Things to Do in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter When You're Dressed Up as Darth Nihilus

Jill Merrill Trakin
The view from right-field in Petco Park.

Petco Park, Hard Rock Hotel, Nobu are among the downtown attractions within walking distance of the San Diego Convention Center.

Visitors will be streaming into San Diego by the thousands for this weekend’s Comic-Con International on July 24-27 at the Convention Center, a 16-and-a-half square block section located smack dab in the middle of the historic neighborhood. Once the domain of gamblers, prostitutes and an oyster bar run by Wyatt Earp, but now the home of the San Diego Padres (Petco Park), the area has a variety of upscale restaurants and hotels, including the spiffy Hard Rock and the Omni San Diego Hotel, which has a bridge for residents straight into the stadium.

PHOTOS Titans of Comic-Con: Stars Re-Create Classic Characters

The neighborhood is eight blocks long (from Broadway to Harbor Drive) and a little more than two blocks wide (incorporating 4th, 5th and 6th Avenues), and is best known for its Victorian architecture and world-class entertainment destination.

It’s the perfect example of reclaimed real estate, and a recent trip down there for the wedding of a friend’s son revealed an area that is amenable to both residential and commercial housing, with a main drag that is reminiscent of New Orleans in its parade of young partygoers.

The Hard Rock Hotel at 207 5th Avenue is probably long sold out, but remains a destination with its rock 'n’ roll decor — which includes iconic photographs of The Beatles, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and the Ramones, as well as a Nikki Sixx guitar and a glass display devoted to the late punk hangout CBGBs, complete with chunks of the infamous bathroom wall and a pay phone from the premises. The Float is a fourth-floor disco/pool open to guests that offers a full-on party every Sunday morning.

Upon checking in, you state your preference for an in-room soundtrack and, like all Hard Rocks, you have an option to rent a DJ set-up or a Fender guitar to noodle around in between events.

To make things even more convenient, there is a Nobu in the hotel lobby, where they serve up a $175 Omakase chef’s choice tasting menu to an overflowing crowd of young hipsters practically every night of the week. The street window allows people-watching while you chow down on your sushi.

The Hard Rock is a mere two blocks from the downtown Petco Park, a magnificent stadium built in 2004 that puts to shame anything we have in L.A. — tucked in the middle of the city skyline, it has upscale restaurants and a fire-breathing scorecard that blasts “Turn Down for What” (what else?) for every Padre home run (three of which were hit while this Met fan looked on glumly in his seat). And check out the one-time Western Metal Supply company facade in left field, declared a historic landmark in 1978 —it went from an abandoned warehouse to a renovated place for fans to sit and enjoy the game.

Unfortunately, the Padres will be on the road this weekend, but conventioneers can still catch Linkin Park and rising hip-hop star G-Eazy there Thursday night (July 24) at the taping of the first-ever mtvU Fandom Awards, free for all badge holders.

Other Gaslamp Quarter highlights:

- Four new gaslamps have been installed at the intersection of 5th Avenue and Market Street to evoke its storied past, and often serve as climbing posts for inebriated passersby.

- Gaslamp Museum at the William Heath Davis House (410 Island Avenue): The most haunted house in the Gaslamp, for conducting investigations into paranormal activities.

And if you tire of that, there’s always Legoland or Sea World (unless, of course, you're a "Save the Whales" advocate) due north up the I-5.