Originally published in OUT February 2008, issue 181
Even if the passing of Proposition 8 has you gloomy on the Golden State, chances are the skies are still sunny over San Diego. The city boasts an annual average temperature of 70 degrees, 146 days of crystal-clear weather a year, and an LGBT center that for years was located on Normal Street. (Seriously.) From the historical appeal of Catholic mission numero uno on El Camino Real to its modern allure for surfers, sun-seekers, and gay geeks (Comic-Con takes over the city every summer), San Diego is SoCal at its best -- palm-lined streets, border-town vibrancy, 70 miles of beaches, and ultra-fresh seafood (hello, fish tacos!), as well as a highly integrated gay community with several out city officials. With Balboa Park as its 1,200-acre backyard and cultural heart -- it's home to gay volleyballers, the Old Globe Theater, 15 major museums, and the bisexual bonobos of the San Diego Zoo -- walkable neighborhoods help retain the city's small-town friendliness. The 102-year-old Hillcrest 'hood is homo central, though gay-trification is spreading into funky North Park and hipsterish University Heights, home to the LGBT Diversionary Theater.
THE DRINK Lei Lounge
4622 Park Blvd.; 619-813-2272
Hawaii meets University Heights via mod tiki-chic outdoor cabanas, fire pits, and a slick mixed crowd downing duck spring rolls and half-price cocktails after 11 p.m. (Try the piquant yet sweet aloe vera collins.)
4612 Park Blvd.; 619-291-4043
More class than titty flashing (excepting the go-gos), the stiff drinks, lush back courtyard, pool tables, and Ms. Pac-Man at this multi-room manor house are a big easy bet.
THE GROOVE Rich's San Diego
1051 University Ave.; 619-295-2195
Especially bumping on the weekends, Rich's is everybody's end-up -- steamy, slightly sleazy, with no small amount of cruise to a dance-pop beat.
1202 University Ave.; 619-692-1900
Bottle service-fueled booty shaking in a shiny, colorful riot reminiscent of Vegas's ultra-lounges; although the music could use some work, Universal's "omni-sexual" commitment to nightlife is commendable.
THE DAY TRIP Black's Beach
End of Torrey Pines Scenic Drive, north of La Jolla
If hiking down the sandy cliffs to this notorious stretch of the Torrey Pines public beaches doesn't make you pant, the unofficial clothing-optional gay area and heaps of oiled-up men ought to do the trick.
17 miles south of downtown, last stop (San Ysidro) on Blue Line trolley
More than underage co-eds drunk on bucket tequila, Mexico's fourth-largest city hides dining and shopping scenes as sophisticated as its gay clubs are wild. Pack a passport.