Nightlife in San Diego for the College-Age Crowd

Out on the Town with the College-Age Crowd

San Diego’s attractions go a lot further than seeing Shamu at Sea World and a cuddly panda at the San Diego Zoo –it has a booming nightlife for all age groups. Whether you are in the mood for a laid back or extravagant night out, San Diego has many nightlife alternatives to choose from. For the college crowd, it can be hard to decipher where people your own age are going out at night especially when there are many options of things to do in this big city. You don’t want to go to a bar and have it happen to be a hot spot for 40-somethings where people your own age are nowhere to be found. Finding a bustling nightlife for the college-age crowd can be easy with this nightlife guide.

For the 18-and-up crowd:

Being a part of the 18-and-over crowd may feel like it takes forever to finally reach 21. It seems like all the fun things to do are for those 21 and up, unless you are willing to travel south of the border to Tijuana. But traveling that far isn’t necessary when San Diego has a bunch of things that the under-21 crowd can enjoy.

There are many hookah bars that cater to the 18-and-over age group. Sinbad’s Café is located on Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach. This popular spot allows you to smoke hookah and enjoy some snacks while overlooking the craziness of the beach bars. Another hookah bar, Fumari’s, located downtown also gives the same appeal of being in a busy nightlife surrounding while being underage.

For the music lover, Soma offers this younger crowd a place to rock out and see their favorite bands without worrying about being 21. This venue mostly features punk rock and indie bands popular among this demographic. Another venue called Ground Zero located in East County is for young and old music lovers and showcases indie punk rock. Ground Zero provides a concert environment without the alcohol aspect.

Coffee shops and cafes are also popular places that the 18-and-up crowd can enjoy. Lestats is a quaint neighborhood coffee shop located in Normal Heights that emphasizes it is a place for music lovers and musicians. Or you can check out the Che Café, which is where UCSD students are found watching punk rock shows while eating vegetarian food.

If going to a club and dancing sounds like your cup of tea, then head to a club that hosts the 18-and-up crowd. An 18-and-up club to check out is Club Fusion located in North County. This club has a multilayered dance floor illuminated by lasers, an outdoor lounge, and elevated cages for go-go dancing.

Even though being underage can be frustrating at times, San Diego nightlife offers hookah bars, dance clubs, and live music to entertain and distract you until you turn 21.

For the 21 and up crowd:

For new 21-year-olds, San Diego is a nightlife Mecca full of different entertainment means. San Diego is the perfect city for the college crowd looking for hip and trendy hot spots because there are three large universities in the city. There is always a new bar, club, or restaurant to try in this ever-changing nightlife. The college crowd mostly dominates the beach and the Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown.

Pacific Beach offers 20-somethings a laid-back beach scene. By day, the beach isn’t the only place to have some fun; there are many restaurants and bars along Garnet Avenue where you can grab a bite to eat and share a pitcher of beer with your friends. At night, Garnet Avenue transforms into a bar scene where singles mingle. Depending on the day of the week, many bars and restaurants in PB have happy hours and drink specials that lure the college crowd and young professionals , such as “two-dollar-you-call-its.” Twenty-somethings flock to this popular beach scene for a somewhat cheap night out and to hang out with other 20-somethings. If you are in the mood for a fun dive bar, try Plum Crazy or Bub’s Dive Bar. For a classier bar with a more upscale appeal, Johnny V and Bar West give off a downtown vibe at the beach. For the trendiest spots in PB, check out Typhoon Saloon, PB Bar and Grill, and Moondoggies.

In PB, there are also excellent restaurants that have enjoyable atmospheres. If you’re up for sushi and sake, then try Zen 5 Sushi, PB Sushi, and Kabuki Sushi. For Mexican food, Gringo’s Cantina, and Cabo Cantina provide a relaxed and fun atmosphere where you can sip delicious margaritas.

Going along with the lax beach scene, Mission Beach is another area very close by Pacific Beach that offers a fun nightlife as well. Mission Beach is widely-known for the giant roller coaster at Belmont Park located on the boardwalk, but this area offers far more than children’s entertainment. The college crowd flocks to bars like Beachcomber, Canes, and the Wavehouse. Typically the Wavehouse is not open at night, but offers the college crowd a place to party during hot summer days until the sun sets. Canes Bar and Grill is a hidden hot spot right on the Mission Beach boardwalk that serves their famous Hurricane drinks and serves as a popular venue for live music.

If the beach bars aren’t appealing and you want to go all-out, then going to the Gaslamp Quarter could be the perfect going out fix. Located in the heart of Downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp Quarter is an area that gives 20-somethings a place to dance, get dressed up, and have cocktails. Although this area is home to many upscale fine dining restaurants, stylish clubs and bars are popular choices among this demographic. If you’re in the mood to experience a chic club, then check out Belo, On Broadway, Stingaree, or Thin. For a daytime experience that brings Las Vegas to San Diego, 20-somethings can be found at the Hard Rock Hotel on Sundays for “Intervention,” which imitates “Rehab Sundays” at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel. Also in Downtown are many hotels that feature popular and modish rooftop bars. These hotels include Ivy, W, and the Marriot.

The Gaslamp Quarter also has fashionable restaurants for the younger crowd. Restaurants like Ra Sushi serve tasty sushi while playing a soundtrack of the latest pop music. On Tuesdays, Fred’s Mexican Café is a popular destination, because it offers $2- 3 tacos, $4.50 margaritas, and $2 beers. If you want live music, then head to the House of Blues in Downtown for a nice dinner followed by a show. For live music that isn’t in such a mainstream location, head to the Casbah where the cover for large bands ranges from $0- $10.

If Downtown or the beach areas are too crowded for you, head over to the Hillcrest neighborhood where there are many ethnic restaurants as well as happening clubs and bars. A club to check out is Universal, which is owned by the same owners of Stingaree and Bar West and promises a hip young vibe.

For the restless college crowd that’s 21 and up, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, and the Gaslamp Quarter are the most popular choices and give a wide assortment of things to do.


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