San Diego

A diverse and sophisticated arts scene probably isn’t the first thing that visitors—or even locals—associate with San Diego. It’s a destination for those who seek out its perennial sunshine, gorgeous beaches, and beautiful scenery. Even those within the arts scene readily admit their fiercest competition is the beach! But just a little to the right of the Pacific Ocean, there are some amazing and diverse artistic offerings to prove that San Diego can hold its own.

The theater scene in San Diego may not have the commercial appeal that Broadway does, but it more than makes up for it with talent. In fact, a long list of Broadway-bound productions started right here, including Jersey Boys, The Who's Tommy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Memphis.

Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theatre is modeled after the Shakespearian Globe Theatre in England, and hosts both an annual Shakespeare Festival as well as contemporary plays. A little bit north is La Jolla Playhouse, which was founded by Gregory Peck in 1947, and has hosted dozens of world-premiere productions, in addition to star actors like Laura Linney and Neil Patrick Harris. The playhouse has also launched the Without Walls initiative, which places theater in a new context by removing the theater entirely.

Music also has a major presence in San Diego, courtesy of the world-class San Diego Opera, which performs major works by Puccini and Mozart, and the San Diego Symphony, which caters to a diverse audience thanks to both its classical concerts and its more accessible Summer Pops series.

There’s always something new and exciting happening with visual arts in San Diego. No longer limited to a collector’s market, younger urban artists are making in-roads with warehouse gallery spaces in Barrio Logan, while galleries in La Jolla and Little Italy showcase bold works of contemporary art on their walls. The annual San Diego Art Prize highlights rising figures in the visual arts realm, and in the field of architecture, Orchids and Onions honors the best and worst in structural design—and with a sense of humor at that.

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  • 1. Copley Symphony Hall

    The great acoustics here are surpassed only by the incredible Spanish baroque interior. Not just the home of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the renovated...

    The great acoustics here are surpassed only by the incredible Spanish baroque interior. Not just the home of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra, the renovated 2,200-seat 1920s-era theater has also hosted major stars like Elvis Costello, Leonard Cohen, and Sting.

    750 B St., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    619-235–0804
  • 2. Globe Theatres

    Balboa Park

    This complex, comprised of the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, and the Old Globe Theatre, offers some of the finest...

    This complex, comprised of the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, and the Old Globe Theatre, offers some of the finest theatrical productions in Southern California. Theater classics such as Into the Woods and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and more recent hits like Bright Star and Meteor Shower, premiered on these famed stages and went on to perform on Broadway. The Old Globe presents a renowned summer Shakespeare Festival with three to four plays in repertory. The theaters, done in a California version of Tudor style, sit between the sculpture garden of the San Diego Museum of Art and the California Tower. If you can't catch a show, daytime one-hour behind-the-scenes tours offer a close-up look at the theaters as well as the intricacies of set and costume design.

    1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    619-234–5623

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: Tours $7, Box office closed Mon.
  • 3. La Jolla Playhouse

    La Jolla

    Under the artistic direction of Christopher Ashley, the playhouse presents exciting and innovative plays and musicals on three stages. Many Broadway shows—among them Memphis, Come...

    Under the artistic direction of Christopher Ashley, the playhouse presents exciting and innovative plays and musicals on three stages. Many Broadway shows—among them Memphis, Come From Away, Tommy, and Jersey Boys—have previewed here before their East Coast premieres. Its Without Walls program also ensures that the productions aren't limited to the playhouse, having put on site-specific shows in places like outdoor art spaces, cars, and even the ocean.

    2910 La Jolla Village Dr., San Diego, California, 92037, USA
    858-550–1010

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: From $70, Closed Mon.
  • 4. Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

    Downtown | Art Galleries–Arts

    Centrally located in Downtown between a trolley stop and the train station, MCASD has built up a reputation for being the premier site for cutting...

    Centrally located in Downtown between a trolley stop and the train station, MCASD has built up a reputation for being the premier site for cutting-edge visual art in San Diego. Every third Thursday is "Downtown at Sundown," which brings together visual and performance arts as musicians and DJs perform outside the museum while patrons are treated to beer, cocktails, and other refreshments.

    1100 Kettner Blvd., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    858-434–3541
  • 5. San Diego Opera

    Drawing international performers, the opera's season runs January–April. Past performances have included Die Fledermaus, Faust, Idomeneo, and La Bohème, plus solo concerts by such talents...

    Drawing international performers, the opera's season runs January–April. Past performances have included Die Fledermaus, Faust, Idomeneo, and La Bohème, plus solo concerts by such talents as Renée Fleming.

    1100 3rd Ave., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    619-533–7000
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  • 6. The Old Globe

    Balboa Park | Theater

    This complex, comprising the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, and the Old Globe Theatre, offers some of...

    This complex, comprising the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, and the Old Globe Theatre, offers some of the finest theatrical productions in Southern California. Theater classics such as The Full Monty and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, both of which went on to Broadway, premiered on these famed stages. The Old Globe presents the family-friendly How the Grinch Stole Christmas around the holidays, as well as a renowned summer Shakespeare Festival with three to four plays in repertory.

    1363 Old Globe Way, San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    619-234–5623
  • 7. Arts District Liberty Station

    Liberty Station

    The former Naval Training Center at Liberty Station is a hub for arts and culture with over 120 tenants, including artists, galleries, museums, and nonprofits....

    The former Naval Training Center at Liberty Station is a hub for arts and culture with over 120 tenants, including artists, galleries, museums, and nonprofits.

