[ Dining & Nightlife ]

Your Expert Guide to Exploring the Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter is one of my favorite areas in San Diego. The restaurants, lounges, shops, theaters, galleries, and nightclubs can keep me busy year-round. There is always excitement in the air, and its proximity to the Convention Center and Petco Park means that many people from all walks of life frequent the streets of the historic district.

A Rich History
As you walk down 5th Ave., make sure to look up and notice the beautiful Victorian-era buildings that line the street. The 16½ blocks of the Gaslamp are adorned with over 90 registered historic buildings, making the overall vibe of the neighborhood rich and quaint. The buildings date back to the 1870s, and I often wonder what the walls would say if they could speak. The area used to be home to San Diego’s first port, catering to American sailors from the East Coast who were anticipating the arrival into San Diego since it was the first American and English-speaking port they saw in over 100 days! The area used to be littered with opium dens, saloons, gambling parlors and brothels, making it one of the largest red light districts of the West. If you’re interested in the scandalous details of the Gaslamp Quarter history, I would suggest joining a tour. Brothels, Bites and Booze is a tour I created out of the love and respect I have for the neighborhood. It’s a walking, history and food tasting tour that introduces some fascinating stories of the past and four local restaurants.

So Many Restaurants, So Little Time
There are over 100 bars and restaurants in the Gaslamp Quarter, which means there is something for everybody when it comes to dining out. Looking for fine dining? Check out Osetra Fish House, where wine angels that hang from the ceiling try to snatch your bottle from the iconic wine wall. Or head over to Bice Ristorante: an Italian restaurant that is known for their very special cheese bar! If you’re a gastro-pub type of person, you can get some delicious food and local craft beer at the Hopping Pig, Barleymash, or Union Kitchen and Tap. And for the swanky and trendy individuals, order up sushi and Asian-inspired dishes at Bang Bang as you listen to electronic beats pouring out of the speakers. Searsucker is another trendy spot. Stop in here for the Peter Rabbit cocktail and Pork Butt with whisky sour apples and bacon emulsion.

Night Time in the Gaslamp Quarter
After satisfying your appetite, you may want to indulge in some of the many nightlife activities such as going to a comedy show at The American Comedy Co., snacking on home-made cupcakes at Heavenly Cupcake, or dancing the night away at FLUXX or Moonshine Flats. With so many things to do within a few blocks, it’s easy to see why so many people come here for birthday celebrations, bachelor/ette parties, and weekend fun.

Under the Stars
If you love the San Diego weather, visit one of the popular rooftop lounges for some fresh air and marvelous views. Altitude Sky Lounge is the highest rooftop lounge, located on the 27th floor of the Marriott Gaslamp. Lounge Six is a popular rooftop for the locals, and Rooftop600 at the Andaz has day beds and DJs at night.

Daytime Fun
If you decide to visit during the day, make sure to head into Café 21 for a mind-blowing brunch of tiramisu pancakes or a lamb sausage cast iron omelet and one of the best Bloody Marys you’ll ever have. Once your belly is nice and full, burn off your meal as you shop along 5th Avenue, where you’ll find an array of unique boutiques and specialty shops. If you’re not in the shopping mood, browse the many art galleries of the area. My personal favorites are the Chuck Jones Gallery and Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts.

Can’t Miss Annual Events
Since the Gaslamp Quarter is such an iconic district in San Diego, many annual events happen throughout the year. A couple of notable events are Halloween in the Gaslamp and the Holiday Pet Parade, but be sure to check the events calendar at Gaslamp.org for a full list of what’s going on. Sporting events such as the Padre’s Opening Game Day and Super Bowl always draw large groups of people to the bars in the area, and the Convention Center hosts shows such as the San Diego Auto Show and Comic Con, which liven up the Gaslamp Quarter as the attendees partake in all of what the district has to offer.

San Diego has so much more than beautiful beaches and perfect weather, and the Gaslamp Quarter represents the history and flavor of the city. It’s constantly changing and growing, so be sure to set aside some time to explore this area when you’re in town.

Find out more about the Brothels, Bites & Booze Tour »
Bianca is a San Diego native and prides herself on knowledge of her city. As a professional tour guide, she offers food and drink tasting tours through her company, So Diego Tours. With 8 years in the tourism industry, she helps you make the most out of your time, money and energy in San Diego.
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