Head to San Diego Pride to See Pussy Riot and Princess Nokia

From San Diego’s annual parade and festival to the Stonewall Rally and other events, there are plenty of ways to show up and show your pride.

San Diego’s Pride movement began in 1970, just months after the historic Stonewall Uprising when LGBTQ students at San Diego State College organized to form the Gay Liberation Front, which later that year hosted a “Gay-In” in Presidio Park, likely the first Pride event in San Diego history. Now, as we honor the 54th anniversary of Stonewall and the hard-fought victories that followed, it’s time for rainbows to fly over the streets of Hillcrest with one of the best Pride Parades in the nation. The weekend’s activities are organized by San Diego Pride, a nonprofit whose stated mission is “fostering pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.”

San Diego’s Pride Parade routinely attracts more than 300,000 attendees with nearly 235 distinct contingents (marching and vehicles), so navigating your way through the weekend can be challenging. Use our handy guide for all the relevant details, and have a safe, fabulous, Pride-filled weekend!

Photo courtesy of San Diego Pride

When and where is the parade?

The Pride Parade is on Saturday, July 15, 2023 at 10 am, beginning under the Hillcrest Pride Flag at University Avenue and Normal Street. This year’s theme is “Thrive!

What’s the parade route?

The parade will proceed west along University Avenue, turning left on Sixth Street, then left again on Balboa Drive before ending at Quince Drive. The route is approximately 1.5 miles long.

Where is the best viewing?

There’s decent viewing from the sidewalks along most of the parade route, but if you’re early enough, try to snag a seat in one of the review stand areas at University Avenue and Normal Street, University and Richmond, University and Vermont, University at 7th, and 6th Avenue at Balboa Drive.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Pride

How do I get there?

Driving and parking in Hillcrest is notoriously difficult, and the expected hordes of revelers aren’t going to make it any easier, so walk, bike, scooter, or use public transportation if possible. Check the MTS schedule for the best route to the parade, using University Avenue and Normal Street as your destination. Above all, allow yourself plenty of time so you don’t miss a minute of the festivities!

Where should I park?

If you absolutely have to drive, San Diego Pride has set up a free parking and shuttle service to and from the Pride Parade and the Pride Festival at the Old Naval Hospital at Park Boulevard and President’s Way.

To the Pride Parade

Free shuttles run roundtrip to the Pride Parade from 7 am to 3 pm on Saturday, July 15, dropping parade attendees off at Essex and Richmond Street, one block south of University Avenue.

To the Pride Festival

Free shuttles run roundtrip to the Pride Festival from 7 am to 12 midnight on Saturday, July 15, and from 8 am to 11 pm on Sunday, July 16, dropping festival goers off at Sixth Avenue and Juniper Street.

A free express shuttle will take you from the Pride Parade to the Pride Festival from 12 noon to 4 pm on Saturday; catch it at Essex and Richmond Streets and get dropped off at Sixth Avenue and Juniper Street. Store bicycles and scooters safely at the bike and scooter corral located at the corner of Balboa Drive and El Prado.

What streets will be closed?

On Friday, July 14, Normal Street and Harvey Milk Street are closed starting at 6 am. Saturday’s street closures will begin at 5 am and remain until 4 pm. A complete listing of road closures can be found here; scroll down to the purple section. Also, note the No Parking Zones in the orange section. Nothing ruins a good party like returning to your car and seeing a parking ticket!

Photo courtesy of San Diego Pride

What will the weather be like?

Expect sunny weather on Saturday and Sunday, with highs in the mid-70s and lows in the mid-60s—in other words, solid parade weather. This is San Diego, after all.

Are the events ADA-accessible?

San Diego Pride has a wide array of resources for Pride events to ensure that everyone has an amazing experience, including two wheelchair-accessible seating areas for the Pride Parade, American Sign Language interpreters, sensory break areas, and cooling zones for seniors and service animals at the Pride Festival. 

ADA Accessible Vans will be available at any Pride (Festival, Parade, Parking) Shuttle stop on Saturday, July 15, from 8 am to 12 midnight and Sunday, July 16, from 7 am to 10 pm. Contact the Pride Volunteer at the Shuttle stop to hail an ADA Accessible van.

What’s the Pride Festival, and how do I get in on it?

San Diego’s Pride Festival takes place on Saturday, July 15, from 11 am to 10 pm and Sunday, July 16, from 11 am to 9 pm, at Marston Point in Balboa Park at 6th Avenue and Laurel Street. Imagine a dance party with four amazing stages, nearly 100 entertainers, fabulous food, inspiring art, exhibits, cultural presentations, and vendor booths. Headliners this year include Princess Nokia and Moore Kismet on Saturday; David Archuleta, Saucy Santana, and Pussy Riot perform on Sunday. Tickets range from a $32 one-day pass to $225, depending on your level of VIPness.

