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When you’re ready for some serious SoCal fun in a city that isn’t Los Angeles, head down to the Gaslamp District in San Diego. This is the shiny centerpiece of “America’s Finest City,” anchored by the towering Petco Park (never mind the performance of its resident baseball team) and flanked by historic buildings. The district takes its name from the many gas lamps that lit the area during the 1800s and 1900s; while these are pretty much old hat in our era of LEDs and blacklights, back then they were newfangled and something to brag about.

The Gaslamp itself begins right across the train tracks from the Convention Center, and follows a vaguely rectangular shape from L Street all the way up to Broadway. You can drive around the area fairly easily, provided it’s not a Saturday night, but the district is also small enough to hoof it for an evening on the town. Lots of native San Diegans (and more than a few visitors) make a pilgrimage downtown for some Gaslamp nightlife, so if you’re here for the weekend, hit up some of these spots!

Omnia

So what, exactly, are you going to do once you’re downtown? For starters, check out some of the Gaslamp clubs. Omnia, located on 6th Avenue, is relatively new, but it’s been very popular up to this point. On the weekends in particular, you can expect big crowds, energetic DJs, and a freakin’ awesome light show.

Pro Tip: Head for the third-floor bar and sprawl out on one of the couches. They’re comfy!

San Diego Gaslamp at night

Vin de Syrah

Looking for other things to do in the Gaslamp? About four blocks north of Omnia, over on 5th Avenue, is Vin de Syrah. This is technically a bar, but there’s a small dance floor and DJs and live bands routinely play…that is, if you can find your way into the building. The entrance is hidden down a dark flight of stairs, and once you’re inside, you’re pretty much down the rabbit hole (no, really—it’s got an “Alice in Wonderland” garden theme). Good luck getting out after indulging in a cheese platter and a sangria flight. That stuff is seriously tasty.

Werewolf American Pub

Not down with rabbits? Or maybe your allergies are just keeping you from really enjoying anything green. One of the other San Diego Gaslamp bars you should check out is Werewolf American Pub (not to be confused with a werewolf of European extraction). It’s about three blocks south of Vin de Syrah on 4th Avenue. While I haven’t seen any wolf men lurking around—even during a full moon—you can certainly eat like one. Order a wild boar burger and top it off with the Purple Rain, a.k.a. my favorite drink ever. Better than a Mai Tai, but not as shame-inducing as a Blue Hawaii.

San Diego Gaslamp street

Flickr/Creative Commons/chrisjortiz/Via/https://flic.kr/p/ox9r7w

Jolt’n Joe’s

Last but certainly not least, you should definitely pay a visit to the good folks at Jolt’n Joe’s, also on 4th Avenue about two blocks south of the Werewolf. This is one classy sports bar, but rest assured you can still shriek at your favorite sports team on the big- and small-screen TVs. In between rounds of watching soccer, horse racing, and hockey, among other sports, you can play a rousing game of pool or drag your mildly tipsy friends into the photo booth with you.

Sometimes draft beers and Fireball Fridays aren’t enough to bolster local spirits, so Jolt’n Joe’s breaks out the grub. Their Mac Daddy is a king among mac and cheese dishes, and they quite possibly crafted the best, most delicious tater tot dish of all time—the Blue Cheese Tots. Queso, bits of bacon, and blue cheese crumbles combine forces to create something magical.

Order them. Eat them. Love them.

You’re welcome. And please, enjoy your visit to the Gaslamp.

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