Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
Credit: Mary Carol Fitzgerald

How to Spend 48 Epic Hours in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter

This Buzzy Downtown District Is Perfect for a Weekend of New Experiences

When you think of San Diego, you may think of sandy beaches, fish tacos and flip-flops, but this sunny city has a lot more to offer. In the heart of downtown San Diego lies the historic and buzzy Gaslamp Quarter. This neck of the woods is known for its vibrant nightlife, Victorian-era architecture, top-rated restaurants, retail destinations and totally unique experiences. It’s the perfect place for a weekend trip—and there’s lots to cover. We’ve put together a jam-packed, 48-hour itinerary for the most epic weekend you could possibly spend down in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.



2:30 p.m. 
Lunch at Happy Does Bar

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Credit: Mary Carol Fitzgerald

The first thing you should do when arriving in the Gaslamp Quarter is head over to Happy Does Bar—a super fun restaurant and bar known for its outdoor patio with a backyard barbecue feel. It’s got picnic tables, bright yellow umbrellas, brick wall murals and an outdoor bar. They serve up all kinds of cocktails and beers, like Pacifico, and insanely delicious comfort foods like chicken tenders and corn dogs with all the dipping sauces you could dream of. They’re always streaming the latest Padres game, and they’ve got a great happy hour on Thursdays and Fridays from 3-6 p.m. If you like patio games and great vibes, this is the place to be.


4 p.m.
Check-in at Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

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The most important determinant of a great weekend is the ideal place to stay—and we’ve picked out the best there is. If you couldn’t tell by the name, the new Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter will give you that 5 o’Clock Somewhere, tropical vacation feeling. Formerly the Hotel Solamar, this San Diego hotel was blessed with a $31 million refresh—and it shows. The rooms feature all-white linens, beachy decor and plush beds you’ll want to jump right into. They offer standard rooms and specialty Studio Suites, and if you really want to go all out, their Premium King Spa Corner room boasts sweeping views of the city in almost every direction. Up on the rooftop, you’ll find a breezy restaurant and bar with live entertainment and downtown San Diego’s largest pool deck with private cabanas and plenty of room to lounge. The best part? The hotel is centrally located amidst all the best nightlife, entertainment, shops and restaurants—so you’ll be right in the middle of the action.


5:30 p.m. 
Dinner at Huntress

Credit: Sam Wells

It’s not hard to narrow down a decent steakhouse or two in the foodie mecca that is San Diego, but try finding another chop house that boasts one of the largest Japanese whiskey collections in California. Huntress takes elevated dining to a whole new level with private dining rooms, a Japanese whisky bar and a tasting room all on the second-floor Mezzanine. Every corner of this modern and chic steakhouse is accented with bold architectural embellishments that complement their exotic plates. Lobster corn dogs, seafood towers and dry-aged Wagyu are just a few plates that will have you reminiscing on this feast of flavors. Each of their bovine cuts is complemented by a regal dessert menu, including their crowned jewel, the Magic Mushroom Cake!


7:30 p.m.
Catch a show at Mad House Comedy Club

Head to Mad House Comedy Club almost any night of the week, and you’re in for a good time. With events ranging from open mic night to your favorite celebrity comedians, you can choose to go in blind or buy tickets ahead of time for those “as seen on Netflix” types. If you’re not one to plan ahead, know that GA tickets are first come, first served, so get there early to get a ticket and a good seat. It’s an intimate venue with lots of crowd interaction, a full bar and plenty of laughs.



10 a.m.
Coffee + Breakfast at Spill the Beans

Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
Credit: Spill the Beans

Armed with an adorable moniker and an even cuter interior, Spill the Beans is on a mission to show the world exactly how they should be drinking their morning coffee. Basic baes will instantly lock eyes with the Basic Sitch latte—an elevated take on a Starbucks macchiato. Coffee and cinnamon go hand in hand, and their Cinna-Bee latte hits all the right flavor notes! It’s not just the beans this coffee house is famous for. They also pride themselves on baking scratch-made bagels that pair perfectly with their flavored house-made shmears and artisan butters!



