San Diego is teeming with nightlife options. But if you want a romantic night out with that special someone, a bustling brewery or crowded dance floor might not be the right fit. Fortunately, with so many incredible bars and cocktail lounges, it’s easy to find one to impress your date.
Cocktail Lounges with a View: Cusp at Hotel La Jolla
Which is better: the drinks or the view at Cusp? It’s hard to decide.
There’s nothing more impressive than a spectacular view. In San Diego, those aren’t too hard to find, but few can rival the view from Cusp. Situated atop the Hotel La Jolla, Cusp overlooks a vast span of the La Jolla coastline, and their drinks are as delicious as the view is beautiful.
Tiki Time: Cat Eye Club
Drinks are on fire (literally) at the Cat Eye Club
For an entertaining evening, Cat Eye Club is a must visit. The vintage-inspired hideaway in downtown’s East Village serves up whimsical tiki drinks that are as fun to look at as they are to drink. Try the Cradle of Life or the Scorpion Bowl – both are served aflame.
Old Fashioneds in an Old Fashioned Setting: Polite Provisions
Polite Provisions offers vintage charm and potent cocktails.
Located in the up and coming neighborhood of Normal Heights, Polite Provisions revives the romance of the early 20th century cocktail lounges with their charming decor and vintage drinks. Whether you order one of their signature cocktails on tap or go for one of the seasonal creations, this precious spot is sure to charm your date.
The Secret Spot: Noble Experiment
Noble Experiment is a sight to see…if you can find it.
The secret is out: Noble Experiment is San Diego’s favorite hidden speakeasy. Located in the back of the popular Neighborhood restaurant in the East Village, this tiny bar is big on character, featuring a wall of golden skulls and animated paintings on the walls (did that dear just blink at me?). Make sure to text ahead for a reservation, as the intimate space doesn’t allow much room for walk-ins.
As we all know, San Diegan’s don’t really need an excuse to dress up in costume…but when there’s an actual holiday with costumes involved, you know this city gets behind it! And while the kids are out trick-or-treating in the early evening, the ghoulish get down at night.
Here are just some of the San Diego Halloween parties that will be sure to get you moving:
San Diego Monster Bash
Dancers get the party going at last year’s San Diego Monster Bash
Without a doubt the largest and most spectacular Halloween party in town! They’re shutting down 8 blocks of downtown San Diego to create a massive street party with 3 music stages, 10 bars, 50 dancers and thousands of costumed party-goers.
When: Saturday, October 26th, 6:00pm – Midnight Where: 7th Avenue & Market Street, San Diego, 92101
Cost: $40 Advance General Admission; $45 Day-Of General Admission or upgrade to VIP status for lots of fiendishly fun extras > Get your tickets to Monster Bash 2013
San Diego Zombie Crawl
Things might get scary at Zombie Crawl
As the perfect add-on to your Monster Bash tickets, or even a great party on its own, your Zombie Crawl pass will get you into 22 different Halloween parties at participating downtown bars and nightclubs and includes a free drink at 15 different locations! Enjoy no cover charge access to Halloween hot spots including Bassmnt, F6ix, Stingaree or the Pussy Cat Dollhouse – with free shots at any number of local restaurants, bars and nightclubs. And for those day-walkers who want to party all night, admission to Side Bar’s FIVE TEN “Crack of Dawn” party from 5:00-10:00 a.m. is included!
The Hard Rock Hotel’s annual Halloween bash features lots of room to party
Start the Halloween party early on Saturday night with 3 floors of the Hard Rock Hotel dedicated to Halloween hijinx, featuring 4 venues and 15 DJs! Then come back for more mischief on Halloween night to party with the EC Twins and other featured entertainers in 2 separate venues.
Night Fright is your stop for Halloween on the beach
For those Halloween revelers who just can’t give up being in the sand – even for a wild night of partying – look no further than Fortune 421’s Night Fright party at the Wave House in Mission Beach. Dance the night away under the stars to the beats of Andy Caldwell, Ayla Simone and Chris Liosi.
Let your rainbow colors fly! San Diego Pride is coming up this weekend, July 12-14. The glittery glamorous spotlight shines on Hillcrest, San Diego’s hip uptown neighborhood, during one of our city’s biggest summer events. Following is a quick guide to the big annual LGBT celebration.
Three Must-See San Diego Pride Events…
Dancers at Pride of Hillcrest Block Party!
First, here’s the 411 on the big three must-see San Diego Pride events:
Number One Fifth Avenue – friendly neighborhood bar with patio out back to mix & mingle
Pecs – Bears, oh my! Good times on tap all weekend.
Urban Mos – dance floor, 3 bars, packed patio and great food…yes please!
