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The best things to do in San Diego this summer

Aquatica park in Chula Vista
(Aquatica park in Chula Vista)

From the inaugural season at Rady Shell to the return of the Del Mar races, here are our picks for the top things to do this summer.

San Diego summer is back!

Though we’re still in a pandemic, the county is opening back up with a docket of concerts, festivals and other favorite events. From the inaugural season at Rady Shell to the return of the Del Mar races, here are our picks for the top things to do this summer.

For the record:

2:34 p.m. July 19, 2021

An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated Del Mar as an off-leash dog beach. It should have indicated that the off-leash rule only applies from dawn until 8 a.m. during the summer.

Aquatica’s final season

Make a big splash this summer at Chula Vista’s waterpark, which opened in May after a 2-year hiatus. Enjoy rides and slides, plus a lazy river and a wave pool, now through Sept. 6 (after Labor Day, the waterpark is rebranding to Sesame Place). You’ll find a DJ dance party from 1 to 5 p.m. every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Aug. 8. Tickets are $60 and your ticket gets you free admission for the rest of the season. aquatica.com/san-diego (Butler)

Summer at The Shell

Whether or not you’re a fan of classical music, San Diego’s newest venue — Rady Shell at Jacobs Park — is a summer-must destination. The waterfront venue officially opens on Aug. 6 with a celebration featuring the San Diego Symphony and music director Rafael Payare, but the season lineup also includes movie nights, dance performances, pop concerts and more. Jacobs Park is open to the public, so bring a picnic or schedule a morning yoga session — no tickets required. Find a complete list at theshell.org. (Garin)

CRSSD Presents DAY.MVS XL

Electronic music is coming back to San Diego this summer with DAY.MVS XL, a two-day house and techno music festival at Waterfront Park produced by FNGRS CRSSD. More than two dozen acts are scheduled to perform, including Fisher, Lane 8, MK, Monolink and Nora En Pure. Tickets are already sold out, but fan-to-fan resale options are available through Lyte exchange on the event’s official website. Noon to 11 p.m. on Aug. 7 and 8. daymvs.com/xl (Butler)

Tiki Oasis 2021

Billed as the largest and longest running Tiki festival in the world, Tiki Oasis celebrates all thinks Polynesian from art and music to cocktails and clothes. Though the event sells out in advance, you don’t need a ticket to attend the popular marketplace where you can find Tiki-themed ceramics, movies, original artworks, records, jewelry and so much more. This year’s event is July 28 through Aug. 1 at the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley. Find details at tikioasis.com. (Garin)

Hillcrest CityFest

One of San Diego’s largest art and music festivals returns to the streets of Hillcrest for its 39th year. The free, all-day event will take over nine city blocks and feature a grand stage with all-day music, plus a cocktail bar, beer garden, arts and crafts, and more than 250 food and shopping vendors. Happening noon to 11 p.m. on Aug. 8. POSTPONED. Check website for updates: fabuloushillcrest.com/cityfest-street-fair-music-festival (Butler)

36th annual CityFest on Sunday, August 11, 2019.
Locals celebrated the Hillcrest community spirit through music, arts, crafts, and food at the 36th annual CityFest on Sunday, August 11, 2019.
(Jared Gase)

A Julian summer

Because it actually snows in Julian, the small town known for its apple pie is a popular winter destination. But have you gone to Julian in the summer? You can explore the hiking and biking trails at the 3,800-acre Santa Ysabel Preserve, enjoy area wine tours without worrying about frostbite, and avoid crowds at popular spots like the Eagle Mining Co., where you can tour gold mines. And, yes, you can still get pie. (Garin)

Dog days of summer

Take your pup out for a summer adventure at one of San Diego’s four off-leash dog beaches — Coronado, Fiesta Island, Ocean Beach and Del Mar’s North Beach (from dawn until 8 a.m. in the summer) — or opt for a picnic at one of the numerous dog parks throughout the region. While the annual Imperial Beach Surf Dog Competition has been postponed to 2022, Pupologie Cardiff Dog Days of Summer returns to Encinitas with contests, live music, food trucks, pet-related vendors and more. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 8. cardiff101.com (Butler)

A group of pups become friends at Del Mar Dog Beach.
(Sara Butler)

Good Vibes Summer Tour 2021

California-born reggae rock band Rebelution brings its nationwide summer tour to San Diego at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre. The outdoor concert features special guests Steel Pulse, The Green, Keznamdi and DJ Mackle. Tickets, which include lawn seating, start at $25 and are available online. 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 14. moremusic.at/RebLIVE14Aug2021 (Butler)

