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The ultimate lesbian San Diego guide: bars, events, clubs & more

Robyn Exton

May 30, 2023

The ultimate lesbian San Diego guide: bars, events, clubs & more

California — a palm tree paradise, the land of beachside walks, great food, and great vibes — was the first state in the US to legalize domestic partnerships for gay couples back in 1999. Decades later, and over a decade after gay marriage was legalized in the Golden State, the LGBTQIA+ continues to stand tall, proud, loud, and audacious in their ability to have a great time.

We’re highlighting the best bars, clubs, and events that welcome lesbians, women, and non-binary people within the LGBTQIA+ community that will make sure you have a great time, and get to celebrate your rights and your pride!

After all, who knows how to better party than queer folks? These are also great places to bring your next date.

If San Diego is your next destination, add these to your itinerary. And if San Diego is your home base, let’s see where the local lesbians hang out so that you can hang out, too.

The best lesbian bar in San Diego: The Gossip Grill on Hillcrest

A masc person with short blonde hair and a sleeveless blank shirt prepares a drink behind the bar at the Gossip Grill, the only lesbian bar in San Diego.

Source: Gossip Grill

Hillcrest is the gayborhood of San Diego, so if you’re looking to hit up all the queer spots, your best bet is to stop there. Among the plenty of LGBTQIA+ bars in the neighborhood, you’ll find the Gossip Grill, which is one of the remaining 27 lesbian bars in the United States. This means an establishment catering mostly to lesbians and queer women.

The importance of lesbian bars can’t be understated. If you’re a wlw who’s been around the block, you know the headache (at best), and fear (at worst), you can feel when you walk into an allegedly LGBTQIA+ friendly bar, and find pools of straight men who can’t take a hint, instead. 

You won’t be feeling that at the Gossip Grill. Everything about it is meant to make you feel comfortable and at ease. From the girly decor to the cheeky cocktail and mocktail titles  (Pussy Punch, anyone?) you’re meant for a laid-back time at the woman-owned Gossip Grill. It’s got all the trappings of a safe space for hangouts with your queer entourage.

“Pretty good price if you ask me, the vibe was very mellow and I felt like I was on a scene of The L word,” says Patron Tee G.

Gossip Grill happy hour is every day from 2 pm to 4 pm, and it’s open from 2 pm on weekdays and from 10 am on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Address: 1220 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, United States

Find a safe space at the SRO Lounge

An interior view of the SRO Lounge when it is mostly empty. It has ornate decorations, like a fake candle chandelier, and Christmas lights. A transgender pride flag is hanging right above the bar’s exit. The SRO Lounge is a place for lesbians and trans people to meet and feel safe.

Source: Yelp

At SRO Lounge, you can expect the same atmosphere – and prices – you would expect at any dive bar. It stands out from all others in the area, though, because of its reputation in the transgender community for being a safe place for trans people. Don’t fear harassment or discrimination here. Trans-sapphics, you are welcome, especially! 

Patron Bridget W. says, “If Lady Gaga meets a dive bar this is it. Red walls, crystal chandeliers, dim lighting and an eclectic crowd.”

SRO Lounge is open from 10 am to 2 am every day of the week. Take your friends here for a game of pool, and expect a friendly and diverse crowd when you get to the cozy lounge.

Address: 1807 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92101, United States

Lips for a drag dinner show

 “You can’t miss this building while driving,” says Quang B. on Yelp. Lips is a drag dinner theater franchise also found in New York, Illinois, Georgia, and Florida. This Lips building in San Diego is painted in a vibrant purple paint, with a large silver tiara ornamenting the entrance.

Source: Yelp

This drag dinner theater is so popular it’s got locations from New York City, Chicago and Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale and – of course – San Diego! 

“This is the perfect place for girls’ nights out,” Heidi I. on Yelp said.

So take your lesbian entourage for a night out at Lips, where the cocktails are diva-themed and $12.50. Lips has a prix fixe dinner and brunch menu, ranging from $37 to $44, so expect a special night of entertainment for these prices! 

Diner Derrel D. says, “I had an absolutely incredible dining experience at Lips restaurant and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a delicious meal and fantastic entertainment. I give this restaurant a solid 5 stars!”

Lips has drag shows and performances every day of the week except Sundays. Leave the kids at home because many performances are not family-friendly. 

