After this upcoming weekend, Harper will have technically been to her fifth San Diego Comic-Con even though she’ll just be turning 4 on Saturday.That’s her down there, in utero, right next to that quality Joker cosplayer. You see, I actually went into labor at Comic Con 2010 and she was born the next day. Geek point achieved, level up! Every year since we’ve gotten the crazy eyes from those around us as we show up with our child and each year we leave more sure of our decision to bring her along. Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned about surviving Comic Con with kids.
Don’t Forget to Pick Up a Child’s Badge:
At the point when this is being written (July 2014) kids’ under 12 are free with a paid adult admission. Let them know when you pick up your badge. They collect emergency contact information for each child and get them some badges. Even babies are required to have a badge.
Bring Your Own Snacks and Water:
You can bring food and drinks into the convention center. Don’t forget a box of granola bars to keep the kiddos happy. Also, its really hot in there. Even though San Diego is a moderate climate and they are cranking up the AC to eleven, 150,000 people together, sharing the same space and air is going to generate a lot of body heat. Don’t get dehydtaed and make sure the kids are getting enough to drink.
The Pizza is the Best Deal:
If you do eat in the convention center, the pizza is the best deal. Get the personal pizzas and not the slices if you can. It’s more bang for your buck and the boxes keep the pizza from getting dried out. The nachos are nasty and so are the cheese fries. Somehow the cheese is even more congeal-ly than regular cheez whiz. Hot dogs are okay, just really, avoid anything with fake cheese on it.
Find the Mezzanine:
If you are at SDCC, find the mezzanine level. That pizza I was talking about is located up in this area and it’s typically way quieter than on the floor or in the halls upstairs where the panels are held. There are big windows where you can look down and watch people walk around and spend all their money on toys and comic books.
Leave the Stroller at the Hotel:
I repeat, leave the stroller at home. I know what you’re thinking. It won’t be that bad, people will graciously move out of the way, making room for your little Superman or Batgirl to stroll through and look upon the vast array of booths. You would be wrong. If you bring the stroller, you will move slower than a herd of turtle stampeding through peanut butter. The one time we did bring it along, someone stole our room key out of the cup holder and decided to have a look around our hotel room. Luckily nothing got stolen but the whole thing was unnerving. Up until this year, we’ve always worn Harper is the handy-dandy Beco baby backpack. This year I think she might be too heavy for it.
Figure out a schedule to play pass the baby. The first year we had Harper, she ended up camping outside overnight with us while we sat in line for the Glee panel so she ended up celebrating her birthday by staying up all night with us while we waited. She did fine until we got inside. My husband ended up missing the panel because she was not into the sitting and listening after a long night. Since then we have learned there are a few times when we’ll either have to split up of leave her with her grandparents.
Schedule Down Time:
The convention center is both bigger and smaller than you think it is. Smaller, when you need some space from the bazillion other people yet somehow huge when you are trying to make it to a panel on the other side of the world. Make a schedule with your priorities and be ready to distance your self from the crowds to give your kids a break. There is a huge park behind the convention center called the Embarcadero. Even during Comic Con there is enough room for everyone to stretch out in the grass and breathe their own fresh air.
There is Child Care:
Didn’t know that? Yep! For the last 28 years, Comic-Con has been providing child care through a company called KiddieCorp. They even supply snacks and activities. You’ve got to bring meals, diapers, formula, etc. Apparently they have age appropriate activities for kids up to 12. Here is more information on their services and how to sign up for this year’s SDCC. Disclaimer: I’ve never used it before but I have heard good things in passing.
Sunday is Kid’s Day:
Take the kid’s to stuff they actually want to go to. Sunday is chalk full of kids activities, contests, signings and panels. We made the rounds on the kid’s panels last year as a major reward for having sat through a ton of what I’m sure Harper considered uninteresting stuff. We hit Tom and Jerry, Phineas and Ferb, and a couple of others before we said goodbye to Comic-Con for another year. And guess what, she’s psyched for Comic Con this year because of it.
