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Nightlife and Day Drinks in the Gayborhood and Beyond

Gay Friendly Bars, Clubs and Nightlife in San Diego

Hillcrest and North Park are two neighborhoods in San Diego that attract LGBTQ+ travelers on the hunt for gay friendly entertainment, drinks and socializing.

By: Frank Sabatini Jr.; Columnist & Author

Nighttime Fun in the Gayborhood and Beyond

Hillcrest and its sister neighborhoods know how to show visitors a good time. The wealth of inclusive bars, clubs, and places to get your all-night dance on make San Diego a fun and appealing LGBTQ+ city. If Sunday Funday is more to your liking, there are plenty of options for that, too. When it comes to getting loose and letting your pride shine, there’s no shortage of options in this fun-loving city.

Hillcrest

Most of Hillcrest's tippling activity runs along University Avenue, between Second Avenue and Park Boulevard, but don’t skip the cross streets, which bring their own flavors to the party.

> Discover San Diego's "Gayborhood" - Hillcrest

Fifth Avenue

This stretch hosts a handful of popular joints within walking distance of one another.

  • Number One Fifth Avenue greets with a pleasant neighborhood dive-bar feel. The slender indoor bar leads to an inviting back patio, which is equally worthy in daylight or after dark.
  • The Rail, a half-block away, is one of San Diego's oldest gay bars, but a sleek facelift has reclaimed its youth. Unpretentious and fun, it’s perfect for less clubby dance night vibes.
  • A few addresses south is the ever-popular Babycakes, set within a classic Craftsman home. It’s part coffee-pastry shop and part bar, serving up fun, inventive cocktails.
  • The Loft—a San Diego institution—is known for its strong drinks and unpretentious atmosphere. It was also voted one of the best gay bars in America by Yelp.
  • Head a few blocks down to find another queer San Diego mainstay, The Caliph. Its lounge environment, live piano, and weekly karaoke have kept this unique bar a favorite for decades.

Fourth Avenue

  • Fourth Avenue is home to Martinis Above Fourth and Table + Stage, a second-level perch that attracts diverse ages and interests to its indoor-outdoor balcony and cabaret club main room. The dangerously delicious martinis are met with live entertainment, and robust American cuisine is on hand if the music (wink, wink) has gone to your head.

University Avenue

The revelry amplifies down University Avenue, where dance clubs and video bars kick the party up a notch.

  • At the western end is Urban MO's Bar & Grill, a “hetero-friendly gay bar” and local favorite. It’s the hot meeting place, featuring a festive outdoor patio, kicky cocktails, and enormous, juicy burgers.
  • Flicks is often packed to the gills—and go-go dancers, stiff and cheap drinks, and music videos above a spirited dance floor are the reasons why.
  • At the high-octane dance club Rich's, you’ll find two separate full bars and dance floors. Theme nights, girl nights, killer music, and a pumped up crowd mean you can expect lines out the door after 10:30 p.m. on weekends. But it’s worth the wait.
  • A short jot away is the lesbian-operated Gossip Grill, which greets with ample patio space and a rousing dance floor.
  • At nearby Uptown Tavern, crafty cocktails, microbrews, and farm-to-table fare dominate this stylish yet down-to-earth space. Fronted by an alluring sidewalk patio, it checks all the right boxes for excellent day drinking and happy hour.
  • The Alibi, a cash-only, casual dive, boasts a small outdoor patio, pool tables, and a kickin’ juke box.
  • The route is hardly complete without a visit to Hillcrest Brewing Company. Considered the country's first and only gay-owned brewery, it’s a great spot to grab a pizza or two and make friends at a communal table.
  • For those looking to wash down big plates of Mexican food with prized tequila and other libations, Baja Betty's obliges.

North Park

In addition to North Park’s abundant craft beer offerings, there are several LGBTQ+ operated establishments tucked into the fold.

  • Leave your dress threads behind when venturing to the jeans-and-leather atmosphere at Pecs, where pool tables, darts, and inexpensive drinks rule the day.
  • Catering to the leather community is the long-established San Diego Eagle. There’s an unofficial dress code here, and fetish wear is recommended.
  • North Park is also home to Redwing Bar & Grill, where a solid neighborhood vibe pervades, and every night is karaoke night. The large central bar points the way toward the spacious and back patio with its own full bar and food service.

> 30th Street is Beer Street!

Off the Beaten Track

  • Over in the Point Loma area is The Hole in the Wall, a friendly, no-fuss space with a large outdoor patio. Don’t look for craft cocktails here—this is a place for simple, straightforward drinks and icy pitchers of beer.
  • In the charming University Heights neighborhood, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Cheers is a cheery little community bar with festive carpet and a sliver of a smoking patio.

Note: Bars and clubs throughout the city close at 2:00 a.m., with the exception of some establishments that are open until 4:00 a.m. for special events.

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