Where and when is the Stonewall Rally?

The Spirit of Stonewall Rally is on Friday, July 14, at 6 pm under the Hillcrest Pride Flag. Speakers include Jai Rodriguez, known for his role in Queer Eye For The Straight Guy; Maria Schembri, program manager for the Office of Youth Advocacy in San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD); and keynote speaker Imani Rupert-Gordon, executive director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR).

Photo courtesy of San Diego Pride

What other events are there?

Join The Very Reverend Penny Bridges, Dean of St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, and other leaders on Wednesday, July 12, for Light Up The Cathedral, a celebration of community, resilience, and faith. After the ceremony, the cathedral will be lit in rainbow colors.

The Pride of Hillcrest Block Party returns to Pride Plaza Thursday, July 14, from 4 to 11 pm and Friday, July 14, from 2 to 11 pm with go-go dancers, a massive cocktail bar, a giant Ferris wheel, a beer garden, a DJ dance party, food trucks, and drag shows. Tickets can be purchased here.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Pride

Last year, the Pride 5K Run + Walk had a record-setting 1700 runners and walkers from around the world and raised $40,000 for charity partners San Diego Pride and The LGBT Center’s Youth Housing Project. Grab your best rainbow gear, slap on some sunscreen, and meet at the corner of Centre and University Avenue at 8 am on Saturday, July 15. You can participate virtually as well and can register for either format here.

Dozens of other events take place all over the city during Pride, so check the SD Pride website for the latest news.

Where can I keep the party going?

Much of San Diego’s queer nightlife is centered in the Hillcrest neighborhood, with enclaves in North Park and University Heights. Local favorites include Spin, an enormous nightclub in a converted warehouse; Eagle, for those who enjoy a bit of leather with their nightlife; The Rail (formerly the Brass Rail), San Diego’s oldest gay bar; and 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, Hillcrest Brewing Company.

How else can I show support?

Support vital LGBTQ+ nonprofits and community organizations

San Diego Pride depends on over 1,500 volunteers to plan and implement the Pride festivals, parades, and events, and with more than thirty different volunteer departments, you’re sure to find one that’s a good fit. You can donate anytime, knowing that 84 cents of every dollar goes to education, advocacy, and civic organization.

San Diego LGBT Community Center
Photo courtesy of San Diego LGBT Community Center

The San Diego LGBT Center, better known as just The Center, reaches out to the LGBTQ+ community through special events, civic involvement, and critical housing services, among its many programs. The Gender Advocacy Project supports transgender individuals through various social groups, mental and physical health care, legal services, cosmetic services, and trans-friendly employers.

Dine out at LGBTQ+-owned restaurants

The party never really stops at Urban Mo’s Bar and Grill, a gay bar famous for its daily bottomless mimosas and Sunday Funday brunches. Industrial Grind Coffee, the brainchild of Navy veterans Kathy Hansen and Barbara Jeanine, serves all your favorite coffee drinks, along with its own line of gluten-free baked goods, mixes, and gourmet chocolates developed by their niece Crystal Jones. Gossip Grill, a friendly, inclusive lesbian bar, has a full patio bar and restaurant for day drinking, brunching, and cozy dinners around the fire pits, then transforms into a dance club after dark.

Photo courtesy of San Diego Pride

Be an ally

As civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer said, “No one is free until we are all free.” Paying lip service during Pride Month, Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, or any other months dedicated to recognizing fellow humans’ history and ongoing struggles is not enough. Combating hate and prejudice is a year-long, day-in and day-out commitment and requires everyone’s participation. If you are a witness or a victim of hate-based harassment or violence, there are things you can do.

Report hate crimes

All hate-based harassment and other incidents, regardless of severity, should be reported. If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call local authorities and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office to document it immediately.

Learn how to intervene safely

We’ve all seen videos of LGBTQ+ persons and other minorities on the receiving end of public harassment in stores, on public transportation, and on the street, with bystanders casually watching it happen. You may want to offer help, but you’re understandably afraid. You know who else is afraid? The person being bullied, intimidated, and humiliated. But how can you intervene safely? Right To Be, formerly Hollaback!, is a grassroots initiative to raise awareness of and combat street harassment while avoiding directly confronting the aggressor. They’ve created a free guide for bystander intervention and free interactive, virtual bystander intervention and de-escalation training, including youth training, online, voter, sexual, police-sponsored, and other harassment situations.

Check in on your friends

Don’t assume your friends are okay because they aren’t talking to you about hate-based harassment or violence. Reach out in a call, a text, or a visit and let them know you care about their well-being and safety. Tell them you’re available if they feel unsafe or need to talk. Be the ally they need right now.

Register and vote

Most importantly, register and vote! Change doesn’t happen without action, and your voice is needed now more than ever.

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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.