Dec. 16 2015 01:37 PM

A dozen ways to celebrate in San Diego

The Wellington
Photo by Feeney and Bryant Photography

There will be blowouts galore on Dec. 31 as San Diego bids farewell to the year that was 2015. No two people want to spend New Year’s Eve the same way, so we’ve panned for gold and mined a dozen ways you can celebrate. Check out opportunities to listen to good music, sit down to a hearty meal, freak out in a big way with thousands of revelers or chill in smaller venues—and maybe even camp out in the mountains.

CONTRIBUTORS: Seth Combs, Ron Donoho, Michael Gardiner and Jeff Terich


Bellamy’s Restaurant (417 W. Grand Ave.) in Escondido is one of our region’s below-the-radar gems. Helmed by Chef Patrick Ponsaty—who trained at Restaurante Martín Berasategui in San Sebastian (the world’s greatest little food city) and is one of San Diego’s two Master French Chefs—Bellamy’s will greet the New Year with Gallic flair and two seatings. There’s an eight-course tasting menu at 5 p.m. featuring smoked wild salmon, foie gras torchon, coquille Saint Jacques, filet mignon and truffle puree, cheese, chocolate and blood orange macarons. A 7:15 p.m. seating will add a course: butter-roasted dover sole.

But not everyone’s New Year’s Eve dining desires are focused on the food foremost. Indeed, for many atmosphere is more important. Coasterra (880 Harbor Island Drive) on Harbor Island might be the answer. It is hard to argue there is a better view than that of Coasterra with its full-frontal view on downtown San Diego’s skyline. For New Year’s, the Cohn Restaurant Group’s highest profile chef, Deborah Scott, is offering a three-course tasting menu built around a fresh-shucked white corn soup with roasted poblano crema and crispy leeks or a beef short rib, lobster-risotto cake topped with Oaxaca mole and grilled asparagus. The real highlight may be the glass of bubbly and front-row seat for San Diego’s various New Year’s firework shows.

Perhaps, though, the best bet is to go Old School: The Wellington (729 W. Washinton St.). It is, every inch, a steak-and-martini lounge. You can almost imagine still smelling the Rat Pack’s cigars even if they were never actually there and even if there is, in reality, not a whiff of cigar smoke. But the food—from the Red Door team—is top level. The Wellington’s three-course tasting menu plus a smoked duck prosciutto amuse bouche features Asian bay scallops, Beef Wellington (or a Catalina Offshore fresh fish version thereof or duck breast), and dessert.

Los Lobos


Any good New Year’s Eve party better have some ’90s R&B on the playlist. But why not take that idea to the logical extreme—a New Year’s Eve exclusively comprising the soulful sounds of the ’90s. NYE on the Bay at Port Pavilion (1000 N. Harbor Drive) features a lineup of New Jack Swing and R&B superstars, including Tony Toni Toné, SWV and Dru Hill, plus local outfit Funk’s Most Wanted, as well as DJs DRock and Legend. Be prepared to dance until the ball drops, but come hungry, as the show also features food trucks, in addition to a cigar lounge and free champagne toast. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets start at $85.

Sometimes the best way to say goodbye to one year and hello to another is to bask in the sounds of a group of rock legends. Los Lobos have been playing music since 1973, and over the course of those 42 years they’ve incorporated elements of Tex-Mex, roots rock, Latin folk, Americana, blues and other eclectic styles into the mix. Hear the full scope of it when they perform at Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach (143 S. Cedros Ave.). They’ll be joined by opener Hamish Anderson, and the whole thing kicks off at 8:30 p.m. Tickets begin at $78.

