San Diego is arguably one of the most choc-full-of-activities cities in the US with its beaches, mountains, sports, a famous bar scene, diverse food, harbor, music, and more. People travel from throughout the world to spend a few days soaking in the sun, a fun atmosphere, and friendly people.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic date night, a wild night on the town, or wholesome family activities, this city is bound to have something for you, so grab your rainbow sandals and Hawaiian shirts. Between the laid-back vibe and world-famous weather, you’re guaranteed to enjoy your time in sunny San Diego.
Because there are just so many things to do, In this blog post, I will be creating your go-to guide for a night (or several nights) on the town. Ranging from family-friendly to wild night out, this guide covers it all.
Whether you’re visiting from out of state or planning a sunny staycation, here are my top 5 activities to do in San Diego at night.
Petco Park is one of the main attractions of San Diego and draws thousands of people to the city every year as they travel to see their favorite baseball teams battle it out. Practically on the bay, Petco Park has got to be one of the most scenic stadiums in the world.
The stadium is surrounded by high-quality hotels, some of which even offer a bridge straight into the park. All around the park is an industrial area that has been transformed into a hub for trendy restaurants and shops. It is in a less crowded area of the city and is a great place to spend the night if you would like to drive and keep your car nearby.
Once inside, Petco offers a vast selection of food and drink, although it is hard to opt-out of the classic baseball stadium hotdog. There are also plenty of options for those on plant-based diet plans. True to form for San Diego, the selection of craft beers to try is huge, meaning you may want to pace yourself to last through the whole nine innings.
Petco Park is also known for its unique architecture as it opens up to reveal beautiful views of the city while also providing views of San Diego Bay. Between all of these elements, a night at the ballpark gives visitors a feel for what the city has to offer.
The merch shops sell so much cool Padres gear that no matter who your home team is, you will have a hard time not picking up a new hat or jersey to take home.
Inside the famous Balboa Park, in the heart of San Diego, lies the San Diego Zoo, housing over 12,000 animals. The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance is a nonprofit conservation organization with one of the most significant zoological membership associations in the world. Because of this, the zoo itself is hard to beat as well.
If you are looking to traverse the entire zoo, my recommendation is to start in the morning so that you have ample time to take in everything it has to offer; however, gates do not close until 8 PM, leaving plenty of time to enjoy the lights.
The park is segmented into eight different zones based on climates around the world and what animals would be found within them. The zoo offers a safari bus tour as well as its well-known Roar and Snore overnight camping experience in which visitors can rent tents and participate in group activities if they’re looking to step up their experience.
There are many restaurants throughout the park offering a variety of dining options (including plant-based). Most notably is Albert’s, a restaurant known for its unique patio and tree trunk bar overlooking the “African Plains” zone of the park. Albert’s is often busy, and making reservations is recommended.
San Diego is known to be a haven for beer lovers, and the zoo is no exception. Dozens of microbrews are offered at stands throughout the park so that you can sip your way through. While the zoo is most often thought of as an experience aimed at families, it also makes a more than ideal date night for those looking to mix it up a bit.
For those who live nearby or plan on visiting often, annual passes are a wise option to save some money.
The House of Blues, San Diego, is your one-stop shop for world-famous musical acts, great food and drinks, and a vibrant social atmosphere.
Like each of the House of Blues locations, the San Diego venue welcomes every genre of performer and offers its own collection of Outsider and American Folk art to admire. All the House of Blues pay tribute to many of the most impactful music and artists to exist, hoping that visitors leave not only entertained but also a bit more knowledgeable.
The Southern-inspired menu features voodoo shrimp and a smokehouse platter, among other options. Sit at your table and enjoy your food and drinks, or dance with others on the dance floor while rocking out to the performers of the night.
Being just blocks away from the Gaslamp District, the House of Blues is surrounded by hotels to stay at, and streets of bars and restaurants to explore before and after your artist has performed. Take a look at the website’s performance calendar prior to making your reservation or dropping by so that you can choose a night with an artist that you will enjoy. However, it would be hard not to ask for an encore to any act in this top-notch environment.
The Belmont Park roller coaster is often seen as a symbol of San Diego and the rich history that this park saw. The amusement park was built in the early 1900s by a developer as a way to draw tourism and buyers to Pacific Beach. The amusement park, its famous roller coaster, the Giant Dipper, and The Plunge (the largest saltwater swimming pool in the world at that time) were highly popular throughout the 30s and 40s.
