If you don’t know what is Comic Con, first of all, it is not a comic book show. It is much, much more. The list of A-list celebrities that have attended is huge. Hollywood knows that this is a good opportunity to promote upcoming films by bringing in the talent and the directors to discuss the films at “panels.” Many former actors (and even E. L. James) will also be there signing autographs. Video game companies will let you play demos of future releases. Vendors will be selling retro toys, posters, trading cards, and more that you can only get on eBay. There are movie props and massive displays of upcoming movies. There are hundreds of people in costumes for popular shows. There is even a panel on the psychology of the undead (No, really, there is such a panel). It is like Halloween, the Cannes Festival, and Burning Man all rolled into one. Basically, it’s the center of the pop culture universe.
Now, in this world, there are types of people, those with Comic Con badges, and those without one. The good news for those who don’t have one is that you can still experience the Comic Con and may enjoy it even more outside of the convention. How? Read on.
If You Have a Badge: For those who have never attended, the Comic Con can be a little overwhelming. There are masses and masses of people (140,000+ for the weekend). Think of what it’s like going to Disneyland on a weekend during the summer, then double that and you will know how it feels to walk around inside the Convention Center floor (“Exhibit Hall”). For those who want to see a popular panel, be prepared to wait in line at least one to three hours before (depending on how popular). If you just want to walk around, pick up free swag, do some collectible shopping, or just stand in awe of some of the massive displays, then be prepared for massive crowds. Everything is a line. Want free swag? Get in a long line. Want to get an autograph? Get in long line. Want to see a popular panel? Get . . . well, you get the picture.
If You Don’t Have a Badge: Here is an insider secret: you can get free swag and be part of the fun without a badge by just walking around outside the Convention Center. Last year, across the street from the Convention Center, there was a “South Park” Village for those who like the show.
The year before that, there was carnival set up complete with games, free cotton candy, etc. promoting the (now canceled) television show “Heroes.”
Also, for those who like video games, companies like Nintendo, Microsoft XBox, and Sega had rented out warehouses and hotel spaces for their displays with plenty of giveaways. Again, no badges were required to attend. You just needed to know where to go. The Hardrock Cafe is one place that usually has this type of event.
If your kids like the show, “Adventure Time,” they would have loved how the characters took over a pizza restaurant and turned it into the Land of Ooo. This was located about seven blocks away at Ciro’s Pizza.
This year, there will be a Zombie Walk down Gaslamp, and zombies will take over Petco Park with the “Walking Dead Escape.” it will be an obstacle course filled with zombies. In other words, if you don’t like haunted houses, this would be your worst nightmare.
Also outside, between the Convention Center and the Hilton, there will be a stage and a display of all six batmobiles used in the franchise.
Comic Con can be a lot of fun with or without a badge. If you don’t have a badge, you can still get the experience by walking around outside of the Convention Center. If you do have a badge, be prepared to stand in a lot of lines.
– Parking is tight – take the trolley if you can but remember to change when you get to the transfer station (Imperial Transfer Station), or park farther away and take a free shuttle (see link below).
– Take Food and Beverages – there is food for sale inside and plenty of restaurants in the Gaslamp (and even free food giveaways now and then), but they don’t check bags so take snacks, drinks and even sandwiches. This tip also prevents you from leaving a line if you get hungry.
– Wear Comfortable Shoes – with or without a badge, be prepared to walk a lot.
– Take a Hat and Put on Sunscreen – in case you spend more time outside.
– Plan Ahead – if you have a badge, have a plan. Review the programming guide (see below) beforehand. If there are two panels you really want to see and they are back to back in two different locations, choose one because you won’t be able to see both.
– Strollers – while strollers are allowed inside the Convention floor (called the “Exhibit Hall”), it’s a little suffocating, so it’s not much fun for you or the child.
– Get in Line Early – if there is a popular panel you really want to see in the famous “Hall H,” get in line a couple of hours (maybe even three) before the panel you want to see; yes, you may be let in early and be subjected to a “My Little Pony: the Movie” panel discussion but at least you won’t miss yours.
– Free Shuttles – there are a lot of free shuttles that can take you around all of downtown so you can always park farther away but close to a shuttle
– App – there is a ComicCon App but it seems to crash more often than not
– Extra Battery – since you may use your phone more waiting in long lines, take an extra battery or a phone charger.
– Lines – remember that everything about the Con is about waiting in line.
Bookmark These Links:
Grid of Events
Convention Center Map
Convention Center Floor with Exhibitors
Other Links of Interest
Walking Dead Escape
Exhibit Hall Schedule:
WED, JULY 11
6:00 PM-9:00 PM
THU, JULY 12
9:30 AM-7:00 PM
FRI, JULY 13
9:30 AM-7:00 PM
SAT, JULY 14
9:30 AM-7:00 PM
SUN, JULY 15
9:30 AM-5:00 PM