San Diego Nightlife • A Complete Guide

Welcome to San Diego’s premier nightlife guide.

On this page, you’ll discover the vibrant and varied nightlife scene in San Diego. You’ll find the perfect venue for you and your preferred night out. Whether you want to go all-out clubbing or if you’d like a more laid back dinner and drinks with a view, we’ve got your covered.

Enjoy!

A small introduction to San Diego, California


San Diego is a beautiful city in the state of California, United States. Located on the cost of Pacific Ocean in Southern California, this city is approximately 190 Km away from Los Angeles and very close to the US-Mexico border. It is the eighth largest city of the United States and comes 2nd in the California State. San Diego is a very important city for the state of California so much so, that it is also known as the birthplace of California. The city became a part of the United States in 1848, after the Mexican-American War.

The city has earned this much respect and importance solely due to the fact that it is home to a whole lot of economic activities. In fact, it is a commercial hub of the surrounding region. San Diego’s main activities are military and defense-related, International trade and tourism. The area has immense importance due to the presence of the University of California which has helped the area in becoming a center of research in Biotechnology.

San Diego Nightlife
San Diego Nightlife

Because of the climate of the city, tourism has become a major industry. Also because of the many entertainment sources in the city, tourists are attracted quite a lot. The City has a historical background and therefore the Spanish and Mexican heritage is still reflected in many of the historic sites present in the city. Statistically, San Diego hosted approximately 32 million tourists in 2012, which in turn generated revenue of almost 8 billion and created employment opportunities for approximately 160,000 people in the country.

When tourists visit the city, they also want to enjoy the glory of its night, which is quite spectacular. Like other industries in the city, the nightlife game of the city is also quite high. The city has got some exotic and swankiest bars, night clubs, and bar restaurants that provide entertainment till the dawn, which will be our main focus throughout this article.

The Nightlife in San Diego

Nightlife at San Diego
Nightlife at San Diego

Like we already mentioned how cool the nightlife of the San Diego is, digging deeper, you’ll come to know that it’s quite better than your expectations. You can follow the music to San Diego, where the nightlife is one of the most exciting scenes on the West Coast. The nightclubs are equipped with world-class DJs, the craft cocktails are a true signature of art and dance floors are loaded with people soaking up the bright vibes of San Diego after dark. It all starts in the Gaslamp Quarter with 16 walkable blocks packed with over 180 restaurants, 50 bars, and 10 nightclubs. But the good times are rolling throughout the city, from sunset to sunrise and back again. The party is on in San Diego and you’re invited.

Though Nightclubs and bars are a good option to spend your night in the city, the city is tremendously famous for its unique set of activities that it provides after dark. These unique activates will make your tour unforgettable. Whether you want to see some lions and giraffes closely, challenge yourself with extemporaneous storytelling art, or just want to hang out in a grown-up arcade, the city has covered you from all aspects.

We’ve come with a comprehensive list of activities that you can experience in the city, which will make your tour unforgettable:

Rooftop Theatre

Rooftop Theatre
Rooftop Theatre

Rooftop Cinema Club offers the ultimate outdoor movie experience located atop the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego’s fourth story rooftop. Providing weekly showings of cult favorites against a background of stars and panoramic views of downtown San Diego city, it’s more than just a regular cinema hall. High-end wireless headphones along with comfy, adjustable deck chairs with comfortable leg room let you sit back and enjoy the show in the most comfortable style. Upscale concessions include craft brews, movie-themed cocktails and elevated theater fares like poké nachos and Mediterranean chicken wraps, which enhances your movie experience. All in all, you can hope in to get a unique and tremendously comfortable experience of movie watching.

San Diego Wild Animal Park

San Diego Wild Animal Park
San Diego Wild Animal Park

Let your inner animal rush out in the San Diego’s Wild Animal Park. Its popular sleepover event gets an R-rated makeover once a month with Adults Only Roar and Snore Safari Night. Like its kid-friendly version, you’ll have campfire chats, plenty of animal viewing, guided hikes, dinner, snacks, and breakfast the next morning. But unlike the kid’s version, there’s a bar that serves beer and wine, and the behind-the-scenes information takes a unique naughty turn. Tent options range from a basic five-sleeper with pads for your sleeping bags to a deluxe four-sleeper with a queen-sized bed and two cots, linens and pillows, and electrical outlets. Overall, you’ll have a uniquely exciting experience, due to the fact that it offers unique services like a bar, in this zoo that will make your overall zoo experience quite memorable.

