Nothing can define your Comic-Con more than where you are staying during the week. This Wednesday you will have to dance with the con gods one more time. As you know, navigating the multilayered levels of Comic-Con is not for the faint of heart and the April 26th (9a pst) hotel sale will either result in you achieving your dreams or it turning into the stuff of nightmares. If you are a first timer to SDCC, then choosing the right hotel can feel pretty overwhelming. Not all hotels are created equal and different ones will accomplish different goals. Over the years, I have stayed at almost all of the closest hotels to Comic-Con and I know how important it is to find the right hotel. I also know you want to make your trip to Comic-Con perfect but before I review specific hotels, here are a few key points to prepare beforehand:
- Random Waiting Room: You have to enter the waiting room between 8a and 8:59a pst on Wednesday morning. At 9, the portal will open and you will have to quickly input your selection. You should have received an e-mail with the link you need to get into the Waiting Room.
- Your Top 6: Here is the list of hotels to choose from. The Hotel Reservation system allows you to input 6 hotels ONLY (in order of preference). Make sure to thoroughly review all the details on the CCI Hotel page for deposit info, deadline, restrictions, etc. Since it’s timestamped, speed of the registration is still a factor so there is no time to waste.
- Work as a Team: The more friends you have registering, the more it increases your odds of getting something. Try a few different combinations and priorities. Exact duplicate submissions will be voided.
- Plan B: Book a back up hotel BEFORE the Comic-Con Hotel Registration begins Wednesday. I would book a back up hotel that you can cancel without penalty. After April 26, it will be near impossible to find housing without having to drive in from Sea World or farther. Your backup options will probably be far out but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Ok, let’s do this…
There are almost 60 hotels in the Comic-Con room block, with 29 of them located downtown. Yes, everyone wants to stay downtown but it’s not necessarily always the best way to go. The big question that you should ask yourself is ‘what do you want to get out of the experience?’. Here are 6 values that will help you choose the right hotel for you:
1. Immersion: “I want to be fulling immersed in the Comic-Con experience…”
For you, the fun begins when it’s time start to meeting and getting to know some fellow fans. Perhaps you live in a part of the country where there is not a lot of geek outlets and you are hoping to make and build some deeper friendships. If that is the case then I would try the Hilton Bayfront ($319) or the Grand Manchester Hyatt ($295). The sprawling lobbies and multiple lounges are ideal for meeting new friends or meeting up with old internet ones. The Manchester will host some awesome special events (ex: Her Universe Fashion Show, X-Box Lounge) but the Bayfront will also have CC programming in the Indigo Ballroom. Plus the Bayfront has the amazing view of Hall H if your willing to pay extra. Despite the offerings, these are two ideal hotels to make connections and build friendships.
2. Convenience: “I know what I am doing, why I am here, and what I need to accomplish…”
If you are not messing around and not wasting a fraction of your time while at Comic-Con, then the Marriott Marquis and Marina ($304) might be right for you. As the only hotel that is adjacent to the convention center, the Marriott is literally next door to the action. There is no road or train track to cross! If you are cosplayer, this is ideal if you have a cumbersome costume or plan on making a change midway through the day. This hotel is also ideal if you are hunting for Exclusives since it’s faster to line up and easier to drop off your goods. However, while the convenience of the Marriott is awesome- it also has it’s drawbacks. After a late night dinner and a few drinks in the heart of the Gaslamp, you might not want to walk all the way back to the con center every night. In the past, I have booked hotels that were closer to the heart of the Gaslamp. That way, after a night out on the town, we just had to walk a short walk to the hotel. I stayed at the Marriott last year and enjoyed the convenience, however it was pretty chaotic with crowds everywhere.
3. Relaxation: “This is the one time a year I get to relax, have fun, and be spoiled”
If this truly is a vacation for you, then your hotel should reflect that. Staying at a nicer hotel with a great view and awesome amenities should be higher on your priorities. Consider my personal favorite, the Omni ($279), for not only the convenience but for getting a bit more pampered. Rooms are spacious, the pool area is amazing, the lobby is relatively quiet, and you can’t beat the view. The convention side can give you a view of both Hall H and Ballroom 20 lines! There are also special events hosted there like the Wired Cafe- if you can get access, it’s an amazing place to lounge, get a snack, and rub shoulders with talent. As a bonus, a fair amount of celebs stay at the Omni- so if it’s good enough for Hollywood’s A-list, you should enjoy it too!
4. Family First: “I have pick up diapers at 8:00, feed the family at 9:00 and be at a panel at 10:00…”
For some of you, there are multiple agendas to deal with. Sure this is a Comic-Con trip but your semi-interested spouse, non-nerdy mother-in-law, and high maintanance cousin (who you don’t really like) also decided to join you as well. Because of that, you need a location that can help you manage multiple needs. Because of this, you might consider the Westin Gaslamp (Starting $255) of the Embassy Suites (Starting $262). The Westin is centrally located with access to the Horton Plaza, theater, restaurants, shopping and more. It really is ideal when managing a family. The Embassy Suites has a huge ‘suite’ set up with separate living room and pullout sofa bed. Plus, it’s amazing complimentary hot breakfast is the best any hotel can offer. If you need space and food, this is the place to stay.
5. Celebration: “My singular goal is to be in a Hangover movie…”
For you, the party really starts when the Con ends. If that’s the case then I would suggest being at a hotel along 5th street. All the restaurants and bars along 5th are hopping all night long. The Hard Rock (Starting $308) is the ultimate party location. The festivities never end there. One warning though, if you are prone to sensory overload, then the Hard Rock after a crazy day at the Con might not be best for you. It’s a loud hotel and a good nights rest might be ‘hard’ to come by. The Hard Rock has the highest probability to run into celebs and the crowds out front reflect that. The sky lounge also is the location for some of the hottest and exclusive parties of the week. The Hard Rock vibe really isn’t my thing but I can’t deny it’s appeal and allure. Just know what you are getting.
6. Economical: “I want to have a great experience but I have to work within my budget- period!”
If you have constraints, then don’t stress yourself out and over extend yourself. For many, a Comic-Con hotel is just a place to lay your head for a few hours and to unload swag. Finding a hotel a little farther out will be just fine as long as you use the Trolley Line. If even though a hotel has shuttle service is listed, I would not depend on it because of all the Comic-Con demand and the bad traffic in the morning. It’s easy and runs right in front of the con center. By using the Trolley, you can save money by picking a hotel farther away. One year I stayed in National City, it was WAY cheaper and it only took our party 15 mins to get to the Con. Check the SDMTS trolley route for locations near your desired hotel.
Since many will go for these hotels that I listed above, you might first choose comparable hotels that are still in the heart of the action. The Hilton Gaslamp Quarter (starting $275) and Marriott Gaslamp Quarter (starting $261) are super close to the action and will probably be pick 5 or 6 for many. Going for it first might increase your chances of getting either of these great hotels. I’ve stayed at both and loved the convenience and my experience.
I hope you find the hotel you are looking for. Use these 6 values to help determine which hotel is right for you. Sometimes just price and proximity is not enough to help you make the right decision. By choosing a value that is in alignment with what you hope to get out of Comic-Con, it will increase your chances of having a fantastic and memorable experience. I encourage you to splurge on yourself and spend as much as you can on a hotel. You never know if you’ll get another chance to return so go into this year with no regrets. Which is your favorite hotel? Leave a comment below of which one and why. See you when we wake up and happy hunting on Wednesday!