San Diego Nightlife

The San Diego nightlife scene is much more diverse and innovative than it was just a decade ago. Back then, options were limited to the pricey singles-heavy dance clubs downtown, the party-hearty atmosphere of Pacific Beach, and a handful of charmingly musty neighborhood dive bars popular with locals. Today options in San Diego have expanded dramatically, boasting more than 90 craft breweries throughout

the county, not to mention several stylish cocktail lounges.

The Gaslamp Quarter is still one of the most popular areas to go for a night on the town. Named for actual gaslights that once provided illumination along its once-seedy streets (it housed a number of gambling halls and brothels), the neighborhood bears only a trace of its debauched roots. Between the Gaslamp and nearby East Village, downtown San Diego mostly comprises chic nightclubs, tourist-heavy pubs, and a handful of live music venues. Even most of the hotels downtown have a street-level or rooftop bar—so plan on making it a late night if that’s where you intend to bunk. On weekends, parking can be tricky; most lots run about $20, and though there is metered parking (free after 6 pm and all day Sunday), motorists don’t give up those coveted spots so easily. Some restaurants and clubs offer valet, though that can get pricey.

Hillcrest is a popular area for LGBT nightlife and culture, whereas just a little bit east of Hillcrest, ever-expanding North Park features a diverse range of bars and lounges that cater to a twenty- and thirtysomething crowd, bolstering its reputation as the city’s hipster capital. Nearby Normal Heights is a slightly less pretentious alternative, though whichever of these neighborhoods strikes your fancy, a cab from downtown will run about the same price: $15

Nightlife along the beaches is more of a mixed bag. Where the scene in Pacific Beach might feel like every week is Spring Break, La Jolla veers toward being more cost-prohibitive. And although Point Loma is often seen as a sleeper neighborhood in terms of nightlife, it’s coming into its own with some select destinations.

If your drink involves caffeine and not alcohol, there's no shortage of coffeehouses in San Diego, and some of the better ones in Hillcrest and North Park stay open past midnight. Many of them also serve beer and wine, if the caffeine buzz isn’t enough.

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Fodor's Choice

Area

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Downtown 56

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East Village 6

Embarcadero 3

Gaslamp Quarter 44

Little Italy 3

Old Town and Uptown 45

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Hillcrest 11

Mission Hills 5

Mission Valley 1

Normal Heights 8

North Park 11

Old Town 4

South Park 2

University Heights 3

Mission Bay, Beaches, and SeaWorld 14

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Mission Bay 2

Pacific Beach 12

La Jolla 12

Point Loma and Coronado 8

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Ocean Beach 3

Point Loma 4

Shelter Island 1

Northern San Diego 7

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Kearny Mesa 1

Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo 2

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Bankers Hill 2

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Category

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Bars/ Pubs 53

Brewpubs/ Beer Gardens 11

Cabaret 3

Cafes–Nightlife 14

Comedy Clubs 4

Dance Clubs 20

Gathering Places 1

Music Clubs 22

Piano Bars/ Lounges 30

Wine Bars–Nightlife 7

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San Diego Nightlife

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Aero Club

  • Bars/Pubs

Named for its proximity to the airport, this watering hole draws in twenty- and thirtysomethings with its pool tables, dominoes, and...

AleSmith Brewing Co.

  • Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

This artisanal microbrewery offers tastings at its out-of-the-way locale in the Miramar area. Try the "Kopi Luwak" special edition of...

Alpine Brewing Co.

  • Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

Well worth the mountain drive, this family-owned operation may be itty-bitty, but it's also a big champ: brewmaster Pat McIlhenney, a...

Altitude Sky Lounge

  • Piano Bars/Lounges

Location is everything at this sophisticated lounge on the roof of the 22-floor San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter. The views of the...

American Comedy Co.

  • Comedy Clubs

At this underground space modeled after the legendary comedy clubs in New York, there's not a bad seat in the house—which is especially...

Amplified Ale Works

  • Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

Pacific Beach often veers between the trendy and the tawdry, so it's refreshing to see a genuine craft brewhouse open up to offer a more...

Baja Betty's

  • Bars/Pubs

Although it draws plenty of gay customers, the festive and friendly atmosphere is popular with just about everyone in the Hillcrest area...

Ballast Point Brewing Co.

  • Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

Until recently, you had to head to the Miramar/Scripps Ranch area for a tasting at Ballast Point, but now there's a local taproom in...

Bar Basic

  • Bars/Pubs

This spot is always bustling, in part because it's the place to be seen for Padres fans or anyone else attending events at PETCO Park.

Bar Pink

  • Bars/Pubs

Cheap drinks, loud music, and a hip crowd explain the line that's usually waiting outside this divey bar co-owned by Rocket From the...

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