Rock the floor with Crazed Imagination

Crazed Imagination
Crazed Imagination

Located in Encinitas, Kensington, the Crazed Imagination will definitely make your experience joyful. Sure, you’ve snapped a rubber glove and thrown toast at the screen, but Crazed Imaginations gives you an RHPS experience befitting their reputation for being offensive, crude, silly, loud, by shadow casting the film. Of course, audience participation is preferred, and first-timers are welcomed beforehand with games and other rites of passage. Prior to the show you can head to the merch table for a prop bag to grab some popcorn, a seat just in front of the stage, and get ready to shout the offensive and aggressive words at all the appropriate moments. You can enjoy the show every Friday at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas and on the third and fourth Saturdays of the month at Landmark Ken in Kensington, both the show starts after midnight. All in all, you should visit the place if you like the raw feel of the city and you are not easily offended by the inappropriate words.

AxeVentures

AxeVentures
AxeVentures

Located at the University Heights, AxeVentures will truly provide a thrilling experience of axe-throwing in the city. You can hope in to fine-tune your aiming skills. If yoga and meditation aren’t proving effective for you, have a go at a different kind of stress relief and visit AxeVentures in North Park, one of several new ax-throwing venues that have popped up across the city. The idea is pretty straightforward, book a lane online or walk in anytime, learn the ropes from one of the coaches, and spend the next hour or so perfecting your tomahawk technique. If you already love throwing? League play starts early October and runs for six weeks. Not a fan of throwing? Cornhole, giant Jenga and Connect Four are available for the ax-averse.

Coin Op Game Rooms

Coin Op Game Rooms
Coin Op Game Rooms

Located at the North Park, Gaslamp Quarter, the Coin Op Game Rooms will cater gaming needs. Hang out and play arcade games in a grown-up environment. These “barcades” feature old-school games like Ms. Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat, and, Donkey Kong with the added attraction of craft cocktails, punch bowls, a dozen or so beer taps, and inventive twists on classic quick bites. Both locations also have vintage pinball, and the Gaslamp venue has Skee-Ball machines and Super Shot Basketball games. All in All, this location could be a great option for you to hang out with your friends and family during a tour.

Wander at the Liberty Station

Liberty Station
Liberty Station

You can stroll through the trendy Liberty Station Arts District on the every first Friday of a month from 5 pm to 9 pm, and you could meet artists, enjoy dance, theater, and museums and galleries, and attend music performances. Wander through the latest exhibitions like Women’s Museum of California, Visions Art Museum, and the San Diego Comic Art Gallery, or you could hit up Comickaze Comics for their diverse selection of mainstream and independent comics, statues, manga, graphic novels, and action figures. Delight your already warm evening with cocktails from The Bar at Moniker General and dinner at one of Liberty Public Market’s dozens of food venues.

Play Trivia

San Diego trivia night
San Diego trivia night

If you get tired of the activities mentioned above, you could simply enjoy playing trivia, because, everyone loves playing trivia, and luckily for tourists, San Diegans have many options for every night. True North in North Park pairs trivia with $4 Jameson shots or St. Archer cans on Mondays, Park & Rec in University Heights is a popular spot on Tuesday nights. The Regal Beagle in Mission Hills has Wednesdays covered, and the East Village’s Knotty Barrel Gastropub combines trivia with half-price bottles of wine every Thursday night. Overall, it would be a fun and memorable experience for your friends and family during your visit.

Listen to some true confessions

Rooted Kava Bar
Rooted Kava Bar

Located at the Hillcrest, there are several places there, where you can listen to true stories capturing the essence and absurdities of being human or you could simply tell yours. At So Say We All’s Long Story Short monthly open mic showcase, held at Rooted Kava Bar in Hillcrest. Each teller shares a five-minute, theme-based experience without the aid of notes, past themes include “Scorned, Scorched and Scarred,” “Grounded,” and “The Gooder, The Badder, and The Uglier.” So Say We All also holds a monthly curated storytelling showcase, that features various topics, VAMP, held at the Whistle Stop Bar in North Park whose themes include “Creep,” “Will It Fit,” and “Home for the Holidays.” New writers are also welcome at monthly Greenroom Writing Workshops, free creative writing sessions are held at Words Alive. So Say We All is a nonprofit organization that supports literary and performing arts, whose mission is to excel in the field of story-telling and performing arts.

