Featured Gay Accommodations: Keating House, San Diego, California

Author: , March 22nd, 2015

Keating House - San Diego

Periodically we’ll feature one of our properties here to let our readers know about some great gay friendly places to stay.

In the late 1800s, during San Diego’s boom period, many of its prominent citizens chose Banker’s Hill, an elevated area of the city, to establish residences. Now over 100 years later, several magnificently restored Victorian homes remain in this residential area and among them proudly stands Keating House, San Diego’s Historical Site No. 198. Our graceful home has been faithfully restored to its turn-of-the-century elegance and now, as a Bed & Breakfast, awaits your visit…

See the Keating House Expanded Listing on Purple Roofs Here

Gay Friendly Bed and Breakfasts, Hotels, and Vacation Rentals in California

Gay San Diego – Solana Beach

Author: , December 30th, 2014

Solana Beach - Cedros Design District

Solana Beach - Cedros Design DistrictWe lucked into the Cedros Design District (Solana Beach, cedrosdesigndistrict.net) by accident – we were attending a wedding reception in Solana Beach and had a few hours to kill before it started, and we wound up here. You’re gonna love this place.

To get here, take the 5 Freeway north from San Diego about half an hour. Exit at Lomas Santa Fe Dr., turning west toward the beach at the base of the exit. About half a mile down, you’ll reach South Cedros Avenue, just before the railroad tracks and Old Highway 101. Turn left and you’re here!

Solana Beach - Cedros Design DistrictThis place is amazing – filled with unique boutiques, galleries, little restaurants and outdoor cafes, and more cool shopping than you can shake a stick at (believe me, we tried, and the stick broke halfway through).

The district was once a cabinet making and woodworking center, filled with industrial buildings, and began its transition to a funky, hip, upscale design, art and shopping center in the ’90’s with the arrival of a West Hollywood developer, Sean MacLeod, who articulated the new vision for the district. He opened the Cedros Trading Company, a consignment mall, which nurtured a number of vendors who eventualy moved into their own shops in the district. Buildings were renovated and painted, and the District continued to grow and thrive.

Solana Beach - Cedros Design DistrictThe Belly Up Tavern (www.bellyup.com), which has brought in a wildly varied group of entertainers since the ’70’s, was renovated, and MacLeod opened up the Wild Note Cafe next door in 1997.

We ate at the Wild Note Cafe (www.bellyupcantina.com/index.html) for lunch – the food was really good, and the funky jazz atmosphere enjoyable.

Menu items for lunch include sandwiches, burgers, seafood, quesadillas, and more, with entrees running from $7-12. Dinner includes seafood, steak and chicken, with entrees running from $15-23.

 style="margin: 6px;"There’s no Starbucks or Peets Coffee here (I know, shocking) – but for a quick drink and snack, check out Zinc Cafe (www.zinccafe.com), a super-cute cafe with an ivy-covered outdoor patio to relax in under the trees and a large umbrella (see below, right)

It’s truly a pleasure to walk down South Cedros – the whole district is just a couple blocks long on a single street, but take a look at a small sample of what’s packed into these blocks – there’s lots of street art and art that happens to be on the street.

Here are a few of our favorite stores and shops along South Cedros:

Solana Beach - Cedros Design DistrictLeaping Lotus (www.leapinglotus.com) – ever been to one of those converted old warehouses that’s been broken up into a bunch of little antique stores, each individually rented by someone to show off their wares, usually dusty old things no one really wants?

Leaping Lotus is like that, but much, much better – think antique mall on steroids – instead of old dusty lamps and soda bottles, it’s filled floor to ceiling (actually, two floors to ceiling) with interesting arts and crafts.

We found all kinds of interesting things here, from oil paintings to masks, from wooden Hawaiian gods to woven baskets and hand-made candles. And yes, there were even lamps here.

Solana Beach - Cedros Design DistrictTimeless Furnishings (www.timelessfurnishingsandpatio.com) was another cool home store (with locations both in Hillcrest and in Solana Beach) with exotic imports – kind of a local Pier 1).

There’s also a Farmer’s Market (www.solanabeachfarmersmarket.com) on Sundays from 1-5 PM.

The Cedros Design District in Solana Beach was far and away the best shopping place we found during our recent visits to San Diego – a great place to spend an afternoon.