There are dozens of great restaurants in and around Hillcrest. Standouts include the new Great Maple, Project Pie (best pizzas!), D Bar and Snooze. Other favs: Baja Betty’s (muy bueno Mexican food), The Tractor Room, Yakitori Izakaya Tec Chan (for yummy late-night Japanese apps), Cucina Urbana and Café on Park (popular brunch spot!).
The coolest, closest gay-friendly hotel is Inn at the Park, just two blocks from Hillcrest and the Pride Festival. Their rooftop happy hour on Friday is off the charts!
Go wild at the San Diego Zoo Party!
Groovestars unite at Rich’s nightclub for high NRG music and dancing till 2am. For you circuit boys and gals, four Pride Parties are sure to perk you up (get tickets here or at the door):
Pride Ball – July 12, 10:00 PM to 4:00 AM at Spin Night Club
San Diego’s uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest, home of San Diego’s LGBT community, celebrates diversity year-round with a vibrant rainbow mix of accommodations, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, chic boutiques, vintage clothing stores, kitschy novelty shops and so much more.
With San Diego Pride coming up next month (July 12-14), now is the perfect time to spotlight a few of my favorite places worth checking out:
Where to Stay
The historic Inn at the Park, located right across the street from Balboa Park, is home to the best happy hour in Hillcrest: Top of the Park, a Friday night tradition where hundreds gather on the rooftop to soak up the sunset and kick-off the weekend over cocktails.
Urban Mo’s is fun and boisterous with strong margaritas and booming dance music on a packed outdoor patio and indoor dance floor. Hillcrest Brewing Company, claiming to be the World’s First “Out and Proud LGBT Brewery”(wow!), has 9 tasty in-house craft brews on tap to quench your thirst. If crafty cocktails are more your thing, Martinis Above Fourth is a swanky go-to spot.
If you’ve got to get your groove on, Rich’s with its two dance floors and sexy go-go boys can’t be beat!
Filter Coffee House is the place to see and be seen while sipping espresso and “studying” the crowd for cuties, day or night.
Dinner & a Show
D Bar restaurant is my new fav with its sleek moderne design and delish dishes like Southern fried Belgian – a sweet waffle with fried chicken (yep!). Their macarons are also off the charts! Afterward, head to Diversionary Theatre for cutting edge theater at its finest.
Brunch ‘n Lunch
Colorful Café on Park with its deliciously imaginative breakfast dishes like egg scrambles, Captain Crunch pancakes (yep!) and crab cake benny, is sure to satisfy!
Shop till you drop
Shop-portuunities galore in Hillcrest
Stroll along Fifth Ave. and University Ave. for funky, one-of-a-kind finds. Park Blvd. is great for retro, mid-Century modern treasures.
Would it surprise you to know that San Diego is the city with the largest Mardi Gras festival west of the Mississippi River? I mean, you know San Diegan’s like a good party, right? The following are just a few of the debaucherous ways that you can celebrate on Fat Tuesday (February 12, 2013):
19th Annual Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp
It’s a carnival atmosphere in the Gaslamp during Mardi Gras. Photo Courtesy of Be Water Photo.
Featuring an electrifying talent lineup ranging from local, regional and national zydeco, blues and rock bands, electronic and House music DJs, dance crews, acrobats and visual artists on 4 stages – this celebration will be a wonderland of fun!
Get into the Gaslamp’s hottest clubs during Mardi Gras with the French Connection VIP pass.
Rather celebrate the holiday inside a bar or nightclub? Check out Club VIP’s “The French Connection” passport which gets you VIP Access to a number of Gaslamp nightclub celebrations (including those at the Hard Rock, Belo, Onyx, McFadden’s and the Pussycat Dollhouse!) and runs until 4:00 in the morning! Your passport cost includes welcome shots at 10 different venues and food & drink discounts at all participating venues.
The Hillcrest Street Party will feature live entertainment, special guest performers and food & drink options. Count on lots of beads and lots of fun! For an even more memorable event, check out their VIP options (an additional $50) which provides partiers with an express entry and private reception & bathrooms.
Tiger!Tiger! is a great San Diego Beer Bar for enjoying local brews. Just ask Draft Magazine. Plus, on Sundays mornings, you can order your beer with a side of doughnuts.
The secret is out: not only does San Diego produce some of the country’s best beer, we also have some of the best bars in America for enjoying a pint with friends. Every year, Draft Magazine publishes their editors’ picks for the 100 best beer bars across the nation, and it’s no surprise that San Diego beer bars make up a large part of that list.
With 7 local bars on the list, San Diego ties with Chicago for the destination with the most appearance. You can check out the complete list of America’s 100 Best Beer Bars: 2013 online, or pick up a copy of January’s Draft Magazine.
Have a favorite spot that didn’t make the list? Share it below!