11:30 a.m. 
Visit the Gaslamp Artisan Market

Credit: Gaslamp Quarter

To walk off that yummy brunch, head over to the Gaslamp Artisan Market. Every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the market takes place just up the street from Rustic Root between Fourth and Fifth Streets. Here, local vendors and artisans gather to sell everything from clothing and accessories to pet accessories and art for your home. It’s the perfect place for a post-brunch shopping spree. Plus, you’ll be shopping locally, getting to know the people behind the products and investing in the community. It’s a no-brainer.



1 p.m. 
Explore WNDR Museum

Credit: Tyler Curtis

Once you’re all shopped out and ready for some more adventure, check out WNDR Museum, an interactive art and technology museum that truly is hard to put into words (fine, we’ll try). The entire place is one big piece of art, and you can interact with all of it. You’ll walk over a floor that lights up with your steps; you’ll snake your way through mystical hanging blue lights; you’ll get lost in a room full of mirrors and so much more. Their message is that we’re all artists, so everything you do in the museum is part of the art.


2:30 p.m.
Lunch at Rockin’ Baja Lobster

The open-air dining terrace of Rockin’ Baja Lobster is calling your name! This festive Mexican cantina brings a little bit of Baja to this side of the border with local Pacific lobsters blanketed in warm, oversized flour tortillas. Inspired by the simple lifestyle of Puerto Nuevo, it carries the heritage of its hometown through sizzling skillets, palapa platters, tacos and more. The Big Golden Sombrero Bucket is a great place to start, filled to the brim with everything from lobster tail and skirt steak to King crab clusters and Mexican street corn. Pacifico in hand, indulge in a warm, buttered lobster roll on their vibrant open-air dining terrace underneath a canopy of sunshine!


4 p.m. 
Check-in at Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego

Wedged between Seaport Village, the Convention Center and the Gaslamp Quarter, Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego gives guests the ease and luxury of a near-perfect location. Simple and sleek with a sophisticated edge, the suites at this posh San Diego hotel feature modern amenities, like plush bathrobes and blackout drapes, without compromising the comfort of that “at-home” feeling — the ocean views aren’t bad either! This waterfront hotel features seven on-site dining venues, but you can’t beat the views from Top of the Hyatt, a premier sky lounge perched 40 floors high that turns dining in the sky into a reality. But the captivating views don’t end there. The two rooftop pools feature panoramic views of the San Diego Bay, complete with private cabanas and manicured turf. You’ll want to capture all the content for Instagram at their Rooftop Cinema Club, located on the 4th floor. This open-air cocktail lounge and screening lawn creates a laid-back ambiance for movie showings with a cocktail or two underneath the San Diego sky.


5 p.m.
Play at Coin-Op Game Room

If the cornhole didn’t cut it, don’t worry; there are tons more games to be played. Head to Coin-Op Game Room after lunch to channel your inner child and have some fun. This adult arcade bar features great cocktails, draft beers and both classic and modern arcade games. Its decor gives a retro, nostalgic vibe, featuring vintage posters, neon lights and an overall ’80s and ’90s arcade aesthetic. Bust a move on Dance Dance Revolution, try your hand at Skee-Ball, or challenge your friends to some Mortal Kombat. Beware: Competition’s in the air, and it’s every man for themself.


7 p.m.
Dinner at Santa Gula

Credit: James Tran

Hidden away in a historic brick building on the other side of a red velvet curtain is the trendy nightclub and cocktail lounge fondly known as Santa Gula. This new and intimate San Diego restaurant reflects the height of the art-deco era with vintage light fixtures, marble-detailed flooring and a round live performance stage. Nightly jazz and top 40s tunes set the ambiance for a multicultural feast that captures the flavors of Mexico, Asia and Italy under the same roof. Shigoku oysters, croquetas de jamón and miso-glazed salmon forge the foundation of a five-star dinner, complemented nicely by timeless cocktails—their espresso martini, in particular.


9 p.m.
Cocktails + Live Music at Prohibition Lounge

Credit: GBOD Hospitality Group

Prohibition Lounge is the perfect place to end your night with a delicious cocktail. It’s a 1920s-themed, underground speakeasy in the Gaslamp Quarter that feels like something right out of “The Great Gatsby.” From Fifth Avenue, you’ll find a discreet door labeled Law Office. Open it up, descend the stairs and you’ll find yourself in a chic lounge with live music, a full bar and people dressed in their finest cocktail attire. Their “no cell phones at the bar” rule also really adds to the ‘20s aesthetic and creates an authentic speakeasy experience. As Gatsby says, “Can’t repeat the past? Why, of course you can!”