Best Bars in San Diego

Getting further into the details of the nightlife fun and specifically crossing the boundaries of premium night-time adult entertainment, we have some of the swankiest Bars of San Diego, which can really impress you with some of their fresh brews. People here love sparkling craft beer, fancy cocktailing, margaritas, and freshly brewed wines. The city has many options to opt for, from age-old dives and secret speakeasies to classy rooftops and bars open late till dawn. To make your life easier we have compiled a list of the strongest joints in the city, ranging from dives and icehouses to cocktail lounges and breweries, so you could enjoy the wholesome experience of drinking without needing to actually go through all options. Enjoy them with caution, because it’s hard to leave after just one drink at any of these spots, because of the great taste offered by them:

Noble Experiment

Noble Experiment
Noble Experiment

Located at 777 G Street, Noble experiment is a swanky speakeasy which is tucked behind a surreptitious door in The Neighborhood eatery that serves craft cocktails. You’ll find the entrance to this popular speakeasy inside the casual food-and-beer restaurant Neighborhood. After a brief stint in a dark waiting room, with decidedly Stranger things vibes, you’ll find yourself in a tiny, trendy place. There’s seating for about 30 people, accommodated by various cozy, leather booths and bar stools. You’ll need to reserve earlier to sit on one of them. But the experience is worth the hassle. Drinks are prepared with impressive attention to detail. There’s “La Guapa,” made with Blanco tequila, ancho chile liqueur, lime, and red pepper. Or, opt for the “Dealers Choice” Tell the bartenders about a specific taste, and he will ensure to create something just for you.

Polite Provisions

Polite Provisions
Polite Provisions

Located at 4696 30th Street, Polite Provisions is a bar that offers craft cocktails & microbrews in a stylish, vintage space with an atrium. Polite Provisions takes its cocktails very seriously, so it’s no wonder they earned a James Beard nomination for Outstanding Bar Program in 2016. The concept and overall aesthetics of the bar provides a feel of drug store theme. Drinks are crafted using home-made bitters, sodas, and syrups. Another specialty is this place is the fact that each item is served in its own type of glassware. The entire menu is well-balanced and diversified between spirit-forward and lighter drinks. Overall, there are many options to choose from which makes the Polite Provisions a perfect place to hang out with a date, a place to catch up with friends, or a haven for gossiping with co-workers. But, you might have to reach earlier and grab a seat if you want to nab a spot with any chance of quiet.

Cowboy Star

Cowboy Star
Cowboy Star

Located at the 640 Tenth Avenue, Cowboy star is a bar that would apparently might portray an old-school steakhouse vibe, but the drinks offered here are totally new-school, offering creative spins on classics like margaritas (made with muddled green chilies) and Old Fashioned (Benchmark bourbon, simple syrup, Fee Brothers bitters), the Cowboy Star is home to every taste. This place features an on-site butcher along with an open kitchen, where you can watch all the magic happen yourself. Surprisingly the majority of the visitors coming here are tourists instead of the locals, mainly due to the posh interior and apparent retro vibe that it provides along with the great and exotic boozing options. Overall, it’s a pretty swanky bar that offers a wide array of drinking and dining options and It is the gold standard for special occasion dining in San Diego, whether it’s a birthday, a graduation, or just a dinner date with a steak-loving friend.

The Nolen

The Nolen
The Nolen

Located at 7007, 453 Sixth Avenue, The Nolen is a Stylish bar on a hotel rooftop that provides a bird’s eye view of the city, lounge seating & a communal fire pit. While it may be located on a rooftop, but The Nolen will surprise you with its state of the art, modern, open-air lounge, serving San Diego-produced spirits, barrel-aged cocktails, and spectacular and wowing city views. Because of its prime location being in the downtown location and due to the fact that it provides prime views, there’s usually a mix of tourists and office workers winding down during happy hour. No doubt, they head here for the solid cocktails and sleek, sophisticated décor. Alongside its “scene-stealer” aesthetics there isn’t any doubt that this bar has got some of the finest and tantalizing solid cocktails, spirits produced in San Diego, and some harder to find spirits. Overall, it could be a great place to hang out with friends or a date, and to enjoy a soothing and mesmerizing view of the setting sun from the top.

