Summer means later bedtimes and movies under the stars! Whip up some popcorn and grab your blankets and beach chairs because it’s showtime all over the city. Scroll down for where to catch a flick in the fresh air––from the beach with s’mores treats to watching a film while the San Diego Symphony plays the score, you’ve got to add a family-friendly outdoor movie night to your summer bucket list.

Summer Movies in the Park

Looking for a fun and free way to watch newer family flicks? The Summer Movies in the Park series has partnered with local parks throughout San Diego County to show kid-friendly movies under the stars. And the best part is, admission is completely free! A few of the upcoming movies include Hotel Transylvania 3, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and The LEGO® Movie 2. Pack up your favorite snacks and don’t forget lawn chairs and blankets. Every movie starts at dusk, typically between 7:30-8:30 p.m. (but check the website for the exact time).

Insider’s Tip: These events fill up quickly. Arrive early and claim your spot so you can get great seats.

Price: Free

Hotel Del's Movies on the Beach

Known for its beauty and unique experiences, Hotel Del delights the whole fam with movies on the beach. You can rent a beach chair for $20 or kick it up a notch with a s'mores fire set-up ($300). You'll find classics like The Goonies and newer adventures like Incredibles 2 this summer. Check out our Coronado Guide for what to do during the day and where to eat.

Hotel Del Coronado
1500 Orange Ave.
Coronado, CA 93118

Symphony Bayside Summer Nights

Add a musical twist to your outdoor movie night. The San Diego Symphony plays the score while you and your crew watch the show on the big screen. Top picks for the fam are Star Wars and Harry Potter. You can have a casual night by setting up on the grass or go more upscale with a closer table view. Either way, a movie and symphony by the San Diego Bay are one for the bucket list.

Embarcadero Marina Park South
206 Marina Park Way
San Diego, CA 92101

Little Italy's Sunday Family Film Nights

Here's the ticket to your Sunday night this summer–free movies at Little Italy's Food Hall outdoor Piazza della Famiglia. Whether it's pizza from Ambrosia15 or a wicked Maine lobster sandwich, you'll find food for the whole clan. Top it off with dessert from Bobboi Natural Gelato and a free flick.

550 West Date St.
San Diego, CA 92101

Flicks at the Fountain in Carlsbad

Carlsbad Village is known for its local charm and restaurants. Head to the corner of State St. and Grand Ave. for a free outdoor movie adventure. Bring your beach chairs and grab a to-go bag of food from your favorite village restaurant and watch films like Tangled, Ralph Breaks the Internet and Incredibles 2. You can even order pizza and have it delivered to the fountain parking lot!

Carlsbad Village
Corner of State St. & Grand Ave.
Carlsbad, CA 92008

Santee Lakes: Movies By the Lake

How about a movie by the water? Head over to Santee Lakes during the summer for family fun and a movie. The gates open at 4 p.m. and the fun starts around 6 p.m. with food trucks, inflatables and lots more. Starting at 7 p.m., your kiddos can play games and participate in contests before the movie starts at 8 p.m. They're playing hit films including Spiderman and Ralph Breaks the Internet.

Cost: $10/carload

photo: Hotel Irvine

Movie Nights at Hotel Irvine

If you want a mini vacation that includes outdoor movie fun, drive about an hour north of San Diego to Hotel Irvine. Friends, family and neighbors should grab their blankets and beach chairs to spend nights under the stars for Movie Nights in The Backyard at Hotel Irvine. Enjoy evenings filled with live music and nostalgic blockbuster favorites shown on the big outdoor screen. For dining enjoyment, a picnic from The Marketplace can be pre-ordered, or the gang can feast on chef’s outdoor BBQ with tri-tip sandwiches, bratwurst, hot dogs and hamburgers and munch on staple movie snacks like popcorn, candy and s’mores. Open seating on guests’ own blankets, low chairs, pillows or cushions.

Hotel Irvine
17900 Jamboree Rd.
Irvine, CA 92614
Price: $15/person (free for kids under 4)

Drive-In Movies

Cup holders, check. Reclining seats, check. Sitting next to a complete stranger – not here! South Bay Drive-In and Santee Drive-In offer families an old-fashioned experience for those who want to enjoy all the comforts of a multiplex from behind the wheel. Both theaters are open seven nights a week, 365 days a year and will be soon showing Angry Birds, The Jungle Book and Finding Dory. Snack bars and bathrooms are within walking distance at both theater sites.

Insider’s Tip: Be sure to stop at the ATM before getting settled – admission tickets and snacks are cash only.

South Bay Drive-In
2170 Coronado Ave.
San Diego, CA 92154
Price: $7/kid (ages 5 – 9); $9/adult

Santee Drive-In
10990 Woodside Ave.
North Santee, CA 92071 
Price: Free/kids 4 and under; $4/juniors (ages 5 – 12 with a parent); $9/adult

DIY Theater

If you're feeling even more adventurous, think about setting up your own movie in the great outdoors. Enjoy the entertainment and fresh air as you cozy up under the stars. Using an inflatable screen, a king size sheet or even the side of your house, you can transform your backyard into a theater. Projectors and speakers are reasonably priced or can easily be rented from companies such as San Diego Kids Party Rentals and Fun Flicks of Southern California. Grab your favorite treat, a lawn chair and voilà – you can enjoy your one-of-a-kind home box office!

Insider’s Tip: Share the costs and make this a block party event with all the neighborhood kids.

Rooftop Cinema Club

Is it time for a date night? Head downtown to the Manchester Grand Hyatt for a rooftop outdoor screening of movie classics. You'll find cushy seats, popcorn, snacks, beer and wine. Watch movies like Top Gun, Bohemian Rhapsody or The Matrix while taking in the beautiful San Diego skyline views. It's a great chance to get out and enjoy a summer evening. Note: moviegoers must be 18+ to attend a Rooftop Cinema movie.

Manchester Grand Hyatt
1 Market Pl.
San Diego, CA 92101

––Leah Singer and Nikki Walsh


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