San Diego

The 12 Best LGBTQ Bars in San Diego

From dive bars and nightclubs to the world's first gay craft brewery.

Rich's San Diego
Rich’s San Diego
Rich’s San Diego

Much of San Diego’s queer community centers around the Hillcrest neighborhood, home to one of the largest Pride celebrations in the country, which, during normal times, attracts more than 250,000 attendees and participants to its Pride Parade alone. It’s also where you’ll find the world’s first gay craft brewery and the first street in the country to be named after gay activist Harvey Milk, dedicated in 2012.

In recent years, gaybourhoods have also emerged in North Park, University Heights, Normal Heights and beyond, creating welcoming havens for denizens and visitors in search of queer-friendly bars and clubs, as well as restaurants, theatres, retail shops, and other businesses. So whether you’re looking to show off your pride or simply for a new and fun spot to try, we’ve rounded up our favourite LGBTQ bars to make your decision that much easier.

The Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall
The Hole in the Wall

The Hole in the Wall

Point Loma
Affectionately known as The Hole, this friendly, unpretentious dive bar can be a little hard to find; it was built into an aqueduct excavation and once had a chicken shack as a next door neighbour. A safehaven for the LGBTQ community since the 1940’s, it boasts one of the largest smoking patios in San Diego and outdoor fire pits perfect for cozy conversations. Ongoing events include karaoke, beer pong and DJs Thursday through Saturday, and their popular Sunday Funday beer blasts, along with cocktails by the pitcher ranging in price from $13-$19, plus burgers and dogs from The Holey Grill.

SRO Lounge

Bankers Hill
Fresh flowers, chandeliers, etched glass, and dark red walls give the SRO Lounge a quirky 1960s Mad Men vibe in a distinctly divey atmosphere. Fridays and Saturdays feature trans-friendly Gurls Nite Out weekend socials where you’ll find a mixed-age crowd. The entire block, which also houses The Balboa Bar and Grill, was sold to a developer in 2017, with a timeline for closing/relocating the SRO Lounge that ranges from yesterday to maybe never, so be sure to visit this classic venue before it goes the way of The Caliph.

Cheers

University Heights
Cheers, a former grocery store, opened as a bar in 1982, the same year as the popular sitcom but without the peacocking hetero vibe. Chill on the smoking patio, play pool, or just hang out chatting with old and new friends in a low-key, corner bar atmosphere. Don’t miss their Wednesday deals on tall well drinks for only $4.75 and 22-ounce select taps for $3.50, plus $1 mimosas and $2 Bloody Mary every Sunday.

Gossip Grill
Gossip Grill
Gossip Grill

Gossip Grill

Hillcrest
As with many cities around the U.S., lesbian bars are sadly lacking in San Diego, but Gossip Grill remains a friendly, all-inclusive meeting spot where the ladies always outnumber the boys. There’s a full patio bar and restaurant for day drinking, brunching, and cozy dinners around the fire pits and after dark they transform into a nightclub where you can dance yourself silly until the wee hours. Check out Blackout Bingo with Mariam T on Wednesdays, Double D’s Dinner and Drag on Thursdays, and Finger Me Fridays for rotating DJs.

The Rail

Hillcrest
Originally known as The Brass Rail, this historic haunt from the 1930s first opened in the Orpheum Theatre downtown as a popular lunch spot and after-hours hangout for young professionals. It relocated to the Hillcrest gaybourhood in the ’60s and The Rail now hosts popular weekly events like Thursday Country Dance Nights and Sabados En Fuego, featuring hot Latin go-go dancers and deeply discounted margaritas. The bar recently launched The Gym, a Monday night special geared towards hospitality workers that features two-for-one drink specials, $5 Bud Lights, and no cover.

The Loft

Hillcrest
There’s nothing not to love about The Loft-the drinks are strong, the bartenders are sexy, and the juke box is always jammin’-in other words, it’s just about the perfect dive bar. A popular first stop for a night of bar hopping or dancing, the charming atmosphere and laid back vibe might just make you lose track of time and miss stops two, three, and four, not that you’ll regret it.

Flicks
Flicks
Flicks

Flicks

Hillcrest
Located in the heart of Hillcrest, Flicks has been a local favourite for more than 33 years. All day Happy Hour brings the joy on Mondays and Tuesdays, while Welfare Wednesdays feature wallet-friendly $2 well drinks from 9 pm on. If you dare, strut your stuff at Saturday night’s regularly scheduled Underwear Show to win $100.

Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill

Hillcrest
The party never really stops at Urban Mo’s, a hetero-friendly gay bar famous for its daily bottomless mimosas and Sunday Funday brunches. Sunday evening’s Karaoke Kween features host Naomi Daniels and $6 Make You Sing Svedka specials. Nobody goes hungry at Showtunes Spaghetti Tuesdays, where a measly $7.50 gets you all-you-can-eat pasta and all the showtunes you can sing along with starting at 5 pm.

