The Complete Guide to San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp District, San Diego, CA

TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon 

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Gaslamp Quarter

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, CA 92101, USA

San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, sometimes called the Gaslamp District or just the Gaslamp, is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and one of its best-known. But what is it exactly? It's an area with a lot of architectural charm. Its streets are lined with 19th-century buildings restored to their original exuberant appearance. Today's Gaslamp District is also full of restaurants, shops, and clubs that occupy former brothels and saloons.

History of the Gaslamp Quarter

The San Diego Gaslamp Quarter got a slow start. The city's earliest residents moved away from the waterfront, choosing instead to build at the elevated location of today's Old Town. An early development project near the waterfront failed so utterly that the area came to be called Rabbitville in honor of its only inhabitants. In 1867, entrepreneur Alonzo Horton built a new downtown near the water, and soon the area was booming. Gamblers and prostitutes moved in. 

Over the years, stores moved toward Market Street, and all that remained was a red-light district known as the Stingaree. The Gaslamp languished for many years before its current renaissance.

Gaslamp District
TripSavvy / Nusha Ashjaee

Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter

A random walk will give you a sense of the Gaslamp. It's only a few blocks in each direction, making it easy to enjoy the lovely buildings, do a little shopping and have a meal. It's an excellent way to visit, but you can get much more out of it if you take your time.

The Gaslamp gets much more interesting if you stop to look at the buildings and learn about their history. You might see a house built on the East Coast and shipped around Cape Horn to San Diego in the 1850s, walk past former brothels and drug dens, or see electric versions of the old gas lamps that give the area its name.

And you will be strolling down some of the same streets as the legendary Wyatt Earp, who owned gambling halls in the area and lived at the Horton Grand Hotel. Earp was listed as a capitalist (gambler) in the 1887 San Diego City Directory.

If you take a guided tour, you might learn why the neighborhood was once called the Stingaree. You can take a guided walking tour from the Gaslamp Foundation to do that. They leave from the Davis Horton House at 410 Island Avenue (Fourth and Island), home to the Gaslamp Museum.

Ghostly Tours in History offers a night-time ghost tour of the Gaslamp, a good alternative if you want to be out at night and aren't a nightclub-goer. See more spooky details on their website.

Tips for Visiting the Gaslamp Quarter

  • Public restrooms are at the corner of Third and C streets.
  • There are lots of restaurants in this small area. Unfortunately, a restaurant full of people isn't always a good place to eat in the Gaslamp. That's because many eateries spend more energy to get people in the door than they do to provide them a good value for money once they're inside. Use a practical approach to choosing one: Stroll around and preview the menus or check an app like Yelp for ratings. Or pretend to be a San Diegan and go somewhere else.

How to Get to the Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp District is in downtown San Diego near the convention center. Officially called the "Gaslamp Quarter," the rectangle-shaped, sixteen-square-block area is bounded by Broadway and K streets between Fourth and Sixth streets. You can get more information about it at the Gaslamp District Website.

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The Complete Guide to San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter