California San Diego Our guide to San Diego at night
Arial photo of San Diego's downtown coastline

Our guide to San Diego at night


San Diego nightlife is more than just dancing the night away at a glitzy club (although you can certainly do that, too!). Whether you love craft beer and local breweries, bar-hopping though the Gaslamp Quarter, or outdoor activities unique to the area, the city offers a variety of nighttime activities for all tastes and interests. If you’re looking for something a little different to do during your stay, check out our top picks for what to do in San Diego at night.

1. Experience Balboa Park at night

View of Balboa Park botanical garden at night

Credit: Sandiegophotographer on Wikimedia Commons

Balboa Park at night offers a different perspective you won’t otherwise experience during the day. While many attractions close at dusk, there’s still much to see if you know where to look. A slow stroll along the walkways will lead you by attractions like the Botanical Garden and Japanese Friendship Garden, all lit up in their nighttime glory. If you’ll be visiting during the summer, the park hosts a twilight concert series, with performances ranging from jazz, to salsa, to swing. You can also visit the park’s calendar of events for a schedule of after-hour exhibits and activities.

For more ideas, National Geographic has a fantastic guide on exploring the park. It may take a little extra planning and research, but a nighttime trip to Balboa Park is an experience you’ll never forget.

2. Spend a night out on the town

Nighttime view of Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego

Credit: Chad McDonald on Flickr

If you’re in the mood for a night on the town, the city’s Gaslamp Quarter is the place to go for the hottest bars, best nightclubs, and unique after-dark excursions. Need some ideas on where to go and what to do? We’ve got you covered.

For those of you who wait until 5pm to plan your night out, TimeOut’s nightlife guide also has fantastic last-minute options and suggestions if your searching for things to do in San Diego tonight.

3. Sample the local beer on a brewery tour

Friends toasting with glasses of beer

Credit: Yutacar on Unsplash

Good news for craft beer lovers — San Diego is home to over 30 breweries. Heading on a guided brewery tour of San Diego is a great way to sample the local suds while learning more about the brewing process.

Looking to sample some local cuisine, too? Discover some of San Diego’s best hidden gems on a cultural food and beer tour. You’ll visit the vibrant Mexican-American neighborhood of Barrio Logan, where you’ll be treated to a food and beer pairing at three local hotspots.

4. Catch a flick at the drive-in movie theater

Drive-in movie theater at dusk

Credit: MA Office of Travel & Tourism

As drive-in movie theaters become increasingly rare, watching a movie at one of these outdoor venues is one of the more unique things to do in San Diego at night. Grab your favorite snacks, hop in the car, and settle in for a flick under the stars. The city’s South Bay Drive-In Theatre is open Wednesday through Sunday and screens two showings each night at 7:30pm and 10pm. Another outdoor option is Santee Drive-In Theatre, about half an hour from San Diego. It’s open year-round, Sunday through Saturday, with showings in both of the venue’s theaters starting at 7:30pm each night.

Not interested in a drive-in movie but still want to catch a show or performance? You can also find several live events happening throughout the city on any day of the week.

5. Catch a spectacular San Diego sunset

Beautiful sunset on the beach

Credit: frank mckenna on Unsplash

The city is famous for its sunsets, and rightly so. Each night (weather permitting, of course), Mother Nature puts on a spectacular show as the sun slowly sinks into the Pacific Ocean. Your job is to find the best place to catch this performance, and we can help.

Looking for more things to do in San Diego? PlacePass has unique excursions and experiences for all ages, so yeveryone can enjoy all that San Diego has to offer. Traveling with kids? Check out our tips for things to do in San Diego with kids. Or read our top recommendations for things to do in downtown San Diego.

See More Things To Do In San Diego