If you only have 24 hours in San Diego, your best option for both dinner and after-dinner fun is the famous Gaslight Quarter. Here, guests can immerse themselves in Victorian architecture and history, dine with world-renowned chefs, and dance the night away at nationally-recognized nightlife venues. Tucked tightly into 16 ½ blocks, the Gaslamp is a walkable urban playground located in Downtown San Diego adjacent to the Convention Center, Petco Park, and Horton Plaza. Getting here is as easy as a Southern California breeze-- the Gaslamp area is accessible via the freeway and several trolley and bus lines.
The Gaslamp Quarter is a sophisticated cosmopolitan playground for all ages. Want to take in a Padres game, a comedy show or listen to live music? Or perhaps you might enjoy one of the Gaslamp’s fine art galleries, luxuriate with a signature cocktail by a crafty mixologist, or enjoy a historic walking tour hearing the dramatic tales of the “Stingaree” neighborhood? The vast array of activities to choose from makes the Gaslamp the perfect place to play.
The Gaslamp has also been called a “delectable foodie’s paradise.” Dining choices are plenty with options for al fresco on the sidewalks or sky-high at a rooftop lounge, or an intimate meal in an ornately designed restaurant. Make a reservation at any of the high-profile restaurants featuring celebrity chefs, who create eclectic menus that will please any palate. Not only is dining in the Gaslamp a culinary journey of dishes from all over the world but Gaslamp’s restaurants range from casual to upscale. It allows baseball fans as well as romantic dates to find the perfect place to savor the day or night.
Parq at 615 Broadway is a favorite spot for both dining and nightlife. From the décor to the ambiance, to the food, Parq Restaurant delivers nothing but the best in fine dining. Dine under lighted trees and the stars in the open-air restaurant. Chef Marcus Twilegar’s mission with Parq is to create a dining experience that can be enjoyed by people on more than a special occasion basis, while still offering world-class cuisine and an experience to be remembered by his guests. The chic, romantic space and fresh innovative plates will leave a lasting impression for any occasion.
Parq Nightclub delivers the highest standard in nightlife- bringing the best of Vegas nightclubs to downtown San Diego. Parq features a 10,000 square feet main room, the largest HD LED wall on this side of the world (30 feet by 12.5 feet), aerial dancers, the industry’s best hosts, 19 VIP tables and more.
In the heart of downtown San Diego, the Gaslamp is the entry point for not only great restaurants, bars, and hotels but excellent shopping. Sixteen city blocks are filled with fascinating boutiques, national retailers, and professional services all within easy walking distance. There are now no fewer than 82 outlets offering accessories, apparel, art, autos, bikes, books, music, crafts, and gifts. There are shops for hats, home furnishings, jewelry, personal services, pets, shoes, athletic footwear, tobacco, travel, and wine/spirits. The Gaslamp Quarter definitely caters to those who would enjoy a little retail therapy.
Favorite shopping spots include Bubbles Boutique at 226 5th St. At this charming, little gem you'll find fun things that are out of the ordinary, and designer lines you won’t find anywhere else. Bubbles take pride in working directly with local artists, creating a unique and exciting shopping atmosphere and experience. When crossing the threshold of the store, you are treated to a visual smorgasbord of clothing in rich fabrics, leather and beaded handbags, a variety of hoes and boots, jazzy jewelry, and exceptional gift items.
Gaslamp has one of the most diverse cultural offerings in the nation. You’ll find top-notch theater, captivating museums, and engaging fine art galleries. Gaslamp offers a welcoming doorway to San Diego’s cultural and artistic wealth.
Ever heard of Comic-Con? How about the Major League All-Star Game? Republican National Convention? The Rolling Stones? When something big is happening in San Diego, Gaslamp is usually the front row seat. That’s because no one else offers the breadth of events, hotels and other accommodations, dining, services, and parking within easy walking distance of any major venue.
If you’re here on a Sunday, be sure to visit the Gaslamp Artisan Market on Fifth Avenue, where more than 30 local artisans offer carefully-curated homemade and unique local products. Situated in the heart of the historic Gaslamp Quarter, the market is held each Sunday from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Fifth Avenue between Market Street and J Street, near popular shops and restaurants. The Gaslamp Artisan Market is the ideal shopping destination for the creative, style-conscious consumer. Browse and shop for clothing, jewelry, and hand-crafted wood items. Pick up fresh flowers for that special someone. Or finish decorating your space with amazing locally-produced home goods.
Though the Gaslamp Quarter Association was officially chartered in 1982 by the City of San Diego under State Law, the Gaslamp Quarter’s Merchant Association goes back several decades and the historic commercial district that would become the Gaslamp Quarter began as William Heath Davis’ New Town in 1850.
In the 1880s, San Diego’s booming prosperity attracted "unscrupulous characters" seeking to take advantage of the city’s growth. These included sex workers and gamblers, including the famous (some would say, infamous) Wyatt Earp, who would go on to run three gambling halls in San Diego. Gradually, San Diego commerce began moving north of Market Street. The abandoned area to the south became a redlight district known as the “Stingaree”, a name that is said to be derived from the fierce stingray in San Diego Bay. It is said you could be stung as badly in the Stingaree as you could in San Diego Bay.
Following World War II, the suburbs outside of Downtown San Diego experienced an influx of new residents and businesses, leaving Gaslamp as the home of tattoo parlors, seedy bars, pawnshops, and locker clubs. Adult businesses, including peep shows, massage parlors, and adult bookstores, continued to converge on the Gaslamp for the next 20 to 30 years.
In the 1970s, business and property owners banded together, under the leadership of former City Councilmember Tom Hom, to petition the City Council to aid in the revitalization of the Gaslamp Quarter. The San Diego City Council provided $100,000 to rehabilitate the Gaslamp, as well as to develop design guidelines to preserve the district’s historic aesthetic. One of the first buildings to be restored was the Buel-Town Company Building (current home of the Old Spaghetti Factory). Restorations to the Pacific Hotel and Keating Building soon followed.
Today, Gaslamp has successfully transformed into a premier shopping, dining, and entertainment neighborhood. With over 200 restaurants, bars, nightclubs and lounges, boutiques, art galleries, and shops to peruse, the Gaslamp Quarter has established itself both as the playground of hip, eclectic San Diegans and as an elite urban destination.
Text and cover image courtesy of Gaslamp Quarter Association.