As someone who lives in San Diego, I constantly hear how much it stinks to live in the city hosting Comic Con without actually getting to attend it. While I am sympathetic to the problem, I also know that most people are ignorant of how much Comic Con fun they can have without ever once stepping foot inside the convention.
1. Psych: The Musical Screening
Image courtesy of Flickr user Lisa Brettschneider
There's never much going on at Comic Con during preview night—most attendees are trying to save their energy for the long weekend ahead. But this year, Psych held a free screening of their musical episode (set to premiere in December). Fans had to RSVP online in advance and wait in line to get in on a first-come-first-served basis, but hey, it's pretty awesome to get to see a screening of a great show early and for free.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Heather Paul
Tired of competing to get into Comic Con when you're only interested in gaming anyway? Then skip SDCC and head to the nearby Gam3rCon, which lasted Thursday through Saturday and offered video game and board game demos along with live bands and more. From the pictures I could find, it looks like the event was pretty darn tiny, but hey, some people prefer their conventions that way.
3. Schick Hydro Shaves
Throughout the convention, Schick Hydro was offering anyone a free Schick Hydro razor if they boarded the Assassin's Creed pirate ship behind the convention center and got a shave from a pirate.
4. Regular Show Regular Zone
For the second year in a row, Cartoon Network partnered up with the San Diego Children's Museum to present a cool interactive experience with one of their shows. Last year focused on Adventure Time and this year, it was Regular Show. I heard great things about both, but there is constantly a wait of about two hours to get in, so I didn't get a chance to go inside to check it out.
5. The Adult Swim Fun House
Similarly, Adult Swim had an attraction outside the convention as well. You had to line up to get tickets at four and then come back with your tickets at the designated hour to enter the Fun House. There was still a bit of a wait, but it was totally worth it.
The inflatable Fun House had all the weirdness you'd expect from Adult Swim, including a grown man in a diaper drinking a bottle, flashing blacklight responsive colors everywhere, and Robot Chicken's famous robot. And those are just the things we saw—since it was a maze, everyone had a different experience.
There were a number of exits, including a slide and a jail that you could only leave after singing karaoke. No matter what exit you went through, you got a free t-shirt to take home.
If you think this sounds like fun, keep an eye out for listings in your area, because it is traveling throughout the U.S. right now and might just be stopping in a town near you soon.
6. Fox's Animation Domination Station
To promote their new Sunday night cartoon lineup, Fox put up a miniature golf course, a painting area where guests were given tiny figures from the shows to paint, a food truck offering free pizza, and photo opps with Axe Cops.
7. The Vikings Experience
Sure, you might not be a real viking, but at Comic Con, you could still test your rowing skills against competitors in miniature viking ships. The Vikings Experience also featured lovely shield maidens standing guard and a photo area so you could remember your short time as a viking.
8. Comixology's Tr!ckst3r
To help publicize their online software that has made self-publishing comic books easier than ever, Comixology organized an event called Tr!ckster, where they invited artists to come by every night of the convention to have a drink, listen to music and draw live models posing in a variety of comic-styled outfits and poses. It might not have been the most lively event (artists tend to be pretty quiet while they work), but it might have been one of the most appropriately comic-inspired evening events out there.
9. Elder Scrolls Food Truck
While there are plenty of food trucks, trailers with mini movie theaters for trailer premieres, and even a mobile Hello Kitty shop in the Petco Park parking lot by the convention center, none of these attractions were entertaining enough to keep you distracted for more than a few minutes. On the other hand, on Thursday afternoon, a food truck arrived to help promote the Elder Scrolls online and handed out free lunch (Pressed Eidarmelt sandwiches with your choice of Fire Petal Dip, Emperor's Garden Sauce or Tomato-Mammoth Sauce) and free ice cream (frozen sweet cream with Khajiiti sweetbites) to anyone willing to wait in line.
10. Comedy Central Comedy-Con
Ever wanted to party with Comedy Central stars like Key and Peele, the guys from Workaholics? Well, this Thursday afternoon party was your chance, as it was totally open to the public. I wish I could have reported on this one in person, but we couldn't even get to the convention and find parking before it started.
11. 30 Minute Musicals Jurassic Park
This Thursday evening event was one of my favorite activities outside the convention, although it received very little promotion and had a very small audience. This LA theater troupe headed down to San Diego to perform their 30-minute-long musical extravaganza based on the events of Jurassic Park. If that sounds stupid, well, that's kind of the point.
The musical was utterly hilarious, recasting the T. rex as a misunderstood, slightly psychotic diva who desperately wants to make friends. In the end, she's the tragic hero who is left alone on the island after finally getting to show the humans that she only wanted their friendship.
If you're interested, 30 Minute Musicals is constantly performing new shows in Los Angeles, so if you happen to be in the area at some point, look them up and stop by for a show. Hey, even if you hate it, you only wasted 30 minutes of your time, right?