San Diego Gay Travel Resources

Gay San Diego – Old Town

Author: , December 29th, 2014

Old Town - Apple Maps

Old Town San DiegoJust over the hill from Hillcrest, on the far side of the Mission Hills District and just north of the airport, Old Town San Diego exudes an unexpected charm – what could have been just another tourist trap filled with plastic doohickeys emblazoned with an Old Town Logo somehow instead manages to be a vibrant, colorful visit to San Diego’s Mexican roots.

Old Town San DiegoNestled against Mission Hills, Old Town is “The Birthplace of California”. Father Junipero Serra established the first California mission here in 1769, and a small community began to form around Father Serra’s Mission and Presidio in the 1820’s. By 1835, the town had become known as El Pueblo de San Diego, and in 1846 the American flag was first raised here. For more on the history, see the Old Town History Page.

There are a number of things to do here – we’ll cover them under several headings, starting with the History.

There are a lot of historical plaques scattered about Old Town, and of course there’s the wonderful Mexican Mission architecture that’s in evidence everywhere.

But there are also sites dedicated to historical preservation, including the Wells Fargo History Museum, once a hotel, saloon, and gaming palour, where you can take money out of a modern Wells Fargo ATM in front of a beautiful, restored historic Wells Fargo coach – a nice mix of the now and the then. There’s also a large painting of what the town looked like originally – a great visual aid to the imagination.

Old Town San DiegoThen there’s the Sherrif’s Museum, which has a great metal prison cell behind the building that will bring a smile to the more, um, leather-minded in our community – iamgine a night in this place!

Old Town San DiegoYou can also tour La Casa de Estudillo, a restored Hacienda with a large, enclosed garden. Though a bit sparse on details, this Hacienda offers free tours and a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the early San Diego residents, with rooms filled with period furniture and decor, and the ceilings (surprisingly) are gorgeous (see below).

The garden is a bit overgrown, but still beautiful, filled with natural, native vegetation and meandering paths.

Here’s another great site that features much more detail on the historic sites in Old Town: http://www.oldtownartfestival.com/history.html.

Old Town San DiegoNext, we’ll jump into the shopping, which is widespread and varied. Whe you first arrive, park in the large lot at Juan St. and Mason St. Walk down Mason a block to Calhoun, which runs through the heart of Old Town. Right here, you’ll find a cluster of infoor and outdoor vendors offering pottery, blankets, clothing, some lovely carved gourds, and yes, a few cheap trinkets too.

Old Town San DiegoFollow Calhoun west and you’ll quickly reach Fiesta del Reyes (http://www.fiestadereyes.com/), a beautifully restored Mexican villa built around a grassy central plaza that now hosts 19 shops, 3 restaurants, and a hotel.

Old Town San DiegoAs we first entered, we were greeted by a Mariachi, playing festive songs and giving us a big smile. Since it was fall, there was also a beautiful display of local Pumpkins at the entrance, perched upon hay bales and an old wooden cart to help get us into an Autumn frame of mind.

There are also artisans in historic garb scattered throughout the Plaza, including the woman we found sewing quilts under a red tiled porch. The whole place has an air of living history, and is filled with shady spots to stop on a warm afternoon and just watch all the things goung on around you.

old-town-san-diego-18The central Plaza is a green, grassy oasis, with many benches and a beautiful fountain. The plaza is also home to one of the four restaurants here, Casa de Reyes, with a wonderfully relaxing outdoor seating area, protected from sun and rain, and with views out on the Plaza.

Old Town San DiegoAlmost directly west of the Fiesta del Reyes (though you have to go around-about to get there from here) is the Bazaar del Mundo, (http://www.bazaardelmundo.com) another shopping area with a couple fantastic shops.

The Gallery featured some beautiful sculptures and works of art.

Old Town San DiegoArtes del Mexico was one of our favorites here – this two-story shop is just jam-packed with arts and crafts in so many amazing, technicolor-bright colors you hardly know where to look.

These included a virtual rainbow zoo of fantastically imagined and painted wooden animals and all nature of other wooden carvings, wall art, and other eye candy.

There’s also a macaw in a cage here just outside the store entrance, nature mimicing art? But be careful – he’s not finger-eating trained, despite his 46 years.

Old Town San DiegoAnother store here, Ariana, had some of the most beautiful, and again vibrant, textiles and clothing. And the Design Center, at the back of the Bazaar, featured wonderful southwestern arts and crafts, albeit a little more toned down from what we found in Artes del Mexico (below, right, and bottom row).

