San Diego Comic-con is one of the busiest times of the year for San Diego, aside from Christmas, Black Friday, and New Year ’s Day. By now you’re probably wondering what you should do when it comes to parking, money management, and food right?
Well luckily I live in this crazy city, and I’m going to give you the insider scoop on where to park for cheap, where to get great discounts on food, and the best way to travel to, and from Comic-con saving you a lot of money, and time. And the best part is, you’ll probably see a lot of your favorite celebrities in the crowd at some of these places as well!
For starters the last thing you want to do is max out your credit card buying a limited edition Buster sword from Final Fantasy VII (I know it’s tempting, but hold off and you’ll see why soon). It’s very easy to spend copious amounts of money just grabbing souvenirs, and attending the booths to get photos of your favorite voice actors and celebrities.
Traveling and Parking:
Parking during Comic-con can be a pain, but you can still find cheap and or free parking as long as it’s away from the downtown area. Parking in the garage at Horton plaza is pretty expensive since it can go up to around 35.00 for all day privilege. What you may or may not know is that you can get 3 free hours of parking as long as you validate your parking inside the mall.
However should you choose to go what I call the “cheaper route,” you can find plenty of parking up on 6th avenue in a smaller garage for around $5.00 for an all-day pass. From here you can walk down to 5th avenue and grab a 4 day trolley pass for Comic-con. This gives you unlimited travel along the SDMTS bus route system until 12:00am on the final day of expiration. You can actually walk to the convention center from 12th and imperial trolley station, or take it all the way around to the convention center via the Orange line.
You will also want to visit SDMTS.com and download the transit app for your iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. This app allows you to see when a bus or trolley is coming and when. The best thing is that you won’t always be near a timetable throughout the city, but when you are near the bus stop or trolley stop.
All you have to do is text the station id to the app, and it will tell you when and where it will be. It saves you a lot of time – believe me you don’t want to know what it was like before 2010 when they introduced this app.
The reason why you want to take the Trolley instead of driving is obviously parking, and the convenience of traveling the city easier. The trolley and bus routes will take you to any are you need, and you can even travel along the San Diego coast via the Coaster train that docks itself at Santa Fe Depot train station. It will also give you the chance to meet fellow cosplayers and get the inside scoop on Nintendo Street pass events throughout the city.
As you may or may not know, if you’ve been to Comic-con before, your Comic-con badge is powerful, so powerful in fact that it can literally open doors for you throughout San Diego- to the effect of free food or discounted drinks at your choice of bar. Here are the best places to use your badge to get discounts including advance screenings of movies premiering. You can also get discounts at a lot of comic book stores, free swag, and memorabilia shops as well depending on what day you go.
Downtown San Diego:
There’s no place like home, and in downtown San Diego, you’ll surely agree. You’ll feel right at home with all the amenities you’ll find so close to you. As you travel throughout San Diego it’s easy to see why it’s a fantastic tourist location, from San Diego bay to Coronado Island it’s the ultimate destination for relaxation, and great food.
Here are places of interest you want to visit in the Downtown area of San Diego close to the convention center, and also further away as well. I’m including eateries, rest spots, and overall fun, since I want you to enjoy your Comic-con experience and continue to love all of San Diego.
You should also be aware that there are a lot of free parties you can get invited to just for going to Comic-con where they will comp you drinks, and even enter you into a costume contest for prizes up to $2,000 just for cosplaying.
What’s awesome about the Gaslamp quarter of San Diego is that you will meet a lot of famous people just walking the streets to get away from the world. The cast of Dragonball Z including the original voice cast of the 90’s frequents The Lime Tequila bar just because it doesn’t get that busy and it’s an awesome place to have a great drink before going to dinner or catching a movie at the theatre across the street.
Starting at 5th avenue and extending beyond to the convention center area you can find a variety of shops and things to do that will keep you entertained until the early hours of the morning. Besides from The Lime, they have Dick’s last Resort, which is a fantastic restaurant if you don’t mind shtick comedy with your food order, and Nicky Rottens which is a great place to grab a burger and enjoy the downtown scenery.
Joes Crab Shack:
It’s literally behind the convention center, and is nestled along the embarcadero. If you’ve never been to Joes Crab Shack their steam pots are the signature dish and main reason most visit. While they do mostly offer seafood, their menu has come to include a variety of: Burgers, Chicken, and Salads.
Most of the time the downtown location isn’t as busy as the others like in Mission Valley (we’ll get to that in a little while) simply because there isn’t really any parking, and that’s a good thing for lower wait times. Their garlic mussels are the best appetizer for your waiting, and they’ll always give you a reason to come back for seconds.
