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Your one-stop guide to the many ways you can enjoy and experience this beautiful San Diego landmark.
In Greek myth, Aphrodite —the goddess of love and beauty — is often seen lounging in a shell. You get the sense she’d feel right at home in San Diego, where the stunning Rady Shell at Jacobs Park rises majestically from the bayfront.
The good news is, you don’t even have to be a deity to enjoy everything this beauty spot has to offer. And that’s a lot, because the new outdoor home of the San Diego Symphony is a concert venue, a public park, a festival site and a great space for meetings and events — not to mention the jewel of San Diego’s Embarcadero.
It’s not for nothing that the Shell was showcased in Apple’s high-profile introduction of the iPhone 13, or that both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times have hailed the venue as a worthy answer to L.A.’s beloved Hollywood Bowl.
There are so many ways to enjoy and experience the Rady Shell — and we’re here to help you learn all about them, with this roundup of handy info about the venue and its happenings. Consider it your one-stop guide to The Shell Life.
Opened in August 2021, the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park is perched on the waterfront at Embarcadero Marina Park South, just west of the San Diego Convention Center. The Shell, which cost $85 million to construct, is already renowned for its exquisite acoustics, showcased in everything from full symphony performances to concerts by such pop stars as Norah Jones and Jason Mraz. The space is open year-round, and is an especially inviting place for families to spend time during San Diego’s long summer season, when the Shell comes alive nightly with concerts and other special events as well as periodic fireworks shows. Take in a performance from a prime seat, or pack a blanket and watch for a reduced price from the venue’s sprawling lawn area. Daytime is also a great time to visit The Shell: Stake out a space on the lawn and watch boats glide past on the bay as you enjoy a relaxing picnic and bask in the San Diego sun. With all it has to offer, the Shell promises to be a memorable centerpiece of your San Diego vacation.
The Rady Shell is a short walk from the San Diego Trolley’s Convention Center and Gaslamp Quarter stops. The trolley connects at Downtown’s Santa Fe Depot to both the Coaster commuter rail and Amtrak trains, and the new UC San Diego Blue Line Extension reaches all the way to the La Jolla/UCSD region.
Paid parking for the Shell is available in the Convention Center garage, the Padres Parkade (between the San Diego Hilton Bayfront and the Petco Park pedestrian bridge) and area surface lots. There is also parking at Seaport Village, further north on the Embarcadero.
Concert tickets are available via The Shell’s online box office or through the Shell mobile app. The app is a great way to go because your tickets are always as close as your mobile device and there’s no service charge. (If you prefer to have printed tickets mailed to you or held at will call, there’s a transaction fee.) The app also offers information on Shell policies as well as ordering portals for food/beverages, all in one convenient place.
Because The Shell is such a flexible venue, seating arrangements can vary from event to event. But a typical concert during the symphony’s season has five general seating areas, extending from front to back.
The Marina section, the closest to the stage; seating is typically at four-person tables
The San Diego Row, also with four-person tables
Parkside, with paired seats that share a small cocktail table
Bridgeview, which offers standard seats
The Lawn area at the rear
The variety of seating options allows for a range of price options to fit visitors’ budgets.
Food and refreshments are in plentiful supply on-site via Shell Provisions. Dining options near the venue entrance include sandwiches and more from Urban Kitchen Market, plus tacos from Lola55 and pizza from BIGA. Other stands sell items from Kitchens for Good, Achilles Coffee and Minocqua Popcorn, plus a range of beer, wine and canned cocktails. Skip the line by ordering ahead of time at on-site kiosks or on your mobile device.
If you’re seated in the Marina, San Diego Row or Parkside sections, you have the added option of getting food delivered right to your seats, through a culinary program headed by the celebrated Chef Richard Blais. (His “Blais by the Bay” and “Blais Picnic Boxes” must be ordered by 4 p.m. the day before your event.)
The Shell is not just a concert venue: Its flexible layout is ideal for a variety of events, from galas to private concerts and more. The flexible space, with a capacity of up to 10,000 people, boasts a 13,000-square-foot stage that soars nearly 60 feet above the 3.7-acre site. On-site catering is curated by Chef Richard Blais. The San Diego Padres, in partnership with the San Diego Symphony, is the exclusive event management company for the venue.
One of the best aspects of the Shell for visitors is that it’s located within easy walking distance of numerous hotels in the Gaslamp Quarter. Top choices include the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina and the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, all situated along San Diego’s beautiful Embarcadero.
Of course, you don’t have to wait for a show to go visit the Rady Shell; the venue and its surroundings are open to the public during daytime hours throughout most of the week. Even during concerts, members of the public can listen to performances on nearby walkways and from passing boats (and often view them on the venue’s large video screens as well).
A particularly popular option is to visit when the symphony is conducting free, open rehearsals at The Shell; check the online schedule to find out when those are happening.
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