San Diego Comic Con Accommodation Advice?
May 26, 2008 11:27 PM   Subscribe

Advice for San Diego accommodations for Comic-Con?

This is the 2008 edition of this question, begging your pardon for a bit of a repeat. My wife and I will be coming from Hawaii to attend Comic Con in July, our first trip without our kids since having kids. We have our convention passes and our plane tickets, but we don't yet have a place to stay. We know that all the official convention hotels are booked solid, and have been for weeks. So, from what I can tell, our options are among the following:

1. Way overpay for a "historic" hotel near the Convention Center ($400+ night), knowing that it'll be old and crummy since it can afford to be so close to the action.

2. Find a hotel along the San Diego trolley line, which hopefully would be more affordable. This is the suggestion from last year, but I'm having a hard time finding hotels that have trolley stops in front of them. (I found an "Old Time Trolley" with hotels listed but that seemed more like a tourist ride, not mass transit.) If we could get some suggestions, I like this option a lot.

3. Find a hotel or motel further away ($200+), say 5-10 miles (i.e. "Hotel Circle"), then depend on shuttles or taxis. I'm not sure how pervasive either shuttles or taxis are, though, and I gather this option most limits our spontaneous wandering around options.

4. Expand the radius ridiculously, bargain hunt, and just rent a car to get around. More wandering options (my wife is hinting that she wants to blow off a day of the con and just do the tourist thing), but then we have to deal with parking, which I gather is also a nightmare in San Diego.

FWIW, I've already inquired at several private vacation rentals (VRBO, HomeAway), and they're all booked or require a full month. A pity, since I'm becoming a fan of vacation rentals versus hotels.

Anyone familiar with San Diego or Comic Con have some insights to share? Like I said, we haven't hopped a plane anywhere for 10 years, so as long as you've visited San Diego more recently than that, I'm sure we could learn something from you.
posted by pzarquon to Travel & Transportation around San Diego, CA (16 answers total)
There's a Doubletree that's near a trolley stop. The Town & Country is near the Fashion Valley trolley stop as well, although I think it's a little more of a walk than you'd have at the Doubletree.

They use the special event trains/schedule for Comic-Con, which means you won't have to transfer at Old Town.
posted by stefanie at 12:33 AM on May 27, 2008

I'm pretty sure Hotel Circle is on the trolley line, if that helps.
posted by jabberjaw at 12:34 AM on May 27, 2008

The rooms at La Pensione are very basic and small, but it's among the best deals in a overpriced-hotel-town. Nice folks, the lobby is lovely, and the neighborhood is cute. I stayed there in April. It's not a long walk to the trolley, but I wound up just walking everywhere.
posted by desuetude at 6:35 AM on May 27, 2008

All my friends say "Stay home! It's a zoo... and the hotels nearby are completely flooded and horrible at that time. Too noisy to sleep, and the nearby restaurants gouge and are also swamped!"

So, I'm a bit biased, I guess. If it were me, I would want a haven away from that kind of stuff.

Check out San Diego vacation rentals, like this one on Craigslist. Split the cost with one or two people online or that you know, and you're paying less than hotel rate, and you're still only about 5 miles away from the Convention Center.

... and you get the added benefit of being able to relax, and buy your food at the grocer's instead of having to be stuck with the rest of the zoo.
posted by markkraft at 7:15 AM on May 27, 2008

I don't know where you got the idea that parking is a nightmare in San Diego. Parking is a nightmare at Comic-Con but so is pretty much everything else. For all its other eccentricities, SD is still a southern CA town - they're not going to make you walk.

I'd rent the car - honestly, if I were visiting SD just for a comics convention, I'd spend about a day inside before getting impatient, blowing it off, and going to do something outdoors. I suspect that I would feel this way even if I were coming from Hawaii. This may be due to my insufficient commitment to comics, but it sounds like your wife is right there with me.
posted by crinklebat at 8:16 AM on May 27, 2008

Comic Con runs a very nice free shuttle service through late in the night, all the way out to Hotel Circle.

