Gay Vacations in San Diego, California

Balboa Park fountains at night in San Diego, California
Balboa Park fountains in San Diego, California (courtesy, San Diego CVB)

San Diego Gay and Lesbian Travel Tips

  • Combine San Diego with a grand tour of southern California. San Diego is enough of a destination on its own, but the local tourism board has launched an ambitious gay and lesbian campaign with Palm Springs and West Hollywood to create a "pink triangle" tour of So Cal. Go to for more info.
  • Plan in advance for summer. San Diego hotel rates can increase during the summer (roughly late May through late August), and reserving months in advance is a good idea. Keep in mind that weather is better in late summer than early summer, when skies can be overcast.
  • Avoid LAX. Even though you may get better airfare deals flying into L.A., the money saved is usually not worth making the drive through traffic. A number of low-cost carriers serve San Diego's uncrowded and pleasant airport.

Thriving San Diego has grown from being L.A.'s little sister to the south into a major (yet mellow) city in its own right. California’s second-largest city is defined by its geography, with stunning beaches lining its coast to mountains and deserts inland to its border with Mexico. And beyond its family-friendly tourist attractions—among them the world-famous San Diego Zoo, its safari-like Wild Animal Park, SeaWorld and Legoland in nearby Carlsbad—the city is quickly becoming known for its sophisticated hotels, dining, and nightlife. Areas every visitor should see include downtown's revitalized and historic Gaslamp Quarter, relaxing Coronado Island and its famous Hotel Del Coronado (where the drag romp "Some Like it Hot" was filmed), funky and surfer-filled Ocean Beach, chic and expensive La Jolla, historic Old Town with its Spanish colonial architecture, and bustling, chaotic, but fun Tijuana, just south of the border.

Right near downtown, Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in America, and its museum and arts complex is second in size only to the Smithsonian. Here you can while away a few days alone exploring the San Diego Museum of Art, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Centro Cultural de la Raza, the Museum of Man, Mingei International Museum, the Museum of Photographic Arts, the Museum of San Diego History, the San Diego Automotive Museum, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, the Timken Museum of Art, and more. So don't worry—there's plenty to soak up intellectually once you've soaked up all the sun!

Many visitors are surprised at the size of San Diego's LGBT scene. Hillcrest, the epicenter of San Diego's gay community, dates back as a queer ghetto to the 1960s. But the city has a number of gay enclaves, including University Heights, Normal Heights, and North Park, all with LGBT bars and restaurants. Black's Beach, one of the most famous on the West Coast, is a huge nudist expanse that is very popular with gays. Visit in the third week of July for the town’s huge pride festival, with an outdoor dance party at the San Diego Zoo. Hillcrest also hosts fun and very queer Mardi Gras and Halloween street events.


Published: 16 Jul 2008 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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