15 Best Things to Do in San Diego at Night

When the sun goes down, the party’s only getting started in San Diego! Read on for top picks of fun nighttime activities, including family-friendly options.
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Best Things to Do in San Diego at Night Beyond Happy Hour

While San Diego is best known as a city of sun and fun, that doesn’t mean it’s totally dead when night rolls around.

Far from becoming a ghost town, America’s finest city comes alive at night, and typical nightlife venues like dance clubs and party spots are only the tip of the iceberg. Surely, no San Diego itinerary is complete without at least a few fun and exciting night time experiences!

Many of the most popular vacation attractions in San Diego county are well suited for the daytime, when you can enjoy the routinely warm, mild weather and soak up the sun. Still, even relaxing on one of the more than 76 beautiful San Diego beaches such as one of the beaches of La Jolla like La Jolla Cove or La Jolla Shores, sailing on Mission Bay, and strolling through Belmont Park can be just as fun at night, and there are plenty of ways to enjoy your time in the city after dark.

From breweries and bars to fine dining and performances, visitors of all ages are sure to find all new ways to enjoy the city once the sun goes down. Check out our picks for the best nighttime attractions, and consider picking up a Go City San Diego Pass in advance of your travels to save on beach gear rentals and attraction admission prices all over San Diego, night and day.

Discover Areas of San Diego with the Best Nightlife: The 15 Best Activities at Night

While there are plenty of ways to enjoy San Diego’s nightlife scene at bars and clubs, there are also many family-friendly and more laid back things to do at night as well. Take an interesting tour, watch the sunset from a scenic locale, see a show, or dine somewhere new - the possibilities are endless.

Read on for our top picks of the best things to do in San Diego at night!

1) Go on a Food & Brothels Tour in the Gaslamp Quarter

San Diego Tours: 10 Best San Diego Food & Beer Tours

The Gaslamp Quarter has its own vibrant nightlife scene, but if you’re looking for something a little more unique to do at night, try taking the Brothels, Bites and Booze: San Diego Gaslamp Walking Tour.

You’ll have the chance to learn a lot about the neighborhood with the help of an informative guide, but this tour comes with a twist. You won’t just be learning about the standard historical facts, but also certain tawdry details about an area that used to be a red light district.

The Gaslamp Quarter was once home to a number of brothels, unreputable bars, gambling houses, and other seedy businesses. A far cry from the touristy town it is today, the Stingaree District was full of scandals and secrets, and you’ll hear about some of the most captivating, humorous, and unbelievable stories during the tour. You’ll also have a chance to sample food from local restaurants, making this a great dinner-time activity.

The Brothels, Bites, and Booze tour is a standout activity, and not only is it one of the best things to do in San Diego, it’s also one of the best food and beer tours in the area and makes our list as one the most unique things to do in San Diego as well!

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2) Have a Romantic Dinner on a Harbor Cruise with Sunset Cruises in San Diego

San Diego Tours: 13 Best San Diego Harbor Cruises & Boat Tours

Feel like you’re living the high life with a night of fine dining, classy music, and incredible sights on the Sights & Sips 2-Hour Sunset Cruise on San Diego Bay!

Cruising around the harbor and looking out over the water is always great fun, but this activity is even better at night. You’ll have the opportunity to watch the sunset over the San Diego harbor and see the sparkle of the city reflected in the water, all while enjoying a buffet-style meal that’s sure to delight.

Cruises last about 2 hours, giving you plenty of time to sit back and enjoy your meal, plus coffee and dessert.

In addition to being a great nighttime activity, this dinner cruise also makes the list of the best harbor cruises and boat tours in San Diego, as well as the best things to do in San Diego. It’s a popular activity for couples, as the scenic surroundings, low lighting, and delicious food set the perfect romantic atmosphere for a honeymoon or couples’ getaway.

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3) Roast Marshmallows at a Beachside Fire

Beach: Vacation Isle Park

Mission Bay is a great place to spend an afternoon having fun in the sun. However, once the sun goes down, you can still enjoy a stroll along the shoreline in the moonlight, especially when paired with sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows and enjoying good company.