Del Mar Races

It’s not summer in San Diego until you’re dressed in your finest and cheering on your top bet at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club (dmtc.com). The races kick off July 16 and run through Sept. 6. If horse betting isn’t your thing, there’s still plenty to do, including the Taste of the Turf Club every Sunday throughout the season and the Uncorked Wine Festival on Aug. 14. Heavy hitters won’t want to miss the prestigious TVG Pacific Classic on Aug. 21. (Ianni)

Del Mar, which has significantly lowered horse deaths the last two years, kicks off its summer meet July 17.
Horses start the first race of the day at Del Mar on Nov. 15. The track begins its annual meet July 17.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Hotel pool parties

With temperatures heating up, it’s officially pool party season in San Diego. The Pendry San Diego hosts its weekly Pool House Sundays party, with DJs and rooftop views (poolhousesd.com). North Park’s chic Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalow’s hosts various parties at its famed Weissmuller Olympic Pool, including Sip & Swim and Summer Yoga parties (lafayettehotelsd.com). Sycuan Casino Resort’s Retreat Pool & Cabanas offers Night Swim on Saturday evenings, where guests can enjoy DJs, food and drinks poolside until 11 p.m. (sycuan.com). (Ianni)

Petco Park events

With Padres baseball season already in full swing, summer must-do activities at Petco Park include BeerFest (July 30, Aug. 6 and Sept. 3), CocktailFest (Aug. 20) and Fiesta in the Park (Sept. 24). And if you love a Padres theme day, mark your calendar for Christmas in July (July 27) and Out at the Park (Aug. 20). Not into baseball? On Aug. 29, the park transforms into a concert arena for the postponed “Hella Mega Tour” featuring Green Day, Fall Out Boy and Weezer (tickets start at $29.50). Visit mlb.com/padres or petcoparkinsider.com for more information. (Ianni)

The scene outside Petco Park.

Festival of Books

The San Diego Union-Tribune’s fifth annual book festival will once again be virtual, but it promises a lineup of renowned authors, including Kawai Strong Washburn (“Sharks in the Time of Saviors”), Victoria “V.E.” Schwab (“The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”), Paola Ramos (“Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity”) and Alec MacGillis (“Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America”). Along with author panels, there will be two livestreamed events: a Q&A event and a children’s story time. It all happens Aug. 21, and general admission is free. Sign up and find additional details at sdfestivalofbooks.com. (Garin)

Mingei International Museum reopens

After a three-year closure, the Mingei in Balboa Park reopens on Sept. 3. The renovated space is meant to transform how visitors interact with the museum that showcases folk art, craft and design. The main floor will be a free and open area for all visitors to gather, and there will also be a new theater, upper-level terraces and access to the House of Charm’s iconic tower. Admission to the Mingei will be free over Labor Day weekend (Sept. 3 through 6). Find details at mingei.org. (Garin)

‘Hair’ at the Old Globe

The Age of Aquarius is here — sure, a year late, but it’s here. The Old Globe’s production of “Hair,” originally scheduled for 2020, will finally make its way to Balboa Park in all its (partly nude and) groovy glory. The musical about long-haired hippies fighting against the Vietnam War debuted on Broadway in 1968 features iconic songs like “Let the Sunshine In” and “Good Morning Starshine.” Directed by James Vásquez, it will be staged at the outdoor Lowell Davies Theatre. “Hair” runs Aug. 10 through Sept. 26, times vary. The Old Globe, Balboa Park. Find tickets and details at theoldglobe.org. (Garin)

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

One of the city’s best concert venues, Shelter Island’s outdoor Humphreys Concerts by the Bay reopens this August with a full lineup of comics and musicians. Acts like Cheap Trick (Aug. 13), Common Kings (Aug. 20 and 21), Brian Regan (Aug. 27), Chelsea Handler (Sept. 5), Rufus Wainwright (Sept. 10) and Rodrigo y Gabriela (Sept. 12) are scheduled to appear. Visit humphreysconcerts.com to purchase tickets. (Ianni)

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay venue
(Andrew Jorgensen)

Summer races

San Diegans typically live an active lifestyle, and this summer, there are plenty of ways to get moving again after a slow year in quarantine. Summer races and athletic events include the Balboa Park 8 Miler (Aug. 7), America’s Finest City Half Marathon & 5K (Aug. 15) and Bike the Bay (Aug. 22). The Carlsbad 5000, which typically takes place in the spring, plans to return in 2022. (Ianni)


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