Gaslamp Quarter Attractions and Nightlife


Location: Downtown San Diego (Gaslamp Quarter)

Features: Shopping, Restaurants, Nightlife, Performing Arts, Historical Tours

Gaslamp Entrance from the Convention CenterGaslamp Highlights: Everything between 4th and 6th Avenues, going from the Convention Center to Broadway (16-block area) is part of the Gaslamp Quarter. This is the main downtown area for dining, shopping, and nightlife. You may hear it referred to as the Gaslamp District, but officially, it is known as the Gaslamp Quarter.

It’s a large area brimming with crowds on weekends and often on weekdays when there is a big convention in town or the San Diego Padres baseball team has a home game. There are also numerous attractions within walking distance of the Gaslamp Quarter.

East Village area around Petco Park
Visitors will find more nightlife options to the east of the Gaslamp, stretching to Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. This newer area is between 7th and 10th Avenues and is called East Village, which is home to more restaurants, bars, hotels and condo towers. To the south is the Convention Center and a number of convention hotels, which face out to the San Diego Bay and Coronado. Heading west, you will run into the Horton Plaza Shopping Mall, which is located between 1st and 4th Avenues. After that, you will come across a fairly small business and government district, which finally leads you to the daytime tourist attractions along San Diego Harbor.

Irish Pub in the GaslampGaslamp Restaurants

Whether you are looking to host a large party or want a romantic dinner, you will find something to fit your needs in the Gaslamp Quarter. There are over 120 restaurants in the Gaslamp and dozens more nearby. The Gaslamp Quarter Association web site maintains a full list of Gaslamp restaurants, which you can sort by type of cuisine. Among the listings, you will find seafood restaurants like McCormick’s and Schmicks, several top notch steakhouses, including the all-you-can-eat Brazilian Churrasco, international restaurants such as the Bondi Australian Pub, and plenty of Italian restaurants. If you are early for dinner, try out one of the Happy Hour Specials posted on the Gaslamp Quarter Association’s web site.

Horton Plaza next to the GaslampAdjacent to the Gaslamp Quarter is the Horton Plaza Mall where you will find an extensive food court and fine-dining restaurants.

Across Broadway from Horton Plaza are a few restaurants that are popular for the theatre crowds looking for upscale dining. They include The Westgate Room in the Westgate Hotel, the award winning Grant Grill in the U.S. Grant Hotel, and Dobson’s Bar and Restaurant, a long-time favorite for city business leaders and politicians.

Nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter Association web site also maintains great guides for evening entertainment in the Gaslamp. If you don’t find what you are looking for in the links below, gaslamp-districttry the After Dark Guide, which includes such things as casual bars and late night eateries. You can also check out the cafes and bars in East Village.

Nightclubs & Lounges – Get brief descriptions and details on special events at 20+ clubs in the Gaslamp Quarter. To give you some ideas, you could enjoy Spanish Tapas and go Salsa Dancing at Cafe Sevilla, compete with the Dueling Pianos at the Shout! House, party on the Pool Deck at the Hard Rock Hotel, check out the scene from the four-level night club in the Ivy Hotel, or look for celebrities at the exclusive Stingaree.

Live Music – There are well over a dozen options to enjoy live music in the Gaslamp Quarter. You can enjoy live Jazz music at Croce’s (owned by Ingrid Croce, the widow of Jim Croce whose claim to fame includes ‘Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown’), take in classic rock music and intentionally rude service at Dick’s Last Resort, or watch Irish dancing at The Field (an actual pub shipped over from Ireland and home bar to American Idol star Carly Smithson).

House of Blues in the GaslampShopping – You will find dozens of shops on the streets of the Gaslamp, including Adidas, Borders, Lucky Brand, and Oakley. If you don’t find what you are looking for on the streets of the Gaslamp, the adjacent Horton Plaza Shopping Mall offers 100 more stores, including major stores like Nordstroms and Macy’s. Horton Plaza is also a tourist friendly location where visitors can find assistance from the mall concierge center, obtain items they forgot to pack from Longs Drug Store or pick up some film or camera accessories at the Ritz Camera Shop.

Movies in the Gaslamp

With all of the restaurants and nightlife in the Gaslamp Quarter, you may wonder why someone would want to watch a movie in the Gaslamp. Movie theaters in the Gaslamp are a perfect place to enjoy a romantic date after a nice dinner or to escape the mass of people on the sidewalks. There are two movie theaters with a total of 21 screens just three blocks away from one another. You get a great selection of movies and show times as well as small movie crowds.

Movie Theatres in the Gaslamp

Performing Arts

  • Balboa Theatre – The newest performing arts theatre in downtown San Diego hosts a variety of performances developed by production companies around the world as well as productions created by Broadway San Diego and the California Ballet.
  • Ice cream in the Gaslamp

  • Civic Theatre – The largest performing arts theatre in San Diego is home to one of the top 10 opera companies in the country. It also hosts musical performances by pop stars, visiting symphonies, and productions from Broadway San Diego and the California Ballet.
  • Horton Grand Theatre – This intimate theatre with only 230 seats is home to long running, crowd pleasing musicals.
  • Lyceum Theatre – The underground Lyceum Theatre is home to the progressive San Diego Repertory Theatre and the contemporary San Diego Ballet.
  • Copley Symphony Hall – An original Fox Theatre that was home to Walt Disney’s Movie Premiers is now home to the San Diego Symphony, which performs over 100 concerts a year.

gaslamp-quarter-1Historical Attractions in the Gaslamp

The Gaslamp District came alive in the late 19th century. Visionaries William Heath Davis and Alonzo Horton led the way to move the center of San Diego from its original beginnings in Old Town to its current location next to the San Diego Bay. You can learn more the remarkable stories of these visionaries at the William Heath Davis House Museum.

