Q: What do you do when you accidentally take a trip to San Diego during one its busiest events of the year (i.e. San Diego Comic-Con)?
A: You use all your Un-Planner skills to find out ways to have fun, even without a ticket.
Free SDCC Shenanigans
Even if you don’t have tickets to San Diego Comic-Con, there’s still a ton of fun stuff to get into downtown. Plenty of the entertainment networks and companies that are hosting events inside of the convention center also are hosting activities outside for free!
They had plazas with giveaways and games to play, a karaoke bus, an axe-throwing club, stand-up comedy shows and more! It all just depended on what you wanted to to and how long you were willing to stand in a line.
Tips for More Fun and Less Frustration:
- If you hate crowds or waiting in line, this is uh… probably not for you. Organizers seem to have this down to a science though, because the lines move pretty quickly.
- If you want to do an event or activity that has limited hours, they’re not joking when they tell you to show up early. We showed up to something at noon that was already booked until it was closing THREE hours later.
- If you want to avoid steep parking fees and traffic, rideshare/cab your way downtown. Or, if you are driving, use a parking app to pre-pay for parking downtown. If you don’t mind walking an extra ten minutes toward the convention center, the parking garages and lots are basically half the price of those closer.
- Maybe this tip is obvious, but if you’re meeting people downtown, don’t make them try to find you in the crowds. I thought the Coin-Op Game Room bar and arcade was a pretty good meeting place for those 21+. It was easy to find and being farther away from Comic-Con made it way less crowded.
- This is less of a tip and more of a helpful suggestion for food, especially in the packed Gaslamp Quarter. Cafe 21 has plenty of seating and killer happy hour (just look at this precious fondue board).
If you find need a break from all the fanfare, may I suggest these activities/places:
If you enjoy the theater (or even funky architecture – the building was built in 1924!), check out what’s going on at the Balboa Theatre. We saw a live podcast show here and it was both an entertaining and relaxing end to our day.
About 15 minutes from downtown (without traffic), in the Kearny Mesa area, there is an amazing cluster of Asian restaurants and shops along Convoy Street. Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese food – you name it, it seems to be there.
Tip: Once again, parking can get kind of dicey here. So either rideshare/cab it to the area or if you’re driving, you might have some luck parking in the complex that Mitsuwa Marketplace is in and then walking from there.
Here are a couple popular places that I visited that I really enjoyed:
I wish we had a Japanese grocery store like this in Arizona! In addition to Asian grocery and beauty items it would be hard to find in most stores in the U.S., they also have five little restaurant/food stands inside.
We grabbed some tasty ramen bowls at Santouka Ramen – there were a ton of different options and combos to choose from. I got my usual Shoyu.
Tip: This stand is cash only.
Somi Somi and Sul & Beans are two excellent Korean dessert establishments in one building. We ate Somi Somi, which has soft serve and taiyaki (a fish-shaped cake with filling). Or you can go nuts and get the soft serve IN the fish-shaped cone with a filling.
If you really want to wind down your weekend, it’s worth taking a trip out the Hillcrest Farmers Market. The market is open every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Normal Street. Here you can take in some live music, check out the craft stalls and of course, enjoy a wide variety of food from their many vendors.
See? Even if you don’t make it into Comic-Con, there’s plenty to do! (But maybe next time, I’ll plan ahead. Maybe.)
Until We Meet Again,
In My Humble O-PIN-nion