Goth Guide to San Diego

When a city is best known for having year-round sunny weather, most people will be forgiven for thinking that San Diego isn’t a goth-friendly destination. But I’m here to tell you that’s just not true! Sure, it’s not teeming with old cemeteries and occult shops like New Orleans, but if you know where to look, you can find some very cool spots to hang out and enjoy dark aesthetics.



Pioneer Park in San Diego
Pioneer Park: part park, part cemetery


It’s on the small side, but the El Campo Cemetery in Old Town is worth a visit. Dating back to the mid-1800s, the humble site is home to many who played a role in the city’s early days. The mostly wooden and stone graves are a stark contrast to the elaborate tombs you’d find in a place like New Orleans and definitely inspire a more contemplative mood when visiting.


While not immediately recognizable as a cemetery, one of my favorite spots in the city is Pioneer Park in Mission Hills. At first glance, it just seems like your average neighborhood park, but tucked into the southeast corner are the remaining monuments of the cemetery underneath. Grab a picnic and set up on the grass nearby.



With two locations, Love & Aesthetics offers quirky homewares, jewelry and other odds and ends with a dark vibe. The Little Italy location is a bit bigger, and I rarely leave empty handed. Jeffrey Parish in South Park offers a little bit of everything, including a house line of women’s fashion.


Dining and Drinking



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The speakeasy trend may be overdone, but Noble Experiment has been in the game for years and remains one of the best cocktail bars in San Diego. Their drinks are fantastic, and their decor is modern gilded meets Haunted Mansion. Make reservations and get there early if you want to avoid the hoi polloi.


When it comes to restaurants, Kindred in South Park cannot be topped. It’s all vegan and everything inside is inspired by metal aesthetics, from the menu to the artwork. Expect to hear doom metal playing in the bathrooms and wait staff wearing Converge shirts. (And the food and drinks are both outstanding.)


Where to Stay

Britt Scripps Inn Gothic Room
Decor goals: the Gothic Room at the Britt Scripps Inn


You could check into one of the many San Diego area hotels that claim to be haunted, like the Hotel Del Coronado, but I recommend the Britt Scripps Inn. The classic Victorian manor has gorgeous rooms and is central to a lot of San Diego neighborhoods.




San Diego has been experiencing a resurgence of goth events lately. As with events, it’s best to check out social media to make sure these are still happening, but here’s a snapshot of where you’ll find fellow black-clad heathens:


  • Club Sabbat – one of San Diego’s longest running goth and industrial nights
  • Hemlock – a monthly night of deathrock
  • The Manhattan – in San Diego’s South Bay, the bar hosts a couple of goth and post-punks nights each month
  • Goth Swap Meet – a place to find oddities, fashion, records and more
  • Witchy Wednesday – a newer event held on the third Wednesday of the month at the Til Two Club featuring vendors

Dark Victorian Glamour at San Diego’s Britt Scripps Inn

We’re not all beach people. Some of us actually prefer rainy skies to sunny days. If that describes you and you’re looking for a place to stay in San Diego that prioritizes wrought iron over beach cabanas, then the Britt Scripps Inn might just be for you. The Victorian San Diego hotel resides in the uptown Banker’s Hill neighborhood, placing it close to the airport and downtown and within walking distances of one of San Diego’s most iconic sites, Balboa Park.

The Britt Scripps Inn in San Diego

Dating back to 1887, the historic property seems to have maintained much of its original splendor. While you will find a modern travel brochure rack in the lobby and a few plastic chairs in the garden, everything else about the hotel feels like stepping back in time.


One of the building’s most striking features is the staircase, flanked by a tryptic stained glass window. Each section of the window seems to represent a different time of day: morning, midday, and evening.

Did you notice the little stained glass bat? He welcomed us into the hall with each departure from our room!

Each room is different, with different decor and color schemes. We stayed in the Balboa, which is the largest of the rooms and includes a small balcony. From the light fixtures to the claw footed bathtub to the carved wooden armoire, the details of the room are delightful.


Britt Scripps Inn bathroom
The details in the bathroom were downright charming

A few things to note if you’re planning a visit: the hotel is actually rather small, and functions more like a bed and breakfast than traditional hotel. You won’t find ice machines, vending machines, minibars, mini-fridges, an exercise room or room service. There is heating and air conditioning, and I found the room to be pretty quiet. There’s also a made-to-order breakfast which is included with your stay, though if you’re like me and don’t go to bed until the wee hours, you’ll sleep past the breakfast cut-off time of 9:30 a.m.

For my next stay, I’m definitely going to have to book the Gothic Room. It wasn’t available during my recent stay, but it looks positively dreamy!

Britt Scripps Inn Gothic Room
Decor goals: the Gothic Room at the Britt Scripps Inn

Pioneer Park – San Diego, California

Pioneer Park in San Diego

Tucked into a residential pocket of San Diego’s upscale Mission Hills neighborhood, there’s a sunny neighborhood park that’s home to an unexpectedly spooky surprise. Once a cemetery, Pioneer Park today is a prime spot for families to gather for a barbecue or for residents to play a game a fetch with their dogs, but look beyond the playground equipment in the southeast corner of the park to see what really makes this park unique: dozens of historic tombstones and grave markers.


In the later half of the 19th century, this modest plot of land served as a Catholic cemetery and remained so for a century. Hundreds of San Diegans were laid to rest here (estimates range from 800 to more than 4,000 people were buried here), including members of several of the city’s most notable families. But by the 1970s, the cemetery had fallen into disrepair and the city moved to turn the land into a community park. The bodies were left in their graves beneath the ground, but the majority of the tombstones were cleared out, save for a few beautiful rows at the park’s edge, which remained as a memorial.


With arching pepper trees and eucalyptus encircling the park, the corner with these remaining tombstones makes for a lovely picnic spot. If you go late at night, you might find local teens hanging out, imbibing in illegal substances, but on a sunny afternoon, it’s the perfect respite from San Diego’s bustling beaches.