Gaslamp District - San Diego

Nineteenth Century Charm Persists in San Diego's Gaslamp

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego
••• Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego. LeandroNeumann Ciuffo/Ficlkr/CC BY 2.0

San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter is one of the city's oldest neighborhoods and one of its best-known. But what is it exactly? First off, it's an area with a lot of architectural charm. Its streets lined with nineteenth-century buildings restored to their original exuberance. Restaurants, shops, and clubs occupy former brothels and saloons.

A random walk will give you a sense of the place, and it's only a few blocks in each direction - enjoy the lovely buildings, do a little shopping and have a meal.

What's the Big Deal About the Gaslamp District?

San Diego's Gaslamp District draws visitors to its shops, restaurants and night clubs. You'll find boutique shops offering interesting wares alongside t-shirt shops and souvenir-sellers, and Horton Plaza is the local shopping center. When energy fails, you'll find more than 70 restaurants and clubs to refuel at.

San Diegans may not heap quite as much disdain on it as San Franciscans do on Fisherman's Wharf, but fewer and fewer residents find their way to the area. That makes it very touristy, a place where a lot of the visitors are attending a convention nearby.

For a deeper look into the Gaslamp's roots, take a self-guided guided walking tour from the William Heath Davis House at 410 Island Avenue (Fourth and Island).

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.

Should you go or not? That depends. If you're one of those convention-goers, it's a nice place to walk around and easy to get to when you have a little free time. If you like architecture, it's worth a visit to see the gorgeous, well-restored old buildings. If you're looking for a really great meal, you'll be better off to go somewhere else.

And depending on your likes and dislikes, you may want to avoid the crowds that fill the sidewalks on weekend nights. 

Gaslamp District History

The San Diego Gaslamp District got a slow start. The city's earliest residents shunned 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 primary inhabitants. In 1867, entrepreneur Alonzo Horton built a new downtown near the water, and soon the area was booming. Gamblers and prostitutes moved in. The legendary (but by then retired) Old West sheriff Wyatt Earp ran three gambling halls here. Over the years, stores moved toward Market Street, and all that remained was a red-light district known as the Stingaree. The Gaslamp District languished for many years before its current renaissance.

Practicalities

Public restrooms are located at the corner of Third and C Streets.

There are lots of restaurants in this small area. Unfortunately, a full restaurant is not 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 to do 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. 

Where Is the Gaslamp District Located?

San Diego Gaslamp District
San Diego, CA
Gaslamp District Website

The Gaslamp District is located 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'll find plenty of ways to get there:

  • If you're at the Convention Center, walk across Harbor Blvd. at 5th Avenue - you'll be facing the entry arch.
  • If you're at Seaport Village, walk away from the waterfront on Kettner Blvd., crossing Harbor Blvd. and turning right onto G Street. You'll be there in a few blocks.
  • Take the San Diego Trolley to Gaslamp Station or 5th Avenue Station.
  • Hail a pedicab (an open-topped, bicycle-powered vehicle). They charge a flat fee for a point-to-point trip, and rates are somewhat negotiable when they're not busy.
  • If you're using a GPS system, set it to 207 5th Avenue, which is at the entry archway. You'll find a 550-space parking garage at Sixth and Market.