Spreckels Theater

Enjoy the beautiful art of opera, ballet, and musicals at the Spreckels Theatre, the venue celebrated as having the best acoustics internationally!
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Spreckels Theater
San Diego's Jewel
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A Jewel in San Diego's Cultural Crown

Spreckels Theater Closed During the Pandemic in 2020Sidewalk next to Spreckels Theater in Downtown San Diego

Since its opening in 1912, the iconic Spreckels Theatre has played an integral part in the cultural life of San Diego. It is named after the sugar tycoon John D. Spreckels, who commissioned it at the cost of $1 million to celebrate the Panama Canal opening.

Designed by the renowned architect Harrison Albright, the six-story building earned ecstatic reviews for its Chicago-style exterior, beautiful baroque interior, and state-of-the-art mechanics. At its premiere, a leading critic hailed it as "one of the most beautiful theatres globally." Even today, its acoustics are rated as among the best internationally.

There are no pillars to obstruct your view of the enormous stage, which was among the largest ever built at 82 feet x 58 feet. A spectacular mural over the proscenium arch depicts Apollo, the God of the Sun, in his chariot. Ironic then, that early production of Ben Hur featured live horses charging around the stage during the chariot race scene!

Another fantastic feature of this architectural gem is the spectacular two-story entrance to the auditorium, named the Grand Lobby.

It is covered in stunning predora onyx from Mexico. The beautiful glass artwork over the entrance is more recent, created by Yaakov Agam in 1983. The Grand Lobby also features unique displays of theatre history and memorabilia. You'll find photos of the many legends of stage and screen who have played at the Spreckels Theatre over the century since it opened.

In the early years, Spreckels was used to stage cabaret shows, before moving with the times to become a silent movie house. It continued as a venue for first-run movies until the 1970s. After a significant renovation, live shows were once again presented.

Over the past hundred years, the Theatre has been modernized to allow the staging of even larger and more spectacular productions without losing its original character and beauty.

Spreckels accommodates an audience of over 1400 people. Seats in the Orchestra level ensure that you will feel closest to the action, while the Mezzanine and Balcony sections still give a fabulous view of the stage with no columns in the way to block your view. With all the changes it has gone through over the years, as soon as you walk in, you'll feel the special atmosphere and heritage of this unique part of San Diego's history.

Since its opening, the Spreckels Theatre owners' mission has remained unchanged: to stay true to their promise of offering the highest quality theatrical productions, featuring artists and companies from all over the world.

Spreckels Theatre is located at 121 Broadway, in the heart of the lively Gaslamp District, and is one of the 94 historic buildings found in this area of Downtown San Diego. Renowned for its buzzing nightlife, it's a great place to wander around, before or after a show, to sample some of the fantastic restaurants and bars nearby.

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World-Class Productions at the Historic Spreckels Theatre

No matter how beautiful and atmospheric the venue may be, a theatre's reputation lives or falls by the quality and variety of its productions.

Today, Spreckels Theatre continues to deliver on its historic mission: to delight patrons with the best productions from around the world. Leading companies and international stars feature in their programs every season. No matter what your taste, you will find something in the program to delight you.

Beautiful Ballet Pieces

Spreckels Theatre is the natural home of the City Ballet of San Diego. Their enchanting interpretation of The Nutcracker is a highlight of San Diego's festive season. What a fantastic introduction this wonderful fantasy provides to the world of ballet! It's a timeless classic which attracts seasoned ballet-lovers and first-timers alike—perfect entertainment for the whole family. Experience the Classic Nutcracker Ballet is listed on the Unique Things to Do in San Diego.

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The Historic Spreckels Theater offers complete services, with production equipment, and an experienced technical crew. All presenters, promoters, and producers to book and host your event at The Historic Spreckels Theatre.

For purists, imagine having the opportunity to see Moscow's Kirov Ballet, one of the world's most outstanding classical companies, who wowed San Diego's ballet lovers.

And it's not only the classics. The Theatre has also presented spectacular performances by such ground-breaking modern American dance companies such as the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and the Martha Graham Dance Company. For lovers of traditional folk-dancing, the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico brought the excitement and beauty of their native choreography to Spreckels Theatre audiences.

Dramas and Musicals

Over the years, the Spreckels has hosted many top-quality productions by the San Diego Repertory Theatre, and San Diego Musical Theatre regularly presents internationally known hit musicals here.


Maybe you're an opera buff, and you'd prefer to treat yourself to a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan by renowned companies such as The D'Oyly Carte Opera? Whether it's light or grand opera, sitting in the orchestra level, close to the performers with their spectacular costumes creates a feeling of intimacy with the action, and ensures that spectaculars such as Aida will remain in your memory for years to come.

