San Diego Marriott La Jolla

4240 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla

Characters Bar and Grill at La Jolla Marriott

Rotate partners through an hourlong free salsa lesson at Characters Bar and Grill in the La Jolla Marriot — it’s like speed-dating, only cheaper. People of all ages and ethnicities come to shake their bon bon and body roll all over strangers during the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday Salsa Nights (Friday and Saturday tend to be more lively). Six-dollar drink specials will loosen you up. At 8:30 p.m., you hit the floor. A professional salsa dancer teaches a group of about 30 people the steps of an entire dance. Occasional Saturday nights feature performances, and every third Friday a live band plays. Bring your parking ticket to the bar for validation. Evelio hosts other events in San Diego, along with his promo company, Rumba Entertainment (see for more info).

The Office

3936 30th Street, North Park

The Office

Cue the laser bleeps, airhorn, and riddim rewinds every Monday at the Office with Dub Dynamite, hosted by DJs Rashi and Eddie Turbo. For nearly a decade now, this weekly event (formerly held at Bar Dynamite) has clashed cutting-edge electronic bass and dub tracks with old-school steppers, dancehall, and roots reggae spun on vintage 45s and dubplates. Add $4 beer specials, $6 Cazadores shots, and $5 signature cocktails until 9:00 p.m., and you’ve got a Jahsome dance party straight out of Rockers. Get irie to kindred vibrations on Sunday nights with Rashi’s crew, Tribe of Kings. Yes I!


4696 30th Street, University Heights

(No longer in business.)

Moonshake at Kadan

Twice a month — on first and third Fridays at Kadan 9:00 p.m.–2:00 a.m. —Moonshakes’ dance scene is filled with party people who trust they’ll hear quality DJ sets that don’t rely on typical club hits and predictable ’80s/’90s retro. The Moonshakers (Mark E. Quark, Dr. Indulgent, and Bob Dazzla) spin “future disco, spacey house, and techy grooves,” and are looking to create a good time: there is no cover charge. The result is a sweaty dance-floor smorgasbord filled with good vibes and drunken debauchery — sometimes even involving the potted plants on the floor. An outside sound system provided by Rawness usually accompanies Moonshake, for that added low-end boost.


Many bars in TJ may have given up on catering to tourists, but Porky’s (Calle Sexta #210, corner of Avenida Revolución) seems to have reeled in various scattered American partiers who ignore the propaganda. The old Porky’s was one-tenth the size of this newer two-story powerhouse, with pig-shaped windows, chairs, and a pink furry passageway. Tables cover most of the layout, so you can put your cheap drink down and dance with your glass within arm’s reach. Pockets of pure dance space exist by the DJ booth, which mostly spews American ’80s and ’90s jams.

Rich's Hillcrest

1051 University Avenue, Hillcrest


Rich’s is the Beatles of gay dance clubs in San Diego. The huge floor gets packed, sweaty, and sometimes ridiculous. Due to the sheer number of attendees, there’s an inevitable mix of styles and ages, though many folks seem to be in their prime. Ample security politely keeps things legal and maintains a safe environment. There are regular go-go dance competitions on Wednesdays and a consistent ladies’ night on Thursdays with hourly bartender performances. Rich’s occasionally offers “military” nights and “what-the-fuck” nights, which include live musical performances.

Ruby Room

1271 University Avenue, Hillcrest

(No longer in business.)

SD Union

Two years ago, drum-and-bass emcee Tyler “Ridda” Rosier teamed up with Ruby Room co-owner Sean Cute — a veteran junglist himself — to curate SD Union. The monthly event started as a response to feelings of division among genres and crews in the expanding electronic-music scene. Now, it’s an explosive commemoration of what Ridda calls the “golden years of drum and bass in San Diego” (around 2005) interspersed with hip-hop, breaks, house, and dubstep. Backed by Deep’s reinforced sound system, SD Union has featured out-of-town headliners, including Maximum Moves, Circuit and Wizard, Machete, and drum-and-bass legend AK1200.

Queen Bee's Art & Cultural Center

3925 Ohio Street, North Park

Swing and Salsa at Queen Bee’s

For a more low-key, all-ages dance scene, check out weekly sessions and classes at this artistic center in North Park. Attendance can be 100-plus, but no alcohol is involved. Salsa and bachata (a Dominican dance style) lessons every Sunday night at 7:30 are followed by a DJ’d session that lasts until midnight; $10 with or without the lesson, $8 for students. Wednesday-night swing-dancing starts with a class at 7:30; open dance begins at 9:00; $15, $12 for students.


4125 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights


You’ve probably seen Vallarta’s vintage cobblestone façade along El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights and wondered what goes on in there. You may have pictured half-drunk vaqueros leering from a hazy bar, out past the pool tables and into a spacious dancehall. You may have envisioned women in flowing dresses and men in white cowboy hats, their jeans held up by gigantic, glistening buckles, dancing to traditional norteño bands as a hole-in-the-wall kitchen dishes out steaming street-style tacos. If so, felicidades! You’re correct. Vallarta is a ghost town by day, a dance party by night. Cheap beer. Good food. No sandals allowed.

Winstons Beach Club

1921 Bacon Street, Ocean Beach


Since fall of 2009, Ocean Beats has been showcasing big-bass bangers from prominent local and national artists who specialize in dubstep, glitch, experimental, IDM, hip-hop, acid-crunk, and everything in between (iLL.Gates, MartyParty, Freq Nasty, Kraddy, etc.). A joint venture of the Madero Group — the managing agency behind notables such as Ana Sia, David Starfire, Samples, and Eliot Lipp — and bass-music veterans SUBLMNL Sound System (Austin Speed and CRMNL), Ocean Beats regularly hits capacity at O.B.’s premier hippie hideaway — Winstons. They’ve also hosted one-offs at the Belly Up Tavern, Ruby Room, and the Del Mar Marriot.


This TJ dance club is a mighty multi-leveled identity search for coming-of-age locals. The third story has the dance scene, with a floor that easily holds 300 people. On weekends, it’s packed late into the night. Of course, late in TJ means 1:00 a.m. Self-proclaimed as an “electronic bar,” the place is outfitted with lasers and DJs oozing electro out of the therapeutic subwoofers and massive speakers. From time to time, Ese’ & Zain DJ here (Nathan Joyner of All Leather, and Mike Delgato). You might find couples casually grinding on the sidelines; at this place, everyone checks out everyone else.

Park & Rec

4612 Park Boulevard, University Heights

Shakin’ it at Bourbon Street.

Bourbon Street

The dance scene here on Saturday nights has a younger Hillcrest feel, the vibe silly, cordial, and politically correct. The layout is divided into sections, so there’s plenty of space to talk during dance breaks.

After a night of drinking and shakin’ it, you might consider walking five establishments up to El Zarape. That’ll help you sober up before driving home.

More Nightlife: Artsy Funsy | Brew Ha Ha | Mix Masters | Dive Bars | Speakeasies | Hipster Alert | Wee Hours

More from SDReader


Sign in to comment

Win a $25 Gift Card to
The Broken Yolk Cafe

Join our newsletter list

Each newsletter subscription means another chance to win!