Comic-Con traffic: What to expect downtown during the event

Comic-Con

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – JULY 22: Cosplayer Todd Felton, dressed as a TIE Pilot from Star Wars, poses at the Gaslamp Quarter sign on July 22, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

SAN DIEGO — Residents who don’t actually attend the event probably think of one thing first when they hear San Diego Comic-Con is back in town — traffic, and lots of it.

That will at least partially be the case again this weekend for Comic-Con Special Edition, the popular event’s in-person return to the San Diego Convention Center after two years off during the pandemic. But the event is notably scaled down in size this year, meaning the crowds roaming downtown and rideshare drivers clogging lanes will be fewer and farther between.

The most significant impact on traffic is the complete closure of Harbor Drive. Event organizers say they’re creating a “pedestrian-friendly” experience in front of the convention center, meaning only emergency vehicles can access the busy thoroughfare between First Avenue and Park Boulevard.

The Harbor Drive closure is in place:

  • Friday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, Nov. 27, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday, Nov. 28, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
An access map shows the Harbor Drive road closure and ways to to get around the immediate area. (Photo: San Diego Convention Center)

An additional closure will be in place on Fifth Avenue, extending one block north from Harbor Drive to K Street. That closure will be in place from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Nov. 26 through Nov. 28.

You’ll also need a valid badge for the event to access the front drive, sidewalk and stairs of the convention center.

In past years, the event would bring nearly 200,000 people to attend the convention or participate in a variety of surrounding off-site exhibitions, meaning traffic was snarled anywhere within five or six blocks of the event.

While organizers still anticipate crowds and ask drivers for patience, there are only about 40 to 50,000 people expected for Special Edition’s “more intimate gathering.” That’s a little more than a sold-out San Diego Padres game at Petco Park, for context.

Furthermore, “with the exception of some events at the Marriott Marquis Hotel, the majority of Special Edition will be held within the walls of the San Diego Convention Center,” organizers explain. That means the crowds will be more concentrated away from public spaces than in past years.

With all this in mind, Comic-Con should be less of a headache for locals who are just trying to get around downtown this year. Keep the Harbor Drive closure in mind and prepare for Padres’ playoff game-level crowds and you’ll be just fine.

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