Gaslamp Getaway

Revisiting the Gaslamp ~ I never knew it to be this grand!

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For Many of us living in North County, the very mention of the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter brings to mind congestion, parking problems, tattoo parlors, aging buildings, unkempt walkways, and an overall experience generally to be avoided. In fact, for quite a number of years now, the only time I ventured south was to catch a plane for a vacation, business trip or to pick up a friend at the airport.

Well, all of that changed for me on a sunny Saturday morning in late February, as my companion and I took a leisurely walk down Fifth Avenue. As we strolled through the Gaslamp Quarter I was astounded, not alone on how much the area had to offer, but the great changes that had occurred over the last seven years since I had paid a visit, which is typical of many North County residents. The innumerable array of shopping boutiques, galleries, restaurants, roof-top bars and dining venues, several with incredible views, create an ambience that in many ways reminded me of Parisian sidewalks and a walk by the Seine. This was not the downtown San Diego I remembered. I could not believe what I had been missing. And yes, I did feel as though I was visiting the Gaslamp for the very first time.

I find it hard to imagine that a mere 150 years ago, in the spring of 1867, Alonzo Horton, sailed into San Diego Bay wide-eyed and brimming with excitement. As his ship docked, Horton dreamed of transforming the dusty plain that lay before him into a thriving port city. He believed San Diego's naturally deep harbor, vast agricultural potential, and amiable climate made the area "a Heaven on Earth." Horton purchased 960 acres, dividing the land into the blocks, lots, and streets we know today as the Gaslamp Quarter and much of Downtown San Diego.The area that Horton purchased was jokingly nicknamed "Rabbitville" after its chief inhabitants. To honor the pioneering spirit of legendary founder Alonzo Horton, who initiated the transformation of Rabbitville into what is today the 8th largest city in the United States, the Gaslamp Quarter Association in preparation for the summertime celebratory events has commissioned 15 artists to paint and decorate 15 fiberglass rabbit statues. There beautiful art pieces will become permanent fixtures of the Gaslamp Quarter serving to inspire the next generation of pioneers in San Diego.

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Our day in February was spent shopping at boutiques, meandering slowly through the Quarter sampling some of the finest of gastronomical delights. There was so much to do and see that is is not hard to imagine why this area has become one of the West Coast's premier entertainment districts. Guests can immerse themselves in the rich Victorian architecture and history, dine at world-renowned restaurants, and dance the night away at nationally recognized nightlife venues.

As did we, perhaps you might enjoy of of the Gaslamp's fine art galleries. Sparks Gallery was our favorite, with its dark highly polished wood floors, contrasting perfectly with exposed weathered brick walls to soar some 20 feet to the exposed wood rafters of the roof. Perhaps choosing to luxuriate with a signature cocktail by a crafty mixologist or enjoy a historic walking tour and hear the dramatic tales of the "Stingaree" neighborhood. The vast array of activities to choose from make the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter the perfect place to play, day and night! I could not believe all of these delights lay right at my doorstep less than a one-hour drive from North County. Parking is no longer tedious; just set your sights on the Gaslamp Quarter's 6th and K. Parkade and begin to delight in the pleasure that await the most discerning of visitors.

For this summer's celebratory extravaganza, the Gaslamp Quarter Association has gone to great lengths in organizing an array of festivities, events, parties, and celebrations to highlight what truly has been a dramatic, exciting and wondrous makeover.

So my fellow North County residents, I can assure you that your first Gaslamp Getaway, perhaps this very weekend, will undoubtedly not be your last. Heed my advice to travel south, for hidden in the heart of Sa Diego, tucked tightly into just 16 blocks lies a well polished jewel, the great Historic Heritage of the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter.