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Hillcrest is one of San Diego’s most dynamic neighborhoods. Highly walkable, it’s perfect for weekend brunching and boutique shopping. Eclectic shops, restaurants, and bars line the main thoroughfare, University Avenue, but there’s much to explore along cross streets like bustling Fifth Avenue.
Just north of downtown, in an area known as "uptown," is Hillcrest the main gayborhood in San Diego. Here you'll find all things exciting, colorful and focused on fun. It’s not unusual to see midday costumed bar crawls or lively street festivals, when pedestrians, music, and vendors rule the blocks. The area is easily accessible to visitors and locals, and at its southern border lies San Diego’s crown jewel, Balboa Park. Hip, energetic, and entertaining, there’s always something fun to see and do in Hillcrest, so come ready to explore.
Hillcrest is bursting with good food from all parts of the world. Feeling French? Head to Bread & Cie for an espresso and a morning bite, or La Bonne Table for a cozy bistro dinner. Needing noodles? Tajima is a casual tuck-in place to soothe a ramen craving, and Pho Fifth Avenue hits the broth spot. Maybe Mexican? Try fish tacos at San Diego staple Oscar’s, or late-night eats at Libertad, a non-profit taco shop open until 2:30 a.m.
Speaking of the wee hours, this is the neighborhood for lively nightlife. Bar/restaurant hybrids are aplenty, so it’s great for dining out late, and staying out later. Popular spots include Ortega’s, Baja Betty’s, Urban MO’s, Uptown Tavern, Gossip Grill, and Hillcrest Brewing Company.
Early birds benefit (by skipping the lines) at the ever-popular brunch scene. Once you’ve tasted the pancake flight at Snooze, the ultimate sticky bun at Trust, or the big-plate smorgasbords at Hash House A Go Go, you’ll become a morning person, too.
People watching is prime in this ‘hood. Grab a patio seat and a cool drink, and get ready to meet the locals. Quirky, funky, and lively, Hillcrest draws diverse crowds. Record shops, vintage clothing, independent theaters, and all the bars and restaurants give this cultural hub its unique flair. The fantastic Hillcrest Farmers Market brings people together on Sundays with its bounty of fresh local produce, handmade treats, live music, and craft vendors.
All of Hillcrest is easily traversed by bike, and there are plenty of scooters and bicycles for hire. If you’re on foot, the nearby Spruce Street Suspension Bridge is a hidden little gem where you can snap scenic photos. Balboa Park is a perfect walking destination at the southern end of the neighborhood. You’ll hit prime picnicking grass along Sixth Avenue or urban hiking trails through Florida Canyon.
As the LGBTQ+ center of San Diego, Hillcrest offers the chance for travelers and residents to get to know another side of the city. It is the center of Pride, around which all activity orbits—from the parties to the parade to the festival. The Hillcrest Pride Flag is a beacon for many citizens, and it flies near the San Diego LGBT Community Center, which is the second-oldest in the nation. This is a friendly, tight-knit community where all are accepted, and you’ll see that reflected in the many smiles and good vibes.
Hillcrest is also one of San Diego’s oldest neighborhoods, yet it remains an ever-evolving center of activity. Residential pockets surround the center, where interests of every type find a home. Whether it be Bluestocking Books for avid readers; Landmark Cinema for cinephiles; Pecs, The Rail, or Riches for the dance-happy; or Flashback, Twist, and Luigi Vera for the fashion-forward—there really is a place for everyone here.
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