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Explore Like a Local: The Best Spots for People Watching During San Diego Comic-Con

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This advertising content was produced by Vox Creative without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff or Ballast Point.

Unless you have a ticket to San Diego Comic-Con International, chances are you won’t be going to this summer’s perennial extravaganza. Opportunities were slim; this multi-day event, from July 19 to 23 at the San Diego Convention Center, sold out within an hour, leaving thousands of pop culture fans empty-handed. Your next best bet? Hanging out at one of many Downtown restaurants and establishments as you soak up the parade of cosplayers and attendees with a beer in hand. Who knows, you may even run into an Instagram-worthy pop culture celeb.

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The Blind Burro

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Consider this J Street eatery your base for all things Mexican during Comic-Con. Coastal cuisine rules the menu and all 13 of the Baja-inspired tacos are on point. Add in a full cerveza menu, plus specialty cocktails like spicy blood orange margaritas or white sangria, and you’re set for a day of people watching from lunch until late at night. When the sun sets, wander back to the Cat Eye Club, a swanky backroom lounge specializing in tiki cocktails.

Barleymash

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Executive chef Kevin Templeton knows a thing or two about drawing a crowd. The restaurant’s awe-inspiring dishes spanning breakfast, lunch, and dinner make this Gaslamp hub a no-brainer when it comes to finding a satisfying meal that covers your dining needs. For Comic-Con watching, aim for a table at the restaurant’s expansive wraparound patio and you won’t miss a photo op.

Whiskey Girl

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Downtown’s popular sports bar is known for its lively atmosphere, live music, and cold drinks but come Comic-Con season, it becomes a hot spot for people watching. The streetside patio is perfect for glimpses of the year’s hottest costumes (Wonder Woman, anyone?) — so order a beer and settle in. As for food, in years past, it’s offered a cartoon-centric menu highlighting burgers, bites, and cocktails paying homage to everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to zombies.

The Pendry San Diego

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Gaslamp’s newest boutique hotel has cornered the market on high-style amenities — plus it offers a few places to drink and dine during San Diego’s biggest event. From dining at Lionfish and grabbing at beer at Nason’s Beer Hall to downing a hand-shaken cocktail at Fifth & Rose and stocking up on ’con essentials at Provisional, there are lots of opportunities for catching the costume folks showing off their ’con best. Added bonus: catching an A-list celeb headed back to their hotel room.

Harvest by The Patio

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Stop into this East Village eatery where farm-to-table California comfort cuisine is its credo. The restaurant relies on fresh ingredients for its lunch and dinner options as well as its hand-shaken cocktails. What the restaurant lacks in outdoor patio space it makes up for in comfortable dining that may even lure in actors and industry celebs looking for healthier fare during the event.

San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter

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Located in the heart of Gaslamp, this hotel is the place you’ll put up your feet and do some serious crowd scanning. Between California cuisine at Soleil @K and a bird’s eye view of the city at ALTITUDE Sky Lounge & Latitude Lounge, there are endless amounts of opportunities to catch wayward cosplayers dressed in their comic book finery.

Tilted Kilt San Diego

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Think the only people in this joint are the plaid-clad waitresses? Think again. This Tenth Avenue hub is steps away from Petco Park, home to some fun ’con activities every year. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled as you chow down on the pub’s signature burgers and wings. You just might see a few of Earth’s mightiest superheroes.

Basic Urban Kitchen & Bar

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Any place along this stretch of the East Village can be considered a gold mine for people watching, but this spot has the upper hand for its prime pies. Specializing in thin-crust brick oven pizzas topped with red or white sauce, the pizzeria’s real advantage during Comic-Con is the industrial garage doors that roll up, leaving no barrier between the restaurant and scenes from the street.

Knotty Barrel

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Hankering for a cold one during Comic-Con? Choose from more than 100 draughts at this Market Street pub. The walk from the main event is a bit further than most but that doesn’t mean you’ll see less people. The front is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, promising you won’t miss one bit of streetside action.

