Located only a few miles north of San Diego's bustling downtown core, the vibrant uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest stands as San Diego's LGBT central hub, offering visitors a plethora of bars, restaurants, coffee houses, boutiques and unique thrift stores.
Lauded also for its pedestrian-friendly streets and sidewalk patios, the area's east end is marked by a towering rainbow Pride flag just off Hillcrest's main thoroughfare of University Avenue, at the corner of Normal Street. The landmark happens to serve as the starting point for San Diego LGBT Pride's annual mile-long Pride Parade held in July. A block away, down Harvey Milk Street, is where the San Diego LGBT Community Center resides.
Spanning a dozen blocks west from the Pride flag along University Avenue is a colorful mix of ethnically diverse restaurants, nightclubs and acclaimed wine bars. The stretch is also home to furniture stores, distinctive boutiques and the Uptown District shopping plaza.
The avenue leads into the neighborhood's "village" area designated by the historic, neon "Hillcrest" sign. On intersecting Fifth Avenue, visitors will discover a concentration of new and established restaurants as well as a few dessert-centric eateries. Also in the mix are vintage clothing shops, book outlets and the multiplex Landmark Cinemas for taking in independent and foreign films.
Surrounding Hillcrest in the broader Uptown area with neighborhoods fueled by art galleries, diverse restaurants and nightlife. North Park, for example, boasts dozens of galleries along Ray Street and holds claim to being "the best beer neighborhood in the nation," thanks to numerous craft-beer establishments found within the area, such as Toronado, Tiger! Tiger! and Modern Times Flavordome. Live theater and musical shows comprise a year-round schedule at the historic Observatory North Park (formerly the North Park Theater) in the heart of the business district. Fronting the theater is the lively West Coast Tavern.
Uptown also encompasses the quaint neighborhoods of Mission Hills, Bankers Hill, Kensington, South Park and Normal Heights as well as University Heights, where the Diversionary Theatre presents a rich platform of dramatic and comedic productions.
North America's largest urban cultural park sits idyllically at the center of the Uptown's neighborhoods. Built in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition and expanded in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exhibition, Balboa Park is home to 16 museums and multiple cultural institutions, housed mostly in ornate Spanish-Renaissance structures. Stroll along the main promenade to experience water fountains, stunning gardens and restaurants boasting flora-filled patios. Balboa Park is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo and the Tony-award winning Old Globe Theatre. Exploring everything the park has to offer may take a few days, so give yourself plenty of time to explore.
San Diego's culinary scene is red hot. Since the start of the new century, large numbers of accomplished chefs and local restaurateurs have launched kitchens that give top priority to seasonal organics and sustainable meats and seafood. Many of these gems are found throughout the Uptown neighborhoods, with their cuisine ranging from contemporary and healthy to rustic and downright sinful.
Use the filter below to find where to stay and what to do in the Hillcrest and Uptown area.
Hillcrest and the surrounding Uptown neighborhoods of North Park and South Park are mostly residential, but you can fine some unique and intimate bed and breakfast style lodging, along with a few hotels. No matter where you stay in these communities, you’ll be located in residential neighborhoods, providing you with an authentic San Diego local experience. Many of the overnight accommodations in these areas are just steps away from favorite dining, entertainment and shopping options frequented by the local community.
Browse the articles and listings below is find the perfect place to stay for your next vacation in Hillcrest, North Park or South Park.
San Diego's culinary scene is red hot. Since the start of the new century, large numbers of accomplished chefs and local restaurateurs have launched kitchens that give top priority to seasonal organics and sustainable meats and seafood. Many of these gems are found throughout the Uptown neighborhoods, with their cuisine ranging from contemporary and healthy to rustic and downright sinful. Below is a small sampling of places to point your appetite.
An inviting farmhouse motif with front and back patios sets the stage for European-style cuisine revealing California twists.
Where: 1027 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
After you order your California inspired dish, observe the culinary action with Fig Tree's urban modern open kitchen concept.