If you want to stay semi close, try Shelter Island. Shouldn't be quite $400, probably more like $300 and there are shuttles there too.

The trolley is a great suggestion, and runs NON STOP service from the Fashion Valley stop straight to the convention center.

Also, check craigslist. I've seen some downtown people are renting out their houses and apartments.

Comic Con is a zoo, but worth it every year. I've always had a great time.
posted by THX1138 at 8:25 AM on May 27, 2008

If you do rent a car, your best bet for getting to the Con is to park at one of the bigger trolley stops (like Old Town) and take the trolley into downtown. I'm a local, and that's what we did last year on Saturday. We got there pretty early (since we needed to get our passes and stuff), but parking was easy enough -- the lot is huge. The trolleys also run more frequently for the Con, and I think they even add a special line. Here's the page on parking at stations.

And if your wife really is going to get antsy, you'll need the car to do anything touristy anyway.
posted by natabat at 8:29 AM on May 27, 2008

Just for another perspective, I found plenty of stuff to do for a couple of days without renting a car. I took the bus to the zoo. (Didn't have time to visit the museums or the wildlife park, unfortunately.) I rented a bike, took the ferry to Coronado, and had a gorgeous long bike ride and got my toes in the ocean, with a stop off for a drink at the Hotel Del.
posted by desuetude at 8:40 AM on May 27, 2008

Hotel Circle is *kind of* near a trolley stop or two, depending on your definition of "near" and what hotel you end up getting. The closest stops will probably be either Fashion Valley or Old Town (there's quite a few motel-type places in Old Town as well as a couple Holiday Inn type places, if that helps), but you could end up walking a mile or so to the stop. There is a bus line, I think it's the #14, that runs down Hotel Circle between the two trolley stops, so that might make things easier. There's also a Comfort Inn on San Diego Ave, between Old Town and Washington Street that would be pretty convenient to the Washington St. trolley stop.

You have to be kind of careful with taking hotel recommendations here though, because we typically have more than one hotel of any brand in a given area. For instance, I think there's two Doubletrees in Mission Valley--one is on Hotel Circle and one is (I think) in Hazard Center, which has its own trolley stop. Also, in addition to the Comfort Inn I mentioned, there's one on the north side of Hotel Circle.

Basically, I'd look anywhere along I-5 up until it hits I-8, and then start moving eastward along I-8; that's roughly the same path the trolley follows. If you end up staying a little farther out and renting a car, there is a decent size parking lot at Old Town as mentioned (Old Town can get fairly crazy with parking just of its own accord, so parking might not be incredibly easy there), or you can probably park somewhere in the Fashion Valley lot and ride the trolley from there, or maybe somewhere else in Mission Valley. Most of the Mission Valley trolley stops are at malls, so there's plenty of parking around. There's also a stop at the stadium, but I don't know if they have open parking there.
posted by LionIndex at 8:56 AM on May 27, 2008

Mahalo, all. Good to know that Comic Con does trigger the "special event" Metro plan, that Hotel Circle is on the line, and that we haven't quite screwed ourselves by deciding to go only last week (I can't believe I'm paying about $800/person to fly from Honolulu compared to what the same trip cost a friend last year!).

stefanie: Thanks. The DoubleTree looks promising. Not cheap, but fewer ghastly reviews from angry or disgusted clients. Lots of references to the Metro, which was something I couldn't find on most other hotel sites. Oft-mentioned downside is $12/day parking, but... daily rates in Honolulu make that sound totally reasonable.

crinklebat, natabat, LionIndex: Thanks for the perspective on parking. I was worried if renting a car was an outright stupid idea, but it sounds like it might make sense. This is our first Comic Con, but it realistically could be our last. I couldn't tell you whether we'll want to spend every minute in the Convention Center, or go crazy after one full day and wander San Diego the rest of our time. We are getting away from our three kids for the first time since Kid #1 was born...

markkraft, THX1138: I'll look a bit longer for a vacation rental (which, as I noted, I prefer... comforts of home and all that), but apart from larger properties we'd have to try and share or "luxury" units downtown which would cost more than our airfare, we just might be too late in looking for something like that.

