You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

10 Ways to Celebrate New Year's Eve in San Diego

Thrillist logo Thrillist 12/21/2020 Mary Beth Abate

a man standing next to a woman © Hornblower Cruises & Events San Diego We did it, San Diego! We made it to the end of 2020, the craziest, most challenging year most of us have ever lived through. Along the way, we’ve picked up some new vocabulary, like “social distancing” and “contact tracing;” learned to work, learn, and socialize via Zoom; and navigated the most insane election cycle in modern history. Let’s celebrate 2020-style, with virtual dance parties, live-streamed concerts, takeout booze, and even a couple of safe in-person events. Here’s our list of the best ways to ring in 2021. a vase filled with flowers sitting on top of a wooden table © Photo courtesy of Madison on Park

Support your local bartenders

Various locations

Get your drink on effortlessly by ordering pickup or delivery from your favorite local watering hole this NYE. Madison on Park offers takeout of their most festive drinks to ring in the new year, including favorites like the Stone Stairs, Motor Bike, Small Axe, and Madison Old Fashioned, available for takeout, curbside pickup, and delivery, along with discounted wine for $25, and the restaurant's approachable Mediterranean and Southern California fare. South Park favorite Fernside features 20+ slushies, classic cocktails, and holiday specialties, plus party-sized packages and kits, including a killer large format coquito. You’ll be required to make a food purchase in addition to your booze order, per city requirements. 

Cost: Varies

Give 2020 the kiss off

Your house 

Get brunch delivered, warn the neighbors, and start the party early with KISS and their virtual “Kiss 2020 Goodbye'' concert, live streamed from Royal Beach Atlantis Dubai. Performing in their first live show since March 10, when their End Of The Road Farewell Tour was derailed by COVID-19, the band promises they’ll “will rock the heavens, shake the earth and blaze the way out of 2020 with the largest and most bombastic celebration in our and anyone else’s history.” Rest assured, there will be pyrotechnics. 

Cost: $39.99-$249.99

Unleash your inner lumberjack

North Park

Save the yoga and meditation for New Year’s Day—throwing a tomahawk across the room is a great way to release some stress and let go of the worst. year. ever. Give it a try at AxeVentures in North Park, where your 75 minute session includes a lesson on the basics, with plenty of time left over for a friendly competition or just honing your tomahawk throwing skills. On New Year’s Eve (and every Thursday night), they’ll crank up the dark lights for Insta-ready memories of how you showed 2020 out the door. Reserving your lane online is highly recommended for NYE. Alcohol isn’t permitted on the premises, but afterwards you can head down the street to The Friendly for a Dirty Flat Top or Fall Brewing Company for a round or two of craft beer. Safety note: Closed toe shoes, social distancing, and masks are required.

Cost: $31 per person a palm tree © Photo courtesy of Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Go on a staycation

Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

Get away for the day—or a long weekend—to Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa. Whether you opt to explore the ten-acre grounds or slip into a bathrobe and order room service, your overnight package comes with chocolate-dipped strawberries, truffles, and a bottle of Piper Heidsieck NV Cuvee Brut (Rare Brut Millesime 2006 is an optional upgrade). Best of all, checkout isn’t until 3 pm, so you’ll have time to take it easy by the pool or ease into 2021 in the garden lounge. 

Cost: $389-$1099 plus taxes and fees.

Send 2020 out in style on San Diego Bay

Hornblower Cruises

Give 2020 the heave-ho aboard Hornblower’s New Year’s Eve Gala Dinner Cruise or VIP New Year’s Eve Dinner Cruise. Both options include a three-hour cruise around San Diego Bay, with spectacular 360-degree views of the glittering skyline, bottomless bubbly or sparkling cider, private tables and DJ entertainment, plus free wifi so you can post your pics while you cruise! The Gala Cruise features a delicious assisted buffet dinner, while the VIP Cruise opts for a five-course seated dinner, a top shelf open bar, souvenir champagne flutes, and complimentary truffles. They also have a New Year’s Eve Sunset Dinner Cruise, a New Year’s Eve Brunch Cruise, and a New Year’s Day Brunch Cruise

Cost: $139 for the Gala Cruise, $199 for the VIP Cruise, $114.95 for the Sunset Cruise, $75 for the Brunch Cruises

Watch the ball drop in Times Square

Your house

Sure, you can tune into the usual New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, or you can download One Times Square’s NYE2021 app for nine different live views of Times Square, live feeds of celebrations across the world every hour beginning with the first countdown of 2021, gaming challenges, in-game virtual concerts, virtual art, and culture broadcasts, community boards for posting your good wishes for 2021 and remembrances of the old year, selfies with themed filters, and more. 

Cost: Free

Spend Noon Year’s Eve lounging around a swanky pool

Various locations

While the rest of the country scrapes ice off their windshields and hunkers down in freezing temperatures, you can relax, sip cocktails, and soak up the sun all day long at one of our posh local hotel pools, then pick up dinner on the way home before the big night. Day passes are available for as little as $15 per person, or you can splurge on a cabana for ultimate pampering at rooftop or beachfront pools and spas across San Diego County.

Cost: Varies

Wear your jammies to the symphony

Your house

Music director Rafael Payare and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra bring live classical music to your home in a live streamed performance of familiar waltzes by Johann Strauss Senior and Junior and Brahms, plus jazz pieces from Duke Ellington and “Rhapsody in Blue” from George Gershwin, featuring Ray Ushikubo on piano. Donations support more virtual programming from the symphony, and give you exclusive access to the concert for seven days. 

Cost: $25 donation a bowl of food on a table © Photo courtesy of Puesto

Order fancy takeout while you wait for the ball to drop

Various locations

Since everything pretty much closes down by 10 pm these days, it’s a given that you’ll most likely be at home when the ball drops in our time zone. Treat yourself and support our restaurant community by ordering dinner for pickup or delivery. Puesto Mexican Artisan Kitchen & Bar has a special NYE menu cooked up that features duck confit en mole negro, truffled elote, and oyster mushrooms in browned butter that serves two and can be ordered with an optional beverage pairing and champagne, available for pickup at the Mission Valley location or delivered. Rare Society serves up a Surf & Turf Package for two that includes an array of appetizers, your choice of 12 oz Cedar River ribeye or 8 oz filet mignon, a 4 oz butter poached Maine lobster tail, savory sides and sauces, and chocolate mousse with berries for dessert, plus signature cocktail and wine options. Juniper and Ivy offers “pick your party” choices like J&I Best Bites of 2020 with their best selling apps of the year, Ring It In Like Robin Leach that does, indeed, include champagne and caviar, a romantic Just the Two of Us date night dinner and their first-ever brunch, Pandemic PJ Party. If none of that floats your boat, we have a whole list of great places that will make your New Year’s Eve a memorable finish to 2020.

Cost: Varies

Grab your glow sticks

Your House

Tomorrowland hosts a mega dance festival featuring 25 of the top EDM, trap, and house DJs appearing across four digital stages over an eight-hour timeline. The lineup includes Diplo, Charlotte de Witte, DJ Snoopadelic, Major Lazer and Dave Guetta and begins at 8 pm across all 27 timezones. Choose from various ticket packages, then check out the how-tos for optimal performance on the big night.

Cost: $24-$61Sign up here for our daily San Diego email and be the first to get all the food/drink/fun in town.

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.


More from Thrillist

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon