Hottest Performing Arts Tickets in California this Fall
The orchestra is tuning up, performers are waiting in the wings, and the curtain is about to rise on stages across California as the 2022-23 performing arts season gets underway. The return of live theatre, dance, opera, and symphony performances is deserving of a standing ovation after pandemic shutdowns forced many stages to go dark. But the lights are back on, and we’ve rounded up some of the best shows catch this season in cities across the state.
San Diego is home to a robust, forward-thinking art scene that offers something for everyone. Balboa Park, the city’s cultural oasis and botanical paradise, boasts 18 museums, four dance companies, and the longest continuous-running puppet theater in the United States. The city is particularly known as a premier destination for Tony Award-winning theater, with more than 150 stages scattered across the city. A leader among American cities in developing new plays that later move to Broadway (including Rent, Jersey Boys, and Into the Woods), San Diego is affectionately known as “Broadway West.” La Jolla Playhouse and Balboa Park’s Old Globe Theater are the city’s theater crown jewels. Between them, the two theaters have had a hand in nearly 60 Broadway shows. The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park (aka The Shell) is a recently built high-tech amphitheater by the bay and home of the San Diego Symphony, now in its critically acclaimed first season in its new venue. There’s also the Diversionary Theater, focusing on the works of LGBTQ+ and other marginalized artists. ArtsTix, the not-for-profit ticket vendor operated by the San Diego Performing Arts League, offers entry to performing arts events around San Diego, often at deeply discounted prices.
Where to Stay in San Diego: Hillcrest House Bed & Breakfast Inn is a handsome Craftsman bungalow within walking distance of Balboa Park’s northwest corner, in the vibrant uptown neighborhood of Hillcrest and at the center of San Diego’s arts and culture. The inn offers seven guest rooms, a welcoming front porch, and a private side yard patio.
Long favored by Hollywood film stars, members of the “Rat Pack,” and raucous cabaret troupes, Palm Springs has the performing arts coursing through its veins. These days, the city still attracts vocal legends, and there’s a plethora of live music and theater to be found throughout the surrounding Coachella Valley. Now in its 26th season, The Palm Canyon Theatre is the valley’s longest-running theatre company. Located in the historic Frances S. Stevens School, the theatre offers a wide range of stellar performances ranging from off-Broadway musicals to thought-provoking experimental plays. The theatre was founded by Dr. William “Bill” Layne, his wife Sylvia, and their family after a visit from Kentucky. The family still runs it today. Tickets are now available for the current season, which includes Broadway favorites Hair and Biloxi Blues, novel adaptations of The Scarlet Pimpernel and Little Women the Musical, and raucous productions like Nunsentations! and Broadway in Drag. In nearby Palm Desert, the McCallum Theatre is a 1,127-seat venue that hosts renowned artists of all types and is nationally recognized for its arts education program. The Annenberg Theater, housed within the Palm Springs Art Museum in downtown Palm Springs, offers a more intimate entertainment experience with its engaging concert and cabaret performances.
Where to Stay in Palm Springs: Los Arboles Hotel is a historic boutique resort within walking distance of the city’s downtown shopping, dining, and nightlife. It features a quiet, heated pool nestled in a central courtyard between quaint mission-style buildings, with views of the San Jacinto mountain range. The hotel is a “hop-and-a-skip” away from The Palm Canyon Theatre.
It should come as no surprise that the entertainment capital of the world shines when it comes to the performing arts. With a ready supply of talent and temperate weather that allows for an extended season of outdoor events, the city has its own unique take on live entertainment. The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion is home to the fourth-largest opera company in the United States. It also hosts a plethora of professional music, theatre, and dance performances. The imposing and futuristic Walt Disney Concert Hall, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, counts among its residents the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale, both renowned throughout the world. At iconic outdoor venues like the Greek Theatre, the Hollywood Bowl, and the Ford Amphitheater, audiences can watch a play or listen to their favorite artist, reclined on a blanket and surrounded by a decadent picnic spread.
For a more intimate and immersive performing arts experience, Hotel Normandie is hosting The Hotel Who?, a 1930s murder mystery inspired by true historical events. Guests move from room to room while uncovering the secrets of guests from the hotel’s history, like Ardarth Ridell, the psychic who possibly knows too much, or Jesse Ruth Norman, the hotelier’s young bride. Guests who use code “CABBI” when booking online receive a 5% discount off any performance.
Where to Stay in Los Angeles: Designed and built in 1926 by famed architects Walker and Eisen, the original beauty of Hotel Normandie shines through accents of Spanish Colonial and Renaissance Revival. A multi-million-dollar renovation has elevated this Koreatown property to brand new heights, showcasing the elegance of Hollywood’s golden age while maintaining the modern luxury and contemporary comforts of a splendid boutique hotel.
San Luis Obispo
25 years ago, a unique venture between the City of San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly State University, and individual donors gave rise to The Performing Arts Center San Luis Obispo (PAC). Since then, through its focus on sweeping musicals and cutting-edge musicians, the PAC has harnessed the transformative power of performance while also becoming an important community hub. The center, located on the Cal Poly SLO campus, recently got a swanky update, including a state-of-art sound system, lighting, and seating. Several venues make up the PAC, including the majestic 1,286-seat Harold Miossi Hall and the 498-seat Alex and Faye Spanos Theatre. There’s always incredible variety in the performances on offer, with notable upcoming performances including Beethoven’s Seventh from the SLO Symphony, Carousel from OperaSLO, and the Malpaso Dance Company.
Where to Stay in San Luis Obispo County: In the heart of town, Hotel Cerro is a hip boutique hotel with a rooftop pool, spa, and restaurant. Throughout the current season, PAC audience members receive a 20% discount on lodging and a $75 food and beverage credit. South of the city, the Spanish-style Casitas of Arroyo Grande sit on a 12-acre estate overlooking vineyards and a verdant hillside.
For nearly a century since the Golden State Theatre first opened in downtown Monterey and the Carmel Music Society was founded by a group of local music lovers, the Monterey area has steadily built a reputation as a mecca for the arts. Many household-name festivals have called the area home over the years, including the Monterey Jazz Festival, the Monterey International Blues Festival, and the Carmel Bach Festival. It’s no wonder that Monterey County still has one of the busiest performing arts calendars in all of California.
The historic Sunset Center has evolved from Carmel-by-the-Sea’s first schoolhouse auditorium to the cultural heart of the Central Coast. Upcoming performers include Branford Marsalis, the Vienna Boys Choir, and a theater production of Pride & Prejudice. The center also hosts regular performances by local classical music organizations, including the Monterey Symphony.
Pacific Repertory Theatre (“PacRep”) is the only year-round professional theatre group in the Central Coast region. PacRep venues include the Golden Bough Theatre, the Circle Theatre-in-the-Round and the Outdoor Forest Theater. Performances range from Broadway musicals, comedies, and dramas to Shakespeare and the classics.
For those who desire their own place in the spotlight, Carmel Valley’s Hidden Valley, an Institute of the Arts is a rustic, 10-acre site nestled in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range. The institution focuses on music education, with a year-round curriculum that includes master classes, workshops, and camps for music students of all ages.
Where to Stay on the Monterey Peninsula: Carmel Valley Lodge is a peaceful sanctuary nestled on three acres, with views of Carmel Valley’s rolling hills. The lodge also happens to be across the street from the Hidden Valley campus (which offers commuter rates for students who would like to stay off campus).
Home to the country’s oldest ballet company and the second largest opera company in the world, San Francisco is universally hailed as a world cultural capital. During its fall and summer seasons, the San Francisco Opera enraptures audiences from the stage of the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, where opera classics like La Boheme and Madame Butterfly have been produced. The Opera House is also home to the San Francisco Ballet, which has been performing since 1933. Its popular annual Christmas presentation of The Nutcracker is but one of its many claims to fame. The renowned San Francisco Symphony performs year-round at the Davies Symphony Hall, with frequent visits from philharmonic orchestras from around the world. The American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) was founded in 1965 with an original acting company that included René Auberjonois, Peter Donat, Richard Dysart, and Michael Learned. Today the organization still produces world-class classical and contemporary theater. A.C.T. also houses a well-respected conservatory that offers an extremely competitive Master of Fine Arts degree once ranked as one of the top five graduate acting training programs in the United States. Conservatory alumni include Denzel Washington, Annette Bening, Nicolas Cage, and Danny Glover.
Where to Stay in San Francisco: With ornate wallpapers, French antiques, and old-fashioned writing desks, historic Nob Hill’s Petite Auberge is often cited as one of the most romantic boutique hotels in San Francisco. Francophiles will also appreciate the ambiance of the Cornell Hotel de France, a hideaway reminiscent of 17th and 18th-century Parisian society along the Rive Gauche.
Sonoma Wine Country
This year the Green Music Center, on the campus of Sonoma State University, is celebrating its 10-year anniversary. As a cornerstone of Sonoma State University’s commitment to the arts, the center serves as home to the Sonoma State University Music Department, the Santa Rosa Symphony, and Sonoma Bach. The center includes the 1,400-seat Weill Hall, with a rear wall that opens to lawn seating for a unique indoor-outdoor concert experience. Upcoming performances include Party for the Green (September 16) and Jazz at Lincoln Center (September 17) with Wynton Marsalis, Beethoven Extravaganza with the Julliard String Quartet (November 20), and the Christmas in Vienna with the Vienna Boys Choir (November 27). Next year, music lovers can expect to see the Branford Marsalis Quartet and Yo-Yo Ma. Schroeder Hall is a 240-seat cathedral-like recital hall, designed specifically to accentuate instruments, organ, and voice in an intimate setting. Sonoma Bach is one of its signature music series, an exploration of the life and works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Where to Stay in Sonoma Wine Country: The Gables Wine Country Inn sits on three-and-a-half acres in the heart of Sonoma Wine Country, just three miles north of the Green Music Center. The inn’s elegant guest rooms feature 12-foot ceilings, luxurious beds, and private bathrooms with clawfoot tubs.
As both California’s capital city and the fastest-growing major city in the state, Sacramento’s reputation as a cultural hub should come as no surprise. Top-caliber performing arts groups like the Sacramento Ballet and the Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera call the city home. The Philharmonic opens October 22 with the mythical Firebird by Igor Stravinsky, and the Ballet kicks off its 68th season with a Beer & Ballet performance sponsored by Sacramento’s own Bike Dog Brewing Company. A diverse collection of performance venues dot the city, including the historic Memorial Auditorium and the SAFE Credit Union Performing Arts Center. Golden1 Center draws A-list musical performers from all over the world, and a plethora of theaters showcases productions ranging from independent shows to classics from Broadway Sacramento. Up next for Broadway Sacramento is a production of Come from Away, a New York Times critics’ pick that tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded passengers and the small town in Newfoundland that welcomed them.
Where to Stay in Sacramento: The Delta King Hotel is an authentic paddlewheel riverboat, revived to its former glory and moored along the Old Sacramento Waterfront. Originally built in 1927, The boat has been restored and converted into a 44-room boutique hotel, with one-of-a-kind facilities for riverfront dining and nightlife.
Tuolumne County is one of the most popular regional theatre destinations in California, boasting more than 20 plays and over 400 performances per year. Thanks to incredible local talent and a steady influx of visiting actors and directors from the likes of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, options for live theater in the area are both plentiful and of high quality. Sierra Repertory Theatre (Sierra Rep) in Sonora consistently earns ovations from audiences and the press alike, with top ratings for artistic and management excellence from the California Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Sierra Rep performs at its original East Sonora Theatre, as well as the Historic Fallon House Theater in Columbia State Historic Park.
Now playing at the Fallon House is Dogfight, the story of a young soldier who learns the power of compassion when he plays a cruel joke on an unsuspecting girl. Starting November 3, Elf the Musical (based on the beloved holiday film) follows Buddy the Elf in his quest to find his true identity.
Where to Stay in Tuolumne County: McCaffrey House Bed and Breakfast Inn is a welcoming three-story B&B in a quiet forest hollow near Twain Harte. The rustic mountain town sits at an elevation of 4,000 feet and was named for two American authors, Mark Twain and Bret Harte, who both wrote stories about the region during the California Gold Rush.