Address: 3036 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92104, United States

Hillcrest Brewing Company for unique craft beers

Hillcrest Brewing Company is the “first gay brewery in the world,” according to its website. Seen here are approximately 15 draft beer levers at the restaurant’s bar.

Source: Hillcrest Brewing Company

Hillcrest Brewing Company is an LGBT hangout spot with great food and a great selection of beers. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a brewing company! 

Since its establishment in 2012, this brewery and restaurant has prided itself on its craft beer selection, which ranges from $6.75 for 8 ounces to $9.00 for a full pour.

“Probably one of the coolest places [I’ve] been to recently,” says patron Jay K. on Google. It’s an overall comfortable setting where you can connect with friends or have a low-key date, should you wish! 

Address: 1458 University Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, United States 

Number One Fifth Avenue, a beloved LGBT bar in San Diego

Get your jello shots at Number One Fifth Avenue, a gayborhood staple in San Diego. Dancing, music, parties, and a mixed crowd on some nights, are all that you can expect. Here you see stacks of jello shots on a circular tray with neon lighting, making the jello look fluorescent. Two darkly-lit women stand behind the tray, speaking to each other, at Number One Fifth Avenue.

Source: Number One Fifth Avenue

This nightclub has been around since 1981 in San Diego’s hearty gayborhood of Hillcrest, and it is open every day of the week from noon ‘till 1:30 am. It has an outdoor patio with pool tables to kick back and play. 

There are events and entertainment most nights, like DJs and drag showings. During many nights, the crowd has more men than not, but keep an eye out on their Instagram for certain DJ lineups with more of a lesbian following than others.

Patrons love this bar, which has 4.4 stars across 500+ reviews on Google. One patron raves: “This Bar is a neighborhood institution! … Welcoming to all!”

Address: 3845 Fifth Ave, San Diego, CA 92103, United States

Lesbian events in San Diego

The image is a shallow focus photograph of a woman using a Game Boy, smiling next to another woman. They are on a picnic blanket surrounded by a picnic basket with bread and red solo cups. There are also beer bottles and magazines and other women around them. The San Diego Meetup groups hosts picnics and game themed events like in the photo.

You don’t need to go to bars or nightclubs to connect with lesbians in the San Diego region.  While we all hope for a new lesbian bar renaissance across the United States, you can still kick it with local lesbians at these meetup groups in San Diego, California.

San Diego’s Queer Prom

Women wearing sleeveless dresses of varying colors with carnations on their wrists, presumably ready for prom.

Source: Unsplash

Many queer people didn’t have a normal prom experience, so queer proms are becoming increasingly popular. And as adults, you can probably imagine queer proms are a lot more fun: with drag performers and gallery exhibitions, you can enjoy. And, of course, prom wouldn’t be complete without a photo booth, which is what you’ll see at San Diego’s Queer Prom. 

So grab your carnations, suits, and dresses to experience prom, but in a queer way. Queer prom in San Diego is in June at the International Mingei Museum in Balboa Park.

San Diego Pride events

A black woman walks in the foreground with a large smile and arms raised at the end of the San Diego Pride 5k Run and Walk. The person wears a brown sleeveless top that says BLACK & PROUD in block letters. In the background stands a line of people behind a barrier ornamented with rainbow pride flags.

Source: San Diego Pride 

In San Diego, Pride is a week-long festival occurring in July rather than June. And there are no shortage of events at the summer-long San Diego Pride celebration, starting with a Rainbow Roller Rave. Imagine a neon roller rink, a laser light show, and a multi-room dance party. That’s what’s waiting for you at this kickoff event for queer, non-binary, and trans women! 

During Pride Week in San Diego, be sure to check out the She Fest, an event that empowers LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people. It’s a social gathering with varying activities; you can be sure to connect with local LGBT small businesses. 

She Fest also prides itself in its accessibility for mobility and the dead/hard of hearing community. Learn more about She Fest on the San Diego Pride website.

So, is San Diego next on your travel list yet? We hope so! Add these spots to your itinerary, or head out with your local friends. With some responsible fun-having, you’ll have a queer night to remember.

Want to support the other remaining lesbian bars in the US? Then you must check out Cubbyhole in the Big Apple, Nobody’s Darling in Chi-town,  and queer-owned establishments in Atlanta. Queertopia doesn’t stop there; look at our other city guides below to learn more.

Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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