Listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1980, the famous Gaslamp Quarter comprises a section of downtown San Diego eight blocks long between Broadway and Harbor Drive and two blocks wide from Fourth to Sixth Avenues. Gathered here are more than 400 retail shops, galleries, restaurants, coffeehouses, clubs, hotels, markets, and more, providing residents and visitors with convenient access to all of the goods and services they could possibly desire.
The Gaslamp Quarter has been a focus of San Diego development since 1850. Some of the city's first residences were built here, as was the town's first bank and its first public theater - the 400-seat Horton Grand Hall, still functioning today. In the 1880s, retired lawman Wyatt Earp ran three gambling halls here, as the area attracted gamblers and prostitutes alike. Until the bordellos closed down in 1912, the old red-light district was known as Stingaree, named after a fierce stingray fish found in San Diego Bay.
The Gaslamp Quarter retained its character as a neighborhood of ill-repute before and after World War Two. It became home to dozens of tattoo parlors, tawdry bars, pawn shops, locker clubs, peep shows, massage parlors, and adult bookstores. It was a much favored R&R stop for Navy personnel.
Then, in 1974, San Diego's leaders and business community decided to rehabilitate the Gaslamp Quarter. The city council put up $100,000 for extensive renovations, starting with restoration of the Buel-Town Company Building, which today houses the Old Spaghetti Factory. Within two years, the entire area was transformed, setting the stage for a vibrant new downtown commercial zone.
The noteworthy Gaslamp District Archway was installed at Fifth Avenue and L Street in 1988, featuring neon, incandescent, and fluorescent light fixtures. It still serves as an icon, symbolic of the city's commitment to urban renewal.
For shopping, there are now no fewer than 82 outlets offering accessories, apparel, art, autos/ bikes, books / music, crafts, gifts, and hardware. There are shops for hats, home furnishings, jewelry, personal services, pets, shoes/athletic footwear, tobacco, travel, and wine/spirits. As homage to the past, three pawnshops can be found here, too.
With 128 places to choose from for dining, no one ever need go hungry in the Gaslamp Quarter. Among the many international cuisines represented here are American, Asian, California, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Mediterranean, Mexican, and Persian, to name a few. There are sports bars, breweries, steakhouses, wine bars, cafys and delicatessens. Their eclectic menus range from local seafood and creative pizzas to imported coffees and mouthwatering desserts.
The Gaslamp Quarter guide lists 53 different spots for entertainment, including jazz bars, Irish pubs, live theatre, nightclubs, a multiplex cinema and a haunted hotel. Some 22 venues offer lodgings, ranging from major hotels to hostels and single room occupancy boarding houses. For business services, there are 118 providers, covering everything from accounting, website design, and legal aid to security guards, real estate, and health and fitness opportunities. Among visitor services available are travel agencies, tour operators, day spas, event planners, and more.
The Gaslamp Quarter Association, which oversees events and businesses here, has its offices at 614 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, California 92101. To get to the Gaslamp Quarter from I-5 South, take the Front Street/Civic Center Exit and follow Front Street twelve blocks to Market Street. Turn left on Market to Fifth and you will be at the heart of everything. The San Diego Trolley also runs here from the Mexican border, South Bay, East County, Old Town or Mission Valley. Plenty of parking can be found in nearby parking lots and garages; street-side metered parking is free on Sundays.