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10 Best Early Entertainment Nightlife Options in San Diego



For those of us who aren't night owls, fortunately there are plenty of things to do in San Diego that end well before midnight. Of course, dinner and drinks at any one of our amazing restaurants fits the bill. However, this list includes entertainment ranging from outdoor concerts to comedy shows that end roughly before 10:00 p.m., give or take a little bit.

One way to enjoy time in downtown San Diego is by eating an early dinner out and then seeing a Broadway/San Diego show. As the name implies, these are the big-name shows one might see in Las Vegas or New York City, except they are here in San Diego (and at a much lower ticket price).

Another option--that is also popular with families--is the Summer Pops and other shows put on by the San Diego Symphony. Forget the image of an older, stuffy crowd. Our symphony does a great job of hosting performances that appeal to all ages. The Summer Pops happen at the Embarcardero on an outdoor stage with great food and views of the sun setting over the bay for a quintessential San Diego experience.

Or, opt for a dinner cruise around the San Diego Bay that includes dancing to  DJ spinning tunes and a 3-course meal. It's a great way to combine a little sightseeing into evening entertainment, too. The ship arrives back to port at 10:00 p.m.

Be well-rested for a full day at the beach or one of San Diego's attractions!


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The San Diego Symphony gave its first performance in 1910 and now gives over 100 performances a year including the Masterworks series, the Winter Pops series, annual holiday programs, a Family Festival series, the Light Bulb Series and now a Thursday Night Lite series. One of the highlights for locals is the Summer Pops, which is a series of concerts at the waterfront Embarcardero with plenty of space for kids to run around, fabulous music, gourmet food and spectacular ambiance. Our symphony leans toward the hip and contemporary side and does a nice job of engaging multiple age groups. Season passes are available.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Our symphony offers concerts that appeal to a wide range of ages (even kids) and musical tastes.

Katie's expert tip: Highly recommend Summer Pops as a fun outdoor family event under the stars. Bring glow sticks for the kids.

Read more about San Diego Symphony →




In its 35-year history, Broadway/San Diego has presented over 325 shows and events, including the record-setting blockbusters The Phantom Of The Opera, Miss Saigon, The Producers (in its West Coast Premiere), Les Miserables, Disney's The Lion King and Wicked. Shows have relatively short runs so keep an eye on the calendar and grab tickets for those you'd love to see. The amazing performances are also spread across two lovely theaters in downtown San Diego: Civic Theatre and Balboa Theatre. Check Broadway/San Diego's website for restaurant packages that include tickets and dinner. Season tickets and group packages are available as well.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This is a chance to see Broadway shows in San Diego.

Katie's expert tip: Shows are downtown at either at the Balboa Theatre or Civic Theatre. Both are within walking distance to great restaurants.

Read more about Broadway San Diego →




The Comedy Store has been in its same La Jolla location since 1977. Before that, it was located in Pacific Beach where shows even featured then-unknown Gallagher, Robin Willams, David Letterman and Michael Keaton on the same bill. Popular comedians still grace its stages regularly from Jeff Altman (often seen on to Roseanne Barr. Note that there is a two-drink minimum and that parking can be a bit tough so plan to arrive a little early. The interior is a little dated and can use a refresh, but you won't really notice after the laughing starts. They do not serve food.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: It's one of the only options in the downtown La Jolla area featuring live performances at any hour.

Katie's expert tip: Plan to dine out in La Jolla prior to the show at one of San Diego's best restaurants.

Read more about The Comedy Store →


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An outstanding music venue and top-notch restaurant make this the place of choice for both visitors and residents of San Diego. From its legendary Sunday Gospel Brunch to its roster of libations and great musical lineup, this spot definitely has what it takes to compete with the varied nightlife scene served up by this California city by the sea. A variety of concerts here start between 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. but, of course, you may stay later for drinks if you like. Or fuel up on comfort food like jambalaya, fried chicken and more (they have salads, too) at the restaurant, Crossroads.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Great music and comfort food in the Gaslamp that can be enjoyed before it gets too late.

Katie's expert tip: If you spend more than $20 a person on food or in the gift shop you get a fast pass to skip the line when entering the concert venue section.

Read more about House of Blues →


Old Globe Theatre


Located in the city's lovely Balboa Park and reported to be the oldest professional theater in the state, this venue is made in the image of Shakespeare's Globe Theater and includes 581 seats. Season after season the Old Globe delights patrons with excellent renditions of both old standbys and up-and-coming modern selections. The annual performance of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" brings the famous Dr. Seuss book to life on stage as the Old Globe is transformed into a snow-covered Whoville. It is an incredibly well-done performance with matinees during the day for younger kids. Be sure to explore the park afterward!