Where: 416 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
A breakfast hotspot creative twists on America's favorite AM classics in a casual, friendly and vibrant atmosphere.
Where: 3940 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
A healthy, flavorful alternative to fast food dishing up beautifully prepared salads, hearty braised meats, satisfying sandwiches, decadent desserts, and of course, thirst-quenching lemonades.
Where: 3958 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Take a tour of San Diego's amazing breweries all under one roof with all XX taps dedicated exclusively to local beers.
Where: 3683 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
An ambitious craft-beer selection meets its match with eclectic, seasonal fare featuring house-cured meats and imaginative seafood dishes. Retractable windows open up to the urban bustle.
Where: 3794 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Hints of a British pub surface when imbibing from the vast selection of craft beers and forking into lamb or vegan shepherd's pie.
Where: 4095 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
The restaurant's French-trained owner has created a European-style bistro that offers farm-to-table salads, hormone-free meat dishes and boutique wines.
Where: 3048 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
If you need a walk after dining in the area before sating your sweet tooth, this stylish café-bakery obliges with things like tropical fruit tarts, lavender log cakes and bourbon bread pudding.
Where: 3011 30th St, San Diego, CA 92104
Buona Forchetta brings authentic Italian food, wood fired Neapolitan pizza (baked in Sofia the Golden Oven, made by the maestro Stefano Ferrara) and fresh homemade pasta to South Park.
Where: 3001 Beech St, San Diego, CA 92102
Bringing honest fish and thoughtfully crafted beer to San Diego's famous 30th St. corridor. South Park Brewing Company's fish comes fresh from Catalina Offshore and pairs perfectly with the in-house beers on tap.
Where: 1517 30th St, San Diego, CA 92102
Bring the kids and seize a picnic table on the large outdoor patio for Tater Tots and burgers of every strip, including house-made veggie patties. The indoor-outdoor eatery was once a trolley station from 1929 to 1948. Beer and cocktails are also available.
Where: 2204 Fern St, San Diego, CA 92104
Even the carnivores in your group will be impressed over these flavorful Thai dishes using mock versions of duck, chicken and beef. The atmosphere is cozy and seating is limited.
Where: 4661 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
Visitors are afforded a homey, comfortable atmosphere that attracts a diverse neighborhood crowd. The menu pays tribute to San Diego's burgeoning craft beer scene with a majority of dishes incorporating ales and stouts.
When: 2121 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Under high-vaulted ceilings and cedar-laden walls, Madison serves upscale Mediterranean and Southern California inspired cuisine in a modern yet warm atmosphere.
Where: 4622 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
In front, Park & Rec mixes refreshing craft cocktail bar. Out in back, the grub shack, Royale with Cheese, grills up mouthwatering burgers and sandwiches.
Where: 4612 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92116
Featuring a living green wall, Torrey Pines table, outdoor fireplace, and pet-friendly patio, The Patio invites you to split a shared plate, or indulge in one of their delicious seafood entrees.
Where: 4020 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103
Sourcing quality organics from their own farm, The Red Door serves healthy organic cuisine from their farm to your table.
Where: 741 W Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
The menu changes often at this hip and busy eatery, which greets with a central bar and whimsical décor.
Where: 4003 Goldfinch St, San Diego, CA 92103
You've come to the right place if the hankering strikes for coq au vin, steak frites and bouillabaisse. The atmosphere is relaxed and prices are moderate.
Where: 807 West Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
Perched on a corner lot, the restaurant appeases a range of appetites with everything from Angus burgers and chicken wings to seared ahi and stout-braised short ribs.
Where: 902 West Washington St, San Diego, CA 92103
Sweeping views of Balboa Park, Downtown and San Diego Bay are for the taking from this 12th-floor upscale restaurant, where dishes such as Maine lobster strudel and crispy duck breast rule the day.
Expect crafty takes on Italian and Mediterranean dishes at this bustling, subterranean hotspot.
Where: 505 Laurel St, San Diego, CA 92101
The restaurant's artfully deconstructed design sets the stage for a seasonal menu that begins with deviled eggs and chilled soups before progressing to creative preparations of fish, meat and poultry.