No matter how good (or bad) 2012 was, everyone’s looking forward to a better 2013 and that starts with New Year’s Eve in San Diego! So are you going to spend another night on your couch watching thousands of revelers celebrating on TV or are you going to go out there and usher in 2013 with a bang?!
Haven’t made plans yet? Not sure where to go? Here’s a handful of options that will surely give you a night to remember!
Big Night San Diego
Spend New Year’s Eve and make new friends at Big Night San Diego
The thousands of people attending this event each year can’t be wrong…This party is A-mazing! Your All-Inclusive tickets get you access to 12 themed party areas, 6 dance floors, food, drinks and a ton of fun! If you’ve got a little extra cash to spend, spring for the VIP tickets for the top-shelf liquor and private bars – while the lines at the normal bars are never bad, it’s always good to ring in the new year VIP-style!
Featuring headliners DJ Drop The Line from NYC and DJ GRUM from Scotland, Andaz is definitely an enticing option for the imported electronic music crowd. With 5 separate venues throughout the hotel offering entertainment – including the Ivy Nightclub downstairs and the Ivy Rooftop (because let’s face it…San Diego’s beautiful weather let’s us party outside while people in other cities have to bundle up on NYE). And let’s not forget the Lipstik Dancers. These girls are H-O-T, hot! Tickets include “playful party favors” and a champagne toast at midnight.
Located at the beautiful Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa on Mission Bay, this 2,000+ person party features entertainment by Sleeping Giant Music (DJ Fresh One, DJ Chris Cutz, DJ G-Roy & DJ Sanjay, etc) in 4 separate areas. Hors d’oeuvres, drinks and a ton of fun can be had at this annual event. This year’s bonuses include an optional VIP Party Boat pass that will take you out onto Mission Bay aboard a private boat with 3 decks of music, a prize casino, open bar and the ultimate in unique experiences. Also, don’t forget to stop by one of the party’s themed photo booths for some commemorative photos. Remember what happens on NYE stays on NYE, right?!
Moonlight NYE Cruise 2013 Aboard The California Spirit
Board the California Spirit at 9:30pm and ring in the New Year on the open water. What better way to enjoy the last night of 2012 than gazing at the picturesque views of Downtown and Coronado? With 2 dance floors, open bar, food and party favors you will experience an evening like no other! Tickets start at $175 or spring for an extra $25/person for your group of 6 and get a reserved table. The boat returns to the dock at 1:00am.
Mostly known as a LGBT friendly neighborhood, Hillcrest is a fantastic nightlife spot for people of all ages, races, creeds and sexualities. Whether you’re searching for strobe lights & fist pumps, country line dancing or a pool table in the back of a dive bar, Hillcrest nightlife delivers.
Perhaps most well-known in Hillcrest is Urban Mo’s – a bar with great burgers and a lively dance floor. Mo’s keeps it fresh with different themes every night, including country line dancing (with lessons if needed), House/Top 40/Dance Beats or a Dreamgirl’s Review. Casual, comfortable, fun…Mo’s can be the place that you sit around and reminisce with friends over some food and drinks – or the place you go to dance all night. Open 365 days a year serving food until 11:00 pm and cocktails until 2:00 am, you always have a place to party at Mo’s.
For those nighttime revelers who prefer a little more flash and glamor, Eden is your Hillcrest destination. With nearly 14,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, Go-Go dancers of both genders a-dancin’ and bass bumping music, you can be assured of a good time at Eden! More closely resembling a Downtown nightclub with their lights and staging, Eden goes all out to keep the party people happy by featuring top-notch DJs that keep the music pounding all night long!
Great Dive Bars
Lets not forget the fun, hole-in-the-wall watering spots for those who just want to get their drink on. Personal favorites include Fiesta Cantina and #1 Fifth Avenue. Fiesta has a very relaxed/open vibe similar to something you’d find in a beach bar in Mexico. And while #1 Fifth Avenue doesn’t seem like much from the outside, the drinks are cheap and they’ve got a great outdoor patio in the back with a couple of pool tables and a great laid back attitude.
Lafayette Hotel Pool
The Lafayette Hotel’s pool parties are the perfect place to recover after a night of too much fun.
And once you’ve partied your tail off at night, be sure to check out the Lafayette Hotel‘s summer pool party for a little recovery time. Bloodys, music and naps by the pool? Yes please!
As I write this blog post I am in the process of planning my evening’s itinerary and have decided that tonight is a rooftop night. Not only does San Diego’s great climate allow for fantastic beach days, tons of water sports and plenty of outdoorsy activities, it also allows locals and visitors alike to enjoy the nightlife outside as well!
Rooftop bars, lounges and nightclubs abound in San Diego – where revelers often relax in front of fire pits, listening to the soft thump of lounge music and sipping on their favorite cocktails.