Horton Plaza Mall:
In the mall you have the food court, and several other shops including the movie theatre that will give you a nice discount to shop with them. While the food court is the food court there are a lot of cheaper places to dine which we’ll get into soon, but what makes the Horton Plaza mall so special is that you can actually see a lot of celebrities in the morning walking throughout the mall and at night after Comic-con has let out. I’ve personally met Jack Nicholson, Don Cheadle, and Kevin Conroy just taking out the trash when I used to close my Gamestop store.
This is actually the first place you should hit on your way to Comic-con or in between panels simply because a lot of cool events get placed here. In 2009 Ed Boon had a tournament to unveil the exclusive characters for Mortal Kombat 9, and stuck around to sign autographs in the store with my staff! They also have special discounts that they will offer because Comic-con is going on, and will also have free swag sometimes so you defiantly want to make this one of your first stops, or calls during the day to see what’s going on there.
Comics n Stuff:
This is San Diego’s largest Comic book store, with the muscle to back it. It resides right beside the Gamestop, and boasts its vast array with lots of memorabilia as well as highly sought after back issues that will help you add to your collection for pennies on the dollar.
What you can most certainly appreciate about the shop the most is the overall décor, from the wall furnishings, to the scrolls you can call it your home base for Comic-con and love every moment. The staff is very friendly, and informative, and they’ll always know what to suggest, or even what issue of a comic you’re talking about. I give it my personal seal of approval for Comic-con 2014.
This is a fantastic place to dine, especially if you love the ambience of a sophisticated restaurant at food court prices. Everything is made by hand, fresh out of the kitchen and the staff is excellent. The drinks are all natural, and if you’re a vegan or vegetarian the selections are excellent.
It’s the variety that captures this restaurant’s image perfectly, which is why it’s best to order ahead if you don’t plan on staying since it can sometimes get busy. I suggest Nordstrom’s Café for anyone who wants to rest, have a latte, or even enjoy a scenic view of Downtown San Diego in panoramic view.
While this shop is nestled outside of the mall across the street from Horton Plaza, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the visit. Panera Bread blends its kitchen line, with bistro delight in the hopes that you’ll understand their language.
From bread bowls, to Panini’s you can find just about every option under the sun with Panera, and they’re always expanding their menu to include things you’ll find to your liking. If you have a My Panera card use it, or sign up for one since you can get a free dessert or scone after a few visits, so it encourages you to find one in your home city, or town.
Mission valley/ Fashion Valley:
These two malls are literally down the street from one another and just a stones throw away from the Trolley stations. Fashion Valley mall doesn’t offer much since it’s considered a “High end,” mall. Most of the boutiques to carry a $399.00 price tag for handbags, but there are still a lot of awesome things you can check out here for free!
Barnes and Noble:
This bookstore is located right between Fashion Valley and Mission Valley at Hazard Center Drive. There’s another Joe’s Crab Shack here as well. Not only do they host Nintendo Street pass events here, they have a movie theatre, Applebee’s, Smash Burger, and a Starbucks. Most of the Street pass events are announced via Facebook for people hosting or creating one.
I know you remember these little bricks, including Duplo play sets as a toddler. The Lego store has just about everything you could imagine including tubs of bricks dedicated to you making your own play sets, your own Lego Mini, and Star Wars play sets as well. You’ll find that the staff is very friendly, hands on, and quite eager to help you find just the right play set for a friend or family member but also because we’re all still kids at heart, and that’s not a bad thing.
Yes there is a Disney store in Fashion Valley mall, and yes they do have Frozen stuff. If you’ve never been inside of a Disney store it’s your “home away from home.” The store is basically a gift shop, but what makes it unique is the fact that it’s for kids and adults, so you don’t feel awkward buying those pajamas with goofy’s face on them for your nephew. It doesn’t offer all of the amenities that Disneyland does, but it gives you enough to appreciate the Magical Kingdom that much more especially inside of a mall.
Microsoft, Sony, and Apple all have stores inside the mall simply because it’s very convenient to have a three way battle. Microsoft sports their huge glass displays so if you’re walking by you can see the Kinect being played with, and they often have local tournaments at the store for fighting games, or Kinect sports.
Apple is always going to lead in innovations on phones and with their store as well. It’s always busy in their store for some reason, but that shouldn’t deter you from seeing what the happenings are on the inside. Apple is a great company due to their successful sales with iPhones, and iPods, and with the iPhone 6 announcement being anticipated by everyone this fall it’s a fantastic time to stop by the store to see the upcoming news.
