Terrain for Taming a Mechanical Bull
Steel your nerves, sign the waiver and climb atop Nugget, the mechanical bull at U-31 Cocktail Lounge (3112 University Avenue, North Park, 619-584-4188; myspace.com/u31sandiego). Laura Jane emcees as patrons buck and spin. Deejays play music from the Beach Boys to the Urban Cowboy soundtrack.
Edgy Expanding Theater Company
Rolando-based Cygnet Theatre is taking risks and receiving raves. The company (6663 El Cajon Boulevard, Suite N, 619-337- 1525; cygnettheatre.com) took a chance on John Weidman’s Assassins. Despite its five Tony Awards, not many theaters are willing to touch a musical about presidential assassins, notes artistic director Sean Murray. Speaking of risks, Cygnet found a second home this year in the Old Town Theatre, which will feature shows that require more room for artistic expression.
Opening in 1924 as a vaudeville house and later serving as Navy housing, the Balboa Theatre (868 Fourth Avenue, 619-570-1100; thebalboa.org) was nearly razed in 1959 to make way for a parking lot. Though the building was registered as a National Historic Landmark, renovation plans foundered for decades. Finally, the opulent, $26.5 million renovation was unveiled in January, featuring two 28-foot waterfalls, Moorish accents and an orchestra pit.
Place to Watch a Band from a Balcony
There’s not a shoddy spot in the house from which to view a jazz or blues performance at Little Italy’s three-level supper club and music venue, Anthology (pictured above, 1337 India Street, 619-595-0300; anthologysd.com). The upscale, 13,000-square-foot space includes a large outdoor balcony, an 18-foot fireplace and clever wood menu covers made to resemble custom Taylor guitars.
Treat yourself to a concert at a place that provides a pure and clear aural experience regardless of where you sit. La Jolla’s Neurosciences Institute auditorium (10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive, 858-626-2000), a 352-seat venue built for brainy seminars, is an acoustically perfect room and the location of the Athenaeum’s jazz series.
Cuddle in a Cage with a Cooper
Sit in one of the giant teardropshape chairs that hang from the ceiling (inspired by Aboriginal fishing baskets) and get the sensation of a summer front-porch swing. Downtown’s Bondi Bar & Kitchen’s laid-back Aussie vibe sinks in——especially after downing one of the boutique brews from Down Under. (333 Fifth Avenue, 619-342-0212.)
Best Singer/ Songwriter with a Story
After beating cancer in his teens, Michael Tiernan (1439 Luneta Drive, Del Mar, 858-342-4720; tiernantunes.com) decided to devote his life to the priesthood and headed for the Vatican. But the joy of playing guitar and singing in Roman bars swayed him from taking his final vows. Today Tiernan has four CDs and multiple music awards to his credit, with songs that range from bittersweet and reflective to funny. Did we mention he’s got this charm that just makes everyone want to hug him?
Spot to Rock in a Cabaña
One side of the private cabañas at the Hard Rock Hotel San Diego opens onto the vision of poolside hard bodies and cocktail-sipping hipsters. The other door faces a concert pavilion, providing you and your posse with prime seats for headlining acts such as the Black-Eyed Peas. Chill your own libations in the fridge, or order a grapefruit basil martini with Bombay Sapphire gin at the bar (207 Fifth Avenue, downtown, 866- 751-7625; hardrockhotelsd.com.
Theater for Extreme Sports Buffs
Though concerts, plays, poetry slams and community events have been showcased at the ven erable La Paloma Theatre (471 South Coast Highway 101, Encinitas, 760- 436-7469; lapalomatheatre.com), locals know the historic venue is a hot spot for extreme snow, skate and surf films. Companies such as Birdhouse Skateboards, Billabong and Nike rent the room for premieres, and La P is the place to get that adrenaline rush from films such as The Endless Summer or Warren Miller’s Playground.
Private Getaway in Close Proximity
When you sink into the Jacuzzi on the patio of your secluded country casita as coyotes begin to cry in the distance, you’ll know why you booked a private escape at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa (5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe, 800-548-3664; ranchovalencia.com). Suites include sunken living rooms, fireplaces, steam showers and optional in-room spa service.
Add cocktails and music to a contemporary art scene, throw in a dance performance, a deejay lesson or a poetry reading, and you no longer have the gathering of silent observers one would typically find in a gallery. Instead, it’s a Thursday Night Thing, an event that invites interaction, hosted by downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (1001 and 1100 Kettner Boulevard, 858-454- 3541; mcasd.org) on the first Thursday of the month.