20 Things To Do In San Diego At Night

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San Diego is the country’s eighth-largest city, home to the first European settlement in California and a beautiful beach destination on the Pacific coast. Most visitors are attracted to its beautiful beaches and almost-perfect weather year-round. With plenty of fun attractions, there are lots of things to do in San Diego.

Not only the city is exciting during the day, but the city also lights up after dark. This means there are plenty of things to do in San Diego at night, from outdoor adventures and magic shows to harbour cruises and romantic beach walks. Check them out here:

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20 Things To Do In San Diego At Night

1- Spend The Evening At Balboa Park

things to do in san diego at night
Exploring Balboa Park is one of the things to do in San Diego at night if you’re visiting with kids.

The cultural heart of San Diego, Balboa Park, is a 1200-acre (485 ha) park that is not just an ordinary park but an entertainment hub in the city.

The park has an eclectic mix of nightly activities and is a fantastic place to enjoy a picnic, stroll or bike ride in downtown San Diego.

Wander around the park’s many gardens (cactus garden, rose garden, Japanese-style garden) and smell roses while admiring the intricate Spanish-Renaissance architecture.

The best examples include the California Building, the House of Hospitality and the Botanical Building.

Watch shows at the Old Globe Theatre, see one of the world’s largest outdoor pipe organs at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, or admire the art at the San Diego Museum of Art, Mingei International Museum and Museum of Photographic Arts.

Science lovers can enjoy learning something new at the Fleet Science Center and the Museum of Man.

Check out the world’s biggest operating model railroad museum, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum.

Get into the San Diego lifestyle and cook your own barbecue in the park.

Balboa Park is at 1549 El Prado, San Diego, 92101.

2- Look For Ghosts On A San Diego Ghost Tour

Join a nighttime ghost tour to delve into the history of Old Town San Diego while you look for ghosts in the shadows and peer through the windows of haunted houses.

Visit different locations with supernatural stories behind their facades, and learn why it is called one of the most haunted cities on the western side.

Wander through the darkened streets and gloomy alleys, then head to the Whaley House Museum and discover more of the haunted locations there.

The Ghosts & Gravestones Trolley Tour is a fun way to explore the city’s haunted corners, so book your tour here.

Old Town is at 4002 Wallace St, San Diego, 92110.

3- Take The City Lights Night Tour

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The marina on Coronado Peninsula in San Diego at night.

Explore San Diego at night with a San Diego City Lights Night Tour, which starts at Gaslamp Quarter, where you admire the Victorian architecture, see bright lights and vibrant nightlife.

Then, you drive through Balboa Park to see the beautiful lighting effects on the structures and statues. The tour also takes you to the Coronado Bridge for more spectacular views.

The historical San Diego County Administration Center, the Star of India, and the USS Midway Museum are other landmarks to see at night.

It’s a fantastic way to get a quick overview of the city and to help you think about where you would like to spend more time.

Book a City Lights Night Tour here.

4- Cruise The Harbour

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Enjoy the San Diego Skyline at night while cruising around the bay.

Joining an evening harbour cruise on San Diego’s harbour is one of the best ways to see the city lights.

A dinner cruise allows you to enjoy a meal and drinks while admiring the sparkling skyline and the city’s best sights from the comfort of a cruise ship.

Most cruises have live on-board entertainment, making it a great way to spend a few hours on the water. Book your dinner cruise here.

San Diego Harbor is at San Diego Bay, San Diego, 92135.

5- Stroll Through The Gaslamp Quarter

things to do at night in san diego sign at the entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego
Exploring the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego is one of the fun things to do in San Diego at night as the historical district has a vibrant entertainment scene with bars and restaurants.

After the Old Town, the Gaslamp Quarter was the second neighbourhood to be developed in the city.

It was named for its ahead-of-the-times 50 gas lamps lighting the streets.

Today, it has a nice mixture of skyscrapers and Victorian-style structures housing trendy eateries and bars.

This historic neighbourhood has earned a reputation as the centre for nightlife and entertainment.

Begin your evening window shopping at boutiques hunting for a unique souvenir, then head to one of the top restaurants.

You’ll find a range of cuisines, including Mexican, Russian, Italian and Japanese.

The Gaslamp Quarter also has nightclubs, such as the House of Blues San Diego, theatres, live comedy and live music.

Gaslamp Quarter is at San Diego, 23612.

For more California ideas, see:

6- Go On A Brewery Tour

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San Diego has a happening craft beer scene, which means that one of the things to do in San Diego at night is to visit some breweries.

One of the free things to do in San Diego at night is to go on a brewery tour.

