Get Over Seasonal Affective Disorder in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter
Need a little sun in your life? Of course you. If it's heat and an all-night party you desire, make your way south to San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. Here are our recommends for where to stay, play and eat.
Stay: Kimpton hotels rarely disappoint, and the posh Hotel Solamar only follows suit. How can you not love a hotel whose complimentary robes are in prints of leopard and zebra? (The answer is: You can't.) Rooms are modern and stream-lined with whimsical garnishes like polka dot bedspreads and striped drapery. Be sure and pop by the ground-level lounge in the afternoon for comlimentary wine and gourmet nibbles. And as if you needed another reason to stay here, the Solamar is also pet-friendly (you'll see many a designer-clad Fido in the check-in area downstairs). The lavish pool area rivals a (classier) Vegas scene with model-esque patrons draping the cushy chairs, and men in Speedos are not a rarity. Though if you’re looking for a quiet hotel (particularly on the weekend), Solamar may not be your cup of tea. (Then again, nowhere in the Gaslamp Quarter is, considering it’s party central.) In that case, head out of town to the luxe and historic--and dare we say, quiet--Hotel del Coronado.
Play: San Diego's abundance of beaches within striking distance of the Gaslamp make it an affordable weekend away. Drive 10 minutes from the Solamar to Coronado, a spit of land near the naval base (think: Top Gun), and claim your own plot of sand. Or head north of the city to the famed La Jolla, where killer surfing and wildlife spottings (at the La Jolla Marine Reserve) abound. Just beware of hungry great whites: They dig this area, thanks to the abundance of seals. If you're itching to exercise your plastic, you'll get the best bang for your buck at Carlsbad's well-stocked Premium Outlets. Just don't forget to hit up neighboring Legoland while you're there.
Eat: While San Francisco usually takes the cake in terms of Californian fare, San Diego's been amping up its culinary reputation in recent years. Jsix, attached to the Solamar, for example, puts an unique spin on some classic dishes. Start with a roasted asparaus salad, dressed up with poached organic egg, prosciutto and balsamic brown butter; followed by a shared plate of tuna three ways (confit, seared rare, tartare); nosh on a main course of double cut vande rose pork chop topped off with grilled peaches, mascarpone polenta and sauce diablo; and finish with a chocolate bread pudding of caramelized bananas, macadamia nuts, creme fraiche ice cream and caramel sauce. Or, on a leap of faith, opt for the chef's nightly Tasting Menu or Mercy, a three- or five-course concoction of his favorite dishes at the moment. If you (still) need a sweet treat after dinner, head across the street from the Solamar to Heavenly Cupcake, which bakes up a host of flavors daily, like banana peanut butter, vanilla caramel, pumpkin spice or its signature orange chip.
Drink: Along the Gaslamp's bustling Fifth Avenue, you won't be hard-pressed to find somewhere to quench your thirst. Our favorite, however, is Bondi, a fun-loving Australian beer bar that mimics every fun-loving Aussie we've ever known. Ridden with hidden nook areas and fun birdcage-like booths, this spacious spot serves native Aussie brews on tap, as well as popular Down Under fare like fish and chips. Some other Bondi days and deals to sweeten the pot: happy hour daily, Free Trivia Night Tuesdays, Live Jazz Wednesday Nights, Free Acoustic Mayhem Fridays and DJ Joemama Saturdays.