San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter, in the heart of San Diego, is filled with history and hubbub. Now you'll find museums, walking tours, restaurants, bars, comedy clubs, art galleries, breweries, nightlife, rooftop bars, nightclubs, and just about anything you need all within walking distance. However, that wasn't always the case. In its early years, it was a buzzing red-light district with brothels, bars, and sailors.

William Heath Davis founded San Diego’s New Town in 1850, which eventually became known as the Gaslamp Quarter. By 1980, the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego, California, was officially listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. I fast-forwarded through much of the history, but if you'd like to learn more you should absolutely visit the Gaslamp Foundation. You can learn more both online and in person by booking a tour. Today you can still soak in some of the Victorian architecture and landmarks.

Gaslamp Quarter is basically downtown San Diego. It is near a lot of large hotels, like the Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter and the Convention Center, which holds many events. If you visit the area, here are my recommendations for some of the best things to do in the Gaslamp Quarter.

Quick Answer Guide: 10 Best Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter

‌Top Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in the Gaslamp Quarter‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in the Gaslamp Quarter‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in Gaslamp Quarter‌

‌Free Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter‌

  • Best for getting a feel of what the Gaslamp District is all about - The Gaslamp Promenade
  • Best for if you're looking for a last-minute thing to do - Free Events

Top Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter

Despite being a small area, there are plenty of activities in the Gaslamp Quarter to keep you entertained. These are just a couple of the top things you should check out while you're there. From a night of entertainment at Balboa Theatre to hosting a large corporate event, discover a few of the finest attractions that you must do in the Gaslamp Quarter.

1. Balboa Theatre

Located at 868 Fourth Avenue, the Balboa Theatre has performances to keep you entertained throughout the year. From music to comedy acts, it's the ideal spot to get a taste of the performing arts. Make sure to buy your tickets beforehand, since you never know if something will be sold out by the time you get there.

2. WNDR Museum

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WNDR Museum has a few locations in the U.S. such as Chicago, Boston, Seattle, and of course San Diego. The museum provides an interactive experience made up of different artists, designers, poets, and more with a mixture of art and technology. It's a cool spot for a friend outing, a date, or simply to see by yourself.

While you're in San Diego, visit the museum for a look into GOD:TEMPO by Effixx where you can experience the audiovisual chronograph in a 360-degree theater. Children two and under are free. They also have various events such as a tea blending workshop or Hispanic Heritage Appreciation, if you peruse the tickets and events section online.

Best Things to Do During the Day in the Gaslamp Quarter

Discover what this dynamic district has to offer during the daytime. Delight in family-friendly experiences at The New Children's Museum or explore unique shopping opportunities to bring home cherished memories while supporting local San Diego businesses. Here's a list of what to do in the Gaslamp Quarter during the day.

3. The New Children's Museum

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Buy tickets either online or at the museum. The New Children's Museum has a running list of programs and events, so check that out ahead of time to see if something piques your interest. Don't get left in the dust. They're open every day except for Tuesdays, so plan for that in advance.

They have art installations, murals, and an interactive space for all ages. Children four and under will love the Wobbleland active space where they can play with food sculptures, and children three and under can play with the Tikitiko sensory area with soft, furry, and colorful textiles. The New Children's Museum is a popular spot to bring the kids to have a unique experience as a family.

4. Shopping

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Take something back home to remember your trip. The Gaslamp Quarter has a bunch of shops, boutiques, stores, and places to buy a souvenir or two as you support local businesses. It's a great way to get the lay of the land as you explore the various shops. From jewelry to cigars to spas, you can find a little bit of everything.

For knickknacks, head to Gaslamp Garage. They have socks, necklaces, stuffed animals, sportswear, and other goodies. If you need to relax, go for a spa day at Suki Day Spa, a massage and wellness center with offerings such as waxing, volume lashes, hydromassage, pedicure, manicures, and more.

Best Things to Do Outdoors in the Gaslamp Quarter

Daytime in San Diego is a joy. There's sun and warmth most days of the year. Soak in the good vibes and great temperatures with these best things to do outdoors in the Gaslamp Quarter.

5. Baseball Game at Petco Park

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Stop by Petco Park for a San Diego Padres game. Check the schedule ahead of time to see if it's a home game or an away game, or if it's even game season. This will help you plan for parking, walking, or ride-sharing to the game. Plus, you don't want to get excited for a game only to find out they're not even in town.