Craft & Commerce

Craft & Commerce
Craft & Commerce

Located at 675 W Beech Street, Craft & Commerce is Taxidermy & old books line the walls of this hip gastropub, serving seasonal eats & craft cocktails. Craft & Commerce is a pioneer in San Diego’s craft cocktail movement when it first debuted in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood in 2009. You may not be an immediate fan of the eclectic, taxidermy-filled bar, which has a library and African safari vibe to it, but the drinks are instant classics and way more exotic and delicious than your expectations. Don’t miss the Lip Reader, the Man Hands (mezcal and sherry), and the Del Boca Vista (a rum-heavy punch bowl). Between the excellent cocktails and cheeky decor, this place convinces you to sit and stay a while, which is overall a good experience to have with your friends or a date.

Best Bar Restaurants in San Diego

Checking the recommendations laid out in the above section when you are out and about fulfilling your cocktail needs in San Diego, chances are that at some point you’re going to crave for deliciously-exotic food as well. With San Diego’s bar scenes continuing to grow and innovate, it’s no wonder that a restaurant bar would be a great idea to go with. San Diego has some of the finest restaurants that serve delicious food along with great cocktails and drinks that blend with the food to provide a perfect combination. For an American city that likes to drink a lot, it’s no surprise that they’re quickly becoming drinking spots in their own sense. The best thing to do is to choose a bar that also serves delicious food. That way your need for booze and craving for the food will be catered under one roof. Therefore, to fulfill your extreme craving for delightful food and awesome booze, we’ve come up with a list of San Diego’s best bar restaurants, good enough to stimulate your taste buds to take you to the cloud noun:

Rustic Root

Rustic Root
Rustic Root

Located at 535 Fifth Avenue, Rustic Root is a modern rooftop destination featuring local, seasonal cuisine & craft cocktails with a stylish ambiance. Rustic Root offers a dynamic rustic American cuisine where dishes are literally rooted in tradition with historical background, yet have an inventive modern flair to it. It’s signature drink menu concentrates on evergreen and iconic classics, with creative options for playful drinkers like their craft cocktail shots – sip-size versions of the classics finished with curated garnishes. The food and drink menus also feature high-quality ingredients that transform simple favorites into flavorful dishes and cocktails. Overall it’s a nice place to satisfy your craving for some delicious food and awesome cocktails with a partner or your group.

Float

Float
Float

Located at 207 5th Avenue, Float is a Rock ’n’ roll-themed bar-restaurant with a high-energy vibe serving burgers & American classics. Nestled in an oasis-type setting at the rooftop of the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, Float has it all. The fire pits and pool, the gorgeous views, amazing cocktails, copious amounts of flat-screens, private cabanas, and non-stop action. Overall, Float could be a great option for tourists to admire the beauty of the city from the top and have a relaxing drink and dinner with a partner of friends.

The Pool House

The Pool House
The Pool House

Located at 550 J Street, The Pool House offers Boasting and beautiful views of the Gaslamp Quarter, The Pool House at Pendry San Diego is a rooftop lounge embodying the essence of the Southern Californian style. Light, open-air, contemporary, the indoor and outdoor space is located above the Gaslamp’s famed 5th Avenue and plays host to relaxed daytime and evening events featuring a signature bar and cocktail experience for poolside guests.
Level 9 Rooftop Bar
Located at 509 9th Avenue, this bar is not stuffy or exclusive but it is vibrant, delicious and offers quite a few indulgences for those who make their way up to Level 9 atop Hotel Indigo. It’s actually the perfect place to begin a night out in the town because nothing goes better with cocktails, food, and conversation than a stunning sunset over San Diego.

Little Italy

Little Italy
Little Italy

Located at 421 West B Street, this bar is nestled on the 3rd-floor rooftop of the Hotel Republic. This bar is a fusion of extraordinary cocktails and wowing and glittering views. Here you’ll find an overall ambiance that combines chills from the coasts and downtown thrills with cozy fire pits and laid-back lounging space. Make the night special with friends in a private cabana and toast to the nightly sunset ritual by the bonfire.

