I’m no stranger to the West Coast of America, and as an openly gay man, Southern California is one of my absolute favourite destinations; the sun, sea and sand are all a welcomed factor, but it’s the people and the atmosphere that always keep me coming back. Thomas Cook Airlines invited me out to celebrate San Diego Pride and tasked me with finding the best LGBT+ friendly hotspots, so I hit up some of my favourite locations in Los Angeles and went out to find some new hidden gems in San Diego as well.
If you’re visiting Los Angeles for just a couple of days, taking a hike through Runyon Canyon is an absolute must. The views out over the city are some of the best you’ll find. It’s also a great excuse to take your shirt off, catch some rays, and chat with some of the locals. If hiking isn’t really your thing and you’re looking for more of a workout, then Muscle Beach in Santa Monica is hands down one of my favourite places, and if you’re up for it afterwards, I’d definitely recommend hiring a bike or ‘Bird’ electric scooter and taking a ride along the picturesque seafront. If you’re feeling hungry, check out Mon Roll House for some incredible sushi, I went mid-afternoon at happy hour and paid less than $20 for a full meal – it was some of the best sushi I’ve ever had.
For gay nightlife, West Hollywood is the place to be; check out Hamburger Mary’s for their famous drag queen bingo, Flaming Saddles for guys dancing on tables, or for a more relaxed club vibe, my go-to is always The Abbey. Everyone there is always so friendly.
San Diego Pride
San Diego Pride itself was the best part of the trip. I was a little bit nervous about attending alone, but within seconds of getting out of my cab a friendly drag queen came over, made conversation, and filled me in with everything I needed to know. I quickly made friends throughout the weekend too. The atmosphere of the parade was electric and although it stretched for miles, it was a lot more intimate than other pride events I’d been to. Anyone is free to walk in the parade, and there was a real sense of community and friendliness that made me feel at home.
After the parade I checked out the pride festival in Balboa Park and was treated to incredible sets from the likes of Kim Petras and TLC – singing along to Waterfalls with hundreds of LGBT+ friends and allies was the 90s throwback that we all needed, and I’ve honestly never felt so welcomed.
If you’re looking for some much needed post-pride rest and relaxation, then I recommend a visit to the famously gay friendly area of Black’s Beach. Aside from being a gay hotspot, the coastline is absolutely stunning and a large portion of the beach is reserved for nudists if you’re feeling adventurous and fancy getting your kit off in a relaxed and welcoming environment. The experience was incredibly liberating. There’s nothing quite like a naked swim, and most importantly I didn’t need to worry about getting a speedo shaped tan-line.
If you love travelling and love experiencing other cultures, then I’d definitely recommend getting out there and checking out one of the many pride events in the USA.
San Diego pride was a dream; I’m sure I’ll be back soon.