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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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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Comedy Store La Jolla

  • Comedy Clubs

Like its sister establishment in Hollywood, this club hosts some of the best national touring and local talent. Cover charges range from...

Cusp

  • Bars/Pubs

The stone walls and modern metal accents along the bar give the impression of Cusp being a dark, intimate lounge, but the panoramic views...

George's Bar

  • Bars/Pubs

Upstairs from the upscale George's At the Cove is this hip, casual, and somewhat more affordable hangout, which is always buzzing with...

Living Room Coffee

  • Gathering Places

La Jolla's outpost of this local coffee chain is open until midnight and sports a full bar, which means that customers can spend a pleasant...

Manhattan of La Jolla

  • Piano Bars/Lounges

Lovingly referred to as the "Manhattan Lounge" by locals, this underrated and largely undiscovered bar neighbors the Italian steak house...

The Spot

  • Bars/Pubs

Nightlife can be kind of sleepy in affluent La Jolla, but in-the-know locals keep this bar buzzing on any given night thanks to powerful...

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