The Gaslamp Quarter is a historic district in downtown San Diego, known for its vibrant nightlife scene. With over 16 blocks of clubs, bars, restaurants, and entertainment venues, no trip to San Diego is complete without visiting Gaslamp Quarter.

Gaslamp Quarter is a rectangular area bounded by Broadway and K streets between 4th and 6th. Today it is registered on the National Register of Historic Places as "Gaslamp Quarter Historic District."

Fun Fact: Gaslamp was jokingly referred to as "Rabbitville" due to the failed attempts to build a city by the Bay.

In addition to the many swanky cocktail lounges that draw today's Millennials and Gen-Xers, the Gaslamp Quarter has something for all ages with its numerous museums and vibrant theater scene.

The Spreckels and Balboa theaters offer diverse musical programs and theatrical performances for the entire family. Special events include Mardi Gras in the Gaslamp, the Street Scene Music Festival, Taste of Gaslamp, and the Beach's St. Patrick Day's ShamROCK.

Gaslamp has chain restaurants alongside unique shops and eateries with many global options.

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Gaslamp History

The Quarter got its name due to the 50-plus gas lamps used to light the San Diego streets. Many old gas lamps survived and still reside on the main street sidewalks.

The District competed with the Old Town neighborhood to see which area would rise in popularity. In 1867 city developer Alonzo Horton (later known as the father of San Diego) purchased 960 acres of New Town and surrounding land to create a new city epicenter close to the beach. He chose 5th Avenue as the main street. The area underwent an urban renewal in the 1980s and 1990s.

Amidst modern-day skyscrapers and old-fashioned buildings, classical Victorian homes and landmarks give the area its charm. Many of the original buildings are now museums, hotels, and bars.

view of gaslamp quarter street at night in san diego

photo credit: Gaslamp Quarter via Facebook

Photo Alert: Snap a shot under the legendary Gaslamp Arched Sign at the southern end of 5th Avenue where it overlooks Harbor Drive, in the "Historic Heart of San Diego."

In the early 1900s, San Diego was considered a wild west town when outlaw turned lawman Wyatt Earp took up residence. At the time, Earp ran three gambling halls. Then from the 1950s to the 1970s, the Gaslight District became an entertainment center for navy sailors.

In 1970 restoration began to preserve the Gaslamp Quarter's historic landmarks.

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Attractions and Sights in Legendary Gaslamp Quarter

Exterior view of the Gaslamp Museum at the Davis Horton House behind a fence in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit:
Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House via Facebook

Gaslamp Museum at the Davis Horton House & Museum

This house dates back to 1850 and is the oldest building in the District. In addition, the House is home to the Neighborhood Historical Foundation. Tours are available by staff in period-piece attire.

Bum and Greyfriars Bobby Bronze Statues

These local canine celebrities reside behind the Gaslamp Museum. Bum, a beloved St. Bernard that arrived by steamboat in 1886 as a stowaway, went on to lead the city's parades and greet dignitaries. Policeman John Gray owned Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier from Scotland who accompanied Gray on his daily rounds. Bobby slept by Gray's grave for over 14 years when Gray died.

Fun Fact: The Dave-Horton House & Museum is touted by many as the most haunted house in the Gaslamp Quarter. Even the Biography Channel featured a ghost story segment on the museum. Additionally, Haunt World Magazine named it one of America's top 13 haunted houses.

Chuck Jones Gallery

This gallery showcases the works of artist Chuck Jones and displays his sketches, prints, and sculptures. Jones is the creator of many Looney Tunes and Warners Brothers characters like the Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, Bugs Bunny, and Daffy Duck.

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Interior view of the seats and stage at the Balboa Theatre in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Balboa Theatre via Facebook

Balboa Theater

Built in 1924, the Balboa Theater featured contemporary films produced in Mexico City. In World War II, the upstairs housed officers and sailors. After being closed for many years, the theater reopened in 2002 after undergoing a $26.5 million renovation.

5th Avenue

This street is the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter and the town's original main thoroughfare.

San Diego Chinese Historial Museum

San Diego's historic Chinatown is an eight-block district that overlaps with the Gaslamp Quarter. Visit the museum to learn more about the 22 buildings in the area and their historical relevance.

The Museum of Contemporary Art

Another famed attraction close to the Gaslamp Quarter is this fine arts museum located on Kettner Boulevard.

Pro Tip: Book a Gaslamp Walking Tour: See the houses, historic buildings, shops, and restaurants on an amazing Gaslamp Quarter Walking Tour of this historic town by the Bay.

Gaslamp Quarter Nightlife

Gaslamp's reputation precedes itself. The neighborhood continues to thrive with history and streets lined with entertainment.

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Horton Plaza Park

Named after the founding father Alonzo Horton, this quaint park is perfect for stopping on one of the many grassy lawns for ice cream or coffee. The park also features an interactive fountain for the little ones.

Historic Buildings

Some of the District's highlights include the Yuma Building on 5th Avenue with its Art Deco design. This Victorian building is a three-story structure with two spires and protruding windows. Today it hosts several cultural events.

Another distinguished brick building on 5th Ave is the Nesmith-Greely Building, built in 1888. This architectural landmark is now a private apartment complex.

View looking up at the historic Louis Bank of Commerce in Gaslamp Quarter with a blue sky behind it in San Diego, California, USA

photo credit: Mary Cook via Facebook

Art Deco lovers need to check out the Louis Bank of Commerce, built in 1888, with classic Baroque architecture with elaborate turrets.

Fun Fact: A red-light district emerged in the Gaslamp area in the early 1900s due to the many gambling halls, bars, and brothels earning the town of ill-repute the nickname "Stingaree." A police sting allegedly arrested 138 women and sent them packing back east.

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