PECS

North Park
One of the 50 most popular gay bars in the country, PECS is a popular stomping ground for bears/cubs and the folks who love them. Stop in on the first Saturday of the month for THIRST night, where $10 gets you three hours of drafts poured by hot beermongers. Where To Be Wednesdays features $5 wells from 7 pm till closing, making it a budget-friendly option for mid-week drinks.

Hillcrest Brewing Company
Hillcrest Brewing Company
Hillcrest Brewing Company

Hillcrest Brewing Company

Hillcrest
San Diego’s world class craft beer culture makes it a given that we’d also be the home to the world’s first gay brewery. High ceilings and an Instagram-worthy chandelier, plenty of bar and table seating, plus a good-sized, dog-friendly patio make this a favourite hangout for families, locals, and neighbourhood sports leagues. The cheeky beer names-like the popular Banana Hammock Scotch Ale and Crotch Rocket Irish Style Red Ale-pair perfectly with their pizzas, wings, and house-made pretzels. Hit them up any day of the week from 2–6 pm for $2 off drafts, wine, and wells; Hoppy Hour deals; and $3 pizza slices from 2–6 pm on weekdays.

San Diego Eagle

North Park
Leather isn’t a requirement at San Diego Eagle… but it’s definitely highly encouraged. Small, dusky, and decidedly masculine, there’s plenty of dimly lit corners for close encounters and getting-to-know-you rendezvous. Daily happy hours run till 8 pm, with $3.50 wells and $12 pitchers of any wells; special events include a monthly Saturday Night Underwear Party, plus other kink and fetish nights, including Yellow Hanky Socials and Rubber and Latex Nights.

Rich's San Diego
Rich’s San Diego
Rich’s San Diego

Rich’s

Hillcrest
Rich’s is split down the middle: on a regular night, there’s top 40 in the front room and house in the main room. Mischief Wednesdays are no-cover nights featuring throwbacks up front and dance/EDM out back, plus a hot go-go boys contest at midnight, while Thursday’s wildly popular Lez nights have hip hop in the front and house/deep house in the main room.

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Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.

San Diego

How to Celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego

Check out female-led dance programs, pop up markets, beer dinners, and more events this March.

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Women have played a huge part shaping San Diego into the city it is today. In celebration of Women’s History Month, there are a variety of events across the city that commemorate women’s contributions to our community and culture. Home to the Women’s Museum of California, which hosts events throughout the year, be sure to check out all the ways to support and honor women this month. From art exhibits to dance performances, pop-up markets and yoga, check out the best events to celebrate Women’s History Month in San Diego:

Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art

Discover works from overlooked women artists

Ongoing through November 7, 2023
Balboa Park
The San Diego Museum of Art currently has 20 modern and contemporary works of art on display from women who unjustly didn’t receive the same amount of fame as their male contemporaries. The museum’s Modern Women exhibit is your chance to see work from artists like Elaine de Kooning and Lee Krasner, who were overshadowed by artist husbands Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock but whose work has long deserved its own moment in the spotlight. The collection showcases pieces that range from acrylic paintings to photography, inviting us into an untapped artistic sphere.
Cost: $20

Practice Sun Salutations while supporting a good cause

Saturday, March 4, 10 am to 11 am
Pacific Beach
Make a difference in the lives of teen girls of colour while taking a yoga class at Kate Sessions Park. Organized by local nonprofit One Love Movement, all donations for the event go towards college scholarships for girls of the DETOUR F.A.N.C.Y. Expo & Leadership Academy, a mentorship program that promotes equity and inclusion in higher education for girls of colour. All while enjoying stunning views of Mission Bay.
Cost: Donation-based

Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona
Photo by Bianca Quirino Photography l Courtesy of Simplemente Chingona

Shop local women-owned businesses

Sunday, March 5, 1 pm to 5 pm
Middletown
What better way to celebrate the women in your community than by supporting their local businesses? The Women’s History Month Market, located in the FEMX Quarters venue, is a pop up market you don’t want to miss. The market will feature over 35 vendors from women artisans and you’ll find uniquely crafted sunglasses, jewellery, clothing, and more. The family-friendly (and pet-friendly) event will also include food and music.
Cost: Free

Drink beer crafted by female brewers on International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 pm to 10:00 pm
Escondido
Women were the original brewers of ale, after all, so it only makes sense to honour our past and present beer connoisseurs with dinner and brews. Located at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, Stone International Women’s Day Beer Dinner features three courses, each paired with a tasty beer specially brewed by a team of women at Stone Brewery. The event is part of a larger global celebration for International Women’s Day, where brewers all over the world brew a speciality beer that supports The Pink Boots Society, a non profit that empowers women and non-binary people in the beer industry through scholarships and education. Grab your tickets while you can! 21+
Cost: $50-$70

