The Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego is an upscale playground for those seeking sizzling nightlife. From sidewalks where buzzing crowds spill out onto the brick-lined streets to world-class clubs, music venues, bars and restaurants- excitement virtually electrifies the air. In contrast to the trendy clubs and the flashy people, the Gaslamp neighborhood reflects San Diego’s relaxed attitude in its sweet candy-colored Victorian architecture, real gaslamp-lit streetlights and its brick sidewalks.
The best way to reach the Gaslamp is by trolley because you can avoid the congestion and the high parking fees. After debarking at the Gaslamp Quarter Station walk north on Fifth Avenue until you reach the Gaslamp Quarter sign arching over the street. If debarking the trolley at the Fifth Avenue Station walk south along Fifth to the sign.
The best part about the Gaslamp Quarter is the scale of the neighborhood; there are dozens of quality options for dining, drinking and dancing packed into a couple of easily walkable blocks.
There are countless restaurants to try and flavors to suit any palate, from seafood to steakhouses, Italian, Thai, Persian and more. Highly recommended is Lou & Mickey’s on the west side of the Gaslamp sign. For steak this restaurant can’t be beat. Voted “Best Cuisine” by the San Diego Taste of Gaslamp awards in 2006, this steakhouse is famous for its 40’s-style dining room and friendly service. Cuts include strip steak, rib-eye, filet mignon and the “baseball” cut culotte steak. Surprisingly varied, the menu also offers seafood, pasta, sandwiches, chicken and a “lite-dinner” section. Try the house salad, roasted beet salad with toasted goat cheese, and imbibe from the cocktail menu to get the evening started.
After dinner take your pick of live entertainment. Catch a concert at the House of Blues at the north end of Fifth Street or walk north two blocks crossing Market Street and Broadway to the House of Blues. Live bands are featured nearly every night and on weekends they often book major headliners.
If a high-energy comedy show is more your style, from Lou & Mickey’s walk a block west to Fourth Avenue, turn right and walk north past J Street to the Horton Grand Theater. Triple Espresso, a comedic performance featuring three experienced actors runs here year-round from Wednesday through Sunday. The act features music, singing, mime and magic in a hilarious string of skits and jokes. Truly entertaining, Triple Espresso has been given rave reviews by the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Tribune.
Next, check out some of the local clubs and music mixed by local live DJs. Clubs in the Gaslamp are on the expensive side as are the drinks, but the vibe and decor in several clubs can rival that of Miami Beach or New York. Depending on your budget you have many choices. Club-hop or call ahead to reserve a table at your club of choice (called Bottle Service, averaging $100 and up for each reservation and includes drink service). Aiming for a frugal but still entertaining evening? Consider heading to one club for the early-bird cover.
There are several spots that have all the glitz and energy of Vegas; one to try: the Onyx Room, a hyper-trendy nightclub with DJs and dancing Thursday through Saturday nights and live jazz on Tuesdays. The cover charge also gives you access to THIN, a well-decorated lounge and bar
Tucked away off the main strip on the corner of Fourth and Island Avenue, just north of the Horton Grand Theater, Aubergine can be hard to find. The top-rated restaurant and night club can fit up to 1000 people and is open Thursday thru Saturday. Also visit their lounge for signature saketinis and sushi.
Sin, a new club that opened in early 2007 boasts a huge dance floor of 6,800 square feet providing plenty of room to boogie down Thursday through Saturday nights. Sin has a vibrant atmosphere complete with a full bar and bottle service and on occasion, gogo dancers.
Ready for some late night munchies? Several restaurants stay open late offering a place to wind down after a busy night such as Mr. Tiki Mai Tai Lounge. They serve creative Asian appetizers like lobster gyoza and goat cheese wontons until 2 a.m.
By now the party is winding down. But, if you don’t want to leave the excitement of the Gaslamp behind, consider checking into the ultra-posh Ivy Hotel for the night. Along with a room you get a personal butler to draw a bath or to run errands, car service in one of their two Escalades and VIP access to the Envy nightclub. Choose a room with a cityscape view or ascend to the rooftop pool and lounge named Eden, the largest rooftop space in downtown San Diego, for romantic nighttime views of the harbor, the skyline, and the ever-rocking street scene below.
What & Where:
Lou & Mickey’s (224 Fifth Avenue; 619-237-4900)
House of Blues (1055 Fifth Avenue; 619-299-2583)
Triple Espresso at the Horton Grand Theater (444 Fourth Avenue; 619-234-9583)
Onyx Room (852 5th Avenue; 619-235-6699)
Aubergine (500 4th Avenue; 619-232-8100)
Sin Niteclub (802 6th Avenue; 619-234-4746)
The Ivy Hotel (600 F Street; 619-814-1000)
Mr. Tiki Mai Tai Lounge (801 5th Ave; 619-233-1183)
San Diego Trolley information (http://www.sdcommute.com)
Gaslamp Quarter information (http://www.gaslamp.org ) For driving directions, a walking map, insider parking tips and business directories.
How to Get There by Trolley:
Ride the San Diego Trolley to the Gaslamp from the Mexican border, South Bay, East County, Old Town or Mission Valley by simply choosing the station where you’d like to board and parking there.
There are 4 lines. First, the blue trolley line runs from San Ysidro on the U.S./Mexico border to the Gaslamp; get off at the Fifth Avenue Station at the north end of the Gaslamp Quarter and walk south down 5th Street through the heart of the Gaslamp.
The green line starts in northern San Diego and turns into the blue line as it heads south. You’ll get off at the Fifth Avenue Station.
The orange line runs from East San Diego County and you will disembark at the Fifth Street Station as well.
The red line starts at Hotel Circle and hits most of the tourist stops including Qualcomm Stadium and Old Town. The red line will drop you off at the south end of Fifth Avenue. The trolley provides late night service; see their website below for station locations and timetables.
About the Photographer: Joanne DiBona is the Communications Manager for the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau and serves as the official photographer and writer for the tourism marketing association. She is also a widely-published travel writer and photographer. Her images of the San Diego region have appeared in travel publications and on websites around the world. When not capturing the beauty of her San Diego home on camera, she enjoys traveling the world together with her husband and fellow photographer, Tony. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org