From celebrity-spotting in Hall H to swag-hunting in the exhibition hall, most of Comic-Con occurs indoors.
But the Con occurs in midsummer, on the fringe of the Gaslamp Quarter, in a city fabled for blue skies and waters.
Why not embark on a Con-quest of outer spaces?
Slip on walking shoes and smear on sunscreen. An easy stroll from the convention center, a world awaits.
Superheroic people-watching: Grab an outdoor table at the Tin Fish Gaslamp (170 Sixth Ave.) if you’re drinking and dining on a budget, or Lou & Mickey’s (224 Fifth Ave.) if you’re not. Both restaurants are opposite the convention center’s main entrance, crossroads of the Con’s costumed universe.
Lost world: Downtown’s Chinatown has mostly vanished, but the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum (404 Third Ave.) testifies to its former glories — ancient relics, calligraphy, a warlord’s bed and bridal carriage, a piece from the late 1800s used to transport a bride to the groom’s home by horse. Another special piece is a model of downtown San Diego, along Third Avenue between Island and J Street (where the museum is now), from a time period between 1910 and 1920. And on a warm afternoon, linger in the shady Asian garden.
Inspiration at your feet: The Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade is a broad, palm-lined walkway along the trolley tracks that border Harbor Drive. Every 50 yards or so, the path is marked by plaques engraved with the civil rights leader’s reflections on history, freedom, life and other eternal truths.
By dockless bikes and scooters
These station-free ridesharing modes of transportation are another way of touring downtown. There are at least four dockless bike companies in San Diego and one offering motorized scooters. Here are the companies and how they are identified: LimeBike — limebike.com (bright green and yellow bikes); Mobike — mobike.com (silver and orange bikes); Ofo — ofo.com/us/en (yellow and black bikes); Spin — spin.com (orange and black bikes); and Bird — bird.com (black and white scooters). They’re easy to operate. Just click on the website for instructions on how to get started.
Numerous pedicabs are available daily along most downtown streets, particularly in the Gaslamp and along the Embarcadero. Fares vary on these bicycle-powered rickshaws, so be sure you ask for pricing first. Carry a map of downtown to indicate your destination.
Old Southwest: Enjoy timeless fare — a steak sandwich, say — at the Gaslamp’s oldest bar, the 133-year-old Tivoli (505 Sixth Ave.). Or journey further back in time to the William Heath Davis House (410 Island Ave.), an 1850 residence reborn as a museum.
Brewed awakening: Many Gaslamp watering holes feature world-renowned San Diego beers. But for an ultra-fresh brew, cross the parking lot east of Petco Park to Mission Brewery (1441 L St.). The tasting bar pours several varieties, from gentle Mission Blonde to ferocious Shipwrecked Double IPA.
Behind the convention center, ferries depart Fifth Avenue Landing for the Coronado Ferry Landing. For schedules, call (800) 442-7847 or visit flagshipsd.com; one-way fare is $4.75; children 3 and under free.
Water works: The 15-minute voyage to Coronado offers views of San Diego’s skyline and the bay’s many faces: sleek megayachts, knockabout dinghies, burly warships and freighters unloading everything from bananas to cars.
The San Diego Trolley has two stops in front of the convention center: Harbor Drive at First Avenue and Harbor Drive at Fifth Avenue, portals to many destinations. For information, call (619) 233-3004 or visit sdmts.com; one-way fares start at $2.50; a day pass is $5.
Time travel: Haven’t had your fix of costumed characters? Ride north to the Old Town station (Green Line), where restored buildings and strolling interpreters re-create the San Diego of 1821-1872. Admission is free, but those 19th-century-looking shop and tavern-keepers charge 21st-century prices.
Validation: No longer just kids’ stuff, comics have been embraced by scholars. Need proof? San Diego State University’s on-campus trolley stop (Green Line) is outside the main library, which houses an extensive collection of comic books, graphic novels and magazines.
Beachin’: The convention center sits on the bay, yet is miles from any surf. One option: Trolley over to the Santa Fe Depot (Green Line), transfer to the Coaster, then travel north to Solana Beach. That station is a five-minute walk from Fletcher Cove Park (111 S. Sierra Ave.), with showers, restrooms, a picnic area and — at last! — waves.