Benjamin Eastman

Nightlife Spotlight: San Diego’s Hillcrest

Dancing at Eden in Hillcrest

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.

Urban Mo’s

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.


Eden’s dance floor

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!

Benjamin Eastman

Beach Nightlife in San Diego

Club Tremors

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.

Pacific Beach

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?

Club Tremors

Club Tremors

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.

Mission Beach

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.

Ocean Beach

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.

Winston's OB

Winston's OB

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.

Guest Blogger

3 Nights, 3 Different Delights

I live for the perfect night out. But for me, perfection has nothing to do with price, place, style or energy required, but rather the synergism responsible for turning an outing into an evening. Below are my picks for three diverse, adventurous evenings – just add good company and enjoy!

South Bay Drive-in and Ye Olde Plank Inn.

South Bay Drive-In

Imperial Beach is home to the South Bay Drive-In Theater, which would be completely retro, except drive-ins of my nostalgia never feature amazingly delicious, cheap carne asada street tacos and churros. Choose among three huge screens, each playing a double feature, for only $7 admission. To round out the evening, swing by Ye Olde Plank Inn – a kitchy dive bar at its best, full of locals and cash only. The whole night can be done with a twenty dollar bill. I know, shocking!

House of Blues and Suite and Tender

House of Blues in the Gaslamp Quarter

Completely deserving of its fame is the legendary House of Blues, located in the Gaslamp. It is one of my favorite San Diego venues due to its ability to envelop you in light and sound like a huge stadium concert while remaining as intimate and personal as a private party. I like to make it a night and stop next door at Suite and Tender in the Se San Diego Hotel for dinner or drinks beforehand. The vibe is chic but relaxed, plus you can enjoy a signature cocktail and a little socializing before the awesome brain-thumping you are about to receive. Just make sure to stop by the restroom before you leave – it’s quite a conversation piece. 

San Diego Opera and the Grant Grill

Madame Butterfly at San Diego Civic Theater

In 2006 the U.S. Grant Hotel, located in the heart of downtown San Diego, completed a $56 million renovation with STUNNING results. The hotel’s Grant Grill is high ceilinged and low lit, becoming a perfect match for a dry martini and formal duds before your 8 o’clock curtain. Thankfully, the San Diego Civic Theater is only 1.5 blocks away. And for those like me with champagne taste on a beer budget, there are ways to enjoy opulence without going for broke. Happy hour at the Grant is fantastic – $6 martinis and half price small plates! Tickets for the opera run $35-$195, but some shows have $50 “rush” tickets, which are sold 2 hours prior to curtain at the theater and consist of unsold, more expensive seats. They are definitely worth it. A last piece of advice for the neophyte, familiarize yourself with the plot of the opera before going, and maybe a few “hit” arias. Then you’ll be ready when an orchestra of 60+ people, a chorus sometimes upward of 100 and fabled prima donna start their beautiful cacophony without any electronic amplification. Now THAT is hard core.

Maren Severtson is San Diego raised and New York City educated. She is a trained classical singer who loves everything from Tuvan throat singing to Lady Gaga. Mix in her love of food, art, travel, conversations with strangers and adventure and you’ve got a bon vivant that well exceeds her age, social status and alas, income.