Everything You Need to Know About San Diego’s Pride Parade

San Diego Pride Parade
San Diego Pride Parade | aliciamariemassie/Shutterstock
San Diego Pride Parade | aliciamariemassie/Shutterstock

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 Presido Park, likely the first Pride event in San Diego history. Now, as we honor the 50th 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 non-profit whose stated mission is “fostering pride, equality, and respect for all lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities locally, nationally, and globally.”

Last year, San Diego’s Pride Parade attracted more than 250,000 attendees and 235 distinct contingents (marching and vehicles) in the parade alone, so navigating your way through it all can be challenging. Use our handy guide for all the relevant details, and have a safe, fabulous, Pride-filled weekend!

When and where is the parade? 

The Pride Parade is on Saturday, July 13, 2019 at 10am (one hour earlier than previous years), beginning under the Hillcrest Pride Flag at University Avenue and Normal Street. This year’s theme is “Stonewall 50 - Legacy of Liberation.”

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 1.4 miles long, as you can see from the map below:

san diego pride parade route

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; walk, bike, 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 round trip to the Pride Parade from 7am till 3pm on Saturday, July 13, dropping parade attendees off at Essex and Richmond Street, one block south of University Avenue.

To the Pride Festival: Free shuttles run round trip to the Pride Festival from 7am till 12 midnight on Saturday, July 13 and from 8am till 10pm on Sunday, July 14, dropping festival attendees off at Sixth Avenue and Juniper Street.

A free express shuttle will take you from the Pride Parade to the Pride Festival from 12pm till 4pm on Saturday; catch it at Essex and Richmond Streets. Cyclists can store their bicycles safely at the bike corral located just outside the Pride Festival at Sixth Avenue.

What streets will be closed?

Saturday's street closures will begin at 5am and remain in place until 4pm. A complete listing of road closures on Saturday, July 13 and Sunday, July 14 can be found here; scroll down to the purple section. Also, note the No Parking Zones below the pink section. Nothing ruins a good party like walking back to your car and seeing a parking ticket!

What will the weather be like?

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

Are the events ADA accessible? 

San Diego Pride has an array of resources to ensure that everyone has an amazing experience, including: accessible seating, American Sign Language interpreters, and, at the Pride Festival, cool zones for seniors and service animals.

ADA Accessible Vans will be available at any Pride (Festival, Parade, Parking) Shuttle stop on Saturday, July 13 from 8am to 12 midnight and Sunday, July 14 from 7am to 10pm. Contact the Pride Volunteer at the Shuttle stop to hail an ADA Accessible van. 

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.

Where and when is the Stonewall Rally?

The Spirit of Stonewall Rally takes place on Friday, July 12 at 6pm under the Hillcrest Pride Flag. Speakers include Caroline Dessert, Esq., CEO of The San Diego LGBT Community Center; Bixby Marino-Kibbee, a clinical social worker supporting our trans youth and community; and keynote speaker Dwayne Crenshaw, CEO of RISE San Diego which provides non-profit community development outreach.

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

San Diego’s Pride Festival takes place on Saturday, July 13 from 11 am till 10 pm, and  Sunday, July 14 from 11am till 9pm at Marston Point in Balboa Park at 6th Avenue and Laurel Street. Imagine a dance party with four amazing stages, over one hundred entertainers, fabulous food, inspiring art, exhibits, cultural presentations, and vendor booths. Headliners this year include King Princess, Mykki Blanco, and Asia O’Hara on Saturday, and Melissa Etheridge, Car Astor, and Snow Tha Product on Sunday. Add 50,000 of your new best friends and mix thoroughly for the Pride event of the summer! Tickets range from a $20 one-day pass to $200, depending on your level of VIPness.

san diego pride festival map
Courtesy of San Diego LGBT Pride

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; Martinis Above Fourth, a swanky, elegant club with huge, award winning martinis; 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 Gossip Grill, an inclusive women’s bar where everyone is welcome.

How else can I show support?

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 at any time, knowing that 84 cents of every dollar goes to education, advocacy, and civic organization. Most importantly, register and vote! 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 various vegetables and beverages, reading cookbooks and traveling around Mexico. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.