Pro at the con

Cos­play­ers, A-lis­ters and fan­boys, oh my! Nav­i­gat­ing Comic-Con.

Los Angeles Times - - TRAVEL - Travel@la­

BY IRENE LECHOWITZKY >>> Car­naval with Wook­iees. That’s Comic-Con In­ter­na­tional, San Diego’s cel­e­bra­tion of all things comics-sci­ence fic­tion-fan­tasy. The pop cul­ture feast July 9-12 at­tracts fans from around the world who jam the con­ven­tion cen­ter and join cos­tumed afi­ciona­dos whoop­ing it up in the streets, bars and night­clubs of the Gaslamp Quar­ter. Hol­ly­wood hoopla is ev­ery­where: star-stud­ded celeb pan­els, in­vi­ta­tion-only A-list par­ties, breath­less fans. The mar­ket­ing is heavy-handed, but that’s part of the fun. Even if you don’t have a cov­eted ticket to the con­ven­tion, it is al­most im­pos­si­ble not to get swept up in the con­ta­gious party at­mos­phere. Here are some sug­ges­tions for nav­i­gat­ing the mad­ness:

The beds

Rooms near the con­ven­tion cen­ter are dif­fi­cult to find by now. July is al­ready a busy month in a city fu­eled by tourism, and many Comic-Con reg­u­lars book a year in ad­vance. You may have to ven­ture far­ther afield.

Two very dif­fer­ent places— the Lafayette Ho­tel and the Par­adise Point Re­sort& Spa on Mis­sion Bay— of­fer respite fromthe crowds in the Gaslamp Quar­ter.

Lafayette Ho­tel, Swim Club & Bun­ga­lows in North Park (2223 El Ca­jon Blvd.; [619] 296-2101, www .lafayet­te­ho­, a hip­ster fa­vorite that­was a haven for Hol­ly­wood celebs back in the day, has been re­stored to its former glory. There are retro-chic rooms and bun­ga­lows, plus there’s an al­most-Olympic size (it’s 2 inches short) pool de­signed by Johnny (Tarzan) Weiss­muller and old-school din­ing at the Red Fox Steak House. Stan­dard room­rates in sum­mer range from$139 to $239; rates for Comic-Con shoot up to $409-$499.

For a clas­sic San Diego wa­ter­front ex­pe­ri­ence, check out the Par­adise Point Re­sort& Spa on Mis­sion Bay (1404Va­ca­tion Road; [858] 274-4630, www.par­adis­e­, which has lush gar­dens and la­goons spread over 44 acres, and a sandy beach to romp on. You’ll need a car to get around, but it’s a great place to get an um­brella drink and un­wind af­ter a day at the con. Sum­mer rates for a stan­dard room for two range from about $190 to $340; rates dur­ing Comic-Con are around $350 and up.

You can also choose ac­com­mo­da­tions up the coast that are along the lo­cal com­muter train line. It’s an easy ride on the Coaster train, which can take you from Ocean­side, Carls­bad or Encini­tas to a trol­ley stop near the con­ven­tion cen­ter. Info:

The meals

The Gaslamp is filled with restau­rants. Butwe knowwhat fu­els Con at­ten­dees:

Headto Donut Bar (631BSt.; [619] 255-6360, www.donut­ for awe­some treats. De­pend­ing on the baker’s whim and the crowds who beat your sleepy self there (it fre­quently sells out early), try the mud­pie dough­nut (dipped in choco­late fudge and topped with peanut but­ter marsh­mal­low glaze, Oreo cookie crumbs and salted peanut pieces) or the maple ba­con (Ver­mont maple glaze with a layer of fresh ba­con pieces). Dough­nuts $1.50 to $5.

For great burg­ers, go to Ho­dad’s (945 Broad­way; [619] 2346323, www.ho­, an off­shoot of the Ocean Beach in­sti­tu­tion that’s been fea­tured on “Din­ers, Drive-Ins and Dives.” Try the Guido, Guy Fieri’s fa­vorite: burger pat­ties, pas­trami, ketchup, pick­les, Swiss cheese, onions and hot brown mus­tard. Burg­ers $4.25 to $12.

When in Cali, choose a Cal­i­for­nia bur­rito filled with carne asada, cheese, sour crea­mand fries at Lolita’s (202 Park Blvd.; [619] 269-6055, www.loli­tas­mex­i­can­, east of Petco Park. Bur­ri­tos $2.75 to $7.50, combo plates about $8.

Fi­nally, af­ter a hard day of cosplay and wait­ing in line to get into Hall H, re­ward your Lord of the Uni­verse self at the Al­ti­tude Sky Lounge rooftop bar at the San Diego Mar­riott Gaslamp Quar­ter (660KSt.; [619] 446-6086, It’s 22 floors above street level, over­looks Petco Park and has killer views of down­town and the bay. You’ll have time towatch the sun­set and still make it to the con­ven­tion cen­ter for the “Buffy” sing-along. Cock­tails range from $6 (happy hour) to the mid-teens.

The finds

Headto Bal­boa Park ( www .bal­boa­ to re­lax among im­pres­sive works by the likes of Louise Nevel­son and Henry Moore. Grab a brew that’s helped make San Diego the craft brew­ing cap­i­tal of the­world. The Blind Lady Ale House has opened Panama66 (1450El Prado; [619] 696-1966,, an out­post in the May S. Marcy Sculp­ture Gar­den ad­ja­cent to the San Diego Mu­seum of Art. The gar­den and cafe are the ideal mix of art and cul­ture on a hot July day. Brews are $6 and vary in size based on the beer cho­sen.

The les­son learned

As the Bard put it, “There are more things in San Diego, Ho­ra­tio, than are dreamt of in your phi­los­o­phy.” Get out and ex­plore.

Pho­to­graphs by Irene Lechowitzky

ON MIS­SION BAY, Par­adise Point Re­sort & Spa is an oa­sis of seren­ity amid the Comic-Con in­san­ity. It has a pool and la­goons.

DIN­ERS chomp down on burg­ers and more at Ho­dad’s, which is an in­sti­tu­tion in San Diego.

TOAST Comic-Con at Al­ti­tude Sky Lounge, which over­looks Petco Park and has killer views of down­town and the bay.

IN THIS CASE, the early bird gets full pick of the good­ies at the Donut Bar, which fre­quently sells out of the day’s treats.

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