In need of a restroom? You’ll find public bathrooms here too in the courtyard between the main buildings. And you’ll also be greeted by random art as you turn each corner:

There are also four restaurants here – Casa Guadalajara, Casa de Pico, Casa de Bandini and Casa Sol y Mar. We had dinner this time at Casa Guadalajara after my aunt’s wedding – it’s on the northwestern edge of Old Town. The food was decent, and the ambiance was fantastic – if it’s available, sit out in the covered patio.

Casa Guadalajara Old Town San Diego

Old Town San DiegoFor lunch, we headed back down Calhoun Street, and stopped at Cafe Coyote y Cantina, (http://www.cafecoyoteoldtown.com), a cute Mexican cantina with covered outdoor seating on the street and a bunch of cute murals inside. The food was good and very affordable – we had the Chicken Fajitas, with tortilla soup and guacamole and chips, and the service was pretty good too. Be sure to go inside before you leave if you eat on the patio, to enjoy the coyote murals. As with many Mexican restaurants, the portions are generous, so come hungry.

Old Town San DiegoThere’s lots more to see here – including (we kid you not) Fred’s Mexican Cafe (http://www.fredsmexicancafe.com), which sits on eastern Calhoun street, amidst a bunch more shops and restaurants. You can also catch a watergun fight a little farther down the street between a posse of two-dimensional cowboys, and be sure to check out the beautiful mansions on the hills behind Old Town. There are also little gardens and surprises everywhere as you walk through Old Town.

Old Town San Diego is a great place to spend a day or an afternoon.

San Diego Gay Travel Resources

Gay San Diego: Hillcrest

Author: , December 23rd, 2014

Hillcrest

Hillcrest Street ViewHillcrest is San Diego’s gay district, just north of downtown and east of the Airport. It’s bounded roughly by Balboa Park on the east, University Heights on the northeast, Mission Hills on the northwest, and Five Points (on a big hill) on the southwest. While the district extends south a number of blocks, University Avenue is the commercial heart of the Hillcrest District.

The commercial center stretches along Unversity, roughly from Front Street on the Western end out to Park Blvd. on the east, where you start to transition into University Heights. This makes for a great walk on a sunny day, with stops to browse at many of the local boutiques, maybe a quick trip into Peets or Starbucks for a coffee, and a lunch at a sunny street-side cafe.

Hillcrest TheaterThe Universty Street area has up-and-coming kind of Modern/Art Deco feel to the architecture, and you’ll see many examples of this on your walk.

There’s also a great cinema here in the heart of the University District – Hillcrest Cinemas at 3965 Fifth Ave. at University.

Street ArtThere’s also quite a bit of street art, some intentional, some not, ranging from the from the full-size building-size mural (below, left), to the beautiful color pallet the flowers at a street-side flower shop presented to us on our walk along University Avenue (at right). And every utility box in the Hillcrest area has been painted by local artists or wrapped in photo art – apparently these were used by graffitti artists and drug dealers for years, until Candace Lopez, a professor of art and design at San Diego City College, hit upon the idea of painting the boxes to improve the look of her neighborhood.

San Diego Gas & Electric agreed, and the painted boxes have spread across the city, inspiring copy-cat projects in Toronto, St. Louis and other cities.

Fig Tree CafeWe ate lunch at a cute little place on University called the Fig Tree Cafe – part of a small chain in San Diego, the Fig Tree Cafe is where we landed for lunch on our first day. It’s in the heart of Hillcrest, and the salads were really good and fresh. Also try the Man Candy – candied bacon, because it’s all about the bacon these days.

PappaleccoFor some great desserts, including authentic Italian gelato, try Pappalecco, just down the street on Fifth Avenue. Also a local chain, this one serves breakfast and lunch – you should have seen the beautiful platters of bruschetta they had on the counter – but the standout here for us were the desserts – we loved the gelato, and their chocolate chip cookies are to die for. Plus they speak Italian – we love that!

For shopping in the district, your best bets are along the eastern stretch of University, where you’ll find:

EstablishEstablish – Filled with cool things for your house and for gifts, this home and lifestyle store has some furniture, but is mostly filled with lots of great, colorful knick-knacks. Well worth a look when you’re in Hillcrest.

Mankind – Mankind is a little farther down the street – it’s basically an underwear place – if you want to look good in your skivvies (or at least as good as possible given your anatomy LOL…) check out Mankind.

