Since a lot of people are using up their vacation days and getting into San Diego early for SDCC or extended their vacation past Sunday, we thought it would be helpful to put together a list of fun things to do in and around San Diego beyond the four whirlwind days at the convention. Besides, you need something to fill your time between D23 one weekend and SDCC the next, right?
San Diego, California is one of my favorite cities. I think it is safe to say it is the quintessential Southern California city, and there is a lot more to it than just the convention we all know and love. The below list is far from comprehensive but will get you started for ideas on what to do before and after the con. If you’ve got some hidden gems to share, be sure to let everyone else know in the comments!
You’re in Southern California, folks. That means fun, sun, and the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Grab a blanket and some sunscreen. Take some time away from the crowds to relax on the warm sand and play in the surf.
La Jolla beach is one of my personal favorites, but you can’t go wrong with Mission Beach, Moonlight Beach, or trek north a little further and check out the Oceanside pier. If you don’t have your own form of transportation, all of these will require renting a car, taking an uber, or using public transportation. They might add to expenses, but it’ll be worth it to relax for a couple hours in typical Southern California fashion.
Not interested in the sand and sea? That’s alright. Inland, San Diego has Balboa Park which is right next to the San Diego zoo. Whether you want to trek to the zoo and see a variety of animals or stay at the park, there are endless activities to fill your day. You can check out one of the numerous museums, history and art, or take a break, grab a snack, and people watch in one of the available open green spaces.
If you brought your kids with you on this trip then Balboa Park is a great place to let them run wild. Take a tour with them that hits all of the main points then go back later to explore in depth. If it is just adults then that is great too, because Balboa Park has a number of interesting art museums that may cater to a more sophisticated mind. Even just going and walking along the paths at the park can be a rewarding experience.
Most SDCC attendees will probably want to save their luggage space for the comic con exclusives coming their way. However, if you find yourself in need of a new pair of shoes or want to sacrifice some of that precious space to something a little more commercial, San Diego has a lot of shopping options.
Seaport Village is one that sits right on the water and provides a nice break from the inland heat. With the wind off of the bay it is downright luxurious to walk between stores. Seaport Village has a ton of dining and shopping options from casual to quirky and will have a little something for everyone. It is fun to walk the pier-like paths between the stores and you get some nice views of both the ocean and the city.
Horton Plaza is back downtown, closer to the convention center and definitely the place to go for typical mall shopping. The plaza has a movie theater, too, in case you’re dying to see a new release before checking out the panel later in the week at SDCC. Again, along with shopping there are a lot of dining options that might be somewhat less crowded than the Gaslamp District will be before, during, and after the convention.
If you are feeling particularly adventurous and want to get a taste of crowds before the convention, then it might be worth it to rent a car and drive up to Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. It takes about an hour and a half up the five to get from San Diego to Anaheim, but once you’re there you can dive into the magical world of Disney.
Grab a park hopper pass for the day (or two!) and you can hop between Disneyland and California Adventure all day. The experience will definitely condition you for the chaos of San Diego Comic Con.
Once you are done, stick around Anaheim afterward and consider getting dinner next door in downtown Fullerton. Then, at your leisure, make your way back south and enjoy the views either along the Pacific Coast Highway (which is not a straight shot and will eventually kick you back over to I-5) or straight down the 5 through Camp Pendleton.
This is, of course, assuming you’re not already planning that crazy week of D23 followed by SDCC like we know some of you are doing…
If you are an entertainment fan, then you might want to make an effort to get up to Los Angeles at least once during your extended vacation. You can walk the Hollywood Walk of Fame, grab taquitos at Olvera Street, and check out the madness that rivals New York’s Time Square on the main downtown stretch. Treat yourself to an expensive dinner in one of the higher end neighborhoods and keep your eyes peeled for celebrities going about their day.
Los Angeles would be a day trip that would require either a train ride or a car, but there is a lot of rich entertainment history to be found in the City of Angels that might be worth it to budding entertainment aficionados. Or just anyone who wants really, really good tacos.
Finally, you can check out either of Southern California’s baseball teams: The San Diego Padres at Petco Park or the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Of course the Padres are closer because they are in San Diego and right after the convention they will be playing a succession of games against the New York Mets. The Angels, on the other hand, will be playing the Washington Nationals the day before the convention madness begins. No one says nerds can’t also enjoy sports, right?
San Diego is one of my favorite cities and has a lot to offer any vacationer who wants to spend time exploring it outside of the madness that is San Diego Comic Con. From beaches to baseball, I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy the electricity that seems to flow through the San Diego air and energize anyone who steps foot within the boundaries of the city. Even better, you can trek north and see some of the other Southern California sites.
Whatever you end up doing I have only one request: have a taco for me. I miss Southern California tacos.