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: It's the oldest professional theater in the state, located in scenic Balboa Park.

Katie's expert tip: Spend time exploring Balboa Park before or after a show. The Prado restaurant is a short walk away, too.

Read more about Old Globe Theatre →


Flagship Cruises & Events


In addition to whale watching, Sunday brunch cruises and private events, Flagship Cruises offers nightly dinner cruises that board at 7:00 p.m. and return to the cruise ship terminal at 10:00 p.m. Guests receive a welcome champagne, 3-course dinner (with many options to choose from) and opportunities to watch the sunset (in summer) and enjoy the night skyline. A DJ onboard spins tunes for dancing. Kids are welcome, too, and ages 4-12 will enjoy eats prepared just for them. On Sundays, the dinner cruise features Prime Rib dinner while Wednesdays are focused on wine with bottles discounted 50%. The ships cruise the San Diego bay.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: You can sightsee, dance and enjoy a 3-course meal while cruising the San Diego Bay.

Katie's expert tip: Check the website to see if they have any cruise coupons posted.

Read more about Flagship Cruises & Events →




With three theaters and a new in-house seafood and sushi restaurant called James' Place, this playhouse offers a wide range of events, from plays to readings and educational opportunities for all ages. A non-profit theatre, La Jolla Playhouse showcases a top-notch roster of productions each season, and boasts over 300 awards, including the 1993 Tony Award as America's Outstanding Regional Theatre. It was started in 1974 by industry headliners Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer. Many shows produced at the Playhouse have reached Broadway including "Big River", "The Who's Tommy", "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and many more.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Many productions produced here have made it to Broadway. The theater also draws big names.

Katie's expert tip: Ages 30 and under can purchase special discounted tickets for most performances.

Read more about La Jolla Playhouse Theater →




The National Comedy Theatre offers the longest continuously running show in San Diego County. The improv comedy is clean (with the exception of the late night show labeled for ages 16 and older) and guests help determine the outcome during this interactive show. It's very similar to the popular TV show called "Who's Line is it Anyway?" where much of the show is improvised and choreographed on a whim. The venue is intimate at just 115 seats, with an affordable entry price of $10-15 per person. They also offer improv classes that are supposed to be excellent exercises in team and self-confidence building, especially for teens.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: They claim to offer the most fun allowed by California law and have shows that start at 7:30 p.m.

Katie's expert tip: The show is appropriate for all audiences with no age minimums.

Read more about National Comedy Theatre →


Humphrey's Back Stage Music Club


Humphrey's is a multi-faceted resort establishment with a hotel, restaurant, live music club, and outdoor summer concert arena. The music club has a great view of Point Loma, and schedules a wide variety of performers, from local cover bands to touring singer-songwriters. You might hear jazz, blues, 80s, rock, soul or salsa. Call ahead for the schedule – exact dates and times vary widely, but there are plenty that end before 10:00 p.m. It's popular place to enjoy drinks and light bites during happy hour on Fridays and Saturdays where the live music (styles vary by the day) starts at 5:00 p.m.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Live music starts on Fridays and Saturdays as early as 5:00 p.m.

Katie's expert tip: The water view is really stunning and happy hour is great value.

Read more about Humphrey's Back Stage Music Club →




Stone Brewing Co. has an expansive indoor-outdoor space with gorgeous gardens that are perfect for sipping beer throughout the day and well into the evening. It's possible to tour the brewery for a small additional fee up until the last tour at 6:00 p.m. But definitely plan on eating. Food for all ages includes a unique take on comfort food, a kids menu, and other eclectic world-inspired cuisine. Plus, if you don't like beer (there are 36 on tap), there's an extensive wine list to choose from. The brewery and gardens close at 11:00 p.m. nightly, but check the calendar for events (tastings and special dinners) that might be happening in the early evening during your visit.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: If you're a craft beer enthusiast visiting San Diego, this is a place you must visit anyway.

Katie's expert tip: If you want to try a California-style pale ale, theirs IPA is one of the best.

Read more about Stone Brewing Co. →


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Meet Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon originally moved to the seaside community of La Jolla to attend UC San Diego. When the opportunity presented itself, she and her husband set off for a 7 year stint overseas as...  More About Katie

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