Coney Island exhibit at SDMA
Coney Island exhibit at SDMA

The San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) throws some of the absolute best parties in town. I know a museum isn’t typically the first place you think of as a party spot, but SDMA is so creative and they’ve figured out how to appeal to a younger, hip audience. Their quarterly Culture & Cocktails parties serve as kick off events for their new exhibits. Culture & Cocktails events take over the museum with different activities, drinks, food, and photo opps., and guests are free to explore exhibits. The party theme always coincides with whichever exhibit they’re launching, so expect festive partygoer outfits and themed cocktails. Warning: Culture & Cocktails gets EXTREMELY CROWDED, so buy a ticket ahead of time and get there right as the party is starting. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck waiting in line outside.

SDMA has had some really cool exhibits this year, and I particularly liked Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861-2008 and The Art of Music (runs until February 2016).

My absolute favorite SDMA party is Bloom Bash, which coincides with the museum’s Art Alive floral exhibition every spring. Art Alive features more than 100 creative floral interpretations of famous works of art. Bloom Bash is the museum’s signature fundraiser, and includes art, food from popular restaurants, cocktails, live music and dancing. Last year I stayed at the party until the very end because I was having THAT much fun.

Adjacent to SDMA is Panama 66, a casual restaurant and bar that serves salads, sandwiches, cocktails and beer. Most of the other dining options in Balboa Park are somewhat expensive, so Panama 66 is great for grabbing a beer or quick lunch in between museums or while strolling through the park. It has an outdoor patio that overlooks the museum’s sculpture garden, and often has live music. Panama 66 is owned by the same folks as Blind Lady Ale House and Tiger! Tiger! so you can expect a decent beer list.

Testing out the photo booth at Panama 66 during Bloom Bash
Testing out the photo booth at Panama 66 during Bloom Bash
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