Saturday nights in San Diego can be crazy and when we visited last June, our Saturday night in the city certainly was, especially as it was our 6th wedding anniversary and we had to celebrate. Needless to say, Sunday morning saw us reaching for the caffeine and donning our shades as we forced ourselves out into the bright morning Californian sunshine. As we only had four days in San Diego, there was no way we could waste a day of it in darkness, under the duvet feeling sorry for ourselves. Therefore, we decided to attempt a self-guided walking tour of the Gaslamp Quarter.
Luckily we were based in the Gaslamp Quarter. Therefore, we did not have far to go to get the first stop on our tour and the big bonus was that we did not have to face public transport, I think that would have been a stretch too far. Mr ESLT, armed with his mobile took the lead, thank god, leading me through the Gaslamp Quarter, stopping at the relevant buildings and explaining to me their significance, which considering my delicate state, I absolutely loved.
I love San Diego and am already itching to go back, the whole vibe of the place is amazing, especially in and around the Gaslamp Quarter and exploring it had always been high on our agenda. The fact that it was a Sunday morning when we took our tour meant that at the start of our tour the streets were almost next to deserted, meaning we could linger at the buildings for as long as we liked without getting in anyone’s way or more like them getting in our way!
Horton Plaza (324 Horton Plaza, San Diego) is a huge shopping centre in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter, with all the high street shops that you can think of. Again, as we visited early on a Sunday morning, nothing much was open. However, that didn’t stop us having a little wander around. There are a lot of homeless people who sleep around Horton Plaza who repeatedly asked us for money, none of which got aggressive when we said we didn’t have any change. Shopping was not high on our agenda, therefore we didn’t hang around long. Plus we had actually visited Horton Plaza earlier during our trip, as it is the pickup point for the La Jolla & San Diego Beaches Day Tripper Tour we took with Old Town Trolley Tours.
The next stop on our walking tour was the Balboa Theatre (868 Fourth Ave, San Diego) located right next to the Horton Plaza. The theatre was originally built in 1924 by businessman Robert E. Hicks and architect William H. Wheeler and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Balboa was a popular theatre showing live shows and films however in 1973 the building was condemned and was left in an uninhabitable state until 2005 when a $26.5 million restoration took place and since reopening it is now once again a popular live theatre venue.
Louis Bank of Commerce
Designed by J.B. Stannard and built in 1888, the Louis Bank of Commerce (835 to 837 5th Ave, San Diego) is a great example of Baroque Revival architecture and is truly beautiful. With twin rising towers, it was San Diego’s first granite building. It was actually only a bank for 5 years and over the years it is has been an oyster bar (which if history is to be believed, was a favourite of Wyatt Earp), a notorious brothel run by fortune-teller Madame Cora and even a hotel (the Golden Poppy Hotel). Nowadays the upper floors are apartments and the ground floor a shop space.
The Keating Building (432 F St, San Diego) was built by Fannie Keating as a tribute to her late husband, George J. Keating. Construction started in 1890 and is now listed as a historic building on the Gaslamp Quarter Historic Buildings registry. The Romanesque Revival style office building was opened in 1891 and had all the mod cons of the day and quickly became one of the most prestigious places to work in the city and was home to lawyers, photographers and even a bank. Today it is a hotel and restaurant/bar and again another beautiful building in the Gaslamp Quarter.
And then we got sidetracked….
The walking tour was great and Mr ESLT was doing a fantastic job of being the tour guide. However, hanger is something I suffer from terribly and of course, it kicked in mid-tour. Therefore, we had to stop there and then. Luckily for us, my meltdown happened in front of a lovely looking Italian restaurant – Asti Ristorante (728 Fifth Ave, San Diego). We grabbed a table and a couple of menus and decided to have an early lunch. It was then I saw the magical words – ‘Bottomless Mimosa $10’ and all I could think was challenge accepted. Needless, to say we spent a good couple of hours nibbling our sandwiches and necking the fizzy stuff. I’ll be honest the rest of the walking tour was a struggle.
Old City Hall
We headed back into the sunshine, with our heads fuzzy and not really in the game. We quickly pulled ourselves together and continued on our walking tour of the Gaslamp Quarter and the next stop was the Old City Hall (664 Fifth Ave, San Diego). The Historic Florentine-Italianate building was built in 1874 and is listed as a historic building on the Gaslamp Quarter Historic Buildings registry. Originally a two storey building, two further floors were added in 1887 and was home to a library, the police department and the mayor. Now it is a combination of a restaurant, retail and workspace.
William Heath Davis-Horton House and Museum
As the mix of booze and sunshine took its toll, we decided that the next stop would be our last. Therefore we headed to the William Heath Davis-Horton House and Museum (410 Island Ave, San Diego). The Victorian-era house was built in 1850 and is the oldest standing structure in Downtown San Diego. Each room in the house depicts a period in its history, from its use as a pre-Civil War military barracks right through to it being a private residence. The spirit of an unknown Victorian woman is believed to still live at the property, therefore it is a popular stop on ghost tours of the city.
And the ones we missed…..
Even though the whole walking tour route should have only taken us around 90 minutes, with our pitstop for a boozy brunch and numerous photo breaks, it actually took us around 4 hours up until this point and neither of us could face finishing the tour. Instead, we opted for a table in the sun at one of the many bars in the Gaslamp Quarter and a few Sunday afternoon Coronas instead, we were on holiday after all. The two further stops on the tour were:
- San Diego Chinese Historical Museum, 404 Third Ave, San Diego
- San Diego Convention Centre, 111 W Harbor Dr, San Diego
It was great learning about the history of the buildings in the Gaslamp Quarter and it was one of our favourite stops on our Californian road trip. We spent 4 days in the city and would return in a heartbeat. The vibe is a very chilled out and was very welcome following our time in LA. Have you ever visited San Diego? If so, did you love the Gaslamp Quarter as much as we did? If not, then we hope if you do ever visit – you have a great time.