Attend an exhibition celebrating female and non-binary artists

Saturday, March 11, 5:00 pm
Barrio Logan
Head over to the entertainment and community venue Corazon del Barrio and show your support to female and non-binary artists, whose art and music will be featured in the Diosa Art Show. Around 40 artists are on the bill at this all-ages event.
Cost: Free

Drink some pints for the pups

Saturday, March 11, 12 pm to 4 pm
Carmel Mountain
If you need another excuse to down some brews, Second Chance Beer Company is hosting its first ever Ladies & Pups Market for Women’s History Month. The brewery, which holds various events throughout the year, donates a percentage of its sales to animal rescue organizations in California and Arizona. The dog-friendly market will include pop ups from women-owned businesses such as Bold Bouquet, Wet Nose Pottery, and No, You Sit! Treats. For the occasion, Second Chance will serve Fistful of Gummies – Berry Edition, a rendition of their fruited sour beer created in collaboration with Pink Boots Society, an organization that supports women and non-binary individuals in the beer industry.
Cost: Free

Photo courtesy of Women's Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California
Photo courtesy of Women’s Museum of California

Attend a ceremony at the Women’s Museum of California

Saturday, March 18, 11 am to 1 pm
Rolando
Perhaps San Diego’s largest Women’s History Month event, the San Diego County Women’s Hall of Fame recognizes local women for their achievements in the community. The annual event, which takes place at Joan B. Kroc Theatre, is a project of the Women’s Museum of California, a museum dedicated to educating the public about women’s contributions through history with exhibits, programs, and events. Over 100 women have been inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame since the program was founded in 2001, and this year’s class includes notable women like activist Norma Chávez-Peterson and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The event includes a VIP brunch followed by the Induction Ceremony. Be sure to purchase tickets early to secure your spot.
Cost: $20-$150

Join a community of local women and get inspired

Monday, March 20, 5 pm to 7:30 pm
Miramar
The Women’s Speaker Series at Alesmith Brewing Company is a monthly community gathering where local women come together to support one another in achieving professional and personal goals. The event includes a social hour followed by a selected speaker. For this month, the Women’s Speaker Series features career coach and small business owner Laura Bashore, who will share her insight on how you can advance your career or business. Make sure to reserve your spot before attending!
Cost: Free

Come hear about the roles San Diego women played during World War II

Tuesday, March 21, 1 pm to 3 pm
Mission Valley
In the early 20th century, many women were not allowed or expected to be the breadwinners for their households, but things suddenly changed with the United States’ entry into World War II. Here’s your chance to learn about the real experiences of women who lived through WWll and how they navigated through it all. Presented by Oasis San Diego, head over to Mission Valley Library to attend this in-person event.
Cost: Free

Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project
Photo by Carly Topazio l Courtesy of The Rosin Box Project

Attend a ballet program choreographed entirely by women

Thursday, March 23 – Saturday, March 25 & Monday, March 27, 7:30 pm
Liberty Station
Experience not one but three world premiere ballet performances at The Rosin Box Project, a contemporary ballet company that works to redefine the concept of dance and how it’s experienced for both artists and audiences. To coincide with Women’s History Month, TRBP is kicking off its 2023 season with Empower, a female-led ballet program choreographed by TRBO Residents Lauren Flower, Bethany Green, and Carly Topazio. The program, which takes place at Light Box Theater, offers a fresh take on dance by pushing the boundaries of traditional ballet. Your ticket includes a post-show reception.
Cost: $45

Hear music by a little-known female early 20th-century composer

Friday, March 24, 6:30 pm to 7:45 pm
Balboa Park
While you may not be familiar with composer Alice Barnett Stevenson, she played an integral part in San Diego’s music scene during the early 1900s. Stevenson was an active member of various music organizations at the time, and she composed art songs for voice and piano and performed at schools all over the country. Her home became a hub for local recitals from visiting musicians, and was also where the San Diego Symphony was founded. This month, you can hear her compositions performed live for the first time in nearly 100 years at the San Diego History Center. Selected works by Stevenson will be performed by musical scholar Katina Mitchell and pianist Yewon Lee. Be sure to reserve tickets ahead of time.
Cost: $25-$40

Listen to Black San Diego women discuss important community issues

Saturday, March 25, 12 pm to 4 pm
Valencia Park
In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Friends of Malcolm X Library are hosting Ain’t I a Woman, an event featuring Black women who will be speaking about their professions and discussing the challenges faced within the workplace and the community while offering suggestions on how to further enhance and embrace equality. The event includes a Q&A panel discussion, door prizes, free raffles, as well as music, poetry, and dance. Seating is limited so be sure to reserve your spot early.
Cost: Free event. Lunch purchase is $15.

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Michelle Harris is an Editorial Assistant at Thrillist. Over the years her writing has also appeared in Atlas Obscura, Mental Floss, and Audubon Magazine. When she’s not busy typing, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and cooking vegan food.

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