Everybody loves a reunion. At least the less cynical among us do, and it’s even better when a band is able to reconnect with the energy and fury that made them so exciting in the first place. The Sess broke up seven years ago, but at the time they were one of the most exciting punk bands in San Diego. They’re playing their first show since that abrupt end in 2008, and it’s happening at Soda Bar in City Heights (3615 El Cajon Blvd.). Drug Wars, Keepers and Vyper Skwad open, and the incendiary, rock ‘n’ roll madness can be experienced for the low price of $15. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

New Year's Eve at Hard Rock San Diego
Photo by Jeff Corrigan


Big Night San Diego is everything some of you may love to hate about over-thetop downtown celebrations. The event takes over the Hilton San Diego Bayfront (1 Park Blvd.) and offers no less than 10 party areas. Yes, you can carry your adult beverages (all drinks included in the ticket price) from one depraved scene to another. There will be five dance floors, party bands and DJs. Main Event tickets are $114.99; VIP tickets are $179.99 and get you into five private party rooms with upgraded foodstuffs and booze; Velvet Rope tix are $279.99 and allows for an extra hour (8 to 9 p.m.) of open bar and private entertainment, plus the better munchies and beverage brands. Stay off the roads: Room discounts ($230) at the Hilton are available.

The nightlife gurus at RMD Group are powering up New Year’s Eve at Hard Rock San Diego (207 Fifth Ave.) in the Gaslamp Quarter. The party is so big it can barely be contained on three floors, with five venues (including the rooftop Float and ground-floor 207), multitudinous bars and 20 DJs. Those spinners include Filipino-Dutch DJ/ producer Laidback Luke and Seattle rising star Diamond Pistols. There’ll also be a live performance by rapper E-40. General admission tickets are $100, plus service fee. The overnight package goes for $489 and includes the hotel room, two party tickets and a delivered bottle of bubbly.

Nope, holding just one shindig under one roof is not enough. The House of Blues Block Party (1055 Fifth Ave.) is three parties spread throughout 30,000 square feet of space, with 10 DJs on tap. This year, the landmark music hall has themed its event on vintage Hollywood, and will aim to channel that glamour and so-called style. Tickets are currently $30 but that bumps up to $35 on Dec. 24; $45 on Dec. 28. Be a big shot and reserve space for eight party people in the VIP balcony area for $300, plus the cost of one bottle of liquor; or be a bigger shot and reserve a VIP area in the Main Room, also for three Benjamins, but now you’re ponying up for two bottles.

Gilbert Castellanos
Photo by Ryan Benoit / Flickr


If you’re not in the mood for EDM and hip-hop, then the Noche Cubana event at 98 Bottles (2400 Kettner Blvd. #110) in Little Italy will feature live Latin jazz from the West Coast Mambo All-Stars, a band that includes the likes of Tommy Aros, Gabriel Garcia and trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos. Along with 98 Bottles’ extensive wine and beer selection, the night includes free champagne at midnight and party favors for all. There will also be a raffle and guests are encouraged to dress in their swankiest, Cuban-inspired threads. Tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door.

Who needs a glass of cheap champagne when a pint of a limited edition Stone stout will do just fine? Beer lovers should be out en masse at Stone Brewing Co.’s New Year’s Eve at the brewery’s Liberty Station Bistro & Gardens location (2816 Historic Decatur Road) in Point Loma. The evening sports dance floors, live music and food stations with a wide variety of high-end bar grub (pork meatball sliders, honey Sriracha deviled eggs and more). The $99 ticket price also includes three free local craft beers (more than two dozen to choose from) and a midnight toast with a special, limited-release Stone beer at midnight.

If you’re looking for the exact opposite of a Gaslamp-style blowout, it doesn’t get any more different than Party With the Stars. The “Stars” in the title doesn’t refer to B-list celebrity DJs, but the literal stars you’ll see as you camp out at the Harrison Serenity Ranch on the western slope of Palomar Mountain east of Temecula. Hosted by the performance troupe Technomania Circus, the evening includes musical acts, a bar, bonfires, DJs and a killer view. Guests should bring requisite camping gear (it will be chilly) and breakfast is included. Tickets are $35 ($55 for bunkhouse camping) before Dec. 24 and $5 more after that.


See all events on Friday, Dec 2