After the park’s peak, it fell into disarray in the late 60s and 70s, prompting a group of citizens to have the Giant Dipper roller coaster declared a National landmark. Finally, in 1990, the park was reopened after 2 million dollars were spent on restoring the roller coaster. Since then, Belmont Park has again been a popular tourist attraction and a favorite way to spend a day for local residents.
Attractions include laser tag, bumper cars, a carousel, restaurants, and dozens more rides and activities. Hours change seasonally, but the park is open as late as 10 PM for much of the year. Although the park is a huge hit among families with young children, a quick ride or carnival game is the perfect end to any date night or beginning to a night at the bars.
Around Belmont Park is one of the most lively parts of San Diego: Mission Beach. This means that the area at night can get a little wild, but also that there is no shortage of places to shop, eat, or drink in the surrounding streets.
A lesser-known attraction of San Diego is that of its many hidden speakeasies. You won’t know they’re there unless you’re looking for them, but once you find them, you enter into a world of eccentric themes and craft cocktails.
Here are a few to get you started:
This tiki bar-themed speakeasy may be the most well-known in San Diego due to its over-the-top themed interior and world-renowned food and drinks. The walls are ordained with rock and skulls, and the staff is praised for their service. Any of the fishplates are highly recommended.
From the street, this 1920’s themed bar looks like a law office, but walking through the front door is like traveling through time. Enjoy themed cocktails and prohibition-era music to really transport you. To maximize enjoyment, I recommend dressing to the theme and really playing the part.
Take a mysterious spiral staircase underground beneath the Moxy Hotel, and you will end up in Room 56. Of course, this all comes after you find the secret code on their website and decipher messages from their hosts. Once you are in this candlelit club, you will enjoy beautifully crafted cocktails and meals.
The Noble experiment is another well-known prohibition-themed speakeasy that is revered for its swanky style and cocktails that have been awarded “Best in the US” by national magazines. Sneak behind a wall of kegs in another popular downtown restaurant, and you will be given the opportunity to experience world-famous drinks and cuisine.
You may have to do a little research and ask around to find your way into these boozy hideaways, but it’s all worth the hunt.
Balboa Park may be last on this list, but it is most certainly not the least. Balboa is a historic urban cultural park that sits on 1,200 acres of land in the middle of San Diego. It offers days worth of activities and constantly changing events throughout the year.
You can find large open spaces, natural vegetation zones of Southern California, large gardens, green belts, walking paths, museums, theaters, and more. Throughout the week, you can find artists, vendors, and dozens of street performers. There are also plenty of gift shops and restaurants to choose from.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the expanses of the park, and often takes multiple visits to see everything. There are over ten museums in the park, including the San Diego Air and Space Museum, the San Diego Natural History Museum, and the San Diego Museum of Art.
If you wander long enough, you may also find the international village in which you will find small home-like museums representing many countries throughout the world. If you take a look inside, you are offered some tasty treats from that country as you learn about its traditions.
If you are just looking to get out for some exercise, the expanses of trails to hike or run are endless and beautiful around sunset. The lily pond and botanical building are my personal favorite attractions, along with the food carts, of course.
If you have done it all and are looking for an inexpensive night out, grab some s’mores supplies and blankets and head down to Mission Beach for a wholesome bonfire and some scary stories. This is, without doubt, the most California-esque way to spend the night.
Be sure to pack a sweatshirt or two on your trip because although San Diego is known for its temperate weather, it gets a bit chilly throughout the year. Or you can always “forget” to pack a jacket and have an excuse to check out the local shopping.
There are various neighborhoods of San Diego, each with something different to offer, and I would recommend looking into them before your visit so that you can plan a way to check out each one to get a real feel for the city. While Mission Beach is full of sunbathers and swimming, North Park offers a more urban and trendy feel.
San Diego is rather large and spread out without a highly efficient public transportation system, so if you don’t want to wait for Ubers on your trip, I would look into car rentals to maximize your freedom to explore.
Most of the activities on this list are very popular, and I would always recommend calling and planning ahead for tickets and reservations.
San Diego truly is one of the greatest cities in the world with its huge selection of activities and attractions. I hope that you can use this guide to make the most of your visit.
Let me know if you found this helpful, and share with others if you did!
Photo by Derek Story on Unsplash
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