Hillcrest is known for its tolerance, diversity, and locally-owned businesses, including restaurants, cafés, bars, clubs, trendy thrift-stores, and other independent specialty stores. Hillcrest has a high population density, compared to many other neighborhoods in San Diego, and it has a large and active lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
Hillcrest is an older neighborhood which has gone through gentrification. Many streets are lined with trees. There are Craftsman homes and Mid-Century modern apartment buildings.
The neighborhood is bound by Mission Hills to the northwest, Bankers Hill and Balboa Park to the south, University Heights to the north, and North Park to the east. A large ridge overlooking San Diego Bay borders the neighborhood to the west.
Hillcrest is part of the Uptown community planning area, which consists of the neighborhoods of Mission Hills, Hillcrest, Bankers Hill, Park West, and University Heights.