As the city grew, the area became a large attraction for immigrants from Asia up until the early 20th century. You can learn more about their contributions to the development of San Diego in the Asian Pacific Historic District, which is runs between Horton Plaza and the Convention Center.

Fountain near the Gaslamp DistrictDuring the mid 20th century, the Gaslamp became a hot spot for black entertainers, such as Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole, and a refuge for black citizens just before desegregation took hold. Learn more about this history by taking a Harlem of the West walking tour that starts in East Village.

The varied cultures that occupied the Gaslamp area since its beginning has led to an eclectic mix of building architecture that still exists today amid all of the new development. Explore these architectural gems by taking a tour of Historical Buildings in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Information on Visiting the Gaslamp Quarter

Trolley stop for the Gaslamp and Convention CenterDirections from Google Maps to 324 Horton Plaza in San Diego, CA 92101. (This places you at Horton Plaza, which is adjacent to the Gaslamp Quarter. Read the Parking information below for more details.)

Parking – Street parking is free everyday after 6PM and all day on Sundays. (Look for signs noting any exceptions.) During the daytime, parking costs about $1.25 per hour with the street parking meters.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to find an available spot on the streets during the evenings. There are a number of parking lots around the Gaslamp that typically charge about $10 for the evening.

Late night traffic in the Gaslamp QuarterIf you plan to leave the Gaslamp before 9PM, the Horton Plaza Parking Garage is a good option. Parking tickets can be validated for three hours of free parking at kiosk machines in the mall. Note that validations can only be used from 7AM – 9PM, except when you get a validation from the Horton Plaza establishments that have extended hours. (Check the parking signs at the garage entrance regarding any changes.) Otherwise, the normal rate is typically $8 per hour. You can enter the Horton Plaza parking garage at the intersection of 4th Avenue and F Street or at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and G Street. (These are all one-way streets.) Pay attention to where you parked. The Horton Plaza garage is a maze. Each parking level has separate areas signified by a fruit or vegetable painted on the walls to help you remember where you parked.

Traffic – Getting in and out of downtown using highways I-5, SR-163, and SR-94 is relatively easy. Downtown San Diego is not a major employment center and thus there is very little rush hour traffic. Watch for slower traffic on the I-5 where it does a tight S-curve through downtown San Diego near the SR-163 interchange. When heading southbound on SR-163, stay to the left side unless you want to get on the I-5. (You will encounter a slight delay getting on the I-5 from SR-163.) You will also encounter a slight delay on SR-163 going into downtown when there is an event at Petco Park. If the San Diego Padres play a daytime game, it usually start at 1:05PM. Otherwise, games start at 7:05PM. Even though traffic backs up a little on SR-163, it continues to move along. When leaving downtown, remember that:

  • 1st Avenue will get you to the I-5 North,
  • 11th Avenue will get you to SR-163 and the I-5 North,
  • E & J Streets will get you to the I-5 South, and
  • G Street will get you to SR-94.

The traffic lights on these streets are synchronized and will generally move you along without delay. (Learn how to get the latest highway traffic updates.)

Once you are downtown, you will find most of the streets are one-way, on an alternating basis. (You can see them if you zoom in on Google Maps.) Broadway, which runs along the north side of Horton Plaza, and Market Streets are both two-way streets running east-west. You will find that at several intersections you are not allowed to make a left turn off of Broadway or Market. Thus, if you need to make a left turn, it is often better to use a one-way street rather than Broadway and Market Streets. For the other streets running along the outside of Horton Plaza, Fourth Avenue is a one-way street heading south, First Avenue is a one-way street heading north, and G Street is a one-way street heading east.

All of the streets downtown move along quite well. The only exceptions are 4th and 5th Avenues through the Gaslamp Quarter in the evenings and around Petco Park before and after events. One other exception is crossing train tracks that run along Harbor Drive in front of the Convention Center. You can cross over the train tracks at Market, Front, 1st, and 5th. Sometimes, freight trains block the latter few crossover streets. If you see them sitting still, it means they are checking their brakes, so it could take a while. Don’t wait. Move farther north towards Market Street to cross over the tracks.

Transit – Both the Blue and Orange Trolley Lines move through Downtown San Diego and get you within four blocks of most attractions. Both lines stop at the Fifth Avenue station, which is one block north of Broadway and the Gaslamp Quarter. The Orange line also stops at the Gaslamp Quarter station, which is at the south end of Fifth Avenue and the Gaslamp Quarter in front of the Convention Center. (See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map, Trolley Schedule and information for the online Transit Planner.)

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *Top San Diego Attractions*, Communities, Gaslamp Quarter, Music Museums & Venues, Performing Arts, Unique Shopping Venues, Watch Movies |

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