Stroll into this colorful urban neighborhood filled with trendy restaurants, coffeehouses, vintage clothing boutiques, specialty stores and a vibrant nightlife scene. Located in Uptown — a few miles north of San Diego's downtown — Hillcrest sits south of Mission Valley and just north of world-renowned Balboa Park. The area is also home to the LBGTQ+ community, welcoming one and all to its festivals, parades and spectacular Pride and Halloween block parties.
Undoubtedly the best resource on Hillcrest is Fabulous Hillcrest (fabuloushillcrest.com), which recommends everything from favorite eateries and shops to specialty services and local events.
Central to any visit are Hillcrest's main thoroughfares: the pedestrian-friendly University and Fifth Avenues. (In fact, the iconic neon "Hillcrest" sign spans the intersection.) At University Avenue's east end, a grand rainbow flag serves as a community gathering point for celebrations and special events. The flag, which anchors Pride Plaza, also serves as the start for the nation’s third largest LGBTQ+ Pride parade each July.
Pride Plaza, located at University Avenue and Normal Street, is also part of the three-block-long weekly Hillcrest Farmers Market, and monthly Hillcrest Classic Car Show.
The Farmers Market features over 175 vendors every Sunday selling fresh produce, seasonal fruits, arts, crafts and heavenly international cuisine. Enjoy free samples of everything from tamales to gyros to barbecue to smoothies, teas and so much more at this Sunday gathering, running 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. year-round.
The Classic Car Show is held from 1-4 p.m. on the third Saturday of the month. The show allows avid collectors to share their love of cars with the community. Motorists are invited cruise on down and rev up for fun at this free, fabulous event.
Other popular draws include taking in independent and foreign films at the multiplex Landmark Cinemas (Fifth Avenue) and San Diego's newest real-life room escape game, Escapism Puzzle Room (Fourth Avenue).
For those needing a little retail therapy, chic shops and specialty stores abound. Browse Gioia's Room Boutique and Luigi's One-Of-A-Kind Fashion for festive party attire, and Buffalo Exchange and Flashbacks for hip vintage clothing. Head to the Village Hat Shop for all your headgear needs; and Creative Crossroads for local handcrafted art and gifts. The multi-floor Hillcrest Ace Hardware carries home improvement items like paint, tools, plants, fountains, candles and even outdoor furniture. For more unique stores, visit fabuloushillcrest.com/shop.
While out and about, make sure to indulge in Hillcrest's delicious dining scene. Ethnically diverse restaurants, cozy wine bars, and dessert-themed eateries dot the streets, satisfying any palate. Dine on Pad See Ew at Lotus Thai, swirl fettuccine primavera at Arrivederci, grab a grass-fed organic beef burger at Cali "O" Burgers, and so much more. For sweet cravings, head to Candy Depot, a Hillcrest mainstay since 1994. Guests may create their own custom bag of candies, including M & M's, candy corn, and jelly beans. Also choose from an array of gourmet chocolates. Visit fabuloushillcrest.com/eat more delectable venues.
Getting around Hillcrest is a snap, thanks to Access Hillcrest, a publicly funded parking and transportation resource operated by the the Uptown Community Parking District. Hop on and off the Access Hillcrest Shuttle, which runs seven days a week, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Mon.-Fri. and 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat. and Sun. The Access Hillcrest Shuttle is a FREE shuttle service that transports locals, employees, and visitors to restaurants, shops, and even the Farmers Market. The shuttle travels within two routes – one weekday route and one weekend route – every 15 minutes. Riders can hop-on/hop-off at any point along the route. Access Hillcrest also helps people find parking spaces, share rides, or find bicycle access. learn more at accesshillcrest.com.