Location: Downtown San Diego (Horton Plaza / Core District)
Cost: Ranges from Free to $70+
Features: View Productions from Broadway San Diego, the Classical California Ballet, and Tour Companies from Around the World in a Brand New Facility.
Balboa Theatre Highlights: Balboa Theatre is a classic-style looking theatre that can seat up to 1,338 guests. It opened in 2008 on the east side of Horton Plaza, facing out to the Gaslamp Quarter. The theatre hosts productions by a number of local theatre companies as well as performances by touring groups from other parts of the world. Local theatre companies include Broadway San Diego and the California Ballet. Visiting performance groups include such names as the Russian National Ballet, The New Shanghai Circus, and the 3 Redneck Tenors. View the Balboa Theatre Schedule for the full list of upcoming events. The following local production companies host performances at both Balboa Theatre and the nearby Civic Theatre.
Broadway San Diego
Watch the latest Broadway hits in San Diego. Each year, Broadway San Diego produces about a dozen performances of the most widely acclaimed productions. Shows often include some members of the original casts who performed in New York. Don’t miss this opportunity to catch the Broadway shows for the first time or to see them again. Shows are offered during the evenings from Tuesday through Sunday. Additional matinee performances are given on weekends. View the upcoming productions for Broadway San Diego. You can buy your tickets online. Ticket prices generally range from $15 – $77. Download the current season brochure from Broadway San Diego for information on discounts. Note that some productions are at the smaller Balboa Theatre and others are at the larger Civic Theatre, which are two blocks apart.
The California Ballet has been entertaining audiences since 1968. It focuses on recreating full-length classics. The ballet company has a long history of working with international ballet stars, particularly from Russia and Eastern European countries. They have assisted in the training of students who have gone on to perform with ballet companies around the world. The California Ballet offers four productions each season, running from October to May. They are split between the smaller Balboa Theatre and the larger Civic Theatre, which are two blocks apart. Ticket prices range from $25 – $80. Visit the California Ballet web site for their upcoming schedule.
Nearby Dining – There are plenty of dining options within walking distance of Balboa Theatre. Across Broadway from Horton Plaza are a few restaurants that are popular for the theatre crowds looking for upscale dining. They include The Westgate Room in the Westgate Hotel, the award winning Grant Grill in the U.S. Grant Hotel, and Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant, a long-time favorite for city business leaders and politicians. Horton Plaza also has a few fine dining restaurants. For a list of restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, visit the Gaslamp Quarter Association web site. After theatre, you will find plenty of nightlife in the Gaslamp. One particular attraction for the after theatre crowds is the Plaza Bar in the Westgate Hotel, an intimate piano bar where you will often see amateur and professional performers sharing their talents after the shows. (You will find it by walking a half a block north of Horton Plaza on 2nd Avenue.)
Information on Visiting the Balboa Theatre
Directions from Google Maps to Broadway Circle in San Diego, CA 92101. (This address takes you to the recommended NBC Parking Garage on the north side of the Horton Plaza Shopping Mall. The theatre is on the east side of Horton Plaza at the corner of 4th Avenue and E Street. Don’t get confused with the Lyceum Theatre, which is on the north side of Horton Plaza.)
Parking – The Balboa Theatre web site recommends patrons park in the NBC Building parking garage, accessible from Broadway Circle. Parking costs about $10 for weekday evenings after 5:30PM and on weekends. The location allows guests to avoid the heavier traffic found east of Horton Plaza in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Another option is the Horton Plaza Parking Garage, which can be entered at the intersection of 4th Avenue and F Street or at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and G Street. (These are all one-way streets.) Balboa Theatre does NOT validate parking tickets. However, parking tickets can be validated for three hours of free parking at kiosk machines in the mall. Note that validations can only be used until 9PM. Otherwise, you will be required to pay the normal rate, which is typically $8 per hour. Pay attention to where you parked. The Horton Plaza garage is a maze. Each parking level has separate areas signified by a fruit or vegetable painted on the walls to help you remember where you parked.
You may also want to consider street parking, which is free after 6PM, on the streets north of Horton Plaza. This is also closer to some of the fine dining establishments frequented by theatre goers.
Traffic – Getting in and out of downtown using highways I-5, SR-163, and SR-94 is relatively easy. Downtown San Diego is not a major employment center and thus there is very little rush hour traffic. Watch for slower traffic on the I-5 where it does a tight S-curve through downtown San Diego near the SR-163 interchange. When heading southbound on SR-163, stay to the left side unless you want to get on the I-5. (You will encounter a slight delay getting on the I-5 from SR-163.) You will also encounter a slight delay on SR-163 going into downtown when there is an event at Petco Park. If the San Diego Padres play a daytime game, it usually start at 1:05PM. Otherwise, games start at 7:05PM. Even though traffic backs up a little on SR-163, it continues to move along. When leaving downtown, remember that:
- 1st Avenue will get you to the I-5 North,
- 11th Avenue will get you to SR-163 and the I-5 North,
- E & J Streets will get you to the I-5 South, and
- G Street will get you to SR-94.
The traffic lights on these streets are synchronized and will generally move you along without delay. (Learn how to get the latest highway traffic updates.)
Once you are downtown, you will find most of the streets are one-way, on an alternating basis. (You can see them if you zoom in on Google Maps.) Broadway, which runs along the north side of Horton Plaza, and Market Street are both two-way streets running east-west. You will find that at several intersections you are not allowed to make a left turn off of Broadway or Market. Thus, if you need to make a left turn, it is often better to use a one-way street rather than Broadway and Market Streets. (However, you will be able to make a left turn onto Broadway Circle.) For the other streets running along the outside of Horton Plaza, Fourth Avenue is a one-way street heading south, First Avenue is a one-way street heading north, and G Street is a one-way street heading east.
All of the streets downtown move along quite well. The only exceptions are 4th and 5th Avenues through the Gaslamp Quarter in the evenings and around Petco Park before and after events. One other exception is crossing train tracks that run along Harbor Drive in front of the Convention Center. You can cross over the train tracks at Market, Front, 1st, and 5th. Sometimes, freight trains block the latter few crossover streets. If you see them sitting still, it means they are checking their brakes, so it could take a while. Don’t wait. Move farther north towards Market Street to cross over the tracks.
Transit - Both the Blue and Orange Trolley Lines move through Downtown San Diego and get you within four blocks of most attractions. Both lines stop at the Civic Center station, which is the closest to Horton Plaza. (The mall is two blocks south of the station.) However, other downtown trolley stops are also within manageable walking distance for most people. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map and information for the online Transit Planner.) Walking around Downtown San Diego is easy since it is flat with the exception of the northeast corner near Cortez Hill.