Best Nightclubs in San Diego

Apart from the culinary choices and eateries and all the cozy and swanky bars in the city, you may want to simply enjoy dancing on some great beats and enjoy a drink. Or, you just want to hang out with some friends at a nice place or want to make some new friends. Well, you should stop worrying because San Diego’s nightclubs are a perfect spot for all such scenes. From finding your date to hanging out with your friends you can enjoy in every sense in such nightclubs. With so many options available, it can sometimes become difficult to choose or identify a great option for swanky kind of nightclub. Therefore, we’ve come up with the following list of some great nightclubs in San Diego to entertain you:

Fluxx

Fluxx
Fluxx

Located in Downtown, FLUXX is San Diego’s top-notch dance club. Just as the name implies, FLUXX nightclub’s mood and theme are kept in a constant state of change designed to create a unique and wowing experience with every visit. The venue features an organic decor having bright, bold colors and playful design elements including a large-scale adult tree house, a 15-ft chandelier, and eye-popping art. FLUXX can become your excuse to revisit your most stylish apparel as there is a dress code. FLUXX offers a Vegas-style premium and swanky VIP bottle service and centrally located VIP tables. Or, reserve the tree house which also has a private bar incorporated in it.

Belly Up Tavern

Belly Up Tavern
Belly Up Tavern

There’s live music being performed or curated at Belly Up almost every night. Belly Up is not ostentatious and has a more casual and on-the-go vibe to it, despite being an award-winning nightspot. Recent concerts include the Rolling Stones and Red Hot Chili Peppers. There is no proper dress code enforced other than about wearing shoes. Overall, a good place to challenge and evaluate your moves.

Oxford Social Club

Oxford Social Club
Oxford Social Club

Oxford Social Club offers a modern nightlife and chic boutique lounge experience inside of the Pendry San Diego hotel. Sure, DJs spin tunes and there is a separate dance floor, but the emphasis is also about conversation and relaxation and comfortable seating areas provided by the club. However, the experience is far from sleepy, especially because of the fact that this place has become famous for celebrities visiting frequently. Moreover, bottle service here is a true swanky and VIP experience with your own space, server, bussers, security staff, selection of mixers and guaranteed club entry. Overall it’s a pretty posh and luxuries experience to have.

Moonshine Flats

Moonshine Flats
Moonshine Flats

Moonshine Flats is a hell of fun in the Gaslamp Quarter. The 10,000 square-foot venue offers multiple levels, dozens of interactive things, five bars, including the longest bar on the west coast extending up to 80 feet, San Diego’s largest dance floor, two raised platforms for dance exhibitionists, a large stage that hosts house bands in front of a floor-to-ceiling LED screen. You can drink from old school barber “shot” chairs or play pool and arcade games like Buck Hunter and a Boxing. You’ll love it, even if country music isn’t your style. All in all, it could also be a great option to enjoy other than food and booze.

Prohibition

Prohibition Bar
Prohibition Bar

You can simply show up at the gate to enter Prohibition meaning that no prior reservation is needed. It is a club with a 1920’s retro vibe designed for those who would like to step into the Great Gatsby era for an evening. Guest also enjoy the creative and unique cocktail menu such as the “These are not the droids you’re looking for” cocktail featuring tequila, lime, allspice, Averna and apple Jarritos soda.

Onyx Room

Onyx Room
Onyx Room

Onyx Room is a three-level dance club, one at street level and two below that. This nightclub draws the ultra-cool who want to party vibe with inventive and unique cocktails in hand and plenty of eye candy located throughout the room. Different nights feature different music tastes, from jazz to hip-hop and old-school. Typically, hip hop is played upstairs. As an upscale and a high-end nightclub, Onyx Room has a dress code so you have to skip the beachwear. Swanky and VIP bottle service is available by reservation. This nightclub also provides a posh and swanky experience to enjoy with a partner or a peer.

Conclusion

To conclude a little bit, we went through a brief introduction of the San Diego along with a brief introduction of its prominent norms, and culture. We also went through different activities to enjoy the nightlife of San Diego like Axe-throwing arenas, Animal Parks and theatres. Such activities provide a great source of entertainment for tourists and locals as well. Moreover, these activities also help a newcomer understand the true culture and norms of the city.

We then went through the different options available in the Bars. No doubt, San Diego has some of the swankiest and great bars to cater to your boozing needs. These exotic and swanky bars included Noble Experiment, Polite Provisions, and Cowboy Star.

To fulfill your food craving we also looked at a comprehensive list of bar-restaurants which provide delicious and exotic food along with a touch of booze. This delightful and amazing combination of food and booze really pushes the limits of Nightlife entertainment and adds a great value tour.

And finally, we explored a comprehensive list of nightclubs that provide premium nigh-time entertainment. Moonshine Flats, Prohibition, and Onyx Room included some of the clubs that provided the ultra-rich experience of dance and music.

Make sure to give try the above recommendation which will really add value to your tour, so that you won’t regret choosing bad options.

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