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11 Things to Do at Night That Don’t Involve Alcohol

Booze-free ways to enjoy the city’s culture, history, and fun after sunset
Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring the Coronado Ferry on the bay
Courtesy of The Coronado Visitor Center

The word “nightlife” may conjure images of bars and booze cruises, but San Diego County offers much to do after dusk for those looking to play without a pint glass in sight. From rollercoasters and ferries to live shows and haunted houses, here are 11 ways to spend a memorable evening in the city, sans alcohol

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring Belmont Park and roller coasters
Courtesy of Belmont Park

Ride a Rollercoaster in Mission Bay

The century-old Belmont Park is essentially a year-round carnival right on the Mission Beach boardwalk. Thrill seekers will enjoy the adrenaline-boosting—and iconic—Giant Dipper roller coaster as it hits speeds up to 48 miles per hour as well as the views from the top of Zero Gravity before it plunges from the sky. Those looking for less thrill and more chill can climb the rock wall or play a round of Tiki Town mini golf or laser tag. No carnival-type experience is complete without the food, and Belmont delivers exactly what you’re looking for. Salty carbs? Wetzel’s Pretzels will satisfy that craving. Need something sweet? Head to the Sweet Shoppe for Moo Time Creamery ice cream. 

3146 Mission Blvd, Mission Beach

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring the San Diego Safari Park's Roar & Snore nights experience
Courtesy of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Sleep Near Lions in Escondido

If you spend the night at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park’s Roar & Snore, you’re in for an action-packed adventure all the way till lights out. Each sleepover includes after-hours peeks at wildlife, guided walks, meals and, of course, campfire s’mores. Accommodations range from classic tents with sleeping pads to better situated “Vista” tents with a view and cots, to full-on glamping tents with queen beds and wood floors. The Roar & Snore nights are themed to accommodate specific groups, such as adults only or families. Upgrade your visit to also include a zipline ride, a night vision safari and a wildlife ambassador meeting. Located within sight of the lion camp, you’ll likely get a lion wake-up call, er, roar.

15500 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring Flagship's Coronado Ferry on the bay
Courtesy of Flagship Cruises

Take the Ferry to Coronado 

Gain a new perspective on the San Diego skyline by taking the passenger ferry across the bay to Coronado Island. Catch the ferry from either 5th Avenue (behind the Convention Center) or the Broadway Pier just north of the USS Midway. Ferries depart hourly. Then walk along the waterfront to Centennial Park for a stunning panorama of downtown. Grab dinner at one of the local bay-facing restaurants—Little Frenchie for upscale dining; Village Pizzeria Bayside for a less formal bite. Afterward, snag a seasonal latte from Coronado Coffee Company or a made-from-scratch macaron at Parfait Paris French bakery. Just don’t miss the last ferry back to San Diego—9:30 or 10:30 p.m., depending on the day of the week.

1201 1st St, Coronado

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring the haunted Whaley House in Old Town
Courtesy of Whaley House San Diego

Get Spooked in an Old Town Haunted House

Take a guided evening tour of the legendary Whaley House, touted as “the most haunted house in America” and as seen on the Travel, SyFy and Discovery channels. This 1857 home is said to have been destined to be haunted, as it was built on the site of the original Old Town gallows where the infamous thief James “Yankee Jim” Robinson was hanged. Later, several members of the Whaley family died in the house. 

On the 30- to 40-minute guided tour, you’ll hear all about the legacy and legends of the Whaley family, and you might even experience the paranormal (recommended for ages 13 and up). Even if you don’t believe in the paranormal, you can still appreciate this California Historical Landmark for its Greek Revival architecture and fine mahogany furnishings.

2476 San Diego Ave, Old Town

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring the San Diego Astronomy Association star party events
Courtesy of the San Diego Astronomy Association

Stargaze with the San Diego Astronomy Association (SDAA)

The 60-year-old SDAA is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to teaching people about astronomy. As part of its mission, it hosts regular stargazing opportunities around the county that are free and open to anyone eager to learn. The SDAA hosts public sky viewing events outside the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center at Balboa Park on the first Wednesday of the month, as well as sky observing sessions (“star parties”) at its 10-acre site in East County. On the third Wednesday of the month, you’ll find them giving a lecture at Mission Trails Regional Park. Check the events calendar to find the latest info on an event (some are canceled due to inclement weather), then grab some hot cocoa and a warm jacket to enjoy some time under the stars. 

