San Diego Comic Con 2016 took place in downtown San Diego, CA on July 21-24th, 2016. It’s no doubt that this event has become synonymous with mainstream culture often referenced by people outside of geek culture. Officials expected over 200,000 people in downtown San Diego during the four day weekend. The event is much like St. Patrick’s Day, but for nerds – everyone wears their geek pride shamelessly and there are celebrations in the streets. SDCC also brings in Hollywood’s A-listers to discuss upcoming blockbusters. Of course, San Diego Comic Con is a highly coveted event to attend. Tickets go on sale as early as February and are announced on short notice. Prices go up every year, but people will still attend regardless. Thus, this is one of the toughest conventions to get tickets for.
However, there are a ton of free events surrounding the convention center who want to be a part of the comic con world. This is our first time perusing through downtown San Diego during Comic Con. Most reports and blogs will report what’s inside Hall H and the exhibit hall – this blogzine will cover what you can do without paying full price for a badge and still represent your geek pride. Scarlet Rhapsody covered events outside comic con, on Thursday and Friday when crowds would be the lightest. Fighting humidity and the July heat, it is best to be hydrated and have sunscreen on hand. There are common areas of the main hotels – Marriott Marquis and Hilton Bayfront where you can charge your phones and also hunt down Pokemon if you’re playing PokemonGo.
The Marriott Marquis had a few things open to the general public. One of which was the Nintendo Lounge. With a giant Kirby guarding the North Towers, the Nintendo Lounge had people from all generations of Nintendo fandom waltz in for photo ops with sets, demos of Yokai Watch, and a live Pokken tournament. There were also character meet and greets with Luigi. Additionally, at the Marriott, there was the pop up sushi bar where you can get various rolls and a sushi burrito for about $12 a piece. Thankfully, there is plenty of open seating at the Marriott to recharge. The same place was also selling comic con exclusive bottles of wine and beer.
If you go towards the Hilton, there were two free zones you could peruse through. FX took over a tuffet outside the Hilton lobby. The FX section had a few themed sections to their intellectual properties including the bar from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, promotions for the upcoming Rocky Horror remake starring Laverne Cox, American Horror Story VR experience, and few sets inspired by the upcoming season of Strain. Additionally, Adult Swim had an 18+ themed carnival next door though none of the carnival games where themed to any Adult Swim intellectual properties other than the giant Meatwad that you get inside of.
On the North side of the convention center, you can walk over to Embarcadero Marina Park to Entertainment Weekly’s ConX. This was a fairly empty event. However, there were a lot of millennials at the park playing PokemonGo. Promoters of ConX were getting people playing Pokemon to go inside as there were PokeStops inside the event. Though there was hardly anyone at the ConX event, it did have food trucks lined up and a ton of photo ops including a set from American Horror Story Hotel and a life sized replica of JabbaTheHutt. The main event that evening was a series of DJ’s playing mashups – some were pretty spiffy (Ghostbusters/Thunderstruck) and some were questionable.
Right across the street from the convention center, there were several stops for freebies and photo ops. You couldn’t miss the Macy’s Parade style balloons of the Power Puff Girls hovering over the fountains in Martin Luther King Jr. Park. I think there was a Homestuck cosplayers meet up somewhere there. MAC Cosmetics were doing some demo’s promoting their new line of Star Trek themed make up. They were also giving away umbrellas to attendees to beat the heat outside. The concept seemed interesting and I was considering picking up a few things, but the prices were not listed. South Park also had a replica of the town with iconic scenes and characters from “every effing season.” This also included PC Principal and a safe space for those who needed it. There were also several other promotional spaces going around including Amazon.com, Emerald City, and Batman vs. Superman. A statue portraying Superman as a false idol loomed over the Omni Hotel.
During after hours, the Gaslamp becomes St. Patrick’s Day, but with a geeky twist. Everyone either empties out the convention center and makes their way to the shuttles or stops by the busy streets of the historic Gaslamp district. Tourists and locals outside the convention stop by here to take photos with cosplayers. There are also several restaurants hosting after parties with cosplay contests with cash prizes. This area can be a bit crowded and it also brings sketchy people who will try to try to swindle money after you. If you are in the Gaslamp area during after 6PM, don’t accept anything “free” from anyone as there are people who try to scam comic con attendees.
Finally, our highlight of “things to do outside of comic con” was The Cat Café. A few blocks up 3rd Street, you can visit The Cat Cafe where you can enjoy a tasty drink and be in the company of 11 cats for half an hour. They were taking reservations prior to comic con. We have only done one cat café so far, and this was a pleasant one. Not only you can down a tasty drink, but you can also play and pet the cats. There were about 11; some were taking afternoon siestas while others were social. The cats are also available for adoption.
Overall, while it did not feel we did much in the course of two days, there was a robust amount of things to do outside of the main event that is San Diego Comic Con. Special thanks to friends who have nudged us to give comic con a second chance. It’s not always easy obtaining tickets to comic con, but it does not mean one can still enjoy the various free offerings in downtown. Despite the heat, we would consider doing this again next year time permitting.
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