Global Stars

Spreckels has hosted some of the world's most iconic music stars such as:

  • Sammy Hagar
  • Kenny Loggins
  • Chaka Khan
  • The Doobie Brothers
  • David Bowie
  • Hootie and the Blowfish

Over the decades, it has seen many of the most famous film stars of the day grace its stage. Abbott and Costello, John Lionel and Ethyl Barrymore, Enrico Caruso, and Bela Lugosi were just a few of the Hollywood legends who helped it earn a reputation as the venue for first-class entertainment.

One of the must-see events is Conan O'Brien's annual event during San Diego's mammoth Comic Con. Over four evenings, the comedian hosts a range of famous guests. In the past, these have included reunions with the Breaking Bad cast, stars of the movie Glass, including Samuel l. Jackson and Bruce Willis; and stars from recent hit series including Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

Keep an eye open for the upcoming program to see what this fantastic Theatre has in store next!

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Ticket Information for Spreckels

Spreckels is unique in that it doesn't typically showcase the cost of their tickets. However, tickets usually charge $40 per ticket or more. When you go to purchase your ticket for an event, the website will present you with the best seating options available at that time.

Spreckels accepts Mastercard, Visa, and cash. They do not accept corporate or personal checks for the purchase of tickets.

Tickets are also non-refundable, and anyone over the age of two needs to have one for entry.

Children 2 and under are not typically allowed in the Theatre, aside from family programming nights.

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Chances are, you're not visiting San Diego just for a day to enjoy the fantastic theatre community. Why not spend some of your time enjoying many other wonderful attractions in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter?

Not far from the theater, consider taking the famous PETCO Park Tour or visiting the Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House. When you purchase an All-inclusive Go City San Diego Card, you can save up to 55% on admission costs when you visit just two participating attractions per day.

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Visit the Spreckels Theatre Anytime!

The Spreckels Theatre has a year-round calendar of productions, so no matter what time of year you visit, you'll find something to enjoy.

San Diego is also famous for its year-round calendar of festivals, so you can always incorporate a different cultural experience into your theatre trip.

In January, there's Restaurant Week. What about Museum Month in February? March is, of course, Mardi Gras, and in April, why not check out the Earth Fair in Balboa Park? San Diego's relationship with the Ocean is celebrated with May's Festival of the Sea.

July welcomes the mega Comic Con, as well as the Pride celebrations. In the fall, for music lovers, there are the San Diego Blues & Bluegrass festivals, with the International Film Festival in October. San Diego's festival year ends with the fabulous December Nights in nearby Balboa Park.

You could time your visit to the Theatre with other events you want to enjoy since the Theatre is open year-round. The best time to visit is anytime!

Additional Information for Your Trip

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Hours of Operation

The box office located in the Grand Lobby is open from 12 pm to 6 pm Monday through Friday. The office will open 2 hours before shows to sell tickets to patrons.

The Theatre is open during the weekend, and the hours vary significantly. Check the website for the most current up-to-date information as it is always subject to change.

Parking at Spreckels

Special parking rates apply for event ticket holders. You can also opt to valet parking under the building.

The entrance is on Broadway Circle, but space is limited, so come early. There are several other parking lots nearby, and on-street parking is free after 6:30 pm and Sundays.

ADA Accessible Seating

There is a limited amount of ADA accessible seating that does not need a transfer. If a transfer is possible, the aisle seats of the Orchestra/Main Floor section are easily accessible. There is no elevator access to the mezzanine or balcony.

If you choose valet parking at the Spreckels Garage, the Grand Lobby can be accessed via three elevators, which open in front of the Box Office, next to the entrance doors. There's also a drop-off point at the curb for wheelchair access. This is located under the Spreckels Theatre Marquee on Broadway.

Dining Facilities

There are several restaurants in the building, offering everything from casual to fine dining. Besides, with 218 restaurants within a 0.3-mile radius, you have plenty of options to choose from!

Inside the Theatre, soft drinks and snacks are on sale so that you can have a bite before or during the interval. Hard liquor is available at some shows.

Please note that you're not permitted to take food into the auditorium, and drinks are only allowed inside a Souvenir Cup.

No Photos or Recordings are Allowed

Still, photography, sound, or video recordings are not permitted in the auditorium. If you want a souvenir of your visit, come early, and take pictures in the lobby, making a stunning backdrop.

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The Gaslamp Quarter is an amazing place to spend a night, a weekend or an entire vacation. After your Performance, you can enjoy the buzzing nightlife and enjoy some savory eats in the area!

Some of the best hotels in all of San Diego are within the Gaslamp Quarter.

This keeps you within walking distance of the lovely San Diego Civic Theater, as well as great San Diego shopping and some of the best restaurants in town!

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