Bub's at the Ballpark

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This casual East Village eatery is known for legit wings, two-handed burgers, and a variety of games, like shuffleboard and hoops. Come mid-July, you’ll want to head here due to its proximity to the convention center and late hours. The outdoor patio overlooking J Street transforms into one of the best spots for spying on ’con attendees as well as those dressed for the masquerade.

Heidi Photography
This advertising content was produced by Vox Creative without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff or Ballast Point.

The Blind Burro

Consider this J Street eatery your base for all things Mexican during Comic-Con. Coastal cuisine rules the menu and all 13 of the Baja-inspired tacos are on point. Add in a full cerveza menu, plus specialty cocktails like spicy blood orange margaritas or white sangria, and you’re set for a day of people watching from lunch until late at night. When the sun sets, wander back to the Cat Eye Club, a swanky backroom lounge specializing in tiki cocktails.

Barleymash

Executive chef Kevin Templeton knows a thing or two about drawing a crowd. The restaurant’s awe-inspiring dishes spanning breakfast, lunch, and dinner make this Gaslamp hub a no-brainer when it comes to finding a satisfying meal that covers your dining needs. For Comic-Con watching, aim for a table at the restaurant’s expansive wraparound patio and you won’t miss a photo op.

Whiskey Girl

Downtown’s popular sports bar is known for its lively atmosphere, live music, and cold drinks but come Comic-Con season, it becomes a hot spot for people watching. The streetside patio is perfect for glimpses of the year’s hottest costumes (Wonder Woman, anyone?) — so order a beer and settle in. As for food, in years past, it’s offered a cartoon-centric menu highlighting burgers, bites, and cocktails paying homage to everything from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to zombies.

The Pendry San Diego

Gaslamp’s newest boutique hotel has cornered the market on high-style amenities — plus it offers a few places to drink and dine during San Diego’s biggest event. From dining at Lionfish and grabbing at beer at Nason’s Beer Hall to downing a hand-shaken cocktail at Fifth & Rose and stocking up on ’con essentials at Provisional, there are lots of opportunities for catching the costume folks showing off their ’con best. Added bonus: catching an A-list celeb headed back to their hotel room.

Harvest by The Patio

Stop into this East Village eatery where farm-to-table California comfort cuisine is its credo. The restaurant relies on fresh ingredients for its lunch and dinner options as well as its hand-shaken cocktails. What the restaurant lacks in outdoor patio space it makes up for in comfortable dining that may even lure in actors and industry celebs looking for healthier fare during the event.

San Diego Marriott Gaslamp Quarter

Located in the heart of Gaslamp, this hotel is the place you’ll put up your feet and do some serious crowd scanning. Between California cuisine at Soleil @K and a bird’s eye view of the city at ALTITUDE Sky Lounge & Latitude Lounge, there are endless amounts of opportunities to catch wayward cosplayers dressed in their comic book finery.

Tilted Kilt San Diego

Think the only people in this joint are the plaid-clad waitresses? Think again. This Tenth Avenue hub is steps away from Petco Park, home to some fun ’con activities every year. Just remember to keep your eyes peeled as you chow down on the pub’s signature burgers and wings. You just might see a few of Earth’s mightiest superheroes.

Basic Urban Kitchen & Bar

Any place along this stretch of the East Village can be considered a gold mine for people watching, but this spot has the upper hand for its prime pies. Specializing in thin-crust brick oven pizzas topped with red or white sauce, the pizzeria’s real advantage during Comic-Con is the industrial garage doors that roll up, leaving no barrier between the restaurant and scenes from the street.

Knotty Barrel

Hankering for a cold one during Comic-Con? Choose from more than 100 draughts at this Market Street pub. The walk from the main event is a bit further than most but that doesn’t mean you’ll see less people. The front is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, promising you won’t miss one bit of streetside action.

Bub's at the Ballpark

This casual East Village eatery is known for legit wings, two-handed burgers, and a variety of games, like shuffleboard and hoops. Come mid-July, you’ll want to head here due to its proximity to the convention center and late hours. The outdoor patio overlooking J Street transforms into one of the best spots for spying on ’con attendees as well as those dressed for the masquerade.

Heidi Photography

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