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Best of San Diego: Arts & Entertainment


The Westgate Hotel's Poolside Jazz Series

Jazz Night / The Westgate Hotel’s Poolside Jazz Series

Forget a dark, smoky basement. We like our jazz poolside with views of the San Diego skyline. The Westgate, along with Gilbert Castellanos and Sound of the New Machine, present a weekly jazz series on the downtown hotel’s swanky rooftop, this summer only, with cocktails and tapas included. Through August 28.
1055 Second Avenue, downtown

Accessible Art Exhibit / SDMA’s Sorolla and America

Post-Impressionist Joaquin Sorolla was a BFD in his day (1863–1923), painting portraits of bold-faced contemporaries like the Queen of Spain and President Taft. He also churned out captivating beach scenes that any visitor can appreciate. See the works of this master of light and shadow at the San Diego Museum of Art through August 26.
1450 El Prado, Balboa Park


Late-Night Jazz / Seven Grand

The rebirth of cool: West Coast straight-ahead jazz comes alive Wednesdays at 9 p.m. inside this tucked-away whisky bar, where only the best of the best come to work out on the cabaret stage.
3054 University Avenue, North Park

Public Space / The Spirit of Silence

Just this summer, the San Diego International Airport commemorated its first meditation room, called The Spirit of Silence, by artist Norie Sato. Find the non-denominational reflection room after security in Terminal 2 West. Cranky, stressed-out travelers, we’re talking to you.
3224 North Harbor Drive, downtown


Public Art / The Reading Room at the Central Library

In the eighth-floor reading room of downtown’s new library sits a collection of recycled chairs and couches of varying shapes, styles, and provenances, all upholstered in the same solid blue. Artist Roy McMakin titled it Recreations of Furniture Found Discarded in Alleys and on Curbs While Driving Around San Diego Several Bright Summer Afternoons with David.  Bonus: the color blue is believed to encourage productivity and curb appetite. Perfect for a library.
330 Park Boulevard, East Village

Art and Culture Hub / Bread & Salt

This former bread factory gets a second chance at life thanks to an overhaul by local architecture and planning guru Jim Brown. Left in ruins, the massive industrial building is now home to artsy tenants like JXL Design Studio and the San Diego Museum of Art’s Open Spaces program, plus local arts and culture organizations use its gritty rooms and hallways for their own art shows and concerts. 
1955 Julian Avenue, Barrio Logan


Theater Makeover / North Park Theatre

Vintage theatres are rare gems these days and should be treated as such. Thankfully, the North Park Theatre has been given some love by its new owners, the Verant Group, who nabbed Tim Mays of The Casbah to book the venue. It’s no surprise that shows are now selling out. Don’t miss Swedish crooner Lykke Li on September 22.
2891 University Avenue, North Park

Arcade bar / Coin-Op Game Room

At this North Park bar, old-school video games and pinball machines are outfitted with cup holders to keep your choice of craft beer or cocktail out of game play. So if the Contra machine eats your quarter, don’t wig out; just drink up!
3926 30th Street, North Park


Theater Without a Theater / Without Walls

From its acclaimed festival last fall to its scavenger-hunt-inspired production of Accomplice and a recent collaboration with the San Diego Rep called El Henry (Shakespeare in an abandoned parking lot, anyone?), the Without Walls program at La Jolla Playhouse (aka WoW) is giving theatergoers a dose of the unexpected. San Diego stands at the forefront of this trendy site-specific work that takes the audience out of the theater and into a nightclub, elevator, or even a car. The result is a series of exciting, boundary-pushing art. “Wow,” indeed.

Encore / San Diego Opera

It was a nearly unbelievable drama worthy of the opera stage: For two months, the fate of the 49-year-old company, one of the top 10 in the country, hung in the balance as board members went toe-to-toe and a group made up of staffers, artists, stagehands, patrons, and more fought the company’s own directors, who were set on closing it down. Although the dust has not yet cleared on allegations of mismanagement by the vanished Campbells, the company survived and sails toward its 50th anniversary year with a slashed budget, a pared-down season, and new perks to attract audiences, like cheaper tickets and unlimited seat upgrades for subscribers. There’s no better time to check it out.


Museum Date / Reuben H. Fleet Science Center

Who says date night can’t be educational? The Suds & Science and Science on the Rocks series at the Fleet are making the idea more appealing by covering hot topics like sex, autism, the chemistry of craft cocktails, the human genome, and more. San Diego’s top scientists give brief lectures while guests listen and imbibe. 

Family-Friendly Theater / Moonlight Amphitheatre

Pack a picnic and grab a free loaner lawn chair to enjoy sunset dining before the curtain goes up for professionally produced Broadway shows, like Disney’s Mary Poppins and the regional premiere of Catch Me If You Can. If picnicking is not your thing, stadium-style seating and an on onsite café will do the trick.


Live Funk Music / Felix’s Barbecue

This audience knows its funk—and soul and smooth jazz, too. They suffer no fools here, and that puts even the most talented of funksters on alert to stand and deliver.
342 Euclid Avenue, southeastern San Diegov

Big Bang for Your Buck / Balboa Park Explorer Pass

How many cities have their own museum district? The 1,200-acre Balboa Park is essentially that—home to 17 different institutions including MoPA, TheNat, and the Timken. And the greatest thing about them being in the same vicinity? A $129 pass that gets you into all of them for an entire year (Zoo not included). Genius, San Diego.
1549 El Prado, Balboa Park


Discount Tickets

We love the trend of luring young people to arts and theater by lowering ticket prices. Many of the venues in town offer discounts, like the $20 under 30 programs at Cygnet, The Old Globe, and La Jolla Playhouse. This means people age 30 and younger can score tickets for $20 each, or less. San Diego Rep offers $18 student tickets, and those under 25 also receive free admission to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. At the San Diego Symphony, you can be any age and buy a $20 ticket for many of their concert series, including Summer Pops (through Labor Day weekend). Check websites for details.



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