The city is a hotspot for microbreweries, and several companies offer brewery tours that will take you to a few breweries.

If you’d rather do your own investigating, most breweries have tap-room hours when they offer brews for free or at a nominal charge.

Some breweries also let you go behind the scenes and see how your favourite brews are made, from beginning to end.

7- Explore the Old Town

Add the Old Town to your San Diego nighttime itinerary to soak up the city’s historical atmosphere.

The mile-long stretch near Mission Bay has specialty shops, eateries, historic buildings and houses built on the first European settlement in California.

San Diego’s Old Town is a showcase of what life was like in the past, from the time Spanish explorers first arrived (in 1769) through to the California gold rush that began in 1848.

There are three parks within the Old Town, and all of them have historical sites that operate as museums.

Although the museums close at 5 pm, wandering around the old town has a spooky atmosphere at night and is a great place to go on a ghost tour.

There’s a strong Mexican influence in local shops, eateries and entertainment venues.

Old Town is at 4002 Wallace St, San Diego, 92110.

8- Visit The Nighttime Zoo

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Going to the Nighttime Zoo is one of the things to do at night in San Diego for families.

The Nighttime Zoo at San Diego Zoo offers a different perspective to visiting this famous zoo during the day.

The 100-acre (40 ha) establishment has over 3,700 species, making it one of the largest zoos in the United States.

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance cares for rare and endangered animals and has successfully reintroduced over 44 endangered species into their native habitats.

From June to September, the zoo is a happening spot closing a 9 pm and unleashing a delightful array of animal encounters, live music and exciting zookeeper talks.

The zoo extends its operating hours in summer when new themes and performances are introduced, and visitors get the opportunity to observe nocturnal animals.

San Diego Zoo is at 2920 Zoo Dr, San Diego, 92101.

9- Enjoy An Outdoor Summer Concert

Residents of San Diego love spending summer nights outdoors, and the city comes to life with free outdoor concerts.

The city offers several free summer concert series on many summer nights, like Coronado Promenade Concerts and Point Loma Summer Concerts.

Take the family to Del Mar’s Summer Twilight Concerts to enjoy ocean views with music.

Liberty Station, Mission Hills, El Cajon, Carlsbad and Encinitas are other areas to try for events that feature local and regional musicians, art vendors and food trucks.

10- Wander Around Seaport Village

fun things to do in san diego at night Old wooden house at the oceanfront of San Diego Seaport Village
Seaport Village is one of the places to go in San Diego at night.

Seaport Village is a waterfront location with shopping, dining and entertainment options.

Seafood restaurants, cafes and clothing stores line the cobblestone walkways.

There are also live music performances from noon until late, and it’s a lovely spot to watch the sunset.

Seaport Village is at 849 W Harbor Dr, San Diego, 92101.

11- Attend The Theatre Or Ballet

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Going to the theatre is another activity in downtown San Diego at night.

Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park is a destination worthy of visiting on its own as it’s a leading theatre where you can watch a range of performances from Shakespeare to Tony award-winning plays.

Another famous venue is the La Jolla Playhouse, which dates back to the 1940s and has hosted original productions such as Dracula, Bonnie and Clyde and The Musical.

The San Diego Civic Theater is home to the San Diego Opera and the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Casa del Prado is home to San Diego Youth Symphony, San Diego Youth Theater, Civic Dance Arts, and Civic Youth Ballet, offering an excellent selection of performing arts outings throughout the year.

12- Join A Star Party

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Going stargazing is another interesting thing to do in San Diego at night.

One of the exciting San Diego night activities is going star gazing or joining a star party by San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA).

Every first Wednesday of a month, SDAA sets up giant telescopes outside the Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park to offer guests a fantastic peek of the stars in the night sky.

Admire millions of twinkling stars, or bring your own telescope to the star party and join in on the fun.

Fleet Science Center is at 1875 El Prado, San Diego, 92101.

13- Gather Around A Cosy Beach Bonfire

fun things to do in san diego at night for free Cropped shot of a group of unrecognizable friends sitting around a bonfire on the beach at night.
Sitting around a bonfire on the beach is one of the free things to do in San Diego at night.

Get your family, friends and firewood together for a beach bonfire at one of the beaches in the city, such as Mission Beach, Coronado Beach, and La Jolla Shores.

Ocean Beach has a long pier and a SoCal beach vibe, with restaurants and shops near the beach where you can buy books, jewellery, trinkets and food.

Another option is Cardiff State Beach, which has campgrounds nearby where you can set up your RV.

14- Dine In Little Italy

what to do in san diego at night pizza
Exploring the culinary delights of ‘Little Italy’ is one of the top things to do in San Diego at night for foodies.