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring a theater production at The Old Globe theatre
Courtesy of The Old Globe

Catch a Show at The Old Globe

Balboa Park’s Old Globe is California’s oldest professional theater and San Diego’s largest theater organization. Its theater complex, located right behind the Museum of Us, features three stages that host 15 productions and 600 performances annually. You can view anything from Broadway hits and musicals straight from London to modern plays and Shakespearean classics. The Globe was originally built for Shakespearean productions as part of the California Pacific International Exposition in 1935, and it honors that history with a Shakespearean Festival each summer, showcasing two of the Bard’s plays under the night sky.

1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring a Padres game at Petco Park
Courtesy of MLB

Cheer for the Padres at Petco Park

Will this be our year? Join thousands of hopeful Pads fans at a home game in what we will confidently declare America’s most picturesque ballpark. Enjoy the views of the Coronado Bridge, the San Diego Bay and downtown skyline from the upper decks, then enjoy some tasty local flavor from regionally based favorites. Chow down on a burger from Hodad’s, loaded fries from Carnitas’ Snack Shack or a shrimp taco from Blue Water Seafood. On Saturdays before first pitch, you can arrive early to hear the Padres House Band play a mix of country, pop and oldies in Gallagher Square, then take your seats to cheer among the Friar Faithful. 

100 Park Blvd, East Village

Things to do in San Diego that don't involve alcohol featuring a performance at the Moonlight Ampitheatre
Courtesy of Moonlight Stage Productions

View Open-Air Live Entertainment at Moonlight Amphitheatre

Expect more than community theater–level performances: Moonlight Stage Productions brings high-quality musical theater to Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park by utilizing regional Broadway and professional on-stage talent, pro designers and crews, and a full orchestra. This outdoor venue has staged more than 200 shows in its four-plus decades of existence, and every summer you can expect a lineup of Broadway musical hits under the stars. 

Take your pick of lawn seating (with provided lawn chairs) or stadium-style seating, and you can bring food and nonalcoholic beverages with you for your own picnic. Or opt for a gourmet grilled cheese and a bowl of coconut curry tomato soup at the Bread & Cheese Eatery concessionaire on-site. In between musical theater performances, the stage hosts live music entertainment year-round, ranging from tribute bands to contemporary favorites.

1250 Vale Terrace Dr, Vista

Courtesy of the South Bay Drive In

Watch a Movie at the South Bay Drive-in Theater

Head south to Imperial Beach to enjoy a film at San Diego County’s last operating drive-in theater, which has been in operation since 1958. You can catch any genre, from kid-friendly animation to comedies to sci-fi, on one of the three screens. The drive-in is an affordable family entertainment option, or it can be a great way to change up your date night routine. Grab some popcorn or carne asada nachos from the snack bar (or BYO snacks and non-alcoholic drinks), tune in through your FM radio, and enjoy the show. Depending on the movie, you might even get to catch a double feature. The theater is open seven days a week year-round, rain or shine. 

2170 Coronado Ave, Imperial Beach

Listen to Live Jazz

Bop to bebop in live weekly jazz sessions hosted in a studio in Barrio Logan, adjacent to Chicano Park. And the best part? The Future Is Color Studio Sessions are free to attend, open to all ages. The “experience series” explores the power of music and art to break down barriers. Opened in 2020, the sessions have grown to support emerging artists and connect communities. Both indoor and outdoor seating are offered, and an RSVP is suggested. Select wine and drinks are available to purchase but are not central to the experience.

 2060 Logan Ave, Barrio Logan

Roam the Oceanside Sunset Market

Part street fair, part farmers’ market and part live entertainment venue, this market has been a favorite evening activity for locals since 2007. With more than 200 vendors spread across four city blocks, there is something for everyone. Grab dinner at the international food court, which provides options from American classics to European fare and Latin-American specialties. If you brought the family, then swing by Dorothy’s KidZone for some children’s activities. Arts and crafts vendors offer unique gifts while you enjoy the live musical entertainment.

401 Pier View Wy, Oceanside

By Bethany Mavis

Bethany Mavis is a writer, editor and aficionado of hiking, crafting and thrifting. She is an adjunct professor in journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University, and she lives in Escondido with her husband and three daughters.

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