San Diego is beautiful in the daytimes. With clear skies, great weather and a wide range of attractions, the things to do in the day are endless. However, for the more nocturnal crowd, it can be hard to find things to do in the night apart from the usual club scene, or even something more exciting than just a walk through the streets. Do you really believe that?
We are here to change that perspective! Imagine having your great catch of the day (or night!) just past midnight, catching the beautiful sunset off Sunset Cliff, or maybe even heading out at the wee hours to catch whales migrating!
Read on for 15 of the best ways to spend a fun night out in San Diego!
If you are exploring the area, grab a Go San Diego Card! Providing free admission to over 40 activities, attractions and tour, it’s much cheaper as opposed to buying tickets at the gate for all the different attractions.
Go San Diego Card: All-Inclusive Attraction Pass (From 89 USD)
1. Indulge in a late night snack
When there’s nothing better to do, eating is always good option. From Mexican grill to fresh seafood, San Diego has a diverse bunch of yummy eateries that open ‘til late. Whether you’re chilling alone, or going for an impromptu supper hop, you never have to fear about starving!
Down at Mission Bay, you can get your surf and turf game on at Saksa’s Steak & Seafood. They open their doors ‘til midnight from Thursday to Sunday, and extend to 1 am on Fridays and Saturdays. Another to also check out is Hoboken at Pacific Beach, where you can get some good pizza and brews until as late as 3 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
If you’re looking for something to eat even later in the night, you have Night & Day Cafe in Coronado. This 24-hour American diner is sure to serve you amazing food even if it is 4 am in the morning.
Being the best high spot in San Diego, Mount Soledad is a fantastic place to visit at night, looking out over the city in the darkness. Be in awe of San Diego and enjoy a bird’s eye view as the city lights dazzle you. This is a great spot if you’re up for some late night heart-to-heart talks with your best friend, or just to be alone and immersed in your thoughts. (Solo female travelers are cautioned to be mindful of safety though!)
Another way to make use of the great view would be setting up your camera for a timelapse of the city lights. Or if you stay till dawn, catch the sunrise or take this opportunity to add into your gallery breathtaking pictures of San Diego as it says “good morning”.
You can check out Mount Soledad in the day as well with exciting bike tours that will let you explore the surrounding areas.
La Jolla Coast Bike Tour with Downhill Ride from Mt Soledad
Price: From USD$40
3. Have a great laugh at the National Comedy Theatre
Spend the night laughing away at the National Comedy Theatre (NCT). If you’re looking for a low-key night, this place will leave you smiling ‘til you’re back in bed. Be it for a corporate event or private group function, you will be entertained and have your abs trained with little skits that resemble ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’.
The jokes are kept clean, making this place friendly to the general crowd, and you’ll never get bored as the talented performers of NCT keep the show going by picking up topics from the audiences. This interactive show takes place in a small theater, so you won’t miss out even if you’re at the back. You can also grab snacks and drinks at their small concession stand.
If you’re 16 years old and above, you can look out for NCT unrated where they cover more adult topics. This would be more fun if you’re going with friends, or even alone and would prefer more mature content.
4. Enjoy good live music at San Diego House of Blues and Belly Up Tavern
Good live music is the icing on the cake for a fun night out, especially if you enjoy chilling out in the bar / pub. San Diego is home to a number of talented musicians who just love to do their thing. If you’re into rock and blues, check out the San Diego House of Blues. Their live sets will keep your head bobbing and your feet tapping all the way till 11 pm. Alternatively, visit Belly Up Tavern for more popular acts. This place is more casual and features many rising stars.
Situated in Balboa Park is the Old Globe. This Tony award-winning theatre showcases Shakespeare plays and broadway productions. Founded in 1935, the Old Globe houses three unique theatres in the Simon Edison Centre for the Performing Arts: the historic Old Globe Theatre, the lovely Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, and the outdoor Lowell Davies Festival Theatre.
