Comic-Con is San Diego’s biggest party. Every year, hundred of thousand visitors converge on the convention center to check out the latest in pop culture. It’s so popular that the badges sold out in under an hour. If you are one of the lucky few who has their badge, you are in for a treat. If not, it’s still absolutely worthwhile to come by and check it out. The throngs of decked out super fans are entertaining enough, but there are also major attractions outside of Comic-Con that are free and you don’t need a badge to visit. Here are some of our favorites. Unless otherwise noted, these programs run from Thursday July 20 to Sunday July 23, 2017.
The Laika Experience
520 Fifth Avenue
Have you seen Coraline, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls or Kubo and the Two Strings? Do you want to pick up some merch and have it signed by Travis Knight the President & CEO of LAIKA? If you come down to the Laika Experience and purchase your favorite merchandise, Travis will be there to autograph it Friday, July 21st at 3 pm. The pop up exhibit will be running from July 14, through Comic-Con weekend July 20-23.
2nd Floor of the Atomic in the Tiki Room
A pop up shop featuring Funko Pop, vinyl toys, comic books, Pokemon, Marvel and DC Universe. Not a bad place for a cold drink or tacos at Michos either.
The Futurism & Tech Pavilion
Omni San Diego Hotel, Grand Ballroom, 4th Floor
9000 square feet of immersive entertainment hosted by VRcon. If there was one off site event to go to this is the big one. On any other weekend, this would steal the show. For Comic-Con, it’s just another great event you can attend for free outside of the convention.
Hilton San Diego Bayfront Lawn, 1 Park Blvd.
Are you a fan of Legion, Atlanta or American Horror Story? How about all three? FX has interactive, mind blowing experiences for you in Hilton Bayfront lawn. Once you walk in, you never know what you are going to see.
Cartoon Network Balloons
Martin Luther King Promenade
This is one of the many public art works on display outside of Comic-Con. The Cartoon Network floats their characters above the fountains on Martin Luther King Promenade. Last year, the Powerpuff Girls blew everyone away. Who will rise to the top this year?
Blade Runner 2049 Experience
Martin Luther King Promenade
Take a virtual reality tour of Los Angeles 2049 and see props, vehicles, and costumes from the upcoming film and take a test to see if you’re a replicant or human. There are even rumors about actors from the movie being in costume around the exhibit. I would like to see Deckard take the replicant test.
Kong: Skull Island
Behind the Omni Hotel on MLK Promenade
This three part exhibit features the Monarch Containment Zone, which houses the bones of other giant apes, the Iwi Temple, which holds the key to the secret of Skull Island, and the jungle, where you might meet Kong himself.
Amazon Prime Presents: The Tick Takeover
Corner of 1st Avenue & Martin Luther King Promenade
Spooooon!!! Armed with massive strength and questionable intellect, the Tick is off to save the day. Amazon picked up the rights to the show you can explore the Tick universe in a multi room interactive display.
Hilton Gaslamp Hotel
Can’t get enough dead in your life? How about trying your skill at the Negan Batting Cages? I’m exactly sure what this is but I’m dead sure you don’t want to miss it. You also don’t want to miss the Fear of the Walking Dead signing on Saturday, July 22, from 12 pm-1 pm. They might even tell you who Negan killed if you ask nicely enough but probably not.
NBC’s Midnight Texas
Gaslamp Square next to Tin Fish Restaurant
Midnight is a town that sits on the veil between the living and the dead. Good and bad supernatural beings are fighting for the world of the living. If you liked True Blood, you might love Midnight.
SAN DIEGO COMIC-CON ART SHOW
Manchester Grand Hyatt
Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges. For the first time ever, the SDCC Art Show is open to everybody. Love fanart and collectibles. You don’t want to miss this one.
The Netflix Experience
Hilton Gaslamp Hotel
If you loved Stranger Things, get a sneak peek of season two at the Netflix Experience which also features Bright and The Defenders.
Embarcadero Marina Park South
This event is for Friday, July 21 only. This installation art exhibit is inspired by the hit History Channel show Vikings. All day, a clan of armored vikings will carry around the body of their departed warrior. At 7:00 the funeral begin on the Embarcadero bike trail. Like all good Viking funeral, it will end with a 45’ viking longship getting burned as a funeral pyre in San Diego Bay.
Final Thoughts on Comic-Con
There is so much to see and do outside of Comic-Con it’s well worth a trip, even without a badge. You probably will not find a parking spot downtown, even if you were willing to pay Con prices. Comic-Con International has a great transportation page shuttle bus, trolley and even Coaster options to reach the con. You could even get a room and make it a romantic weekend, but you better book early. One thing about Comic-Con, it seems like everybody will be there. Might as well take parking headaches out of the equation.