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Take a break from Comic-Con at Balboa Park

If you’re one of the 125,000 people coming to San Diego for Comic-Con later this month, you may want to schedule a breather from the convention center’s geek-chic madness. While we can’t guarantee a sighting of Colin Farrell or Taylor Lautner (try the Hard Rock Hotel… or the downtown Ralph’s store) a visit to Balboa Park will provide a relaxing break from the lines, crowds, and possible pen-stabbings.

Picks for the week of Comic-Con International, July 20-24, 2011:

Go to the San Diego History Center for its “Comic-Con: The Early Years” exhibit of Comic-Con memorabilia from the personal collection of Shel Dorf, the man who founded Comic-Con more than 40 years ago. After exploring some of the earliest promotional material used for the convention, see “Portrait of a Proud Community,” an exhibition that documents the social, political and religious history of a San Diego neighborhood called Logan Heights.

For film buffs, Friday, July 22, is the perfect day to come to the park. You can either catch the Fridays at the Fleet IMAX film series at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center or plop down on a blanket for The San Diego Museum of Art’s Screen on the Green—a free outdoor showing of “The Fountainhead.” If you don’t think you’ll make it to watch surfers at La Jolla Shores, you can also stop by the San Diego Natural History Museum for a screening of “The Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D” starring Kelly Slater.

If your Comic-Con duffel bag includes costumes from “Star Trek” or “Star Wars,” head over to the San Diego Air & Space Museum to explore “Space: A Journey to Our Future.” Opened by Buzz Aldrin earlier this year, the exhibition features interactive multimedia displace about the history and future of space travel. Be sure to see the 3D/4D theatre and stop for a snack at the Flight Path Grill, a breezy outdoor spot with comfy chairs and great views of planes flying into the San Diego Airport.

For a classic tale of romance and magic, see a performance of “The Tempest” at The Old Globe’s outdoor theater on July 20 or 23. Even if you aren’t familiar with the story, you’ll enjoy the visually stunning production that features elaborate costumes, stilts, drums, puppets, and smoke. Not to mention hair the hue of “Avatar” blue.

Anime fans can explore Japanese culture with a visit to the Japanese Friendship Garden or the Mingei International Museum, where a special “Maneki Neko” exhibition showcases beckoning cats made of clay, wood, metal, and ceramics.

Other must-do Balboa Park activities include the Nighttime Zoo (go to Albert’s Restaurant in the Zoo for happy hour from 3-5pm) and the Twilight in the Park concert series (big band, swing, and blues performers will be on stage that week).

If you’re going to spend more than a few hours in the park, the best deal is to get the Stay for the Day pass to see five museums for $35. Then browse the Balboa Park website for additional information about all of the museums, performing arts organizations, gardens, trails and other attractions.