While a lot of people plan out every minute of the con, others take a more casual pace. Southern California offers a lot for people to do outside of the convention.
San Diego Country
There is always the easiest option of spending your free time doing things around town. My personal favorite is to spend time at the hotel pool, bar, and restaurants. Mid-tier hotels and up usually offer all three options, but it’s best to check in with your hotel and see what’s available. Even if your hotel doesn’t offer all these options, there’s still places you can enjoy these around town. Need a little pampering? Find a place that does manicures, pedicures, or massages. Feeling fancy? Dress up and go to a trendy restaurant or bar. There’s some really cool restaurants, breweries, and bars all around town if you look for them.
One of your cheapest options is just to grab a drink and hang out by the pool. Odds are, it’ll be pretty empty (since most guests will be at the convention) and you might even bump into some pretty cool celebrities hanging out on the deck doing the same thing). I love to plan in a quiet afternoon swim (and maybe a drink or two) to relax and stretch out my legs. This is a great way to recharge your legs, especially if you’ve got a night of partying ahead of you.
If you’re looking to see more traditional local sights, San Diego has some fantastic locations to visit, like Balboa Park, the Botanical Gardens, and Old Town. Balboa Park has beautiful historic architecture, museums, and even the San Diego Zoo. The Botanical Gardens are beautiful and peaceful, and are great for taking a little time away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. Old Town offers shopping opportunities (feel free to grab you non-nerdy friends and family’s souvenirs here) in a historic setting. They’ve also got a pretty good restaurant if you’re looking to spend the day here, too. A little further north are both Legoland and Seaworld. If you have little ones and want to get out of the city of some fun, these are both great options. Legoland is specifically designed for families with younger children (unlike the parks in Orange and LA Counties), and Seaworld is designed for families in general. These will be significantly closer than any other major theme parks in the area, which means less time spent driving for mom or dad.
Orange County is about a two hour drive (with traffic) up the coast and is home to both the Disneyland Resort and Knotts Berry Farm. If theme parks are your jam, this is the place for you to visit. All the parks here are going to be a full day, so you may want to plan these for before or after the con, or even in the middle if you didn’t happen to get all the days you wanted. Each day at a theme park is going to easily cost you more than your admission to the convention, so make sure to research your costs before making the trip north. You’ll also want to consider any souvenirs and dining options into your budget, as well.
L.A. County is even further up the coast, but if you want to see Hollywood, downtown L.A., or Universal Studios, this is the place for you. If you’ve got to see some Minions or Harry Potter, make the long trek up to Universal City, but be aware that your drive will be even further than hitting one of the Orange County theme parks. Hollywood (and L.A.) proper will have major tourist attractions like the Walk of Fame, the Santa Monica Boardwalk, the Hollywood sign, and Griffith Park. This is also where you’d want to go for various studio tours, as well. L.A. is a big place, so you will probably only be able to fit a few sights into a single trip; pick wisely, and account for lots of rush hour traffic as well as distance covered.