A Case for Staying Outside of the Gaslamp During SDCC

SDCC Hotel Area MapEditor’s note: This article is the first in a series of two “point/counter-point” articles on where to stay during San Diego Comic-Con, leading up to Tuesday’s hotel reservation sale. Please check out our second article in the series, “A Case for Staying Downtown and in the Gaslamp Quarter During SDCC”, so that you can decide which hotel selections are best for you!

I hate that my first piece for The San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog might make me look like the old man yelling at kids to get off the lawn, but I must say…I’m not a fan of staying downtown during San Diego Comic-Con. I know it must sound like heresy for an SDCC fan like myself to turn my back on the heart of SDCC itself, but the fact of the matter it just doesn’t hold the allure for me that it does for many. Thankfully, this results in none of the stress that will plague many SDCCers this Tuesday.

While I understand the sexiness of being in the heart of the action, there are a number of reasons my wife and I have made the choice to stay at least a 10 minute drive away from the Starship SDCC:

  1. Diminishing Returns: I don’t think it is possible to love cons more than I do. Since 2005, I have been on the exhibit floor nearly every minute of SDCC. Sure, I’ve taken the occasional break to catch a few panels, but the for the most part I love the energy of being at the center of the action. That being said, everyone needs a break and that is what the nights are for me. I relish the opportunity to get into the car and drive to Old Town for dinner. Simply, I need a few hours to re-charge away from the action.
  2. Sleep: In all my years at SDCC, I’ve never gotten sick. Yes, I said I have never suffered “Con Crud.” The largest contributing factor in my estimation is the simple fact that I get sleep. I’m not saying there are many 8 hour nights (if any), but I’ll get at least 6 hours of sleep a night. By staying away from the show, it almost forces a little time to reboot. Staying in the Gaslamp is like staying in a casino…vices are always calling your name and robbing you of your good sense to take care of yourself. Additionally, the sounds of SDCC are hard to escape, no matter what hour of night it is. Parties, trains and inebriated nerds are all looking for ways to rob Gaslamp inhabitants of precious sleep. I know SDCC is only 5 days and you want to get every moment of it, but the body needs what the body needs and I’m not willing to risk breaking down during the show.
  3. Money: Do I need to elaborate? SDCC is expensive and staying in the Gaslamp is ridiculous. When I spend $300 a night on a room it is somewhere where I will be in the hotel enough to enjoy it. I prefer to spend $150 at a nice place in Mission Valley and use that extra money at the Hasbro booth to add to the collection.
  4. A Place to Call Home: During SDCC it is really important to me to have a headquarters super close to the exhibit hall floor. With the amount of swag and exclusives I’m wrangling, I need easy drop-off at all times. By having the car parked underneath the convention center, my wife and I always have a place to hide from the crowds when we need a quick break. We can drop off the loot, charge our phones and have a snack by simply walking down a few sets of stairs. Even staying at the Hilton Bayfront puts me further from my headquarters than I desire. I want to be inside of the con every minute its open, so I don’t have time to fight the crowds to get to one of the adjacent hotel rooms. Remember, the “close” hotels aren’t very close when SDCC is in full swing. 

I know some may have concerns about finding a spot to change out of their favorite Boba Fett shirt into something a bit ritzier for the Ausiello’s Aushole Party (maybe, a Lando shirt? He did run Cloud City), but you can change just as easily in a restroom or the car and be just as nerd-tastic as the rest of the crew. I’ve attended more SDCC parties and premieres than I can remember and changing has never been an issue.

As with everything at SDCC, all choices are about opportunity costs. The best thing about SDCC is that it offers something different and wonderful for each geek that attends. I don’t think that there are any absolutes when it comes to SDCC fun, so I totally understand the desire (and in some cases, the intense obsession) to stay downtown during SDCC. That being said, if you’ve ever debated on making the leap out of the Gaslamp, I highly suggest it. 

If you do break away, I suggest giving the Mission Valley area a try for your first time. Between shuttle access and easy freeway transitions, this makes for an easy first time away from the epicenter of Comic-Con.

If you have any questions on hotels or anything else SDCC, just tweet me: @The_Con_Fluence

About Shawn Marshall

Shawn Marshall
Fan of all aspects of the con experience, but particularly the exhibit hall floor! Traveling to 30 or more shows a year. Follow along and play from home.
  • http://twitter.com/SDCCnerdsattack When Nerds Attack

    We stayed in Mission Valley our first year (2010) and it was nice to get away from everything at the end of the day. The drive wasn’t horrible and the fact that CCI has the pre-paid parking does help take some of the stress off!

  • epic_skyline

    I have always stayed relatively close in years past, though that price difference is tempting. In the end, though, I don’t have a car, and adding 30 minutes to my commute at 1-2 am to get into line is not worth it for me. I can see the merit of it if you stay on the floor most of the time and skip the big panels. No lines to worry about camping out for, you lucky dog.

    I do like that they’ve announced that the shuttles will be running 24 hours. That will certainly make it easier for people in the hotels on the Outer Rim to get in line. Of course, that also has the potential to make the lines even longer, even earlier this year…

    As for Con Crud: I make it a point the shower every night, even if it’s five minutes long before crashing in my bed for my 3-4 hours of sleep at night.

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  • zakin

    I’m glad you like staying in MV (which means more rooms in the Gaslamp for those of us that want to stay there!), but for me the reasons aren’t really that convincing except for #3. And, unfortunately, even the Mission Valley hotels are becoming more expensive…there was only one available for $150 this year, and that was before tax. Most of them were around 170-180+ tax. While many of the Gaslamp hotels were pushing $300, there were also plenty in the $220-250 range. So I’d say the expected savings is like $50-80/night rather than $150/night, although that’s still a decent chunk of change.

    #1 and #2 are self-control issues and #4 is kind of a straw man. You can probably get even more sleep if you don’t have to wait for the shuttle, and then wait for the shuttle to make all the stops dropping everyone who gets off before your hotel. Yes, a car parked below the convention center is closer than a hotel room a block away from the convention center…but there’s no reason why you can’t still have a car parked below the convention center AND a hotel room a block away.

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  • AnnMarieG

    Didn’t know where to post this, or if everyone already knows. http://www.hotelplanner.com is taking reservations for the time frame of the 2014 comic con. I purchased a room for 5 days from July 23-28 at the Ramada gaslamp for 1086.10

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  • stangace20

    WOULD ALSO ADVISE ON USING THE TROLLEY! There are a couple of stops in mission valley (most on the north side of I-8) but they can be easier to park at/use than trying to mess with traffic/crowds downtown….and if you stay somewhere like the DOUBLE TREE IN MISSION VALLEY, the station is LITERALLY as far as the other side of the street!

  • Mitch

    I just got comic Con Tickets and flight + Hotel the Saturday the day i secured my 4 day badge with preview night. I booked a hotel in Mission Valley from the looks of it I’m going to have the best of both worlds! Sleep and Fun!