16 New Ideas for What to Do in San Diego: A 48-Hour Staycation Itinerary

Courtesy of Basic Bar-Pizza
Basic Bar/Pizza

THR's itinerary features recommendations for how to make the most of Comic-Con, Norman Lear's Mexican eatery, "mermaid" water aerobics and a local speakeasy frequented by the stars of 'Key & Peele' and 'The Walking Dead.'

DAY 1

BRUNCH Drink endless rosé with your French toasts served with Chantilly and macerated strawberries ($17) on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at celebrity chef Brian Malarkey’s Herringbone La Jolla (7837 Herschel Ave.; 858-459-0221). The Top Chef’s overall surf-and-turf restaurant concept has welcomed guests including Steven Tyler and Joe Montana. Or get your caffeine fix at Bird Rock Coffee Roasters (5627 La Jolla Blvd.). “This place is always packed for a good reason,” says Mane Addicts founder Jen Atkin of the La Jolla location where Jeff Goldblum and Adrian Grenier also have visited. “The coffee is amazing and it’s just a short walk from the ocean.”

COMIC-CON If you’re lucky enough to have bought a badge to this massive convention of all things genre entertainment and are a longtime pro, skip this section. But if you’re a newbie: “Have cash on hand,” says Rotten Tomatoes editor-in-chief Matt Atchity and panelist of Your Opinion Sucks!, about purchasing souvenirs from The Walking Dead to anything Marvel. “Some vendors don't take credit cards or can't get a signal for Square.” Atchity also suggests making dinner reservations days in advance. Rotten Tomatoes senior editor Grae Drake says, “Know that internet reception is awful.” As for getting in and out of the convention center, The Big Bang Theory’s Wil Wheaton advises to “use the bridge that goes from the bayfront, especially near the end of the day when a billion people are leaving.” Wheaton also emphasizes to stay hydrated. “Drink twice as much water as you think you need, and then drink more.” Screenwriter and comic book writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa recommends avoiding the restrooms on the main floor. “Take the escalator — any escalator — to the upper level and look for 'hidden' bathrooms off the beaten path. Usually there are a couple near Artists' Alley that are less trafficked.” Thursday through Sunday, July 21-24, San Diego Convention Center, 111 W. Harbor Dr.; 619-525-5000

LUNCH Norman Lear and Iron Man comic book artist Bob Layton are fans of Mexican eatery Puesto at The Headquarters. Lear says: "Go there — but don't leave without trying the mezcal margarita." Chuy Bravo, formerly of Chelsea Lately, adds: “Puesto is absolutely delicious, real authentic Mexican food, but if you are trying to dine at night, it's best you make a reservation because this popular spot gets busy.” During Comic-Con the restaurant serves superhero-themed specials like the El Heroe Taco made with Maine lobster, filet mignon, crispy melted cheese, avocado, crispy onions and chipotle heroe sauce ($10). Also try the secret-menu Cali Taco, a filet mignon and crispy potato taco ($6.25). 789 W. Harbor Dr.; 619-233-8880

EXERCISE Yes, you wear a mermaid tail for water aerobics class Mermaid Fitness at The Del (1500 Orange Ave.; 866-433-3030), and yes, you get to keep it. Says The Del’s general manager Andre Zotoff of the hotel’s activities for Hollywood’s elite: “Then, it was tennis and swimming. Now we’ve evolved to Beach Spin through Beats by Dre, private yoga sessions on the beach and Mermaid Fitness classes in front of our luxury village and cottages.” Follow up virtuous exercise with drinks at The Crown Room. “There’s a gourmet bloody Mary bar and amazing seafood and sushi selection,” says Atkin. Note for when the day wears on: The Del also can provide all the trappings of a roaring bonfire on the beach replete with s’mores and hotdogs (The Roast, from $100). 619-435-6611

DINNER Each year, Basic Bar/Pizza hosts a number of Comic-Con open-to-the-public events and celebrity buyouts. This year it will host a private, invite-only Cartoon Network party on Friday night. Celebrities who have dined at Basic Bar/Pizza include Tim Burton, Neil Patrick Harris, Dax Shepard, Tom Arnold, Seth Green, Andrew Garfield, Jamie Foxx and the cast of Sleepy Hollow. 410 10th Ave.; 619-531-8869

DRINKS Elijah Wood, the stars of Key & Peele and the cast of The Walking Dead all have gotten behind the bar at speakeasy Noble Experiment, where the only way to score a reservation is by texting the host. Located inside a restaurant in downtown, the entrance is masked by a stack of kegs. 777 G St.; 619-888-4713