Where: 2202 4th Ave, San Diego, CA 92101
San Diego's only drive-thru restaurant offering a healthy, delicious, vegan menu using fresh and local ingredients to promote the healthy Southern California lifestyle.
Where: 2965 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Red walls, hand-punched tin lanterns, chandeliers, white banquettes and blackboard specials enliven this colorful eatery in Banker's Hill that serves "Mexican Soul Food."
Where: 2706 5th Ave, San Diego, CA 92103
Voted one of Draft Magazine's America's Best Beer Bars more than 5 years in a row, Blind Lady Alehouse serves up hand-tossed pizzas with beers from around the country and from it's in-house nano-brewery.
Where: 3416 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Sister restaurant to the original on Park Boulevard, El Zarape on Adams Avenue invites you to indulge with homemade fajitas, seafood, and desserts while you sip on one of the 180+ tequilas at the bar.
Where: 3201 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Even if San Diego is your final travel destination, this bright, airy restaurant sends you on a culinary journey with menus spotlighting the cuisine of a different country every week.
Where: 2864 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Some of San Diego's most innovative sushi rolls dressed in an array of house-made sauces are found inside this unassuming address.
Where: 3027 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
The owners incorporate culinary influences from their native Azerbaijan into a host of gourmet dishes that are brightened further by edible flowers and fresh organics. Because the food has been so well received, they opened a second location in downtown's Gaslamp Quarter.
Where: 2736 Adams Ave, San Diego CA 92116
The family that runs this long-established restaurant provides visitors with an array of Mexican dishes that San Diegans can't live without: adobada tacos, machaca burritos, carnitas plates and more.
Where: 4050 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Be transported around the world and experience the feeling of France's past generations with dishes inspired by Bohemian and Artistic free spirited Left Bank of Paris with the roots and tradition of the Rural Areas.
Where: 4090 Adams Avenue, San Diego, CA 92116
The Haven Pizzeria is a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant offering a variety of pizzas, salads, 8 rotating taps of local craft beer and wine.
Where: 4051 Adams Ave, San Diego, CA 92116
Hillcrest and the adjacent Uptown neighborhoods of North Park and South Park offer diverse, unique and quintessential San Diego experiences. From a plethora of dining options and beer and wine tastings, to live music and shopping at one-of-a-kind boutiques and galleries, Hillcrest and Uptown are the perfect place to experience for a day, or an entire week, in San Diego. This area also offers easy access to neighboring Balboa Park and a quick ride to Downtown San Diego and San Diego’s Big Bay.
Below are just a few of the things you can do in Hillcrest and Uptown San Diego:
The neighborhood of Hillcrest and the adjacent uptown communities of North Park and South Park, host a variety of fun and festive events throughout the year. In the summer, the streets of Hillcrest fill up in celebration for the Pride Festival and Parade and the CityFest Street Fair. From restaurant walks to movie's on the roof, Hillcrest and Uptown are the place to be to experience unique and innovative events.
From the North:
Take 163 South to University Avenue, which places you in the heart of Hillcrest. If you are heading to Balboa Park, continue south on 163 to Park Boulevard. Exit and left onto Park and follow signs.
From the South:
Head north on the 5 freeway to the B Street/Pershing exit and exit onto Pershing. Turn left Florida Drive, left on Zoo Place, and right onto Park Boulevard. Balboa Park will be on your left. To explore Hillcrest, continue on Park and turn left onto University.
From the North:
Off the I-5 southbound, take the 10th Avenue Exit. Turn left on "A" Street and left again on Park Boulevard. Follow the signs to Balboa Park. Off the Highway 163 southbound, take the Park Boulevard. exit. Turn left on Park Boulevard. Follow the signs to Balboa Park.
From the South:
Off the I-5 northbound, take the B Street/Pershing exit to Pershing Street. Take Pershing and then left on Florida Drive. Turn left on Zoo Place to Park Boulevard. Left on Park Boulevard.