Getaway: Best San Diego Weekend
Downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter has roared back to life.
San Diego, with its year-round warmth and abundant beaches, serves as a perfect destination for fun—especially in the city’s vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, a 16-square-block stretch of Victorian-era buildings, where fun, shopping, and nightlife mix.
The Gaslamp is packed with clubs, pubs, restaurants, hotels, boutiques, galleries, and a Big League ballpark. It’s a larger version of Oakland’s Uptown district crossed with San Francisco’s China Basin, with balmier weather. And it’s just a 90-minute plane ride from either Bay Area airport.
Hire a guide from San Diego Sailing Tours to explore San Diego Bay on a vintage yacht. You’ll set sail on the two-hour tour from Harbor Island and zip along the bay, sipping on craft beers or wine while taking in beautiful views of the city’s skyline and Coronado Island. You’ll also pass a site where U.S. Navy specialists train dolphins to help with top-secret missions. Starting at $79 per person, with a maximum of six passengers, sandiegosailingtours.com.
Cycle through the Gaslamp Quarter or nearby coastal trails on a rental bicycle from The Bike Revolution. Open daily, this shop rents city commuter bikes in hourly, four-hour, and daily blocks of time. You can also choose from a range of cruisers, kids’ bikes, tandems, and more—so pick your pleasure, and begin pedaling. Starting at $7, thebikerevolution.com.
The Gaslamp Quarter is peppered with great boutiques, such as 1950s-themed women’s shop Tatyana Boutique (tatyana.com) and Blue Jeans and Bikinis (bluejeansandbikinis.com), which sells appropriately casual clothes for a city by the sea. For a one-stop shopping spree, visit Westfield Horton Plaza (westfield.com/hortonplaza), a five-story open-air mall with high-end stores, spas, and salons.
The Gaslamp Quarter is packed with places offering live music. One legendary venue for cutting-edge acts is The Casbah, a tiny nightclub that once featured Nirvana playing to a packed house of lucky fans. casbahmusic.com.
One of the Gaslamp’s original entertainment venues, Spreckels Theatre, has been restored to a gorgeous concert hall. Spreckels hosts a range of performances: ballet, live theater, and music and comedy headliners. spreckels.net.
Nationally known comedians such as Norm Macdonald and Kevin Nealon frequent The American Comedy Co., a stand-up nightclub in the heart of the Gaslamp. Look for Bay Area favorite Greg Proops recording his popular The Smartest Man in the World podcast here on January 28 then headlining comedy shows January 29–30. americancomedyco.com.
For breakfast or brunch, get the party started at Cafe 21, a brightly decorated eatery with farm-to-table everything and omelets made in cast-iron pans, plus a generous menu of Bloody Marys, mimosas, and mojitos. cafe-21.com.
At lunch, try an order of lobster tacos from Puesto, an upscale open-air restaurant on West Harbor Drive. You’ll find gourmet Mexican street food and spectacular margaritas. eatpuesto.com.
Lou and Mickey’s, one of the many Gaslamp hot spots that take advantage of San Diego’s incredible weather with lots of outdoor tables and an open-air feel throughout the restaurant, is an ideal stop for happy hour. The cocktail lounge has delicious bar bites from 4 to 6 p.m., including dollar clams and oysters, and a filet mignon taco with pico de gallo. Support San Diego’s military tradition by trying the Navy Grog—aged rum, fresh lime, pineapple, and bitters—from the menu of cocktail specials. louandmickeys.com.
While there’s no end to the dinner options in the Gaslamp Quarter, try booking a table at Nobu, the swank Japanese eatery on the first floor of the Hard Rock Hotel. Executive chef David Meade dishes out spectacular multicourse feasts (splurge on the beef sashimi or the Chilean sea bass), but a seat at the sushi bar allows easy access to fresh-off-the-boat yellowfin tuna rolls. noburestaurants.com/san-diego.
A few blocks away, you’ll find Union Kitchen and Tap, one of many appealing chophouses in the Gaslamp Quarter. Wash down a hearty house-special steak, fisherman’s stew, or fresh halibut with nicely paired craft beers from Central California. gaslampunion.com.
The Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, a swanky hipster hotel and spa that opened at the entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter in 2007, gives you the rock-star treatment as soon as you check in: Think a glass of Chivas on the rocks with your room key. The hotel is decorated with rock ’n’ roll treasures—Jimi Hendrix’s hat, Tom Petty’s guitar, and the pay phone from CBGB—and has a playful sense of decadence, from the rooftop pool and bar to the All Thai’d Up massage and scrub treatment available in the Rock Spa. Starting at $249, hardrockhotelsd.com.