Downtown escapes for coffee, relaxing, shopping

There's no escaping Comic-Con in the Gaslamp Quarter this weekend, but that doesn't mean you have to be all about the nerd-fest 24 hours a day.

This guide to exploring downtown is aimed at exhausted out-of-towners, hardcore local nerds, and voyeurs, all milling about in downtown during the Comic Con extravaganza. No matter what your state, downtown has you covered with places to rev up on coffee, nourishing breakfasts, lounging in shaded, public places with scenic views and low-key shopping.

Sit back, take it in, or jump head first into exploring downtown San Diego.

Fuel up mid-morning or late night

Tabac Specialty Coffee and Cigars

Whether you're in the mood for a frou-frou coffee drink, cigar, beautiful slice of cake, or all three, Tabac has all your vices covered till 1 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and till 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. With indoor seating where you can smoke Hookah, plus an outdoor patio, this chill spot is popular among studying students and laid-back downtown denizens. 589 Third Ave., tabaccafe.com

Le Parfait Paris

Modern French bakery with jewel-like fancy desserts, plus classic pastries like croissants that are now being supplied to cafes around town. Besides coffee service, on Saturdays and Sundays there's champagne brunch from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with $16 bottomless mimosas, plus champagne cocktails and bloody marys for $6. Best of all, the place doesn't close till 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights. 555 G St., (619) 245-4457.

Nab a nourishing breakfast

Café 222

Café 222 is a downtown San Diego institution with its peanut butter and banana stuffed French toast, and pumpkin waffles. And there's a whole lot more inventive flavor combinations by owner Teryl Gavre, who went on to open Bankers Hill Bar + Restaurant, Market and Bake Sale in the wake of Café 222's success. Eating here is a must if only to pay respect to one of the original creative restaurant owners who took a chance on downtown before it blew up. 222 Island Ave., cafe222.com

Once you're fueled from breakfast, take a break and soak in some rays, or shade, at these downtown parks.

But first, pack a picnic...

Tender Greens

Grab food to go from this fast casual health-conscious restaurant that makes sandwiches, salads and plate lunch and dinners from a selection of freshly carved meats and organic veggies. So far, the only Tender Greens location with a breakfast sandwich lineup is this one. Hot tail it to the park, so your egg's still runny. 110 W. Broadway, tendergreens.com

Children's Park (corner of Front Street and Island Avenue) will undoubtedly yield some prime views of the Comic-Con crowd, making it an ideal picnic spot, with shade, where you can post up with your grub and giggle at the circus of passersby.

Directly in front of the Children's Park, take a stroll along the water-fountain lined M.L.K. Promenade, or sit back and watch all the costumes frolicking along the walkway. Alongside Pacific Highway and Harbor Drive from Broadway to Park Boulevard.

There's no better way to explore downtown at a time like this than on a bike. You can cover more ground, hop curbs and generally see and do more without the frustration of blistered pinky toes from walking.

Check out the Bike Revolution, a centrally located rental service that has everything from beach cruisers to mountain bikes for rent by the hour to the week ($7-$55). Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. 522 Sixth Ave. (619) 564-4843, thebikerevolution.com

More parks to explore

Embarcadero Marina Park

Take your bike and head over to the Embarcadero Marina Park, which faces the Bay and Coronado. Just behind the Convention Center, it's sure to be a madhouse, but the views of San Diego Bay, the bridge and Point Loma are unrivaled along this stretch of downtown. There are bike paths, picnic tables, shade and restrooms. 200 Marina Park Way.

Ruocco Park

A new addition to downtown's parks, Ruocco is a slice of green heaven in between the new Headquarters shopping mall and the water. Its most distinguishing feature is a huge sculpture made from tree trunks by artist Roman de Salvo. 585 Harbor Lane.

Go shopping at The Headquarters

The Headquarters shopping plaza is authentically San Diego and known for being a tourist trap. Take for instance the local arts and crafts super store, Simply Local, where you can get everything from handmade soaps to jewelry and leather products, made mostly in San Diego. Set up like an indoor marketplace, patrons cruise from display to display taking in loads of San Diego's design and lifestyle goods. 789 W. Harbor Drive. theheadquarters.com

Don't forget to stop by Venissimo Cheese, where a world of amazing flavors awaits. Leave with all the makings for a perfect meat, cheese and baguette picnic, or carry a gooey grilled cheese to go to one of the many parks listed above, all within walking distance. 789 W. Harbor Drive. (619) 358-9081, venissimo.com

Source: DiscoverSD

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