Many of the beaches in Mission Bay have fire pits right on the sand for your use. One of the most popular choices for making s’mores is at Vacation Isle, as there is plenty of space to stretch out, and multiple convenient fire pits.

Even once the sun has gone down, the fun can continue on the beach. Not only is this a great nighttime activity, it’s also one of the most unique things to do in San Diego, as well as a fun and free San Diego activity to try as well.

4) Go on a Ghost Tour in Old Town San Diego

San Diego Tours: 5 Best Haunted Tours in San Diego

The neighborhood of Old Town is best known as a historic district filled with examples of old architecture and museums, but its long and storied history is also full of many ghost tales. When night falls, hop on the Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour for a delightfully spooky time exploring supposedly haunted locales, from the famous Whaley House to local graveyards.

During the tour, you’ll hear about ghost sightings and supernatural encounters that have occurred around Old Town, offering a new way to view the neighborhood. Learn about mysterious occurrences, suspicious deaths, and many unanswered questions, all while keeping an eye out for spirits that may still be wandering around in their old haunts.

The themed trolley and costumed live tour guides create the perfect atmosphere for hearing ghost stories in the dark. This all-ages tour is fun for the whole family, and easily makes the list of the best things to do in San Diego, and it also makes our list as one of the Best San Diego City & Bus Tours!

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5) Go See a Show at the House of Blues in San Diego

Neighborhood: Gaslamp Quarter

San Diego’s House of Blues in the Gaslamp Quarter is a large music venue that hosts rock and blues artists, as well as other performances throughout the year. The venue has its own restaurant and bar, so you can enjoy tasty southern comfort style food before a show, or have a few drinks after watching a performance.

In addition to regular performances the House of Blues also hosts a number of larger concert events throughout the year. While most shows take place at night, the venue also holds gospel brunches on certain Sunday afternoons.

For a special way to enjoy your evening, consider buying VIP tickets so you can sit in the best seats in the house. As a famous San Diego landmark, the House of Blues sells merchandise at each show, so you can pick up a few commemorative shot glasses or shirts.

6) See a Play at the Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park

San Diego Theaters: Old Globe Theatre San Diego

Looking to see a play or musical in an authentic, atmospheric playhouse? Look no further than the Old Globe Theater, located in Balboa Park, which puts on shows in the afternoons and evenings.

With a name that calls back to Shakespeare’s Globe Theater in London, it’s no surprise that the Old Globe Theater frequently shows classic plays that have been in production around the world for hundreds of years.

However, the theater also hosts many first-run plays with a more modern angle for those who are looking to see something new and exciting. You can also catch various other kinds of performances, which rotate on a seasonal basis.

If you’re looking to pick up a souvenir, head to the Old Globe Marketplace, where local artisans and other vendors set up shop to sell handmade goods. These include decorative signs, floral arrangements, soaps, knitted goods, jewelry, bags and purses, artwork, and even unique audio escape rooms and mad libs experiences.

7) Catch a San Diego Padres Game at PETCO Park

San Diego Attractions: PETCO Park

The towering PETCO Park is one of the most famous sights in the city. This home of Major League Baseball’s San Diego Padres hosts high-energy baseball games all throughout the season which runs from the spring in April until the early fall in early October. While some of these games take place during the afternoon, you can have a totally unique experience when you check out a night game!

Grab some ballpark favorites like hotdogs and popcorn as you watch the game, which is a real treat for sports fans. However, even if you’re not big on baseball, or you’re planning on visiting San Diego outside of baseball season, taking a tour of the stadium can be just as rewarding.

Head up to the top of the bleachers for an incredible view of the city, or lay out a blanket in the grass of the park to enjoy a picnic. On stadium tours, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at this famous landmark, which is a must-see activity for baseball enthusiasts.

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8) Go on a Tour of Tales, Tacos & Tequila in Old Town San Diego

San Diego Tours: 10 Best San Diego Food & Beer Tours

Though it’s best known for its extensive history as the site of one of California’s first European settlements, Old Town has grown into a popular nightlife destination in San Diego.

