If you are new to the San Diego Comic-Con, one element (among many) that sets it apart from the rest are the strong presence of various creative events surrounding the convention. The reputation and the amount of these extra-curricular events has grown over the recent years, making them some of the highlights of the show. The first couple of years I attended Comic-Con, I really focused my attention on the activity inside the convention center but now am intentional about carving out time exploring the Gaslamp. Some events capitalize directly on the nerd fandom while some capitalize on the sheer volume of people. Some events are highly publicized while others you discover like a prize in a cereal box. A few examples over the years:
- Nerd HQ is now a perennial favorite among the nerds. With Zachary Levi driving it, Nerd HQ has probably the most publicity of them all. With drinks, video games, and dancing this is a solid default for hanging out at the end of a long day. This ‘con within a con’ has it’s own panels and program featuring high-profile guests. However, with last year was starting to feel less nerd and more club, I hope it hasn’t ‘jumped the shark’.
- In 2010, the Flynn’s Arcade experience was AMAZING. You got a chance to play in a working retro arcade until a secret door opened up to reveal a Light-Cycle on display. The following year led you to the ‘End of Line’ club. Geek-tastic.
- A new favorite of mine is The Walking Dead Escape at Petco Park. Produced by the creators of the show, this experience takes you through 3 floors of zombie infested mayhem for about $75 (you can be a walker as well). Last year they gave each runner the #100 issue of The Walking Dead!
- The Alice in Wonderland interactive experience was very cool. This was like walking right through Wonderland.
- For the movie Machete, a drive-in was set up in a parking lot surrounded with low-riders. The best part- a taco truck gave out free food served by the director and cast of the movie! Yup, you would get a burrito from Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, or Michelle Rodriguez. Brilliant.
- Trickster is another mini-con that focuses on comic book creators.
- Then there are various lounges that YouTube, Cryptozoic, and other companies but together that are sprinkled around town. Various geek sites also host ‘meet-ups’ and live podcast recordings that you can attend.
But don’t be fooled. Just because it’s downtown, doesn’t mean it’s going to be a great event. Having space in the Gaslamp doesn’t ensure quality control or a nerd appropriate theme. Rob Zombie’s concert and the Playboy Club events just didn’t fit into the best spirit of the show thus garnering much criticism. The SDCCblog has a great listing of the current off-site events so keep checking it for updates. Also follow @OutsideComicCon.
These extra events have become almost as important as the main convention at SDCC so it’s important that you plan to explore them. Start doing your research and setting a schedule. Besides being a great place to meet/see celebs, they are also a fantastic place to make new friends. Let me know some of your favorite off-site events by leaving a comment below. Thanks!