If you're looking to see a good live show in San Diego, you can do so on the fly by popping into one of its many clubs and bars that host nightly musical performances. But if you're into planning more than a few days (or hours) in advance, consider paying a visit to one of the larger theaters throughout the city, which provide entertainment against a historic, ornate or scenic backdrop. During the summer, there's no shortage of opportunities to see a show in an outdoor amphitheater like Humphreys. And year-round, there's always a marquee act hitting the stage over at The Observatory North Park.
Though the reward for being entertained at any of these venues is great, there is a trade-off: The ticket prices will be a little bit higher than your typical club show, and it's always a good idea to buy them early, so as not to have your heart broken at the box office. It's a (slightly less) small price to pay for a world-class musical experience in San Diego.
In San Diego, the beach is enough of an attraction in and of itself that there aren't too many venues near the water attempting to compete for people's attention. There is a notable exception, however: Humphreys Concerts by the Bay. Situated in Shelter Island right along San Diego Bay, Humphreys is as famous for its waterfront views as it is for its lineup of talent. Throughout the year, Humphreys puts on dozens of concerts with A-list talent that ranges from contemporary bands like Interpol and comedians like Jim Gaffigan to music legends such as The Beach Boys or Steely Dan. And a lot of those shows sell out fast. Because Humphreys is connected to the Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites, it offers ticket packages that include either dinner or an overnight stay in the hotel. So you can make a weekend of it if you're so inclined. And don't be surprised if you catch a kayaker eavesdropping on the show.
Where: 2241 Shelter Island Dr., San Diego, CA 92106
> Find out more about Humpreys Concerts by the Bay
A historic venue in downtown San Diego, Copley Symphony Hall opened in 1924 as the Fox Theatre. But the change in its name to Copley Symphony Hall lets you know what you're getting here - it's the performance venue for the San Diego Symphony, and the majority of performances that take place here are orchestral concerts. The performance calendar is pretty diverse, however, and a lot of notable artists in pop - most recently including Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams and Harry Connick Jr. - have graced its stage. It's one of the most architecturally interesting venues in all of San Diego, which makes it a visual treat as well as a musical one. And if that's not enough, it houses a gigantic pipe organ, built into five walled chambers. That's a feature you're not likely to find in any other venue.
Where: 750 B Street, San Diego, CA 92101
> Find out more about the San Diego Symphony
One of the benefits of hosting entertainment in a city with a climate like San Diego's is that it's much easier to hold outdoor events. From spring through late fall, the evenings are balmy and comfortable, and on the rare night that temperatures drop below 65, getting cozy under a blanket is half the fun. Located on the San Diego State University campus, the CCCU-Open Air Theatre offers concertgoers a chance to have the open air amphitheater experience without losing the ambiance or intimacy. It has a capacity of 4,600, compared to the sports arena's 16,000, so it's big, but it's not as if you'll have to squint or rely on the Jumbotron to see the headliners.
Where: 5500 Aztec Walk, San Diego, CA 92182
Another historic venue, this one in the center of the University Ave. business district in North Park, the Observatory was built in the 1920s and still features much of the classic art deco decor that has adorned the walls since it first opened. It was purchased in 2014, and its name was changed from the North Park Theatre, but the character of the classic theater remains. For starters, it's beautiful, and while it was a venue for opera and dramatic theater in its past life, its acoustics make it a surprisingly strong place to catch a touring rock or pop group. Even better, it's a spacious venue, supporting 1,100 concertgoers at a time with plenty of breathing room for everyone. The calendar at Observatory North Park is always full, whether it's showcasing alt-rock a-listers like Tame Impala or filmmaker and camp icon John Waters.
Where: 2891 University Ave., San Diego, CA 92101