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(U-T Photo Illustration)

14 things to do, see, eat and drink in downtown San Diego

Downtown San Diego may be just one of many interesting and unique neighborhoods in San Diego, but it’s the only one that provides that iconic skyline seen in postcards, tourism pamphlets and all over Instagram.

Almost any kind of art, music, comedy, dining and drinking experience can be found in this one neighborhood, which also comprises neighborhoods like Little Italy, the Gaslamp Quarter and East Village.

We technically included a spot in Barrio Logan on this list, but it was just too tasty and too close to downtown to leave off our short but sweet list. It could really have been 101 things.

Think we missed something? Let us know what else should have been on our list by emailing us here.

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(Charie Juaneza)

San Diego Burger Co.

Downtown San Diego Burgers
Grab a classic burger at Seaport Village. Since 1995, Pepe and Deborah Stepensky have been grilling up cooked-to-order sandwiches at their San Diego Burger Co. Their summer menu features 1/3-pound ground sirloin burgers, as well as turkey, chicken and fish burgers, as well as garden and Impossible burgers. The fast-casual location is a short walk from The Rady Shell.
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(Pat Hartley / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Central Library's Special Collections Center

Downtown San Diego Library
The Marilyn and Gene Marx Special Collections Center showcases three extensive collections offering a peek into the past: The California Collection, which focuses primarily on Southern California; The Wagenheim Rare Book Collection, which depicts the development of books over time; and The Genealogy Collection, which centers around research databases. The Special Collections Center additionally has a plethora of online resources, such as a digital archive and spotlight videos, that can be found at sandiego.gov/public-library/central-library/special-collections.
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Bang Bang

Gaslamp Quarter Sushi
Top the night off in Japan — sort of. Looking for a unique way to end the evening with a post-concert cocktail and late-night snack? Take a walk into the Gaslamp Quarter to visit the unique cocktail bar and restaurant Bang Bang San Diego. Designed to re-create the look and feel of urban Japan, you’ll walk up a staircase built to look and sound like a Tokyo subway tunnel. At the top of the stairs, there’s a mood-lit sushi restaurant with cocktails and “teapots” of alcohol-infused drinks designed for six people to share.
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The American Comedy Co on tuesday June 14th, 2022 in San Diego,.
(Pat Hartley / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

American Comedy Co.

Downtown San Diego Comedy Club
Enjoy a show at American Comedy Co., a local comedy club that features established comedy acts, as well as a Tuesday night open mic and happy hour shows. Equipped with a full restaurant and bar, the club offers first-come, first-served seating in a rustic, American-style venue. In the past, the club has hosted well-known comedians such as Bobby Lee, Charlie Murphy and Kevin Nealon. Must be 21 or older to enter.
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A view of The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park in San Diego.
(San Diego Symphony)

The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park

Downtown San Diego Entertainment Venue
With the bay and Coronado to the west and the downtown skyline, marina and San Diego Convention Center to the east, the meticulously designed Rady Shell at Jacobs Park is striking from the ground, sea and air. It is likely the only outdoor concert venue operated by any American orchestra (San Diego Symphony) at which members of the public can freely walk, jog, bike or skate around the entire site on a public promenade, day or night. The venue opened with a goal of showcasing the orchestra and offering a more diversified lineup of concerts.
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Digital Gym Cinema

East Village Movie Theater
Digital Gym Cinema recently reopened in a new location: UC San Diego @ Park & Market. It screens independent and international films throughout the week. It is also home to education and enrichment programs and workshops in media arts including filmmaking and producing for San Diego youth.
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Mike Hess Brewing at Seaport Village
(Mike Hess Brewing )

Mike Hess Brewing

Downtown San Diego Craft Brewery
Readers' Favorite
| 2021 | Micro Brew Pub
Readers' Favorite
| 2020 | Craft Brewery
Grab a beer and taco at Mike Hess Brewing. This San Diego-based brewery’s tasting room at Seaport Village has just added a new outdoor dining and drinking deck overlooking the bay. It offers 23 beers, kombuchas, siders and sodas on tap. Quiero offers casual Mexican food in-house.
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(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Coronado Ferry

Downtown San Diego Transportation
The Coronado Ferry offers roundtrip access to Coronado, yes, but it’s also an affordable way to see the San Diego skyline from the bay. Flagship Cruises operates two ferry routes going to Coronado from downtown: one from Broadway Pier and one from behind the San Diego Convention Center. The ferries have two seating levels to choose from for your trip, and you watch it arrive and depart from Coronado on this live camera.
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Tuna Harbor Dockside Market

Downtown San Diego Farmers Market
Open only on Saturdays, this open-air seafood market offers fresh fish straight from the latest catch from local fishing companies. Depending on the season and the catch, the market may contain everything from sea urchin to albacore and California king salmon. It opens at 8 a.m. and goes until the seafood runs out.
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(Pat Hartley / the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Las Cuatro Milpas

Barrio Logan Mexican cuisine
Bite into history at Las Cuatro Milpas. It’s just a 1.5-walk from The Rady Shell, and probably another 40-minute wait in line, but this historic taco shop is one of San Diego’s most beloved family-owned taco shops. Three generations of the Estudillo family have dished up authentic tacos, burritos, tamales and a handful of other items since 1933. Real Mexican cheese and crema are used and tortillas and hot sauce are made in-house. Don’t ask for substitutions and only cash is accepted.
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(Courtesy of Lavo San Diego)

LAVO

Downtown San Diego Italian cuisine
Make a reservation at LAVO, one of San Diego’s newest Italian restaurants, which opened June 14 in the former Searsucker space at Fifth and Market. This glitzy, nightlife-themed 235-seat restaurant and cocktail bar offers a fresh take on Italian classics and creative cocktails in a glitzy environment. Start your meal with LAVO’s soon-to-be-famous 1-pound Wagyu beef meatball.
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(Eric Scire)

Rooftop Cinema Club

Downtown San Diego Movie Theater
Rooftop Cinema Club offers and opportunity to see a movie while surrounded by downtown city lights. It shows movies for all ages before 4:30 p.m. and movies for 18 and older after that. Enjoy fresh popcorn and other snacks and food offerings as well as cocktails and other drinks. Film titles shown there have included the original “Top Gun,” the “Harry Potter” series and “Friday the 13th.”
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San Diego Chinese Historical Museum

Downtown San Diego Museum
The San Diego Chinese History Museum seeks to educate and inspire by preserving and celebrating Chinese art, history and culture. It features exhibits on the Chinese American immigration story focusing on the community in San Diego, as well as Chinese history going back to Shang dynasty. The museum also offers a walking tour of the Asian Pacific Historic District and other educational opportunities.
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(Jeannie Mutrais Photography)

The New Children’s Museum

Gaslamp Quarter Museum
Readers' Favorite
| 2021 | Museum
Readers' Favorite
| 2020 | Museum
Experience family fun through contemporary art at The New Children’s Museum. It houses art installations and educations programs for children, including sensory-friendly experiences. The museum also offers art studios and workshops and a whole host of other events for families.
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