23 Great San Diego Dates to Go on This Summer

From speakeasies to music festivals, movie screenings, and more, these date ideas are sure to impress.

Near-perfect weather and an abundance of entertaining and adventurous activities are at the top of the list of reasons to love living in San Diego, but it also makes planning date night especially challenging. How do you narrow down to one great date when there are so many choices? To help your nervous heart beat a bit more slowly, we’ve rounded up the very best the city has to offer, whether you’re looking for a casual hang, an impressive first date, or a grand celebration. Here are our favorite things to do and places to go with someone special this summer:

$
Little Italy
The Amici Park Amphitheater at West Date & State Streets hosts Little Italy’s Italian Film Festival, featuring outstanding Italian movies (with English subtitles) every Saturday from early July until September. Bring your own picnic or hit the Little Italy Food Court located at the Piazza della Famiglia, grab a blanket, and enjoy movies under the stars with your beloved. Sorry, no outside alcoholic beverages or animals (other than licensed service animals) are permitted.

Fairweather
Fairweather

Visit a secret bar

$-$$$
Various locations
Everybody loves to be in on a secret, even if it’s not really a secret. There’s just something vaguely clandestine (and a bit naughty) about going into, say, a casual brewpub, opening a door at the back, and finding yourself in a futuristic Chinese apothecary—as you’ll see when you visit Common Theory’s stunning Realm of the 52 Remedies. Go behind the walk-in refrigerator in Craft & Commerce for tropical libations at False Idol, while Rare Form’s delicatessen leads to a rooftop speakeasy, Fairweather, overlooking Petco Park. Reservations are usually required, so check the website before heading out.

Belly Up
Belly Up

Rock out to live music

$-$$$
Various locations
Nothing beats seeing a live band, but tickets for the big names can get expensive. Fortunately, San Diego’s live music scene is as exciting and diverse as the venues that provide them. The Belly Up in Solana Beach welcomes acts ranging from Saharan folk music to alt-reggae, with a good sprinkling of legendary early rockers from the ‘60s and ‘70s. The Music Box’s three tiers of seating include opera booths with bottle service, two outdoor patios, bars on two levels, and a private VIP skybox overlooking the stage, as well as a menu that includes kobe sliders, charcuterie, flatbreads, and cocktails on tap. See up-and-coming underground alt-rock at the famously divey Casbah, where past guests have included Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins, or hit Winston’s Beach Club in Ocean Beach for a jam band/reggae vibe.

Distilled San Diego
Distilled San Diego

Check out a spirited festival

$$-$$$
Various locations
Not to be outdone by the breweries, San Diego’s distillers are ready to show you a great time at the Distilled: San Diego Spirit & Cocktail Festival, a one-day festival also held at Del Mar Fairgrounds in early July, starting off with the awards ceremony for the Distilled San Diego Spirit & Cocktail Competition, awarding the top-performing distilleries. Local and international distillers will be offering quarter-ounce tastes of award-winning spirits from across the globe and one-ounce tastes of cocktails in the fairground’s legendary Paddock. Toast the spirits of San Diego in August when the San Diego Distillers Guild Fest returns to San Diego at The Lane by Moniker Group, with a breezy indoor/outdoor space with the best view in town, overlooking the San Diego Bay. More than two dozen local distilleries are represented, including You & Yours, Cutwater, 619 Spirits, Malahat Spirits Co. and more. Guests will enjoy cocktails and spirits, sweet and savory bites from local restaurants, live music, and the opportunity to meet and chat with award-winning distillers.

Little Italy
Little Italy

$$-$$$$
Various locations
What’s more romantic than strolling hand-in-hand through one of San Diego’s unique neighborhoods, noshing on all the best sips and bites from local restaurants? In mid-June, fire up your taste buds at the inaugural West Coast Hot Sauce Experience, for an almost endless array of hot sauces and spicy foods to sample and buy, craft beer and specialty cocktails, food trucks, eating contests, and live music. The Taste of Little Italy returns June 21-22, for two days of mangia in one of San Diego’s most vibrant neighborhoods. Each evening will feature a different lineup of restaurants. Late June welcomes the Ocean Beach Street Fair and Chili Cookoff, as well as local favorite Scoop San Diego ice cream festival.

July brings both Bali Hai’s Taste of the Pacific Islands, a showcase of island food flavors from the Melanesian, Micronesian and Polynesian cultures, and Sip of Julian, where local growers and producers of wine, craft beer, craft cocktails, and delicious hard cider, offer up a sampling of their delicious handcrafted specialties. Get ready in early August for Tiki Oasis, the original and largest Tiki event in the world, a full five nights and four days of tropical cocktails curated by top mixologists, live music, dancing, pool lounging, and all things tiki-adjacent, and late in the month visit the Chula Vista Lemon Festival, where you’ll celebrate all the joys and pleasures of the quintessential summer fruit.