Immerse yourself in the times of Shakespeare where the stages have no proper hidden backstage like most theatres now, and appreciate the craft of his plays that revolve around a simple stage. From plays to musicals, the Globe presents a diverse range of art performances that aims to make theatre matters more to her visitors. So what are you waiting for? Experience a slice of San Diego’s art scene tonight!
Want to find out more about the Old Globe and the Balboa Park? Why not join a walking tour in the morning to check out the sights. Start from the The Founders Statue at Sefton Plaza at 10am and take a stroll through the park before reaching the Plaza de Panama just in time for lunch.
Balboa Park Highlights Small-Group Walking Tour
Duration: 2.5 hours
Price: From USD$49
6. Look at animals’ nighttime activities at San Diego Nighttime Zoo during summer
Yes, that’s right; visit San Diego Zoo not in the day but at night. Located just north of downtown San Diego, San Diego Zoo presents a whole new personality when the Sun goes down. You will not catch penguins causing mischief, but rather can enjoy a chilled night enjoying the sights and sounds of the nocturnal animals.
Available only during the summer season, San Diego Zoo will extend their operating hours, where new themes and performances are introduced every year. Recognised as the San Diego Nighttime Zoo, visitors will have opportunities to get close to selected nocturnal animals and even to feed some of the zoo residents! If you are planning to visit the zoo during the day, summer is the best time to visit as you can spread out your day to fully discover the wonders of the entire zoo without having to race with the Sun.
Pick a hotel near the San Diego Zoo so that you don’t have to worry about the trip back, especially if you have kids with you.
7. Work out at the 24 Hour Fitness gym
If you have no time to go to the gym in the day, but need to fulfill your leg-day target, don’t sweat it! 24 Hour Fitness has 27 gym outlets in San Diego for you to choose from. Also, if you’re not into working out with the crowds, the University Towne Centre (Westfield UTC) gym is your ticket to almost solitude. They see numbers between two and 10, from 2 am to 4:30 am every day. Check out Horton Plaza and 24 Hour Fitness’ Escondido gym too for an almost empty gym.
Each gym is fully equipped for whatever your training needs, from stationary bicycles to weights, and a steam room and sauna to really help you sweat it out. Their spacious, clean bathrooms are available for you too, so after a solid work out, you can take a shower before heading back.
8. Night fishing at the shores of San Diego
Fishing is a casual past time anyone can enjoy in the day, but who knew you could take home a big number of catches in the middle of the night? Get a fishing license; this is something you should do to fish legally. You can easily obtain a license online from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
During the month of March, and from June to August, thousands of grunion come to the shores of San Diego at night to spawn. As long as you’re at La Jolla, Mission Bay, or Del Mar, you can be assured of a good harvest. If you’re in Coronado, wait a few days after the high tide mark to catch some silver strand from 11 pm onwards.
Fishing is a safe activity but requires of you some patience and skill. This is great for family bonding as well as a solo activity. Your catches for the night also make awesome, inexpensive souvenirs or gifts for your friends and family.
9. Sing around a warm campfire at San Elijo State Beach
You don’t need a camp to start a campfire. A few bags of marshmallows and a bunch of good friends are all the reasons you need. At San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff, they have 171 sites that include a fire ring for you to get into the camp song spirit. They don’t limit the hours for your campfire, so you can have a stress-free time huddling round to sing and share stories.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an ex-boy/girl scout or not, anyone can appreciate a good campfire, as long as everyone in the team participates with good spirit! It’s fun going round together finding marshmallow sticks and firewood!
See our full list of recommended hotels near San Elijo State Beach Campground and also compare the prices with vacation rentals near San Elijo State Beach Campground
10. Stargaze alone or join a ‘star party’ by San Diego Astronomy Association
When the sun goes down, the stars come out to play. Make the most of your night by gazing at the blanket of twinkling stars that shine especially bright on clear nights. If you have a telescope, you can join the San Diego Astronomy Association at one of their “star parties” at their observing site. Look out for a shooting star and don’t forget to make a wish!