Sony is a great location to get a nostalgic feel for the old Playstation 3 days especially because this is one of the only places aside Gamestop to buy new PSP titles, as well as UMD movies. They have a lot of Interactive televisions, as well as a home theatre station to experience their new Sony Bravia, and the Playstation 4 entertainment system.
This is an absolute must stop for the sake of all chocolate lovers. Their exclusive membership card which is free gets you a free piece of chocolate per month. If you’ve ever had any of their gourmet chocolate from any retailer you can certainly agree it’s worth the visit. One of the best things about Godiva is that you’ll never feel awkward for trying a sample of chocolate, since there are really no bad choices in their stores. If you love chocolate, and milkshakes you should stop by here before visiting any of the other shops to complete the experience.
Misson Valley Mall:
This is right off the Trolley station to your left by Sammy’s wood fire pizza. You can appreciate the shop, and get the feel of a small anime and manga community that opens you up to so much more. Not only do they trade in your gently used manga, they have Japanese prize machines that only take Yen. You can exchange your money out for the currency you need to get that Naruto keychain.
Merchandise ranges from Otaku magazine, to Death note hoodies. They sell Japanese candy, and art supplies especially Copic markers and high quality sketch pads which will help capture that perfect moment at Comic-con if you’re a budding artist, or just need to hone your skills as you wait for the next event. If you can’t find a good sketch pad here, there’s a nearby Michaels art store inside the Mission Valley mall across the street near Nordstroms of the rack.
Outback steakhouse is one of the biggest reasons to come to this mall. If you’re looking for a great steak and ribs combo you can rest assured your investment is safe here. Since they introduced their new moonshine BBQ sauce it’s gotten rave reviews, and an even bigger backing thanks to the kick it provides when you taste it. Of course the Aussie cheese fries can’t be forgotten, and they have these in abundance for your eager palettes.
Buffalo Wild Wings:
It’s not hard to tell why Buffalo Wild Wings has essentially dominated the chicken wings market. Featuring over 27 different sauces including: Jammin’ Jalapeno, Desert heat, and Asian Zing you can imagine why Hooters, and Tilted kilt aren’t mentioned as much anymore. It offers a much more family friendly atmosphere, as well as fun trivia and interactive games that yield fantastic prizes for the winners. If you’re looking for a great time with friends this is one of the top places to visit.
Ruby’s café is a fantastic place to call home. Sporting a 1950’s diner/ bell hop theme it gives you all the fixings of classic America. Burgers, salads, and handmade peanut butter milkshakes are pair perfectly with your choice selection. From the time you walk in, and are seated you enjoy every moment as if you were in a 1950’s Chevy.
When you look up at the bar seating, you can see a towering Ruby as she spins around smiling at the entire restaurant. With their newly designed patio seating it makes you eating at Ruby’s Café just a fantastic experience, especially retelling your day at Comic-con to friends.
These are just some of the things you can partake in when you visit San Diego for Comic-con, and there’s so much more you can do! We’re almost to Comic-con and we’re going to give you a very nice list of what’s going to be free, around the convention center area for you to partake in. San Diego is the best place to keep Comic-con for years to come, and we couldn’t agree more.
This mall is located in El Cajon off of the Arnele Ave trolley station. There are quite a few places of interest you don’t want to miss here, especially if you’re looking for anime, comics, and new cosplay supplies. The F.Y.E. in the mall is the last Sam Goody’s company left in San Diego, so that’s where you can get good amounts of rare anime in East County.
There happen to be two Comic’s n Stuff located in El Cajon, and you want to hit both in sequence. Inside the mall on the top level next to the Crunch Gym is the first one at the back of the mall near the Nestle Tollhouse cookie bakery. It sports a very nice sized choice of newer merchandise for your browsing and purchasing selection, which you’ll find quite to your liking.
The second Comics n Stuff is located at 1020 El Cajon blvd, which is right near the freeway so you have to walk just a little bit after you leave the trolley station at the El Cajon stop, and you can see it as you enter the El Cajon trolley stop. This location is essentially a warehouse, and offers the biggest variety that the chain has, including: Figurines, trading cards, and back issues of a lot of older comics, so chances are if you’re missing an issue they have it in their stock!
These are just a few of the hottest places you want to check out on your visit to San Diego. The only way you’ll know what’s in the city, is to set forth and explore it for yourself. If you get lost don’t forget to use the Transit maps at every station to figure out where you are, and download the app at SDMTS.com.
It allows you to see when the next bus or train will be coming; it’s very accurate and convenient for your travel and saves you from forgetting or wondering if you’re not near a timetable.
Are you from San Diego? If so we want to hear your thoughts on the list, by commenting.
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