ArtWalk San Diego
ArtWalk San Diego

Ogle some art

Free-$$
Various locations
Whether your date takes you to Barrio Logan, Balboa Park, Hillcrest, Liberty Station, or almost any other neighborhood, wandering through local art galleries and museums is a must-do for any art lover. Experience Comic Con all year long at the new Comic Con Museum in Balboa Park, where comic art and similar genres are celebrated through rotating exhibits and interactive displays. August brings one of San Diego’s most popular art events,the ArtWalk@Liberty Station, attracting more than 150 fine artists from all over the world. Stroll the charming rose gardens while enjoying the wares, music, and interactive art-making, then head over to the Liberty Public Market for lunch or dinner.

Balboa Park
SunflowerMomma/Shutterstock

Explore Balboa Park like a tourist

Free
Balboa Park
Similar to human relationships, it’s easy to start taking even a treasure like Balboa Park for granted. Renew your love for both with a romantic hand-in-hand stroll through the exquisite gardens and architecture, hike one of the 19 trails, or snuggle through a free afternoon concert at Spreckels Organ Pavilion, held every Sunday at 2 pm.

$-$$$
Various locations
Given our status as a craft beer capital, it’s inevitable that you and your love will find yourself bonding over saisons or sessions at a beer garden or festival. Mark your calendars for June 18 and 19, when the San Diego International Beer Festival returns to the Del Mar Fairgrounds for two fun-filled days with unlimited tastings from 200+ craft and international breweries, live music, and same-day admission to the San Diego County Fair. In July, head to Petco Park for the San Diego Padres Beerfest, a tailgate-style happy hour party with live music and $5 beer specials that commences at 4:30 pm and continues until just before the first pitch in Petco Park’s Gallagher Square.

Balboa Park 8 Miler
Balboa Park 8 Miler

Reach your fitness goals together

$$-$$$$
Various locations
Setting fitness goals together and working to achieve them brings you closer to your love, not to mention encouraging sweaty sessions of another sort. Stay in shape and have fun doing it at one of the many road races that take place across the county every weekend. The Low Tide Ride and Stride 5K is a family-friendly race along the beach at low tide on June 18, that starts and ends in Sunset Park in Coronado. In July, the legendary Pride 5K Run and Walk kicks off Pride Saturday, and raises funds for San Diego Pride and The LGBT Center’s Youth Housing Project. August brings The Balboa Park 8 Miler, the longest consecutively run race in San Diego. It starts and finishes in the Pan American Plaza and takes you on a full tour of Balboa Park. Conquer Balboa Park’s scenic trails, bridges, and windy roads to earn an event t-shirt and a cool custom finisher’s medal!

Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream
Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream

Share an ice cream flight at Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream

$
North Park, Point Loma
Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream offers over 300 flavors of Tropical Dreams super premium Hawaiian ice cream and sorbet, which is the perfect excuse to skip dinner and go straight for indulgence. Having a hard time deciding between chocolate coconut macadamia nut, passionfruit sorbet, or peanut butter and guava jelly? Opt for flights of your favorites in adorable mini cake or waffle cones, to share (or not).

$-$$
Mission Hills
Every Saturday and Sunday, the Mission Hills rooftop theater, Cinema Under the Stars, features the best classic and cult films, shown on a 20-foot screen with HD projection and surround sound. You can choose from single- or double-zero gravity recliners, loveseat cabanas or deck chairs with ottomans when you make your reservation online. The smallish snack bar serves coffee, tea, soda, bottled water, popcorn, and a variety of candy for just $2 each. Come with cash—your credit card just reserves your seat online and they only accept dollars at the door and the snack bar for payment.

...Or at an old school drive-in theater

$
South Bay
Built during the heyday of drive-ins in 1953, South Bay Drive-in Theatre has undergone several renovations, finally upgrading to fully digital picture and sound, with the brightest picture quality available on three 100-foot screens. You can see a double-feature every day, year round for the bargain price of $10 for adults and just $1 for kids 5-9 years old. The snack bar covers all your movie faves, plus burritos, tacos, and tortas, and they even have coupons for food discounts, but you can also bring your own goodies if you prefer. Audio is played through your car speakers, but if you’re concerned about your car’s battery life, bring along an FM radio—most audio apps don’t work well here. Plastic is accepted for tickets, but the snack bar is cash only.

Grotto Climbing
Grotto Climbing

Climb the walls

$$-$$$
Grantville
Show off your climbing skills on 7,000-square-feet of wall space at Grotto Climbing and Yoga. Featuring state-of-the-art indoor bouldering terrain, including more than 13,000 handmade holds, a campus board, a peg board, an illuminated moon board, fingerboards, and a 60-degree training board, climbers of all skill levels are ensured an exhilarating experience. In addition, there’s a yoga studio teaching all-level vinyasa, acroyoga, yin, restorative and budokon-inspired flow classes, and a fitness area with a Rogue fitness rack, weights, and rings. The Intro to Bouldering class is a great choice for first timers and includes shoe rental, 30 minutes of instruction, and a day pass, so afterwards you can hit the weights or stretch out any sore muscles in a yoga class.

