San Diego Comic-Con is here. The annual convention has become a must-attend event for geeks, with thousands lining up to get into panels and screenings for Marvel, Game of Thrones, and more. But with badges selling out in just over an hour, not everyone who wants to get in is able to. Don’t despair, nerds. There are plenty of events happening outside the convention center — and you don’t need a badge to attend.
Every year, studios and brands set up elaborate activations just outside the convention center, and these unique experiences can be as big a draw as anything that’s happening inside Comic-Con. This year’s activations include:
Amazon Prime Video Experience will showcase new subversive superhero series The Boys, noir fantasy Carnival Row, and The Expanse. July 18-21 at the MLK Promenade and 1st Drive.
South Park Bigger Longer Uncut Mini-Golf activation is a 9-hole mini-golf course celebrating the show’s 20th anniversary. July 18-21 at the San Diego Wine & Culinary Center (200 Harbor Dr. #120), directly across from the convention center.
Brooklyn Nine Nine experience, where fans will have a chance to test their skills for a chance to join the 99th precinct. July 18-21 at Gaslamp Square, in front of the Tin Fish Restaurant.
Superstore Cloud 9 Pop-Up will offer fans exclusive content, custom photo op, and giveaways at the Cloud 9 Department Store. July 18-21 inside the main lobby of the Hard Rock Hotel.
The Good Place Diner — The Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes, where the Hard Rock Hotel’s diner is transformed into the diner that exists between realms and guests can enjoy a themed meal. July 18-21 at Maryjane’s Diner at the Hard Rock Hotel.
The FX Fearless Forum Space will feature activations for American Horror Story: 1984, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer, and What We Do in the Shadows. July 18-21 at the Hilton Bayfront Park.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Car Lot at Petco Park, where you can check out some of the strangest vehicles money can buy. Open July 18-21 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sunday).
Fans can also check out HBO’s Watchmen activation, The Twilight Zone Experience, the Warner Bros. Experience, DeadQuarters (official fan zone for The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead) and the Fox Fan Fair.
SDCC continues late into the night with numerous parties, many of which require an invite or a paid ticket. But a few are free.
Amazon is hosting parties for The Boys and Carnival Row at its activation. Both are sold out, but additional guests may be admitted if capacity permits. Registration is also now closed for the Star Wars: The Old Republic SDCC Cantina on July 20 at 7 p.m., but walk-up registration may be available.
You can also attend the free Comic-Con After Party on July 20 at Himmelberg’s (369 Tenth Ave) at 8 p.m. Plus, there’s the San Diego Comic-Con Unofficial Blog’s Pacey-Con, happening on July 21 from 6-8 p.m. at the Dubliner (554 Fourth Ave). Open to all ages and free to attend. The Pop Insider will host the Legion M Fan Lounge at the Theatre Box’s Chocolate Lounge and Rooftop Bar (701 Fifth Ave), including a Potterhead party for Harry Potter fans on July 21 from 3-6 p.m. with an appearance by Fantastic Beasts star Dan Fogler. RSVP here.
Her Universe Fashion Show
You can check out the latest in geek fashion at the Her Universe Fashion show, hosted by Hot Topic. Designers will compete to win a Her Universe fashion collection. Admission is free, but space is limited. Line-up begins at 1 p.m.
When and where: July 18 at 6 p.m., Manchester Grand Hyatt Harbor Ballroom
Artists’ Loft, BarrioHaus
New this year at Comic-Con is the Artists’ Loft at BarrioHaus, which will feature free panels focusing on Latinx culture and contributions to popular arts. Check out the schedule here.
When and where: July 18-July 21 at BarrioHaus, 1616 National Avenue
Pop-Up Comic-Con Museum
From Thursday through Sunday, head over to Balboa Park to check out the pop-up Comic-Con Museum. Exhibits include The Batman Experience, an interactive, immersive experience featuring Batman-related comics, art, games, props, and vehicles. Admission is free. You can also attend a free Paint Like Bob Ross class.
The museum is also hosting several free panels, including a discussion about the 35th anniversary of Ghostbusters and a conversation with Sonia Manzano — aka as Maria from Sesame Street. Check the Comic-Con schedule for full details.
When and where: Thursday, July 18 through Sunday, July 21 at 2121 Pan American Plaza in Balboa Park from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (5 p.m. on Sunday).
Comic conference for educators and librarian
The San Diego Public Library is hosting a series of free panels for educators and librarians from July 17 through July 21. Events will explore how to incorporate comics into the classrooms and libraries. Plus, a series of publisher panels will include topics like “Feminist Comics That Rock” with author Raina Telgemeier and “LGBTQ + YA Graphic Novels” with artist Sarah Graley. Events are free but pre-registration is required.
When and where: Wednesday, July 17 through Sunday, July 21 at the San Diego Central Library, 330 Park Boulevard.
You can also follow @OutsideComicCon on Twitter to find other events happening outside of the official Comic-Con schedule.