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Top 9 San Diego's Top Concert Venues

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From intimate clubs to arena-size, uh, arenas, San Diego has a wide variety of concert venues to choose from. Here's our guide's top picks to see live performances in and around San Diego.

1. Belly Up Tavern

This legendary, former quonset hut-now-surf bar in Solana Beach is the best place to see non-mainstream/niche/cult favorites. Sight lines can be a bit difficult with the odd building layout. But the place has the cool factor down tight! Pros: Imaginative bookings; nifty surf atmosphere. Cons: Crowded sell out shows sometimes feel oversold. Tidbit: Shows are often less than $20.

2. House of Blues San Diego

The newest addition to the House of Blues franchise is making waves on the local concert scene. Situated in the former Woolworth building downtown, HOB boasts one of the coolest stages anywhere and a restaurant that actually has great food. Pros: HOB has booking power for top acts. Cons: Downtown parking. Tidbit: Is reputed to have the best concert sound system around.

3. Humphrey's

I've dropped this venue in its ranking because the audiences at Humphrey's shows have become insufferably rude. With only 1,300 seats, Humphrey's provides an intimate setting for its summer concert series. Pros: great setting on the waterfront. Cons: Aisles and seats are so tight there is no room to move. Bar noise is aggravating. Tidbit: If you have a boat, you can join other freeloaders in the marina and watch concerts for free.

4. SDSU Open Air Theatre

Located on the SDSU campus, this 4,600-seat amphitheatre offers great sight lines and good sound. It is steeply raked, be careful walking the aisles. Emerging acts on summer tours are often booked here (Madonna played here in the '80s). Pros: Cool campus setting. Cons: Cheap seats at the top are concrete (ouch!). Not many shows booked here anymore. Tidbit: If you hang outside early enough, you can listen to the band sound checks.

5. Cricket Wireless (formerly Coors) Amphitheatre

This giant amphitheatre, recently re-named and located in Chula Vista, is a godsend for the area. No longer do mega-acts pass up San Diego for sheds up north. Gently sloping sight lines with room for 20,000 (half on the general admission lawn). Pros: Roomy facility, lots of leg room. Cons: Traffic access sucks, lower part of bowl isn't raked quite enough if you're behind a tall person. Tidbit: Large video screens help your viewing.

6. Cox Arena

Also located on the SDSU campus, this 12,000-seat arena is San Diego's newest sports palace. It's also the preferred indoor arena in town over the aged San Diego Sports Arena. Pros: Steep seat angles offer good sight lines. Cons: Steep seat angles induce vertigo; more utilitarian than luxurious facility. Tidbit: Cup holders on the seats are handy. Don't park in the adjacent neighborhood streets - you'll get ticketed.

7. 4th and B

This former bank building located downtown at, where else?, 4th Avenue and B Street, is a surprisingly good place to see top name acts in a club setting. Recently renovated, sight lines are generally good. The place seats around 1,000. Pros: Big name acts in a club setting; plus, bathroom attendants! Cons: Downtown parking. Tidbit: The former bank vault is now an intimate cocktail lounge.

8. Copley Symphony Hall

This former movie palace (Fox Theater), built in 1929, was refurbished in the 1980s and renamed Symphony Hall. The San Diego Symphony is barely hanging on, but the hall is still a gem for musical shows. Awesome acoutrements and acoustics, with not a bad seat in the house. Pros: Acoustics and setting, very classy. Cons: Parking; not enough pop music acts. Tidbit: Check out the huge chandelier.

9. Sycuan Showcase Theatre

This small intimate theater (in East County's Sycuan Casino) is a great place to see a concert. Seating only about 500, you can't get any more intimate in a comfortable setting and see some top name acts (Cheap Trick, Michael McDonald). Pros: intimate size, casino gaming right outside the theatre. Cons: casino gaming right outside, a sometimes a hodgepodge of concert booksings. Tidbit: Make time to do some dining - the Wachena Falls Cafe is quite good.

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