While you're there, eat up. Petco Park has a bunch of food options as well so you won't go hungry. They have gluten-free, pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan, and kosher options. You can even do a guided tour to learn more about the history of the Padres and Petco Park.

6. Gaslamp Artisan Market

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This year-round event allows tourists and locals alike to enjoy a bit of outdoor shopping as they familiarize themselves with the area. The Gaslamp Artisan Market occurs every week on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm at Island Avenue between 4th and 5th.

At the market, you may find food, art, clothing, accessories, handmade goods, and also items for pets. Stop by to look at the locally made products from artisans and do a bit of shopping. This outdoor market is relatively new, making its debut in 2018, so definitely give it a try when you're in the Gaslamp on a weekend.

Best Things to Do at Night in Gaslamp Quarter

The Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego feels festive throughout the day, the seasons, and the year, but it truly comes alive at night. It feels a little like walking down Disney Main Street in the sense that there is a lot of live music happening, the hubbub energizes you, the smells tantalize you, and the sounds make you feel like you're missing out if you don't stick around. Here's a list of the best things to do in the Gaslamp Quarter at night.

7. Rooftop Cinema Club Embarcadero

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Come early and stay late for an enjoyable evening at the Rooftop Cinema Club. It's a boutique outdoor cinema that shows films on an LED screen. Each patron gets a high-fidelity headphone to listen to the movie and to block out the noise, but you're free to chat amongst yourselves as well. There are chairs, pillows, and cushions to keep cozy.

They do have a few locations but the Rooftop Cinema Club Embarcadero is located right by the Gaslamp Quarter with views of the downtown skyline. There are also lawn games, table games, a food and beverage menu, and of course popcorn. This is the perfect way to spend an evening in town that feels more festive than going to your average movie theatre.

8. American Comedy Co.

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  • Perfect For:‌ A nighttime giggle
  • Website:
  • If You Go:‌ Check the schedule beforehand so you see a comedian you're interested in.

Get a belly full of laughs at the American Comedy Co. This locally-owned comedy club has a restaurant and full bar, allowing patrons to come for the comedy but grab a bite to eat while they're there. It hosts stand-up comedians such as Punkie Johnson from SNL, Michael Rapaport, Jeff Garlin, and more. Do note that there's a two-drink minimum per person.

They even have an open mic night and happy hour on Tuesdays where you can sign up to do your stand-up. Buy your tickets online! It's the perfect place to grab a drink, laugh a little, and simply enjoy the evening.

Free Things to Do in the Gaslamp Quarter

As the saying goes, some of the best things in life are free. From traipsing around the Gaslamp Promenade to checking out the free events in the area, here's a list of the best things to do in the Gaslamp Quarter that don't cost a dime.

9. The Gaslamp Promenade

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Not only is this a free thing to do in the Gaslamp Quarter, but it is one of the most essential places to visit in Gaslamp Quarter while you're in the area. I recommend walking the Gaslamp Promenade at night as the music plays and people are walking around or sitting outside on restaurant patios grabbing a bite to eat. It's free, but it also gives you an idea of what the Gaslamp Quarter is all about.

Check out the Gaslamp Quarter sign lit up at night. Of course, you can walk this at any point of the day as well, but it is most entertaining at night. While there are certain times that Fifth Avenue is open to vehicles, it's closed to vehicles most of the time, allowing pedestrians to roam free.

10. Free Events

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  • Perfect For:‌ If you're looking for a last-minute thing to do
  • Website:
  • If You Go:‌ Browse the event calendar before and during your trip.

There are free events in the Gaslamp Quarter throughout the year. Keep an eye out for seasonal fun, outdoor events, and other cool things to do. From July through September, there's Gaslamp Skate Sundays where participants can skate and dance to music. From magic shows to pop-up shops to yoga on the roof, consult this event calendar to see if anything lines up during your visit. The event calendar is pretty comprehensive and updated often so you can find something to do for any age.

With a range of historical sites, boutiques, galleries, and food, there's no shortage of places to visit in Gaslamp Quarter. No matter what month you come, you'll be able to find some ways to occupy your time. Whether you come during the warm, sunny summer months or the partially cloudy winter, there will be eateries, craft beer, sightseeing, events, historic buildings, and museums to explore. During your stay, check out nearby areas such as La Jolla, Old Town, Coronado, Balboa Park, Little Italy, Seaport Village, San Diego Bay, San Diego Zoo, and East Village if you want to see more of the city. Support local businesses while you're here and don't forget to enjoy the view.