottle service and outdoor patios for socializing. Rich’s also hosts special events like Pink Party, which brings in local DJs spinning techno and house music all night long.
Urban Mo’s, a spacious indoor/outdoor spot, typically has a packed outdoor patio for happy hour. It also has a dance floor that regularly hosts events, like its RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing parties. And if you’re hungry, Mo’s has an extensive food menu, including its well-loved burger.
Numbers, another favorite local bar, attracts a diverse crowd for its different theme nights. From Karaoke Latino to bear nights, it’s a great spot to see sexy go-go boys dance for the crowd. Numbers also hosts big events for everything from Cinco de Mayo to Pride celebration, often inviting special guests like Drag Race alums to perform for the masses.
Fiesta Cantina brings the same party atmosphere of its West Hollywood incarnation to the local gay San Diego crowd. Guys come here for the bar’s signature margaritas and Mexican food. It also doubles as the perfect sports bar to watch the game and cheer your team on.
The Eagle, the city’s popular leather bar, highly encourages its patrons to don leather and fetish gear. You’ll also spot guys in uniforms, rubber and latex on some of the nights here. The Eagle also hosts different theme nights, including its underwear party, a torn Levi’s night and a sports gear social that’ll spice up your visit.
If you prefer something more low-key, check out SRO Lounge, a favorite local dive. In this welcoming environment you can sip cheap drinks with friends or play a game of pool with strangers. SRO also attracts a diverse crowd — everyone from goth kids and bears with tattoos to straight allies who love to party with the bar’s friendly staff.
Equally low-key is Pecs Bar. At this casual spot you can watch the game on one of its six large-screen TVs or play darts with friends. On a beautiful night, you can chill on the outdoor patio and socialize with locals and other visitors all night long. Pecs also sponsors special events for the local gay sports teams.
Special Events in Gay San Diego
San Diego is a hub for business conventions, and the city hosts many throughout the year. Comic-Con International, for instance, is one major event that attracts thousands of fans annually. The convention, which typically happens around late July or early August, has evolved into a massive pop culture phenomenon. In addition to comic book workshops and exhibitors, entertainment studios use the convention to share their upcoming movie and television projects with die-hard fans. We also love seeing those in attendance don outlandish cosplay, walking around the convention floor in their favorite superhero costumes.
San Diego LGBT Pride rivals L.A.’s Pride celebration, and is a weekend-long event you don’t want to miss. Every year around mid-July, thousands come to participate. Including a parade, live music festival and a street fair, this celebration fosters a welcoming and supportive atmosphere for everyone, no matter where they sit on the rainbow. Equally fun is the Zoo Party that takes place at the San Diego Zoo. Party outdoors with hundreds of shirtless guys, dancing to international DJs playing your favorite house music.
Featured image by RASimon for iStock