Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
Credit: Margaritaville San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

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, salty hair and flip-flops, but this sunny city has a lot more to offer. Nestled in the heart of downtown San Diego is 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 the Gaslamp Quarter.



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 place was blessed with a $31 million refresh—and it shows. The rooms feature all white linens, beachy decor and the kind of plush beds you’ll want to jump right into. They offer standard rooms, 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 roof, you’ll find a breezy restaurant and bar with live entertainment (don’t worry, we’re heading there next) 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 amongst all the best nightlife, entertainment, shops and restaurants—so you’ll be right in the middle of action.


5:30 p.m. 

Rooftop Drinks + Dinner at 5 o’Clock Somewhere Rooftop Bar

5 o’Clock Somewhere Rooftop Bar is nestled high above the vibrant streets of the Gaslamp. Lucky for you, you won’t have to look very hard—just take the elevator up to the rooftop of the all-new Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. Once you arrive, you’ll find a lush, open-air space with cozy seating, twinkling lights and a modern bar serving delicious tropical libations. Picture chic, Margaritaville pool vibes backdropped with a stunning view of the San Diego skyline and the shimmering Pacific. And to top it all off, they also offer live entertainment, so you can enjoy some dancing after a round of drinks and apps.


7:30 p.m.

Catch a show at Mad House Comedy Club

Credit: Kane Reinholdtsen / Unsplash

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.

Rooftop Brunch at Rustic Root

Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
Credit: Kimberly Motos

San Diegans love their rooftops, and this is one of the most beloved (we definitely recommend reservations). Rustic Root is known for its mimosas, offering make-your-own mimosa stations with champagne by the bottle, lots of fresh berries, three fruit purées and three juices, so you can mix and match. The rooftop has fun green light posts, chic wood floors, hanging string lights and a mantle fit for a fireplace but contains a giant TV instead. The food is top-notch, and for your morning caffeine fix, they’ve got unique and delicious options like their rustic coffee with smoked maple syrup and candied bacon.


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 local, 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, I’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 Happy Does Bar

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, it’s time to 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 insanely delicious comfort food like chicken tenders and corn dogs with all the dipping sauces you could dream of. They’re always streaming the latest Padres or NFL 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. 

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 himself.



6 p.m.

Dinner at Saint James French Diner

Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
Credit: Courtesy of Palisociety

Hungry yet? Swap that childlike silliness for some seriously good food, fancy enough for your most sophisticated adult alter ego. Saint James French Diner is a cross between your typical American diner and an elegant French bistro on the ground level of the Palihotel, a gorgeous 11-story, Victorian-era building. The restaurant just opened back in May, and it’s definitely worth checking out. Try the croquettes to start—four crunchy balls with a creamy filling of jamon serrano, potato and aioli. Is this a trip to Gaslamp or the South of France? Don’t forget that glass of French wine—bon appétit!


9 p.m.

Cocktails + Live Music at Prohibition Lounge

Prohibition Lounge is the perfect place to end your night with a delicious cocktail. It’s a 1920s-themed, underground speakeasy 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. 

Brunch at Gaslamp Breakfast Company

It’s your last day in Gaslamp, so you’d better make it count. What better way to start than with some coffee and pancakes at Gaslamp Breakfast Company? This place has such a cute vibe, with neon signs, vintage furniture (with lots of pink), a colorful graffiti wall and big garage door windows. We think their California Breakfast Burrito and banana bread pancakes are the stars of the show, but everything on the menu is worth trying. They have specialty coffee drinks like the Golden State Latte with maple and lots of spices—or a coffee whiskey breakfast cocktail to get the party started early.



Ax-Throwing at Throw It!

Credit: @throwitsd

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to just swing an ax full force overhead into a target? Well, dream no more. At Throw It!, you can turn that wish into a reality. This is the perfect place to go to blow off some steam or just have a little fun with your friends. You can book a lane for you and your group and compete to your heart’s content. They’ve also got some old-school arcade games you can play in between shots. We recommend booking ahead of time just in case, but they take walk-ins as well!


1:30 p.m.

Cycling Bar Crawl With Social Cycle

Gaslamp Quarter San Diego
Credit: Social Cycle

Grab your sneakers and hop on board—we’re going cycling. A cycling bar crawl with Social Cycle is the perfect way to see the town, get some movement in and have a blast. Each bike can fit up to 16 people. It’s powered by you, but it also comes with a captain to lead the way. You’ll be turning heads as you ride down the street with all your friends, pedaling to the music, socializing and cheersing all the way through the Gaslamp and East Village neighborhoods. Book your bike ahead of time on their website, then come ready to party (and pedal)! 



4 p.m.

Afternoon Coffee + Something Sweet at Hinar Dessert Bar and Cafe

You’re probably worn out right about now. It’s been a long day of fun activities so far! Now’s the perfect time for an afternoon pick-me-up at Hinar Dessert Bar and Cafe in East Village. The ambiance is gorgeous, with minimalist and modern decor, white lighting, pottery on display and the most beautiful desserts you’ve ever seen. Sip an orange blossom latte while sitting on a plush white, cushioned window seat that’ll make you want to kick your feet up and move right in. Add a black sesame or olive oil cake to go with it and you’re sure to get that second wind.


7 p.m.

Dinner at Lumi by Akira Back

Credit: Lumi

For your last dinner of the weekend, we recommend Lumi by Akira Back, a glamorous rooftop sushi experience with a view of the city. High atop the Grand Pacific Hotel, you’ll enjoy the highest quality sushi from a Michelin-Starred chef surrounded by Japanese architecture, colorful murals, modern decor, firepits and, of course, epic views. They have an extensive sake menu with flights and cocktails to begin the journey of your taste buds’ lifetime. From there, choose from sushi, nigiri or sashimi, then finish it off with some shared plates or an entree. (Or just stick with sushi; we won’t blame you).


9 p.m.

Karaoke at Werewolf

Credit: @the_digital_daze

When’s the last time you hit the stage for some karaoke? In the spirit of having so much fun today, we’re sending you off 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!


10 p.m.

Nightcap at Room 56

So maybe you had enough of listening to baselessly confident tone-deaf people scream into the mic—we get it. Don’t worry. We’ve got something even better for the cherry on top of your perfect Gaslamp weekend. Head over to the Moxy Hotel to see what we’re talking about. Nestled 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.)

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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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