Heading to the San Diego Comic Con International this month? Those of you looking for some things to do when you're not wading through the aisles of the convention (amidst all types of creatures, really) would do well to peruse the following suggestions of other San Diego delights. I'm specifically trying to focus on things that are not the blatantly obvious ones everyone will tell you about (San Diego Zoo, Sea World, Dick's Last Resort, etc.).
1.) The Annual U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition will be happening on Imperial Beach the weekend of the convention. It'll be crowded, but relative to the convention center, I suspect it won't seem so bad.
2.) Balboa Park. Lots of people go to the park to visit the San Diego Zoo, but they miss out on the rest of the park's architecture and natural beauty. There are all sorts of interesting little museums to duck into, or just wander around the ponds and randomly-placed violin players. Go early in ther morning or in the early evening if you want to get away from those pesky "humans" for a while.
3.) Little Italy. This is semi-touristy, but it's a hole-in-the-wall compared to the Gaslamp Quarter, and still in downtown (a bit of a walk, but your feet are probably numb from the convention by the time dinner comes around anyway). If you're itching for a nice fish meal before heading back home after convention, drop into Buon Appetito for dinner and try the Salmone alla Griglia. A bit pricey at $16 maybe, but I'd challenge you to find better salmon anywhere.
4.) Ralphs in downtown San Diego. Almost throwing distance from the convention center, this place is for you who enjoy eating food but almost popped a vein or two when you saw the salmon price above. This is, to my knowledge, the only grocery store going in downtown, so it's a convenient place to grab sandwich makings for the hotel room. Or buy four bottles of water there, and save enough money compared to convention prices to go have yourself a nice salmon dinner.
5.) Horton Plaza Food Court. Experienced con goers know about Ralphs and Horton Plaza, but for first timers, this is solid and, dare I say, life-saving information. If you brought your comic money to spend on, say, comics rather than the convention center's "Pizza-By-The-Anal-Probe" pricing, then know ye that the answer you seek is a short walk from the convention center. Horton Plaza's Food Court has your standard mall food court options (McDonalds, Panda Express, etc), but it also has lots of uniqe options. It's all relatively inexpensive, you can sit outside and do some premium people watching while you sip your bucket 'o Mountain Dew, and in thirteen years of going there to eat, I haven't been poisoned once (without specifically ordering poison with my meal, anyway).
6.) Ocean Beach. The least crowded and probably least polluted beach areas of San Diego. It's also a pretty short drive from the convention center, relative to your other beach options. There's a long pier people can fish off of without a valid California fishing license, and a coffee shop out on the pier as well. The main road, Newport Avenue, has lots of little restaurants, coffee shops, antique stores, surf shops, and other places to wander around for a bit before heading back to the Webcomics Pavillion again.
7.) Fred's Mexican Cafe. Good Mexican food. Walking distance from Convention (in the Gaslamp Quarter). Reasonably priced. Groovy atmosphere. Has name "Fred" in title. 'Nuff said.
8.) Kobey's Swap Meet. Every weekend at the Sports Arena, they set up a giant swap meet. It's a buck to get in, but it is a bargain hunter's paradise. That ship in a bottle you've been looking for to enhance the "nautical" theme of your bathroom is somewhere amidst the piles of bargains here (along with the tropical fish shower curtain, naturally). Krispy Kreme is across the parking lot if you're hungry for a nice, sensible meal afterwards.
9.) Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Downtown. It's a nice walk down to it, right in downtown San Diego. Always something interesting going on in its three galleries, and the price is spot on (free). They have a pretty fun gift shop, and there is a central stop to the trolly line running on one side of it. One of the more interesting structures in downtown to gander at, and quite close to the harbor if you want to go steal a boat and go plundering or something.
10.) The shower in your hotel room. Do everyone a favor and get aquainted with it, hmm?