San Diego

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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  • 1. The Rooftop by STK

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    At this rooftop bar and lounge atop the Andaz hotel, a fashionable crowd sips cocktails poolside while gazing at gorgeous views of the city...Read More

  • 2. Bang Bang

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    Part sushi bar and part discotheque, Bang Bang offers both a good culinary game as well as a lineup of superstar DJs providing beats and breaks...Read More

  • 3. Fluxx

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    Arguably the hottest club in the Gaslamp, this Vegas-style, multitheme space is packed to the gills on weekends with pretty people dancing to...Read More

  • 4. Hard Rock Hotel

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    A-list wannabes (and a few real celebs) gather in two bars, the loungey 207 off the lobby and the rooftop Float. The latter's Intervention and...Read More

  • 5. Omnia

    Downtown | Dance Clubs

    If the bright and flashy spectacle of Omnia feels a little bit more like Las Vegas than San Diego, it might be helpful to know that it actually...Read More

  • 6. Oxford Social Club

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    A luxurious new downtown nightclub beneath the Pendry Hotel, Oxford Social Club has become one of San Diego's trendiest new clubs, with a predictably...Read More

  • 7. Rich's

    Hillcrest | Dance Clubs

    The dancing and music here are some of the best in the city, making Rich's popular not only with gay men but also plenty of lesbians and straight...Read More

  • 8. Sevilla

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    For more than two decades, Cafe Sevilla and the Sevilla nightclub have brought a Latin flavor to the Gaslamp Quarter through a mix of contemporary...Read More

  • 9. Urban Mo's Bar and Grill

    Hillcrest | Bars/Pubs

    Cowboys gather for line dancing and two-stepping on the wooden dance floor—but be forewarned, yee-hawers, it can get pretty wild on Western...Read More

  • 10. Bar Dynamite

    Mission Hills | 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 for booty...Read More

  • 11. Bar West

    Pacific Beach | Dance Clubs

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

  • 12. Bourbon Street

    University Heights | Bars/Pubs

    Locals stop by here to meet old friends or make new ones. The front area is a karaoke spot, and the outdoor courtyard draws crowds that gather...Read More

  • 13. Stingaree

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    One could argue that Stingaree was the Gaslamp's first megaclub and, almost a decade later, it's still going strong. Guests can enjoy electro...Read More

  • 14. Side Bar

    Gaslamp Quarter | Dance Clubs

    One of San Diego's premier clubs has a "more is more" decor and an attitude to match. Painted birdcages hang from the loft ceiling and DJs spin...Read More

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