10 After Dark Hot Spots That Kids Will Love

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When the sun goes down, the cooler temperatures make for a good time to get out and explore. You’ll find plenty of kid-friendly activities to do after dark. Like roasting s’mores on the beach, walking around the Zoo at night, riding the carousel, watching sunsets on the beach, free fireworks shows and a drive-in movie (just to name a few!). Read on to find out where the nighttime action is for kids.

Roasting S’mores

Light up the bonfire and grab your s’mores fixings for an unforgettable night. What kid won’t remember smushing melting chocolate and marshmallows together on a summer evening? There are even a few places that take the work out of it for you and all you have to do is show up ready to roast!

These two hotels offer s’mores roasting to non-hotel guests:

Hotel Del, Coronado
Online: hoteldel.com

Red Marlin Restaurant at the Hyatt, Mission Bay
Online: hyatt.com

These are bonfire set-up services:

Bayside Bonfires, Mission Bay
Online: baysidebonfires.com

Beach Genie, Oceanside
Online: thebeachgenie.com

Drive-In Movies

There’s a reason drive-in movies have been around forever. They’re inexpensive and fun for the whole family. Drive-ins often have a double-feature, where they show two movies back-to-back. You just pay one entrance fee and can either stay for both movies or duck out after the first one ends if the kids can’t stay up that late. BYO snacks and drinks or buy from the food stand where the bathrooms are located nearby.

Santee Drive-In
10990 Woodside Ave., Santee
Online: santeedriveintheatre.com

South Bay Drive-In
2170 Coronado Ave., Chula Vista
Online: southbaydrivein.com

SeaWorld Fireworks

Light up your night sky with SeaWorld’s summertime fireworks show over Mission Bay. Psst…you don’t have to watch them from SeaWorld. Anywhere along Mission Bay will give you a good view, like from Ski Beach in the middle of Mission Bay.

Pro-tips: Dress warmly, bring a beach blanket and grab some take-out for dinner.

Ski Beach Park
1600 Vacation Rd., Mission Bay

Beach Sunsets

Sunsets are such a relaxing way to unwind from a busy summer day. So gather up your special people and head to the coast, the beach or a pier to enjoy some quiet time together and reflect on your summer plans. Grabbing a spot at the end of a pier makes for the best front-row seat. Choose a pier with a restaurant at the end so you can enjoy dinner al fresco while watching the sun go down.

Imperial Beach Pier: Tin Fish
Hours: 11 am – 8 pm
910 Seacoast Dr., Imperial Beach
Online: https://www.tinfishonline.com/

Ocean Beach Pier: Walking on Water Café
Hours: 8 am – 8 pm
5091 Niagara Ave., Ocean Beach
Online: https://walkingonwatercafe.com/

Oceanside Pier: new restaurant coming soon
10 Oceanside Pier, Oceanside
Online: http://visitoceanside.org/oceanside-pier

Belmont Park

Bright lights, rides, food, music and fun make an epic way to keep your summer nights going. Belmont Park has something to put a smile on everyone’s faces. There are a number of rides for kids under 36” tall, while bigger kids can ride the Giant Dipper roller coaster, play laser tag or try the Sky Ropes. Dinner is easy breezy with burgers and pizza (Round Table just opened up), or enjoy an ocean sunset view from one of their sit-down restaurants.

Belmont Park
3146 Mission Blvd., Mission Beach
Online: belmontpark.com

Sunset Cruise

Get on the water and cool down with an evening breeze on a sunset cruise along the bay. Not only can you look for the green flash as the sun sets, but you’ll see the San Diego skyline from a different perspective. They allow children on these cruises (kids ages 3 and under are free!) and even have a sunset dinner cruise with kids' menus.

Flagship Cruises
Online: flagshipsd.com

City Cruises by Hornblower
Online: cityexperiences.com

Balboa Park

Walk around Balboa Park after dark and you’ll be amazed at how much life there is to see. All the buildings are lit up at night and with the colors changing every few seconds, it makes for a mesmerizing free light show. Another free and fun show to watch is the roller skaters who show up with their music and practice their tricks and spins as they roll around a makeshift lap in front of the San Diego Museum of Art. One perk about coming here after dark is there will be plenty of parking to find.

Balboa Park
1450 El Prado, Balboa Park
Online: balboapark.org

Birch Aquarium

Explore sea creatures at night while the Birch Aquarium is open until 7 pm in July and August, something they’ve never done before (reservations required). Be one of the first to see their brand new 600-gallon moon jellyfish tank, which is at a perfect height for even the smallest explorers to be mesmerized. They have over 60 habitats with hands-on exhibits and a really fun Oddities exhibit where you can learn all about the super-powers of sea creatures.

Birch Aquarium
2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla
Online: aquarium.ucsd.edu

San Diego Zoo

Stay after dark for the Night-Time Zoo when the animals really come to life! You’ll Rock and Roar to live music, African dancing, Dr. Zoolittle’s stories, acrobats, laser lights, fog machine and bubbles. End the night with the Jambo parade as the larger-than-life puppets of elephants, giraffes and birds dance their way down Front Street. Dates: June 11 – Sept 6.

San Diego Zoo
2920 Zoo Dr., Balboa Park
Online: zoo.sandiegozoo.org


Enjoy a different kind of fun after the sun goes down with SeaWorld’s Electric Ocean. Join an all-ages dance party with a live DJ at Club Sea Glow, watch acrobats flip and jump in the neon glow of sea life, catch a live Cirque show and top it off with a bang as the fireworks light up the night sky. Dates: June 11 – Sept 6.

500 Sea World Dr., Mission Bay
Online: seaworld.com/san-diego


—Bonnie Taylor

featured image: Bonnie Taylor via Famdiego


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