ObeliskObelisk – If you’ve ever been to a Spencers. you’ll love Obelisk – it’s a gay version of the novelty shop. Headlined as a Men’s Clothing Store, you’ll also find gifts, cards and accessories, and huge bonus points for the neon Hillcrest sign in the middle of the store.

Torreon Importers Hillcrest – Torreon Importers has one of the best selections of framed mirrors we’ve ever seen under one roof. Stop in and see yourself reflected hundreds of times in this store – the perfect place for the closet narcissist.

Hillcrest is a great place to spend the day – wander the streets and check out all the great shopping and dining options, and then catch a film before you head back to the hotel.

San Diego Gay Travel Resources

Gay San Diego: Little Italy

Author: , December 22nd, 2014

Little Italy Mural

Little ItalySandwiched between downtown and the airport, you’ll find San Diego’s Little Italy. Though small, this district makes up for its diminutive size with a lot of charm.

This is a great place to just park and stroll around a bit. Murals abound, including the ones shown here, and new construction is bringing more residents into this corner of downtown – there were new residential buildings popping up on all sides this trip.

Little Italy CondosWe even found a group of Italian men hanging out in front of one of the district’s convenience stores – it was fun talking with them for a few minutes in la bella linga.

There are a number of cute little Italian bistros and restaurants here, easily identified by their red, white and green awnings.

Architectural SalvageOn the edge of Little Italy, you’ll find Architectural Salvage – it’s like Restoration Hardware on acid – with salvaged gems (door knobs, whole doors, windows, and all sorts of other things) on display from around the world, you can find that perfect piece here to give your house a little needed funkiness. It’s fun just to wander through the store and gape at all the bric-a-brac.

Little Italy MuralThere’s also a cute little store called Vitreum here – a cool, funky little store with a serious asian influence on the edge of Little Italy – Japanese incense, decorations, mugs and lots of other cool, gifty stuff.

Little Italy is a fun place to spend the morning or afternoon, and grab a cup of coffee, some gelato, or a quick lunch on the way!

San Diego Gay Travel Resources

Little Italy Mural Little Italy Mosaic

Little Italy Sign Little Italy Sign

Gay San Diego: Restaurants

Author: , December 19th, 2014

We found a few new San Diego restaurants we liked on this trip, and we’re sharing them with you below.

Caffe ZuccheroCafe Zucchero
Little Italy
http://www.cafezucchero.com/home.html
We found a great little Trattoria through Mark’s nephew, who’s attending college here. Cafe Zucchero serves wonderful pastries and has a great section of gelato that made us long for the time we spent in Italy in 2005 – yummmmm, Straciatella (chocolate chip). 🙂

fig-tree-cafeFig Tree Cafe
Hillcrest
http://figtreeeatery.com
Part of a small chain in San Diego, the Fig Tree Cafe is where we landed for lunch on our first day. It’s in the heart of Hillcrest, and the salads were really good and fresh. Also try the Man Candy – candied bacon, because it’s all about the bacon these days.

InfluxInflux
North Park
http://www.influxcafe.com
Another small local chain – the one we went to was in North Beach. Really good muffins and pastries here, as well as lots of other breakfast stuff – lunch options looked really interesting too. And the sleek modern ambiance reminded us of places along Pike and Pine in Seattle.

The MissionThe Mission
Gaslamp District
http://www.themissionsd.com
I’m starting to realize we visited a bunch of local chains this trip. This one’s on the south-eastern edge of the Gaslamp and downtown San Diego, and the breakfast here was really good. I had the chilaquiles, and it was delicious.

PappaleccoPappalecco
Hillcrest
http://pappalecco.com
Once more, a local chain. This one serves breakfast and lunch – you should have seen the beautiful platters of bruschetta they had on the counter – but the standout here for us were the desserts – we loved the gelato, and their chocolate chip cookies are to die for. Plus they speak Italian – we love that!

Soleil on KSoleil on K
Gaslamp Quarter
https://www.facebook.com/SoleilatK
We did find a great breakfast place here – Soleil on K – at the Marriott Hotel, just a block away from Petco Park, San Diego’s new ballpark on the southern end of downtown. Soleil on K has a great sidewalk section for sunny-morning dining, and a great breakfast buffet.

There are so many great places to try here – we have to plan another trip to San Diego in the near future.

San Diego Gay Travel Resources

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