Unleash your inner lumberjack

$$
North Park, Oceanside
Yoga and meditation are great stress relievers, but so is throwing a tomahawk across the room, albeit it’s a little more...aggressive. Try your hand at AxeVentures, one of several tomahawk axe throwing venues that have popped up across the city. Book a lane online or walk in anytime, learn the ropes from one of the coaches, and spend the next hour or so perfecting your technique. Check out North Park’s new Rage Room, or hit them up on Thursdays in North Park and Mondays and Thursdays in Oceanside for Dark Light Night and one-of-a-kind date night memories. Safety note: Closed toe shoes are required.

Silver Strand Bikeway
Dancestrokes/Shutterstock

Bike along the Silver Strand

Free-$$
Coronado Ferry Landing
The Silver Strand Bikeway begins at Coronado Ferry Landing, and takes you along the nine-mile flat, sandy tombolo all the way to Imperial Beach. Perfect for riders of all levels, you’ll be treated to views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the San Diego Bay National Wildlife Refuge on the other. Don’t miss a stop at Silver Strand Beach for a quick swim or a walk along the sand. Your bike rides for free when you cross over on the ferry and are available at the ferry landing if you haven’t brought your own.

Sip some mezcal at Cantina Mayahuel

$-$$
University Heights
Introduce yourselves to sexy, smoky mezcal at Cantina Mayahuel, where over 100 different mezcals, sotols, bacanoras, and raicillas line the wall behind the bar. While mezcal margaritas are available (and delicious), aficionados prefer to sip it neat, and the friendly, knowledgeable bartenders will gladly guide you through your tasting experience. If mezcal isn’t your thing, there are also 250+ varieties of tequila, including the house brand, Don Lorenzo Reposado Reserva. Their expanded patio can accommodate in-house drinking and dining on a first-come basis.

Morley Field Disc Golf Course
Morley Field Disc Golf Course

Try your hand at disc golf

$
Balboa Park
It won’t matter if you have beginner’s luck or flame out spectacularly, this mashup sport of golf and frisbee is still a good time at a budget-friendly price. Even on weekends, Morley Field Disc Golf Course’s surprisingly challenging 19 holes are a mere $5-6, and rental disks are $2.50. Afterwards, hit up Panama 66 for grab-and-go bowls, salads, and ficelle sandwiches, and have an impromptu picnic in the park.

Drink wine and paint a masterpiece

$$
Liberty Station
Anyone can be an artist at Pinot’s Palette in the beautiful Liberty Station Arts District. Each 90 minute to two-hour session takes you through the creation of your own colorful painting, no experience required. Classes are held indoors and outdoors, with Pinot’s Palette bar service and a special menu from the neighboring Solare Ristorante available. Grab a glass of vino to get your creative juices flowing, then relax and follow the instructor-led, step-by-step directions. Whether you end up with flawless masterpieces or undisplayable accidents, it’ll certainly bring you closer.

$$$-$$$$
Little Italy
What could be more romantic than viewing San Diego’s glittering skyline from the water, beneath a luminous moon? Board City Cruises’ signature dinner cruises and enjoy a variety of different date night options, from cocktails at sunset to a three-course lobster dinner. There’s even a dinner and movie cruise featuring old and new classics. If you and your crush are more into daytime adventures, there’s sea life and whale watching cruises, where you can see migrating gray whales, Minke whales, and pods of dolphins.

Pick up pickleball

$-$$
Various locations
Invented in 1965, pickleball is a fast-paced, easy-to-learn mash-up of tennis, ping-pong, and badminton, where players (singles or doubles) face off and whack a wiffle ball with a solid paddle across a low net on a small court to score points. Give it a try at one of the open play sessions at dozens of outdoor courts across San Diego County, where some have free clinics for beginners.

leopard shark
Rich Carey/Shutterstock

Swim with sharks

$
La Jolla Shores
Now that the weather is getting warmer, the shallow waters of La Jolla Shores will start to attract scores of leopard sharks, especially around the front of the tennis club and The Marine Room Restaurant. There, during peak season, the sharks typically hang out in groups of a few to hundreds in four to five feet of water. Although seeing a five-foot-long shark can be intimidating, leopard sharks pose no danger; despite being carnivores, they never attack humans. Besides, these sharks draw snorkelers from all over the world and are used to seeing people gawking at them. Use your own equipment or rent from one of the local shops within walking distance of La Jolla Shores Beach. After you’ve dried off, enjoy one of La Jolla’s fine dining restaurants.

Perfect your double axel at the mall

$-$$
University City
Lace up your skates and hit the ice at UTC Ice Sports Center, located next to the food court inside Westfield UTC. Daily public skating sessions are available in two-hour sessions, and include four hours of free parking with validation, so you and your love can glide to your heart’s content, then grab lunch or dinner at one of UTC’s cafes, coffee shops, or fine dining restaurants. Rental skates are included, and helmets are available for a few bucks more.

Windmill Food Hall
Windmill Food Hall

Check out a food hall

$-$$
Various locations
Food halls, the latest trend in casual dining, are a far cry from the old mall food courts you used to hang at back in middle school, plus you can scope out your new crush’s culinary leanings while indulging your own whims. Market on 8th in National City, the Liberty Public Market in Liberty Station, and the Old Town Urban Market in Old Town host craft cocktail bars and nearly every kind of food shop you can imagine, from pizza to poke.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.