    2750 Historic Decatur Rd., San Diego, California, 92106, USA
    619-573–9300
  • 8. Arts Tix

    Gaslamp Quarter | Tickets

    You can buy advance tickets, many at half price, to theater, music, and dance events at Arts Tix. ...

    You can buy advance tickets, many at half price, to theater, music, and dance events at Arts Tix.

    Box Office, 4th Ave. and E St., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    858-381–5595
  • 9. Balboa Theatre

    This renovated theater offers a variety of performances including ballet, music, plays, and even stand-up comedy. In addition to architectural splendor, the space offers unsurpassed...

    This renovated theater offers a variety of performances including ballet, music, plays, and even stand-up comedy. In addition to architectural splendor, the space offers unsurpassed acoustics.

    868 4th Ave., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    619-615–4000
  • 10. Bread & Salt

    The spacious factory setting that houses Bread & Salt feels like a modern art warehouse, though its name nods to its long history as a...

    The spacious factory setting that houses Bread & Salt feels like a modern art warehouse, though its name nods to its long history as a former Wonder Bread factory. Still adorned with much of the industrial machinery and exposed brick, Bread & Salt now houses rotating exhibits from local and national artists, as well as group events such as motorcycle shows and live music showcases. It's also a partner with La Jolla Athenaeum, and puts on experimental and avant-garde concerts throughout the year.

    1955 Julian Ave., San Diego, California, 92113, USA
    619-851–4083

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon. and Sun.
  • 11. California Center for the Arts, Escondido

    Theater

    The center presents mainstream theatrical productions such as Grease and The Odd Couple , as well as concerts, art shows, and dance performances...

    The center presents mainstream theatrical productions such as Grease and The Odd Couple, as well as concerts, art shows, and dance performances.

    340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido, California, 92025, USA
    760-839–4138
  • 12. City Ballet

    The ballet holds performances at the Spreckels Theatre and a few other area venues from November through May. At Christmastime, they dance a mean Nutcracker....

    The ballet holds performances at the Spreckels Theatre and a few other area venues from November through May. At Christmastime, they dance a mean Nutcracker.

    121 Broadway #600, San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    858-272–8663
  • 13. Coronado Playhouse

    This cabaret-type theater near the Hotel del Coronado stages regular dramatic and musical performances....

    This cabaret-type theater near the Hotel del Coronado stages regular dramatic and musical performances.

    1835 Strand Way, San Diego, California, 92118, USA
    619-435–4856
  • 14. Cygnet's Old Town Theatre

    Old Town

    A 246-seat theater operated by Cygnet Theatre Company, this is one of the more interesting small San Diego theater groups. Catch local takes on edgy...

    A 246-seat theater operated by Cygnet Theatre Company, this is one of the more interesting small San Diego theater groups. Catch local takes on edgy classics like Sweeney Todd and Little Shop of Horrors.

    4040 Twiggs St., San Diego, California, 92110, USA
    619-337–1525
  • 15. Diversionary Theatre

    University Heights

    San Diego's premier gay and lesbian company presents a range of original works that focus on LGBTQ themes....

    San Diego's premier gay and lesbian company presents a range of original works that focus on LGBTQ themes.

    4545 Park Blvd., San Diego, California, 92116, USA
    619-220–0097
  • 16. Horton Grand Theatre

    After being home to the long-running Triple Espresso, the Horton Grand Theatre hosts productions from the likes of San Diego Musical Theatre as well as...

    After being home to the long-running Triple Espresso, the Horton Grand Theatre hosts productions from the likes of San Diego Musical Theatre as well as Intrepid Theatre Company, whose shows include Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Woody Guthrie's American Song.

    444 4th Ave., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    858-560–5740
  • 17. Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

    Point Loma | Concerts

    This waterfront, outdoor venue stages intimate shows from big-name national acts from April into October. There's not a bad seat in the house...

    This waterfront, outdoor venue stages intimate shows from big-name national acts from April into October. There's not a bad seat in the house, but those who don't want to pay the sometimes-high ticket prices can catch the concert by renting a canoe or boat and parking it in the adjacent bay for a one-of-a-kind view.

    2241 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego, California, 92106, USA
    619-224–3577
  • 18. Industry Showroom

    Gaslamp Quarter | Art Galleries–Arts

    This large space in downtown serves both as a workspace for local designers and artists, and as a storefront showroom to show off their wares. ...

    This large space in downtown serves both as a workspace for local designers and artists, and as a storefront showroom to show off their wares.

    525 5th Ave., San Diego, California, 92101, USA
    619-701–2162
  • 19. Ion Theatre Company

    Hillcrest | Theater

    The little theater company that could, most of Ion's unique and sometimes controversial productions now take place in the quaint BLKBOX Theatre...

    The little theater company that could, most of Ion's unique and sometimes controversial productions now take place in the quaint BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest and have included productions of Gypsy and Topdog/Underdog.

    3704 6th Ave., San Diego, California, 92103, USA
    619-600–5020
  • 20. La Jolla Athenaeum Music & Arts Library

    La Jolla

    The Athenaeum is a membership-supported, nonprofit library with an exceptional collection of books, periodicals, CDs, and other media related to arts and music. It also...

    The Athenaeum is a membership-supported, nonprofit library with an exceptional collection of books, periodicals, CDs, and other media related to arts and music. It also hosts classes, exhibits, lectures, and intimate jazz, chamber music, and the occasional folk concert throughout the year.

    1008 Wall St., San Diego, California, 92037, USA
    858-454–5872

    Arts/Entertainment Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun. and Mon.

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