STAY Oprah Winfrey, Hillary Clinton, Mel Gibson and Kim Kardashian are among the guests who have stayed at 1926 La Jolla landmark La Valencia (1132 Prospect St.; 858-454-0771). Guests can secure the entire 10th floor, which has six different rooms, including the newly renovated Sky Suite, all of which get booked at least two months before Comic-Con. Stay tuned for the soon-to-be-completed indoor-outdoor spa offering gemstone treatments and pet therapy in a three-story cottage with exotic garden. At L’Auberge del Mar, Hall of Fame racing jockey Gary L. Stevens advises: “Book one of the Cabana Rooms as they offer a larger patio with views of the resort pool and the Pacific Ocean.” And if you want to see or be seen, he suggests going to L’Auberge bar, where “everyone who is anyone ends up by night's end.” 1540 Camino Del Mar; 858-259-1515

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DAY 2

BREAKFAST Former San Diego resident Jim Parsons recommends Crest Cafe. “I used to get the turkey and brie all the time,” he has said. “I think it’s really a sweet place and it brings back so many memories for me. … I went there so much as a student. I am so glad it still exists.” The family-run restaurant celebrates its 33rd anniversary this year. Owner Cecelia Moreno tells The Hollywood Reporter of the spot favored by Kathy Najimy, Hal Holbrook and Geena Davis when they tread the boards at nearby Old Globe Theater: “My dad Luis is 83 and still comes in daily.” 425 Robinson Ave.: 619-295-2510

SPA Says Arianna Huffington of her recent weeklong stay at the Golden Door (777 Deer Springs Road; 888-979-5072) with her daughter: “Everything is designed to restore both your body and your mind.” Huffington says she hiked, took yoga classes, tai chi, massages, meditations and even tried archery. Other guests have included Olivia Wilde, Lighthouse Management’s Aleen Keshishian and Lauren Conrad. In 2014, the wellness destination ($10,850 for a week), which recently underwent a $15 million renovation, donated all proceeds to abused children. On July 31 and Aug. 28, the spa will host a seven-day cooking school led by executive chef Greg Frey Jr. with Los Angeles cult-fave chef Ludo Lefebvre as the guest speaker. Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow’s (she hosted her Goop team for a company retreat last year), offers a workshop series each month, including The Power of Plants Workshop on July 30. “Try the 8 a.m. yoga class,” says fashion influencer Kaitlynn Carter (and fiance of Brody Jenner). “They serve fresh-pressed green juice right after. It’s the perfect start to any day.” 5921 Valencia Circle; 858-756-1123

LUNCH Not to miss dishes at Jason McLeod’s seafood restaurant Ironside Fish & Oyster — visited by Chelsea Handler and her crew — include the lobster roll and Ironside Select oyster, an exclusive oyster cultivated by the chef and Minterbrook Oyster Company in Washington. The restaurant will be launching a Chef’s Catch Dinner Series, where McLeod will be joined on a fishing trip with six other chefs from around the country to catch fresh fare and create a collaborative, family-style dinner menu. 1654 India St.; 619-269-3033

DINNER After perusing Comic-Con some more, Godzilla writer-producer Max Borenstein suggests hitting Juniper & Ivy (2228 Kettner Blvd.; 619-269-9036). “It’s always awesome and delicious,” he says of the spot that’s packed at all times. “The buttermilk biscuits with smoked butter and the deviled eggs are incredible. But pretty much all of Richard Blais' food is great and always interesting,” he adds. The Top Chef’s restaurant opened just over two years ago and sees a continuous stream of major producers, directors, actors and musicians including Steve Martin, Amy Schumer, Katy Perry and Paul Simon. Also check out Blais' fast-casual The Crack Shack next door where Alton Brown captioned his love for the restaurant on social media: “Fried chicken as it should be … breakfast.” 2266 Kettner Blvd., 619-795-3299

DRINKS + DESSERT “The brown butter cake is worth the extra calories,” says Atkin of Searsucker (611 Fifth Ave.; 619-233-7327). During Comic-Con 2016, the cocktail menu will pay homage, including such drinks as the Fantastic Beasts + Where to Find Them concoction of mezcal, peach, lime and tarragon. Last year, the restaurant hosted Bryan Cranston, Seth Green, Dennis Haysbert and Jesse Metcalfe. With Extraordinary Desserts Balboa Park, regulars like NFL and MLB players know to drop in during morning or early afternoon hours to avoid the crowds from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Or they order their desserts for delivery/pickup. In early July, chef-owner Karen Krasne introduced a matcha green tea creme brulee bun — a slightly sweet breakfast pastry — to the menu ($6.50). 2929 5th Ave.; 619-294-2132

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