San Diego Nightlife

The San Diego nightlife scene has exploded in the last few years. Just a little over a decade ago, 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. Since then, 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, and to a lesser extent University Heights are both popular areas 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.

And if you’re up for a drive, head to North County for seaside drinks or live music, including the Belly Up Tavern, which has one of the best sound systems in the county, and an impressive line-up of talent on its calendar.

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Fodor's Choice

Area

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Downtown 39

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East Village 6

Embarcadero 3

Gaslamp Quarter 28

Little Italy 2

Old Town and Uptown 37

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Hillcrest 9

Mission Hills 5

Mission Valley 1

Normal Heights 5

North Park 11

Old Town 3

University Heights 3

Mission Bay, Beaches, and SeaWorld 11

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Mission Bay 2

Pacific Beach 9

Point Loma and Coronado 6

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Ocean Beach 2

Point Loma 3

Shelter Island 1

La Jolla 6

Northern San Diego 2

Kearny Mesa 1

Balboa Park and San Diego Zoo 1

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Bankers Hill 1

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Category

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Bars/ Pubs 45

Brewpubs/ Beer Gardens 6

Cabaret 2

Cafes–Nightlife 9

Comedy Clubs 3

Dance Clubs 16

Gathering Places 1

Music Clubs 11

Piano Bars/ Lounges 21

Wine Bars–Nightlife 2

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San Diego Nightlife

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710 Beach Club

  • Bars/Pubs

This surprisingly spacious beach bar hosts well-known local and, occasionally, national bands playing rock, reggae, and especially potent...

Aero Club

  • Bars/Pubs

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

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...

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 Dynamite

  • Dance Clubs

Affectionately known to regulars as Bar D, what was the hottest underground dance club around in its heyday is still a pretty good bet...

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...

Bar West

  • Piano Bars/Lounges

Bar West brings downtown flavor to style-starved PB. Though clean-lined and attractive, the bar is packed with the usual suspects (collegiates...

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