Buy It Now:
That thing that your kid is dying for, the one you told them you would buy later. Buy it now. I know. You don’t want to carry it and you know they won’t but..it probably won’t be there when you come back. And then they will never forgive you. It’ll be worth is to see the broken pieces of said toy on the floor in three weeks knowing it saved you at least one Earth-shattering temper tantrum.
Hot Wheels and a Magnadoodle Can Save Your Life:
Toys that don’t make noise are a must for boring panels. Well, not boring to you but maybe to your kids. Hot Wheels, a magnadoodle and sticker books have been life savers in our past. Bring things to keep your children busy during events that might not keep their attention quite as much as say the Young Justice panel.
And Finally Here’s a List of Kid Friendly Eateries in Downtown San Diego:
These aren’t all personal recommendations but if it is one of our favorites we’ll let you know. Some of them we’ve tried and others we’ve avoided but we know our tastes are not the same as yours. These are the places that pride themselves on being kid friendly or places we’ve taken our daughter too with success. Much of the downtown are is aimed at the night life. After the sun goes down many downtown eateries don’t admit anyone under 21 so keep that in mind when you are making dinner plans.
222 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
Cafe 222 is one of our favorite breakfast stops in the Gaslamp. They are only open from 7AM to 2PM but they are open seven days a week. They always have lunch but I always go for breakfast. They don’t have a kid’s menu but pretty much everything they serve is kid friendly. If you kids eat like birds, check out the sides menu for some less filling options or just share. Our favorites are… The Porky Benedict: eggs benedict with sausage patties instead of ham. The Waffles: specifically the cornbread, pumpkin, or pecan varieties. The Peanut Butter and Bananna Stuffed French Toast: I get this every single time.
802 Fifth Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
This place isn’t somewhere that automatically pops up into my head as a kid-friendly place because they don’t have a kid’s menu but they do have a wide variety of items and most of their food can be ordered in half-portions. Mention it to your server and they’ll be able to point out anything that only comes in a full serving. Be warned, they have sort of weird hours. They are open from 8AM until at least 11PM but there are breaks between breakfast and lunch and then lunch and dinner when you can only order appetizers and drinks.
528 5th Avenue
San Diego, CA 92101
Burger Lounge is another one of our Gaslamp haunts. They have a varied selection of items including veggie and gluten free options. Burgers, salads, chicken tenders and a few other special items grace the menu. Their fries and onion rings are stellar but be warned they are fried in peanut oil. If you’ve got an allergy, this probably isn’t the place for you. Harp and I usually go halfsies on on order of the chicken tenders and an order of fries with some to spare.
Rockin’ Baja Lobster:
301 5th Ave
San Diego, CA
This place gets busy really fast and it’s not uncommon for their wait time to be over an hour. My kid loves the chips and salsa bar. Their kids’ menu is pretty standard and it can get loud inside but the food is hot and fresh, the margaritas are large, and the staff is friendly. The buckets are enough to share but their is a split plate charge. We usually get around it by ordering a bucket and a salad or appetizer and going halfsies. They don’t really care as long as everyone orders something. They have items outside of the fish and seafood category but I’ve never eaten any of them and wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone with shellfish allergy.
The Old Spaghetti Factory
275 5th Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
I have to preface this with the fact I have never actually been to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Every year this place gets crazy busy and goes until the place closes down. Maybe its because the food is stellar, maybe its because it’s pretty much the first restaurant you come across when you exit the front of the convention center. From what I hear they’ve got high chairs and kids’ menus. If your kids love pasta, this is probably a safe bet.
The Broken Yolk:
355 6th Ave.
San Diego, CA 92101
The Broken Yolk has a pretty standard traditional American menu. Some items have a Mexican or Tex Mex twist. They have an extensive, albeit somewhat overwhelming menu, and breakfast is served all day. Nothing to fancy or fabulous about this place and the service can be a little slow especially when they are busy . Last year during Comic Con they were hosting some special events and sneak peaks which is just added to the complete craziness. The portions are huge so if you aren’t very hungry, think about splitting. Overall a solid place to eat if you aren’t looking for anything fancy. They are only open for breakfast and lunch and close at 3PM.