Taste of Gaslamp is back for its 23rd year on Saturday, June 17. The drill: From 1-4 p.m., make your way through the Gaslamp Quarter on a self-guided epicurean walking tour while more than 20 restaurants serve up samples of their specialties.
Whether you're a Taste veteran or a newbie, it's easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on. Here are the top 10 tips to get the most out of your Taste of Gaslamp experience. Your belly will thank you.
1. Take the trolley
Check-in for this year's Taste is at Gaslamp Square at 170 Sixth Ave. - right next to the Gaslamp Quarter Trolley stop, so it's super easy to cruise in without worrying about parking or finding a designated driver. If you do want to drive, the 6th and K Parkade is just a block away. Check-in starts at 12:30 for VIP tickets and at 1 p.m. for general admission.
2. Pose with the rabbits
Four of the newly-decorated Rabbitville statues will be on display in Gaslamp Square for photo ops. These rabbits are a new public art exhibition commemorating "Rabbitville" and Gaslamp Quarter's 150th anniversary celebration. Each statue was designed by a local artist - and available for sponsorship. Current sponsors are Ghirardelli, The City of San Diego and Instantcallers.
3. Purchase tickets early and go VIP
General admission tickets are $30 if you purchase them online in advance (tasteofgaslamp.com) and $40 day-of. You'll get samples from more than 20 restaurants and a Program Passport with special promotions. But if you upgrade to a VIP ticket ($60 in advance, $70 day-of), you'll get to visit six additional restaurants that will be serving larger portions with a cocktail. VIPs also get a tote bag packed with all sorts of Gaslamp goodies. All ticket holders all get access to the after party at Altitude Sky Lounge.
4. Dress comfortably
It's a walking-and-eating tour. Wear comfortable shoes to cover a lot of ground. Loose clothing is highly recommended.
5. Go against the crowds
Even though you'll want to get your wristband and program and sprint to the closest restaurant, instead try walking straight up a few blocks and start at the north end of the Taste. You'll be working against most of the crowds, so you won't be waiting in long lines, and you'll end up right at Altitude for the after party.
6. Visit old favorites
Veteran Taste participants include barleymash, Spike Africa's Fresh Fish Grill & Bar, The Field Irish Pub, Cafe Sevilla (winners of "Best Ambiance" last year) and Rustic Root (2016's "Best Dish" winner).
7. Try something new
New to the Taste this year are Dough and American Junkie. VIPs will be able to check out Lionfish Modern Coastal Cuisine for the first time. And, unless you eat out in the Gaslamp every single day, there's probably a restaurant on the list that you haven't tried yet. This is your chance.
8. Do a little shopping
When you need to give your stomach a little break, pop into some of the Gaslamp's shops. Several retailers, including Blue Jeans and Bikinis, Bubbles Boutique, and Reebok Fithub will offer exclusive promotions to Taste of Gaslamp ticket holders.
9. Altitude after party
The after party at Altitude Sky Lounge (on the roof of the San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter, overlooking Petco Park) is open to all Taste ticket holders and includes a complimentary beer taste from Firestone Walker.
10. Enter to win
When you're enjoying your drink and the view at Altitude, don't forget to fill out a ballot voting for the restaurants with the best ambiance and best dish that you tried. Your ballot will enter you to win a gift card to the winning restaurant and you'll be in the running for the Gaslamp 150 gift package, which includes a night's stay at the Hard Rock Hotel, gift cards to Gaslamp businesses and more.
More information about the Taste of Gaslamp and tickets are available at tasteofgaslamp.com. Proceeds will go towards the Gaslamp Quarter Association's ongoing promotional programs and efforts to enhance and protect this National Historic District.