10 a.m. Explore Balboa Park

A vegetative oasis of culture and history, it’s all too easy to get lost among the magnificent feats of architecture, quaint coffee houses and live music venues in Balboa Park. Encompassing an impressive 1,200 acres, this beautiful park in San Diego is brought to life by cultural festivals and community events. Peruse the Japanese Friendship Garden flower beds, pick up an artisan latte from Prado Perk or tune in to a soothing musical performance at the Organ Pavillion.


12 p.m. 
Brunch at The Shout House

The Shout House had us sold at dueling pianos and bloody marys! Break for brunch at this vibrant live music venue that has boozy cereal shots, bottles of bubbles and brunch bites up and running by noon. Interactive comedy shows and dueling piano performances showcase the best music hits from the 1950s to the modern era. Put in an order for a cold brew cocktail or two and pull up a chair next to the stage for the best seats in the house. Pairing breakfast food with sweet serenades, their brunch menu ranges from cozy buttermilk biscuit sandos and breakfast potatoes to soulful smoothie bowls!


1 p.m. Catch a Padres Game

Baseball season is fully underway, and adding a San Diego Padres game to your itinerary is a must! Catch baseball’s biggest stars in action, like Fernando Tatis Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Manny Machado! Petco Park is located in the heart of Downtown San Diego and is one of our favorite stadiums to catch a ballgame. Grab something to sip on, like a Pacifico Michelada from Pacifico Porch, and be sure to try the Cardiff Tri-Tip Nachos from Seaside Market. In terms of post-game entertainment, check out this list of Padres bars in San Diego for some fellow fan camaraderie.


6 p.m.
Dinner at Union Kitchen & Tap

Union Kitchen & Tap is every bit the neighborhood hotspot of the Gaslamp Quarter. Garage-style doors open up to a refined rustic-chic kitchen adorned with black vinyl booths and reclaimed wooden accents. Live music and DJs set the ambiance for an elevated dinner at this American eatery. Farm-to-table small plates and house-made cocktails are the heart and soul of this restaurant in the Gaslamp Quarter, although we love to kick things off with an ice-cold Pacifico. To eat, begin with the skillet cornbread or blue lump crab cakes before moving on to bigger and better things like their Sterling NY strip or sweet potato ravioli. Oh, and make sure to bring your four-legged friend for a doggy dinner of their own, with a personalized pup menu that will have them jaw-dropped and drooling for sure!


8 p.m.
Karaoke at Werewolf

When was the last time you hit the stage for some karaoke? In the spirit of having so much fun today, we’re sending you to Werewolf—the best place in town to sing your heart out. Every night from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., people sign themselves up to belt their favorite tunes (Billie Eilish, Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga—you name it). If you want to zip to the front of the line, you can purchase a fast pass for $50, which comes with a round of shots for everyone you’re cutting in line. Grab that mic; we’re rooting for you!


9:30 p.m.
Nightcap at Room 56

So maybe you’ve had enough of listening to baselessly confident tone-deaf people scream into the mic—we get it. Don’t worry. We’ve got something better for the cherry on top of your perfect Gaslamp Quarter weekend. Head over to the Moxy Hotel to see what we’re talking about. Tucked away behind a secret bookcase entrance is Room 56, a ridiculously cool and exclusive speakeasy. They serve hand-crafted cocktails, and they’ll bring you interesting conversation topic cards to discuss while you wait. (Reservations are definitely required, so we hope you read this full itinerary ahead of time).

Sara grew up in San Diego and recently moved back after living on the Central Coast and traveling around Latin America for a while. Passionate about wellness both personally and professionally, she's worked for brands like Mindbody, Classpass, and Headspace and is a 200-hour registered yoga teacher (come take her class at YogaSix North Carlsbad!). Through it all, she's always had a passion for writing and loves contributing to Locale Magazine.
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