If you are heading to a hotel near the venue (the San Diego Convention Center) from the airport, a taxi may cost you about $10-15, despite it being a fairly short trip. There are a variety of public transportation options, but depending on your arrival and departure time, available routes and price could vary quite a bit. In my experience, folks that are accustomed to using public transportation are typically unimpressed but also have no difficulty getting by with what San Diego offers.
Google Maps (maps.google.com) includes transit options and is more accurate and reliable than the official transit site for planning public transit. You can simply search for directions as normal in Google Maps, and there will be an option button for public transit. If you have a Google Maps app on your phone, you'll be able to freely switch between Public Transit and Walking directions as you navigate Downtown. Public Transit includes both bus and trolley, and for most things within the immediate area of Downtown will cost you about $2.50 per trip. You can also buy an all-day pass for $5 to ride anywhere you want for the day.
From most locations you'll access Downtown from I-5 Southbound. The best exit is Exit 17 - Front Street. This exit merges onto Front St, and you'll continue for a few miles before turning Left on Harbor Drive. The venue will be on your right shortly thereafter. Parking is available (usually $10/day) at the venue. You may be able to find other parking lots that are cheaper within walking distance.
If you are staying outside of Downtown, you may want to consider the trolley if (and only if) there is a convenient trolley stop near your hotel. If Taking the Green Line towards Downtown has a trolley stop specific to the Convention Center and runs frequently. If your lodging is closer to the Blue or Orange Line, you'll head to the Imperial Station and walk a short ways from there (or alternatively transfer there to the Green Line and head to the Convention Center). Taking the reverse route should get you back.
Gaslamp District of San Diego is the heart of our fine dining, and there's no shortage of it within the area.
Listing all the restaurants in the area would be quickly become information overload - there are a a lot of them down there. The heart of Gaslamp runs the length of 5th Street, but the surrounding blocks will all have tons of options for those who want to explore.
Tin Fish (http://thetinfish.tripod.com/):
170 6th St
One of the closest options to the venue, is typically a favorite among visiting judges and players alike.
They are known for fish tacos and fish & chips, but have non-seafood menu items as well. The average lunch will be around $10. The walk from site is about three minutes.
417 K St
They make excellent sandwiches inside what is otherwise a convenience/liquor store. Sandwiches are around $6-7, and are quite good. If they are crowded, they often have pre-made sandwiches available that are just as delicious, they come dry and you can add whatever you'd like to them. The walk from the San Diego Convention Center is about six minutes.
Here are some recommendations of places that are specific to San Diego that locals are known to frequent.
Sushi Deli - 135 Broadway St (http://www.sushideliusa.com - Location #2)
This place is popular with locals, and has amazing specials for sushi and/or sake. They have a great reputation, but because of that they can often have a longer wait, so it may be tough to get a table for larger groups.
Rockin' Baja - 310 5th St (http://rockinbaja.com/)
This is a seafood restaurant with a mexican theme that specializes in shellfish and margaritas. They have amazing Happy Hour specials as well as seafood appetizers.
Broken Yolk - 355 6th St.(http://thebrokenyolkcafe.com/)
This breakfast establishment is a local fixture that started in Pacific Beach but now has a number of locations littered around San Diego. Okay, actually only the Pacific Beach location is littered (thanks, hobos). The rest of them are quite clean and cozy, and are an excellent choice for breakfast downtown. If you wake up early enough for a good breakfast, this is the place. They specialize in omelettes, but they also serve every other breakfast food you could imagine, this is the place I?d eat breakfast downtown.
They also have an breakfast Food Challenge. Attempting this challenge is unwise, and successfully completing it is probably even more unwise.
The center of nightlife in San Diego is in the Gaslamp where the venue and staff hotel are located. A variety of nightclubs, restaurants and bars are all over the area, and there will be tons of people walking the streets. Downtown is extremely safe to walk around at night, but once you travel far enough east that you no longer see active nightlife, it?s time to turn around and return to Gaslamp. The Gaslamp quarter is identified by street lights that mimic old-style gas fueled lamps, and is a great way to identify that you're in the right place. All around Gaslamp there should be taxis and pedicabs available. Pedicabs are often quicker than taxis during nightlife traffic, but are not as inexpensive as you might think. $10 minimum per person for a pedicab ride. Included are some things to consider if you have extra time in town.