In downtown San Diego, Little Italy is one of the USA’s largest Italian-American communities.

Once a fishing village, it’s now a vibrant place to eat, drink and be merry in San Diego at night.

The area continues to live up to its moniker of Top Chef Alley for its range of world-class chefs and eateries.

Kettner Boulevard is one of its main thoroughfares, where you will find restaurants run by celebrity chefs.

Popular restaurants include Kettner Exchange, Herb & Wood, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto and Juniper & Ivy.

After dinner, stroll along Piazza Della Famiglia to catch live evening music on Flamingo Fridays.

Little Italy is in San Diego, 92101. 

15- Enjoy The View From Mount Soledad

You can hike, bike, or drive up to Mount Soledad, but it might be easier to drive if you’re visiting at night.

From Mount Soledad in La Jolla, enjoy a 360-degree view of San Diego at night, the La Jolla coastline and Mission Bay.

Mount Soledad is at 6905 La Jolla Scenic Dr S, La Jolla, San Diego, 92037.

16- Explore Mission Trails Regional Park

Head to Mission Trails Regional Park to explore the historical, cultural and recreational sides of San Diego.

Spread across 7,000 acres (2832 ha), it is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the city, with landscapes ranging from rocky cliffs to lush green fields.

Outdoor enthusiasts love the variety of activities like walking on the trails or biking along the river.

Other options include camping in the mountains or having a picnic on the plains, and the Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation occasionally runs programmes to throw the spotlight on nocturnal animals.

Mission Trails Regional Park is open all year round at 1 Father Junipero Serra Trail, San Diego, 92119-1008.

17- Visit Hotel del Coronado

san diego things to do at night Hotel Del Coronado external
Visiting or staying at Hotel Del Coronado where ‘Some like it hot’, which starred Marilyn Monroe was filmed is one of the cool things to do in San Diego at night.

Hotel del Coronado is a legendary historic hotel that has hosted celebrities for 130 years and is now a National Historic Landmark.

Over the years, ‘The Del’ has drawn US Presidents, Hollywood stars, royalty and other celebrities.

‘Wizard of Oz’ author L. Frank Baum stayed at Hotel del Coronado between 1904 and 1910, writing his last three books there.

Add your name to this list of esteemed guests by booking yourself a room at this luxury hotel, enjoy dinner, get pampered at the spa and roast S’mores on the beach while sitting around a bonfire.

Hotel Del Coronado is at 1500 Orange Ave, Coronado, 92118.

18- Have Fun At Belmont Park

One of the fun things in San Diego at night is to visit Belmont Park.

Located in the Mission Beach neighbourhood, the beachfront amusement park is the place to go for thrilling rides.

The centrepiece is the Giant Dipper, a 2,600 ft (792 m) wooden roller coaster that soars above the park and offers stunning ocean views.

There’s a choice of slides, ziplines, vertical plunges, bumper cars, and tilt-a-whirls for more fun.

The rides have seasonal hours, though they tend to stay open later on the weekends.

There is also a boardwalk with an arcade, rides, restaurants and shops.

Belmont Park is at 3146 Mission Blvd, San Diego, 92109.

19- Catch A South Bay Drive-In Movie

Another local thing to do in San Diego that won’t break the bank is to go to a drive-in movie.

South Bay Drive-in Theater shows the latest blockbuster movies at a fraction of the price of cinemas.

They screen movies daily, all year round, and the three-screen theatre plays the latest movies for as low as $10.

You’ll be able to watch a movie from the comfort of your own car and tune into the audio over the radio while enjoying snacks from the bar.

It’s a good way to catch a movie without sitting in a public theatre.

South Bay Drive-In Movie is at 2170 Coronado Ave, San Diego, 92154.

20- Watch SeaWorld’s Fireworks

san diego at night fireworks and skyline
Watching the fireworks is one of the things to do in San Diego at night that you will surely remember.

In summer, another free thing to do in San Diego at night is to watch SeaWorld’s fireworks display.

The fireworks are visible in the night’s sky across the city and if you’re looking for a spot to join the locals, try Fiesta Island. 

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Christina Pfeiffer Travel Writer
Christina Pfeiffer is a writer, photographer and video blogger based in Queensland, Australia. She has lived in three continents and her career as a travel journalist has taken her to all seven continents. Since 2003, she has contributed travel stories and photographs to mainstream media in Australia and around the world such as the Sydney Morning Herald, CNN Traveller, The Australian and the South China Morning Post. She has won many travel writing awards and is a full member of the Australian Society of Travel Writers.