Despite a population of over 2 million, San Diego has a definite beach town vibe. New Year’s Eve is probably the one night a year where you might be out of place in flip-flops at some establishments. Whether you feel like getting a little dolled up or sticking with your beach uniform, San Diego has plenty of low-key options for welcoming 2018.
Where to go in San Diego for a chill NYE
Nothing encapsulates San Diego’s laid-back vibe like a barbecue and beach bonfire. Most of the beaches around Mission Bay have large grassy expanses, sandy beaches, picnic tables, and fire pits. Bring supplies for s’mores, and don’t forget an extra layer or 2, as it cools off quickly once the sun sets. Regardless of which beach you post up at, you’ll probably be able to catch at least one fireworks display. You’ll need to show up well before midnight to snag a fire pit, but spending the evening on the beach isn’t exactly punishment.
Where: 2000 E Mission Bay Dr
At well over 1,000 acres, Balboa Park is the largest urban cultural park in North America, so even if you’ve been before, there’s always something new to explore. Spend the late afternoon strolling the gardens, taking in the impressive architecture, or checking out the museums. The San Diego Museum of Art will be open until 7pm on December 31 and is currently hosting exhibitions of the works of Claude Monet and Frida Kahlo. Once you’re done strolling, head to the Prado for dinner. The award-winning restaurant is offering a 3-course dinner and sparkling wine toast for $55 a person. Want to extend the night even further? Get the dinner and dancing package for $85 a person and stay for the live music.
When: 5pm – 7:30pm seating
Where: 1549 El Prado
If your ideal New Year’s Eve attire involves a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, the Grass Skirt in Pacific Beach is here for you. This laid-back tiki bar is your go-to destination for low-pressure fun. The Grass Skirt has a collection of close to 150 rums and a love of iconic beach drinks complete with paper umbrellas. Don’t let the lighthearted energy fool you; the people behind the Grass Skirt are serious about food and cocktails. Their pork belly bao buns, kimchi fried rice, and duck spring rolls will keep your energy up, so you’ll have no problem making it to midnight.
When: 5pm – 2am
Where: 910 Grand Ave
The world-famous San Diego Zoo is always a delight, but never more so than during the holidays. The park is decked out with lights, and special events abound. New Year’s Eve is your last chance to enjoy the festive atmosphere while peeping your favorite creatures. Albert’s Restaurant will once again be hosting a Mildly Wild New Year’s Eve Dinner. Located in the heart of the zoo, the restaurant features deck seating that overlooks one of the zoo’s striking waterfalls. The cost is $65 per person plus admission for non-members. Wine pairing is available for an additional $15.
When: Seating begins at 5pm
Where: 2920 Zoo Drive
Not up for even the minimal effort required for a beach BBQ? No worries! Your friendly Uber Eats delivery partners will be on call all night. Have some friends over to bid farewell to 2017 and order in. Prefer to greet the new year in solitude? No judgment. Dinner for one it is! Whether you’re craving tacos or Thai, sushi or short ribs, Uber Eats San Diego can have it on your doorstep in no time.
If you’re not interested in massive cover charges and battling the overserved for a spot at the bar, consider these more mellow options for New Year’s Eve in America’s Finest City.