Enjoy everything the neighborhood has to offer, from stories of the past to modern-day good eats, on the Old Town Tales, Tacos, and Tequila Walking Tour.

This tour starts off with an extensive look at historic locales and hidden gems in the Old Town neighborhood, including Mexican adobes, churches, and old stores. It also includes a look at Presidio Hill, the sight of a 250-year-old settlement.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll get to enjoy homemade tortillas and delicious tacos at a local restaurant. You’ll also get the chance to visit a tequileria, sample their wares, and check out over a thousand different types of tequila in their museum.

9) Watch the Grunion Run in San Diego

Beach: Mission Beach

If you’re looking for something to do in San Diego that is truly unique to the area, witnessing the grunion run may be just what you’re looking for!

Grunions are a type of fish native to Southern California that are similar to sardines. During grunion season, which lasts from March through September, San Diego residents with a valid fishing license are invited to partake in Grunion Runs. On nights around the full moon, hundreds or even thousands of grunions come ashore to mate and spawn, creating a truly unique sight that you can only see in Southern California after sunset.

During Grunion Runs, residents can grab as many of these fish as they desire, as the grunion can be prepared into a variety of tasty dishes. Even if you’re not participating, it’s still worth visiting the beach to see the Grunion Run in action, as it’s an incredible natural event that seems like something out of a nature documentary, right before your eyes!

Grunion Runs typically take place at various beaches on Coronado Island, Mission Beach, and Imperial Beach. Note that the use of flashlights is restricted on the beach during Grunion Runs, and no tools may be used to catch the fish to minimize the environmental impact.

For the ultimate grunion run experience, consider booking a few nights at the historical Hotel Del Coronado, located right on the beach on picturesque Coronado beach.

10) Eat Great Food in Little Italy San Diego

Neighborhood: Little Italy San Diego

San Diego is a mecca of amazing food that derives from various cultural influences all around the city, and nowhere embodies this more than Little Italy.

As the name suggests, the neighborhood is full of incredible, authentic Italian restaurants serving up both traditional favorites and fusion cuisine, so it’s a great spot to get a taste of bold flavors and try something new.

When dining in Little Italy, there are literally hundreds of options, which can be a little overwhelming when choosing where to stop for dinner. If you’re not sure where to eat, try some of these beloved restaurants.

At Herb & Wood, enjoy Mediterranean fusion cuisine with a San Diego flair. The Born & Raised steakhouse is a high-end dining experience that serves unbelievably fresh, tender steaks and other butcher shop favorites. Finally, head to Isola Pizza Bar for delicious slices cooked in a wood-fire oven.

11) Dine on Great Seafood

Neighborhood: Point Loma

Like many coastal cities, San Diego is a great spot to get incredibly fresh seafood, from catches of the day to imported filets.

If you’re in search of the best of the best, head to Point Loma, enjoy the views, visit the Cabrillo National Monument then plan to enjoy some of the most delicious seafood anywhere on the West Coast! You can expect lots of options including a wide variety of local fish, shellfish, and other marine delicacies.

There are plenty of places to eat in Point Loma, but one of the best is Mitch’s Seafood. This restaurant serves local fish caught by local fishermen, meaning you can eat fish that is so fresh, it was caught earlier that day, only a few miles away! It prides itself on offering sustainable seafood paired with tasty craft beers.

Another great option is Point Loma Seafoods, which doubles as both a restaurant and a fish market. Order your meal at the counter, then take it outside to dine as you look out over the San Diego Bay.

Grabbing a great seafood lunch is a great choice or consider having dinner in Point Loma and catching the sunset at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Arrive about an hour before the sun goes down to ensure a great meal and that you get to experience one of the best sunset spots in San Diego as well!

12) Go to the Little Italy Food Hall - Food, Music & Fun

Neighborhood: Little Italy San Diego

Do you want to get a taste of Little Italy’s cuisine, but you don’t want to limit yourself to just one or two restaurants? If so, the Little Italy Food Hall is the perfect place to sample the offerings of multiple local businesses, including food, drinks, and handmade crafts.