Many of these rooftop oases are spread throughout, though not limites to, the Gaslamp Quarter. Here are just a few options for an evening of lounging under the stars:
Altitude Sky Lounge atop the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter
Located at the top of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter and overlooking PETCO Park, Altitude Sky Lounge enjoys amazing views of Padres’ games as well as downtown and the bay. A giant fire pit keeps those who may be a little chilly toasty warm and projection screens entertain with scenes to accompany their low key, lounge music. Altitude is a great place to post up for a relaxed evening of chatting with friends over a few drinks and taking in views of the city.
Hard Rock Hotel’s Float Bar features multiple VIP seating areas and a number of fire pits giving of that Southern California vibe. Classic Hard Rock dance music plays throughout the area while guests enjoy time on Float’s dance floor. This area is also prime territory during Hard Rock’s Sunday Intervention pool parties during the late Spring/Summer months.
Andaz San Diego’s rooftop provides multiple areas for guests to enjoy an evening in San Diego. The massive firepit draws crowds on cooler nights, but it is the views of Downtown that truly impress. And don’t be shocked when you walk into the bathroom area and see someone of the opposite sex at the sinks – the sink area is co-ed with separate rooms for your more private concerns.
As featured in our Gaslamp Quarter nightlife video, Stingaree is a mega entertainment venue with 3 floors of excitement. The nightclub’s rooftop features private, VIP cabanas, fire pits and often a completely different sound from the music playing on the dance floors within the building. For those wanting to take a break from the pounding beats of the DJ below, the rooftop oasis is the perfect place to catch up with friends and scope out your next dance partner.
Well now that I’ve thought about it, I think I just might have to rooftop hop to all of these spots tonight! The weather is going to be great and I could use a little time soaking up the San Diego scene. See you out there!
As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, the beauty of San Diego’s nightlife scene is that there is something for everyone. Whether you’re wearing your best Sean John outfit or would rather party it up in your boardshorts and a t-shirt, San Diego has a place for you to wile the night away. Looking specifically at the more relaxed, beach nightlife of Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach, there are a number of great options.
Referred to by locals as PB, Pacific Beach is known as the premier hangout region for the under 25-crowd. PB is full of bars, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, bars….did I mention bars?
Probably the most well-known venue in PB is the PB Bar & Grill/Club Tremors. Part bar/restaurant, part nightclub, PB Bar & Grill caters to all aspects of a great nightlife experience – food, drinks and dancing. With an incredibly active weekly lineup, you can go to PBB&G any night of the week for a good time (Monday Karaoke, Taco Tuesday, Thirsty Thursdays, etc.)
For those looking for a more upscale option in PB, head over to the Tower 23 Hotel and their JRDN restaurant/bar. Located along the PB boardwalk, JRDN has an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean with a relaxed but upbeat atmosphere. On a warm, beautiful evening (and let’s be honest, that describes most evenings in San Diego) you’ll find locals and tourists alike lounging on JRDN’s outdoor patio enjoying the restaurant’s upbeat music, fantastic decor (think color changing wall wave-like mosaic) and amazing sunset views.
More of a residential area, Mission Beach does have a few great spots for those seeking a more relaxed night of entertainment including the notable Belmont Park. The historic wooden roller coaster, easily seen from afar, is Belmont Park’s iconic centerpiece, however the fun carnival-style games and rides are really what make the night a blast (think bumper cars, rides that flip you around/upside down, mirror mazes and big pretzels). Scream your lungs out as you ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster or my personal favorites – the Octotron and Beach Blaster.
Concert at the Wavehouse
After bringing out your inner child at Belmont Park, pop on over to the Wavehouse right next door to find several flowboarding areas – including Bruticus Maximus, which produces 10-foot waves via 100,000 gallons of water being pumped into the ride per minute. Try your hand out at flowboarding or just watch some of the local pros flip, twist and amaze the audience. With an awesome music scene, firepits, hammocks, picnic tables and awesome views of the Mission Beach boardwalk and the Pacific Ocean, Wavehouse has a great casual vibe, especially enjoyable during the summer months.
Referred to by locals as OB, Ocean Beach is known for its hippy culture. OB prides itself on not taking itself too seriously and the nightlife definitely maintains a cool, relaxed state at a handful of dive bars, restaurants and hole-in-the-wall music venues.
Personal favorites for a night of fun dining are OB Noodle House, Bo-beau Kitchen + Bar (great french fusion cuisine), the fish tacos at South Beach (which is just steps from the beach) and the beer lover’s favorite, Pizza Port. For those craving some tunes, head over to Winston’s – a dive bar/club featuring live music, DJs or comedy just about every night of the week.