Deeply discounted tickets to theater, music, and dance events are available at the ARTS TIX booth in Horton Plaza Park, at Broadway and Third Avenue. It's open Tuesday through Thursday noon to 6pm, Friday and Saturday 11am to 6pm, and Sunday noon to 5pm. Some discount tickets are available only for same-day shows, others can be bought in advance; for a daily listing of offerings, call tel. 858/381-5595 or check www.sdartstix.com (you can also make purchases online).
For full-price advance tickets, the Horton Plaza kiosk doubles as a Ticketmaster outlet (tel. 800/745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com), selling seats to concerts throughout California. Although Ticketmaster sells seats for a majority of local events, you'll avoid bruising "convenience" fees by purchasing directly from the venue's box office.
The Performing Arts
Theater -- The listings focus on the best known of San Diego's many talented theater companies, but don't hesitate to try a less prominent troupe if the show appeals to you. Smaller/independent companies doing notable work include Cygnet Theatre (tel. 619/337-1525; www.cygnettheatre.com), North Coast Repertory Theatre (tel. 858/481-1055; www.northcoastrep.org), and Moxie Theatre (tel. 858/598-7620; www.moxietheatre.com). The California Center for the Performing Arts in Escondido also books major productions of all types.
Dance -- Dance Place at NTC Promenade has become the heart of the city's dance scene, providing studio, performance, and educational space for several of San Diego's leading companies, including San Diego Ballet (tel. 619/294-7311 or 619/294-7378; www.sandiegoballet.org), Malashock Dance (tel. 619/260-1622; www.malashockdance.org), and Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater (tel. 619/225-1803; www.sandiegodancetheater.org).
Other major dance companies include California Ballet (tel. 858/560-5676; www.californiaballet.org), a classical company that produces four shows annually at the Civic Theatre downtown and elsewhere (The Nutcracker is a Christmas tradition); and City Ballet (tel. 858/272-8663; www.cityballet.org), which is officially sanctioned by the George Balanchine Foundation to perform that choreographer's work. Turning hearts and minds (but hopefully not ankles) is the socially conscious modern-dance troupe Eveoke Dance Theatre (tel. 619/238-1153; www.eveoke.org). Their studio space is in the heart of North Park at 2811 University Ave., where they offer a full lineup of drop-in classes. Every August, the company also produces the Celebrate Dance Festival in Balboa Park, drawing dozens of dance troupes together for free performances.
Music -- Maddeningly, some artists bypass San Diego, but on the plus side -- especially when it comes to acts that haven't pushed through to the mainstream -- if they do play locally, chances are it's in a venue smaller than what you'd find them in up north. Note: Many of the city's nightspots are for ages 21 and up.
Large Venues -- Built in 1967, the Valley View Casino Center (formerly known as the San Diego Sports Arena), 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. (tel. 619/224-4171; www.valleyviewcasinocenter.com), is a 15,000- to 18,000-seat indoor venue with middling acoustics. Located west of Old Town, the venue hosts several big-name concerts every year because of the seating capacity and availability of paid parking. Qualcomm Stadium, 9449 Friars Rd. in Mission Valley (tel. 619/641-3100; www.sandiego.gov/qualcomm), is a 71,000-seat outdoor stadium mainly occupied by football (Chargers and San Diego State University).
The Open Air Theatre (tel. 619/594-6947 or 619/594-0429; www.as.sdsu.edu), on the San Diego State University campus, northeast of downtown along I-8, is a 4,000-seat outdoor amphitheater. It has great acoustics -- if you can't get a ticket, you can sit outside on the grass and hear the entire show. Also located at SDSU is Viejas Arena; it has equally superb acoustics in an indoor, 12,000-seat facility that is used for bigger draws. Both these venues are easily accessed by the San Diego Trolley. Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre, 2050 Entertainment Circle (tel. 619/671-3608 or 619/671-3500; www.livenation.com), is a slick facility in Chula Vista, a stone's throw north of the Mexican border. Built in 1999, the venue has a capacity of 20,000 (10,000 in festival seating in a grassy outfield) and boasts excellent acoustics and good sightlines; many of the big summer tours play here. The drawbacks: overpriced snacks and drinks, and a location 25 to 45 minutes south of downtown (depending on traffic).