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San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter

San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter

This historic neighborhood in downtown San Diego teems with modern spots for sipping, supping, and socializing

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Soak up the ambience of San Diego’s frontier years in the Gaslamp Quarter, a downtown district anchored by Horton Plaza Park’s outdoor entertainment hub. Illuminated by glowing ornate lamps that line the sidewalks, these 16 blocks were once a rough-and-tumble neighborhood rife with gambling houses and opium dens. But that was back in 1880. Today the cultural district is honored on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Gaslamp’s handsomely restored Victorians are packed with restaurants, theaters, and nightlife venues. Just minutes away from downtown San Diego is Balboa Park, home to more than 15 museums, hiking trails, performing arts venues, and the must-see San Diego Zoo.

Gaslamp Quarter Attractions

The lamps are powered by electricity now, but their old-time charm remains. Discover this neighborhood’s bawdy history at the Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House, an 1850 saltbox house that’s downtown’s oldest building. For a different perspective on the past, learn about the lives of the Gaslamp’s Chinese immigrants at the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum.

Then stroll down Fifth Avenue to survey Victorian landmarks. Admire the 1882 Yuma Building, a terracotta-colored Italianate gem crowned by twin spires, and the grandiose Louis Bank of Commerce, a four-story Baroque Revival built in 1888.

While on Fifth, pick up surf wear, sandals, and San Diego Padres’ gear at Gaslamp Garage, the city’s largest gift shop and the only one decked out like a 1950s service station. Browse the sun hats at Goorin Bros. (inside the Yuma Building) or get a sweets fix at It’Sugar. And of course, snap some photos by Horton Plaza’s 1910 fountain and its much newer counterpart, an interactive water installation that springs from the ground, splish-splashing to the beat of popular songs.

Gaslamp Quarter Restaurants

Fifth and Market is the epicenter for Gaslamp eateries. In the morning hours, linger over pumpkin waffles or peanut butter French toast at Café 222. Taste San Diego’s next-level seafood at Lionfish inside Pendry San Diego. Dine on New American favorites (wild boar Bolognese, shrimp and grits) and sip craft libations at Rustic Root's indoor-outdoor rooftop venue.

For hearty burgers, sliders, and salads that go way beyond typical pub fare, visit the brick-walled dining room at Werewolf. Craving top-tier tacos? La Puerta has them, plus dozens of tequilas and a DJ spinning tunes.

Gaslamp Quarter Theaters

Within easy walking distance are three spots to catch a show: The velvet-draped stage of the 240-seat Horton Grand Theatre presents Broadway-style musicals in an intimate setting. On Fourth Avenue, the grand-and-glorious 1924 Balboa Theatre hosts concerts, plays, and live performances. At Horton Plaza, Lyceum Theatres’ two stages showcase diverse programs of music and drama, including thought-provoking performances by the San Diego Repertory Theatre

Gaslamp Quarter Nightlife

The Gaslamp Quarter’s historic vibe adds a cool counterpoint to its buzzing bar scene. At cocktail hour, head to rooftop lounges for dazzling city views. Nab your spot by the fire pit at The Nolen, or plan a classy date-night 22 stories above the city at Altitude Sky Lounge. For an elevated martini in a below-ground space, visit speakeasy-style Ginger’s Lounge, tucked beneath the popular eatery Barleymash.

For a rollicking night out, book a VIP experience with table service at Sevilla Nightclub, then dance till you drop to high-energy sounds. Or join the stylishly dressed clubgoers at Side Bar, where a theatrical LED wall and high-drama decor beg for Instagram stardom.

Where to Stay in the Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp’s myriad hotel options range from the 1886 Horton Grand Hotel, a four-story beauty overflowing with Victorian opulence, to the industrial-sleek Moxy or ultra-cool Hotel Z.  You can also blend old with new: Both the Andaz San Diego and San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter offer sleek, modern rooms in early-20th-century buildings.

In the heart of the Gaslamp, the luxurious Pendry San Diego delivers glittering views of the San Diego skyline, six bars and eateries, and the pampering Spa Pendry. A few blocks away, the contemporary Hotel Indigo caters to a hip crowd with condo-style rooms and a rooftop bar overlooking downtown and Petco Park.

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