Harlem of the West Tours


Location: Downtown San Diego (Gaslamp Quarter)

Guided Tours: 11AM on Saturdays. (Reservations Required)

Cost: $5 (Free for Kids 16 and Under)

Features: Visit the West Coast Hangout for Legendary Jazz and Blues Musicians, including Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Nat King Cole.

San Diego’s Harlem of the West Highlights: From the mid 1920’s to the late 1940’s, the Creole Palace in the Douglas Hotel on Market Street came to be regarded as the “Cotton Club of the West”. The hotel and nightclub were both owned by African-Americans and provided refuge for blacks and whites alike during an era of segregation. The surrounding black community became known as the “Harlem of the West” and is today the subject of a PBS documentary and a focus for the San Diego Black Historical Society.

Much of the area, including the Douglas Hotel, was redeveloped in the ensuing years. A few historic buildings still remain. This guided tour will take you down memory lane to relive the early 20th century history of San Diego when it was the West Coast hot spot to a vibrant community of blues and jazz musicians and other black entertainers.

Tours start at the Museum of San Diego African American History.

What to Expect

  • Tours take about 45 Minutes.
  • The area is flat so walking should be easy for most.

Black Historical Preservation -You can learn more about the efforts to preserve the San Diego community originally known as “Harlem of the West”, view pictures from that time period, and find out where to look for plaques commemorating the history of the Douglas Hotel (Sidewalk at 2nd Avenue and Market Street) and the Clermont/Coast Hotel (Building at 7th Avenue and Island Avenue).

Food – There are dozens of food options in the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village.

Information on Taking a Harlem of the West Tour

Admission Prices: (Costs are Approximate)

  • Parking will range from $0 – $5 (See more parking information below.)
  • Tour Fee is $5 (Free for Kids 16 and Under.)
  • Advanced Reservations are Required. Call 1-619-232-1480.

Directions from Google Maps to 740 Market Street in San Diego, CA 92101.

Parking – Metered Street Parking is available in front of the Museum for the Black Historical Society of San Diego and runs about $1.25 per hour with a limit up to 2 hours. There is also a parking lot across the street that charges about $5.

Traffic – Getting in and out of downtown using highways I-5, SR-163, and SR-94 is relatively easy. 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 plays a daytime game, it usually start at 1:05PM. 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 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.

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. The Orange Line’s Gaslamp Quarter Station is 4 blocks south of the Black History Museum while the Orange and Blue Lines’ 5th Avenue Station is 5 blocks north of the Museum. See San Diego Transit Information for the downtown transit map and information for the online Transit Planner.) Walking around Downtown San Diego is easy since it is flat with the exception of the northeast corner near Cortez Hill.

Related Attractions – You may also be interested in taking guided tours in the adjacent Asian Pacific Historic District and the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Area.

Find More Attractions with Similar Themes or Location: *San Diego Tours & Sightseeing*, Ethnic Culture, Gaslamp Quarter |

Help others find things to do and see! Share your ideas.

Connect with Facebook

Or, fill in the form below:

  • Join our great San Diego Tours or Create Your Own Adventure!

    "Having trouble dreaming up the perfect trip...TourGuideTim has you covered...use his comprehensive website to design your own adventure." - Los Angeles Times
  • Translate Travel Guide

  • Search for San Diego Attractions

  • Follow-us to Explore San Diego

    TourGuideTim on Facebook     TourGuideTim on Google+ TourGuideTim on Twitter TourGuideTim on Pinterest TourGuideTim on YouTube