Just outside of Gaslamp is a place called the East Village Tavern (930 Market St), they have a popular bar and late-night bowling alley, which is typically flooded with young adults starting their night out on the town. The tavern is a decent hike (15 minutes/10 blocks) from the venue, but a pretty short cab ride. If you plan to bowl, call ahead. (http://www.tavernbowl.com/east-village-tavern/) San Diego is well known for our Zoo, and if you have extra days in town, it's one of the highlights. It's located in San Diego's Balboa Park, which also hosts many other attractions including museums, gardens, golf course, disc golf course and more. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/ and http://www.balboapark.org/ SeaWorld is another common tourist attraction in our area, and would be a good way to spend a day. It is essentially a theme parked crossed with an aquarium, and has both rides and animal shows. Often promotional tickets can be found at a discount locally with some decent web searching. http://seaworldparks.com/seaworld-sandiego/
In addition to nearby restaurants and nightlife, San Diego also offers access to high-quality local breweries.
Karl Strauss is a local chain brewery and restaurant that has excellent food and beers available.
There are several locations throughout San Diego, with the closest one being about a mile away from the venue, making it easily reachable by cab or by walking for around 20 minutes. http://www.karlstrauss.com/PAGES/Eats/Downtown.html
Stone Brewery is very well-known for its beers and ales and also has several locations throughout San Diego County. If you're just looking for beer, the closest location to the venue is a little over three miles away in South Park, making some kind of vehicle a good choice to reach it. If you have access to some free time and your own vehicle, the Escondido location is recommended. Whereas the South Park location serves as just a store, the Escondido location also has an attached restaurant and a very well-maintained garden and brewery tours are available. http://www.stonebrew.com/visit/ Ballast Point is another local favorite of microbrew, and they are located at 10051 Old Grove Rd. Explore their website at http://www.balastpoint.com. They are also hosts to Home Brew Mart which specializes in materials and supplies for brewing your own beer (your visit will probably be too short for that last bit).
Hitting the beaches might also be on your radar, and there's three popular beach communities relatively close to Downtown. Ocean Beach is the closest, just north of Downtown. It has a small strip of restaurants and dive bars, and is most certainly a locals area. The beach area has volleyball courts, which host pick up games most days, and they also have a dog-friendly portion of the beach that is quite popular. Just north of Ocean Beach is Mission Beach, which is a bit more geared toward tourists. It has many gift shops and motels and also has a boardwalk with bars and other entertainment. There is also a bar named "Wavehouse" that has a giant artificial wave built in so you can surf it! The next spot north is Pacific Beach, which is mostly a continuation of Mission Beach. This is the most popular beach area, and will have tons of stuff going on in the surrounding areas. They also have an active nightlife in most of these beach communities, with the more dive bar types being in Ocean Beach ranging to full on nightclubs up towards Pacfiic Beach.
These are a little bit far afield, though, so if you're going to be in town for just a few days, I would recommend Coronado, specifically the Hotel Del as a place to visit and relax - not great waves, but a large beach and quite scenic.
There are two Magic shops I'd recommend if you wanted to game with some locals while you're in town. There are others, so if you want to explore other ones just let me know.
San Diego Games & Comics (9910 Mira Mesa Blvd) is primarily a Magic shop, and they certainly draw the largest crowds for FNM and the like. They run drafts five nights a week, every day but Monday and Wednesday, and are the "home court" for most of your local judges. While not immediately accessible from downtown, it is about 20 minutes by car. If you're in town early or late, it's almost guaranteed you'll be able to find someone to play Magic with you while the store is open. The phone number is 858-566-0506, and they are almost always open significantly later the range of their posted hours.
Villainous Lair (3342 Adams) is a game shop that hosts all types of boardgames as well as RPG games, and their night for Magic is FNM. While this location is only about 10 minutes away by car, they don't often have Magic events there. However, they do provide a good space for gaming, and you can usually find someone there to play some EDH, or bring your own gang to play some games.