The Little Italy Food Hall functions similarly to a farmer’s market, but with prepared meals. With a full bar and seven different food stations, you can easily eat and drink your way around the hall, all located on a pedestrian-only, open air plaza.

You’ll frequently be able to enjoy live music well into the evenings here, as well as fun special events held seasonally, including salsa nights, painting events, and live cooking lessons hosted by local chefs. Bring the whole family along for a fun-filled evening.

13) Enjoy Live Entertainment in San Diego at Night at the Casbah

Neighborhood: Little Italy San Diego

Just a few steps away from Downtown San Diego in Little Italy, you’ll find the music venue and nightclub known as the Casbah.

This well-kept secret hosts plenty of internationally-recognized performers including musicians, comedians, dance troupes, and other personalities, but if you’re in search of a more authentic look at San Diego after dark, consider going out of your comfort zone and buying tickets to see a band you’ve never heard of before.

The Casbah is a favorite with local artists, many of which are up and coming talents that haven’t yet had their big break. Discover something new before it goes mainstream by seeing a local band or solo act, or simply enjoy the performance as background music while you sip drinks at the bar and dance the night away.

The venue has been in operation for over 30 years, and it’s a favorite hangout spot among locals. If you arrive early, spend some time playing pool and mingling in the backroom before the show.

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14) Get Dinner & Drinks at The Grass Skirt, a Classic Tiki Bar

Neighborhood: Pacific Beach

When you think of San Diego, you may not immediately think “tiki bar,” but you can experience all the energy of an authentic Hawaiian luau at The Grass Skirt without ever leaving the city!

This exotic locale combines Polynesian influences with native San Diego charm for a truly exhilarating experience that’s so much more than the sum of its parts.

Start your night off with a round of tropical drinks, then sample southeast Asian cuisine in a gorgeous Pacific Beach venue with all the charm and flair of the best tiki bars. After dinner, settle around a warm fire, or spend your time at the bar to close out the night in style.

If you want to experience something truly memorable, plan your trip during The Grass Skirt’s annual tiki luau, which typically takes place in the fall. The event includes live music, a pig roast, culinary demonstrations, and entertainment. It is a family-friendly celebration, though there is rum tasting available for adults.

15) Walk on the Embarcadero Boardwalk, One of the Most Romantic Things to Do in San Diego at Night

Neighborhood: Embarcadero San Diego

Home to a great deal of San Diego’s military history, many naval ships including the USS Midway as well as the Maritime Museum, and plenty of restaurants, the Embarcadero is a sight to behold no matter what time of day you visit.

However, if you’re looking for a more romantic atmosphere perfect for a couples’ retreat or honeymoon, head down to the docks in the early evening and take a stroll along the bay.

As you walk, you’ll get to enjoy the sea breeze while taking in the beautiful sunset over the harbor, and stroll under star-lit skies with the beach at your back. Head to local sidewalk cafés for a scenic meal, do some shopping in Seaport Village, and admire the bright lights of the boardwalk’s nighttime transformation.

Be sure to walk through the Waterfront Park and Marina areas, where you’ll be surrounded by lush plant life and gorgeous flowers in the nature gardens.

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Tips for Enjoying San Diego’s Nightlife

There’s plenty to do in San Diego after nightfall. Here are some important things to know before you go if you want to see this sunny city after dark.

Bundle to Save

If you want to save money while visiting the best attractions in San Diego at all hours of the day and night, pick up a Go City San Diego Pass! The pass offers discounted admission to the most popular attractions in San Diego as well as discounts on rental gear.

Plan to visit popular attractions on the pass during the day like the San Diego Zoo, SeaWorld San Diego or the dozens of Balboa Park and San Diego area museums, then catch the sunset and enjoy nearby nighttime activities throughout the city!

Plan a Honeymoon

Nothing says romance like cruising the bay or strolling around the harbor under the stars. How about considering San Diego for your next event or perhaps even your honeymoon?

Turn an evening of romance into a full honeymoon when you combine these activities with the best romantic things to do in San Diego and stay at one of San Diego’s best hotels for couples.

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