Stargazing can be appreciated with or without a telescope. With our naked eyes, we can simply look up and bask in the wonder of millions of twinkling stars that have always been smiling down upon us, and maybe learn to say “hello” instead of “goodnight”.
11. Chill at the locals’ hangout and enjoy coffee talk
Meet up with some friends for coffee or have a cuppa while watching San Diego’s nightlife from a cafe window. Lestat’s in Normal Heights is a 24-hour joint that’s a go-to for many locals in San Diego. They also provide free Internet for their customers. For a more bustling scene outside your window, head downtown to Cafe Bassam. The Parisian-style cafe is open till 2 am so there is no rush to leave early.
Don’t wait till the night comes, watch it instead! Sunset Cliff got its name for a reason; it is the best spot to watch the sun gracefully say goodbye at the end of each day. The site is usually crowded with tourists and locals but it’s still worth the journey. This is a great way to end a long hectic day, or even a bad week, as you watch your problems go down with the sun.
This is also a great place for a more wallet-friendly date for couples. Bring a blanket and some snacks and enjoy the comfort of each other’s company as the warm sunset adds to the romantic vibe.
If your dog loves a long walk, bring them here for a hike and enjoy the beautiful panoramic view of the sun setting over the ocean. Just keep your dog away from the edges!
If you want something special with your significant other, why not take a sunset dinner cruise aboard the ‘Spirit of San Diego’. Enjoy a gourmet meal with a complimentary cocktail and live entertainment.
San Diego Harbor Dinner Cruise
Duration: 2.5 hours
Price: From USD$83.52
13. Midnight whale watch with Hornblower
From late December to March, watch thousands of gray whales as they migrate into Baja California. You can cruise into the waters at midnight for a whole new whale-watching experience. Hornblower has yachts for charter, with room for up to 800 passengers (minimum 2-to-go)! You can look forward to being in the midst of the beautiful migrating whales as Hornblower sails straight into their path just for you. There is an added bonus of spotting dolphins too!
Signing yourself up for a midnight whale watch will add a good splash of adventure into your night. Whilst heading out into the waters at such a timing can be quite daunting, learning and appreciating the nature of these gentle giants is sure to bring warmth to your heart.
14. Strikes & Turkey! Bowling at Parkway Bowl in El Cajon
Bowling is a fun and affordable activity for groups of friends and families who like to bond after nightfall. Having insomnia or reluctant for the night to end? You can continue to have a fun night at the bowling alley scoring a streak of strikes until 3am in the morning!
Parkway Bowl in El Cajon opens till late every Friday and Saturday. This upbeat alley keeps you in the mood with flashy strobe lights and rock music cranked high.
Kearny Mesa Bowl keeps their disco ball spinning till 1 am on weekends for all their avid late-night bowlers.
15. Drive-in movie (at Santee & South Bay)
A perfect way to spend a night that is both enjoyable and cheap in San Diego is going to a drive-in movie. Re-enact the good old days with a good flick, in the comfort of your car, and under the romantic moonlight.
At South Bay Drive-in Theatre, you can catch the latest blockbusters at a fraction of the price of cinemas. They screen movies daily, all year round. This is a great activity for families with a budget or couples on a date night.
The Santee Drive-in Theatre shows their movies in digital format. Movies are also shown daily, all year round. What’s special is how the movies are broadcast through your car’s FM radio, so make sure your radio works! Snack bars and bathrooms are located in the building in the center of the theater.
It's never too late to say goodnight
San Diego’s nightlife bustles in clubs and bars, but it’s always good to have alternatives to spend the night. Even with its small pool of night activities, San Diego continues to give diversity for people even after the sun goes down. So it’s okay if you can’t sleep, because San Diego can’t either.