So we may book at the DoubleTree, get our warm cookie and pay $12 a day for parking, then park at Old Town and Trolley to the Convention Center for Comic Con... or just hit the road and visit Legoland and the beach and the zoo and...
posted by pzarquon at 10:05 AM on May 27, 2008

I was living in a loft downtown during comic con last year. My first year actually going, but I'd seen the chaos other years leaking all over downtown. Don't stay downtown. Especially in an overpriced hotel. You will be thrilled to escape the madness at the end of the day. If you can get a hotel in Old Town, I recommend it. Old Town is an adorable and happy place. Some choices. Hotel Circle is boring and corporate.

The trolleys will be packed all weekend. SD runs special event trolleys to accommodate all the extras, but they'll still be standing room only. Just get to the platform extremely early.

If you drive, don't even attempt fighting for parking near the convention center. Shuttle buses pick up comic con visitors all over downtown. Parking prices in garages will be drastically inflated, however, and street parking will probably be impossible to find outside the far eastern sketchy areas. Parking is also tough in Old Town on the weekends, even in the huge trolley parking lot. But if you have a hotel parking there, no problem.
posted by changeling at 10:07 AM on May 27, 2008

I saw your reply above and I just want to re-emphasize --- hundreds, and quite possibly thousands, of other Comic Con attendees will be trying to park at the Old Town lot and taking the trolley in to town. Unless you get there at 7am, I truly recommend getting a hotel in walking distance, cheap cab distance, or a hotel that includes free shuttle service to the trolley.
posted by changeling at 10:13 AM on May 27, 2008

Thanks, changeling. Good to know. We're early morning people, but on a leisure trip, 7 a.m. might be pushing it just for a parking space. Thanks for the link to Old Town hotels, I'll browse those. There we'd have parking for our wandlust but would otherwise just grab the (crowded) trolley down to the Convention Center?

I gather catching the trolley at the aforementioned Doubletree would work, but it'd be a longer ride.

Also found recommendations for Balboa Park Inn, a quirky B&B just north of the zoo. Residential area, street parking. No trolley stops, but there's the #7 Downtown bus. Anyone know the area?
posted by pzarquon at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2008

Yeah, that's just a bit south of Hillcrest, but on the east side. If you go for a little walk to the west and north (up to around 5th and University), you'll come up on one of the more interesting areas of town, with lots of shops and restaurants of all stripes. It's basically our little version of the village in NY, only a little less indie. There's not a whole lot in the immediate area of the hotel, but if the 7 bus goes down Park Boulevard into downtown (which would be a fairly short ride) you'd end up pretty close to the convention center. It's a decent area.

I'd assume that if you stayed in Old Town you'd just take the trolley. And what changeling says about the parking at Old Town is pretty true--it's tough parking there on weekends in the summer, convention or not.
posted by LionIndex at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2008

Thanks, LionIndex, for the context on the area. Just called, though, and the Balboa Inn is all booked that weekend (no surprise). Bummer. I'm pretty sure that's where we'll stay the next time we're in San Diego. Reminds me of some of our favorite, quirkier places on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Old Town hotels I've checked so far seem either unavailable or priced way out of our range. We haven't given up but we have a reservation at the Doubletree mentioned in the first reply (from stefanie). Got a good rate including parking and Wi-Fi, so if that's what we end up with, I think we'll be happy.

I really appreciate all the advice. I'll certainly have to pay it forward and be more helpful on the Hawaii questions that come through here.
posted by pzarquon at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2008

Stay out of Old Town hotels. It's boring and touristy. Imagine Hawaii tourist traps - now swap sombreros for leis. That's Old Town.

You can pick up the trolley at Fashion Valley or Qualcomm. There's ample parking at both. I've stayed at the Doubletree in Mission Valley and it's fine. It's not in an especially fun part of the city, but it's a nice hotel. It's in a little mall with a Barnes and Nobel, a movie theatre and some restaurants. You'll be fine there.
posted by 26.2 at 10:57 PM on May 27, 2008

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