12. The Aquabats
Image (not from this Comic Con show) courtesy of Flickr user Aaron Silvers.
Always showing the world a nerdy good time, the Aquabats were out celebrating the second season of their TV show with a live performance at the House of Blues on Thursday.
13. The World's End Party
To be fair, this event wasn't technically open to the public. That being said, it was possible for fans to win tickets to the event by attending the World's End Pub Crawl that took place earlier in the day. Since I wasn't able to get a plus one to cover this party, I immediately sat down at the table with the friendliest-looking people and as it turns out, they were all the winners of the pub crawl who became super close friends through the span of the afternoon while trying to win tickets to the event. I didn't stay at the party long, but I couldn't be happier to get to meet the winners of that contest.
14. The Chuck Jones Gallery
Image courtesy of Flickr user Bonnie Dean
After leaving The World's End Party, I headed over to the Chuck Jones gallery. While the event always features works by Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones and Dr. Suess, during Comic Con they always feature comic-inspired art as well. As if that weren't enough, while I stopped by, they were also hosting a trivia night with free shots of tequila.
There are plenty of other art galleries in Downtown San Diego and many of them have special comic-themed art during the convention—it's just that the Chuck Jones Gallery is one of the most famous and most central to the convention.
15. The Walking Dead Escape
Image courtesy of Flickr user Edward Headington
Curious if you could survive a zombie apocalypse, or just want to attack people while pretending to be a zombie? Then be sure to check out the yearly Walking Dead Escape that allows survivors and zombies the chance to pair off against one another. If you're ready to take on the challenge, be ready to shell out some dough first—being a survivor costs $90, being a Walker will run you up to $149, and just sitting on the sidelines to watch the mayhem will take $15.
16. The Zombie Walk
If paying money to pretend to be a zombie just seems silly to you, there's a free zombie walk outside the convention every year. Just dress up in your favorite zombie gear, meet outside the convention and start shuffling down the street with the rest of the reanimated masses. This group wasn't technically part of the zombie walk, but I have a hard time resisting zombies coming from a luau with Jell-o brains.
17. Petco's Star Wars Yappy Hour
To celebrate the launch of their new Star Wars line of pet products, Petco hosted a "Yappy Hour" cocktail party. Dogs and their owners were invited to take photos with R2D2, get caricatures of themselves by Princess Leia and hang out with costumed characters from Star Wars. In fact, that's my friend's French bulldog with Darth Vader.
Humans were invited to enjoy cocktails, while pooches were provided with water, tennis balls, and dog treats. Those without a pooch to call their own were encouraged to adopt one of the pups on site courtesy of the Humane Society.
While the event was open to all animals, only one cat was actually brave enough to drop in with his owner. Somehow I feel like his sweet Batman shirt helped him cope.
If you dig hot girls and cool tunes, the Nerd-A-Thon was the ultimate destination for music-loving geeks this year. On Friday night, fans could enjoy the girls of the Devil's Playground Burlesque performing in comic-inspired ensembles beside nerdy rock groups like Nerf Herder, Kirby Krackle, and H2Awesome. While we didn't make it to the Friday show, here's one of the Devil's Burlesque girls performing at a similar event back in December.
On Saturday night, the girls were in Star Wars clothing and the music acts were Nerdcore hip hop artists (think M.C. Front A Lot). While the L.A.-based burlesque troupe only had two performers at the show, they were both fantastic.
Plus, I couldn't be happier with the music acts, El Gun Legro, Wordburglar, Dual Core, MegaRan, and Danimal Cannon (although the last performer wasn't nerdcore, but a metal guitarist who played over sweet Gameboy tracks, he was still amazing).
19. Pretty Poison's Nerdy & Nice
The Nerd-A-Thon wasn't the only place where you could find music and burlesque on Saturday night. Pretty Poison Burlesque also had a show that night, and theirs featured the musical stylings of Ghost of the Robot, a band that features James Marsters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
20. Heroes Brew Festival
Is Comic Con lacking too much in the hops department, in your opinion? Then you would have enjoyed the comic-themed craft brew festival that occurred right next door and featured live bands and all the beer you could handle.
21. Adult Swim Party Featuring Eric Andre
Image courtesy of Flickr user Mandee Johnson
Also on Saturday night, Adult Swim threw a party at the House of Blues featuring comedian Eric Andre and musical guest Yacht. This one sounded a lot of fun—but the burlesque show lasted all night and the party had a line forming when we left to go get dinner at 5. Considering the doors didn't even open for a few hours, I can't imagine the line to get in.
While the events change every year, these are a good sampling of the kinds of fun things that are available each year, even for non-attendees. So, if you live in the area, or if you're already planning on traveling to San Diego that time of year, but aren't sure you'll get a Comic Con pass, be sure to hit the Downtown area during the convention for all kinds of fun events.
It's worth noting that I originally intended to go to as many outside-the-convention events as possible, but that soon proved to be utterly impossible. In fact, I only made it to about half of the events that I planned to attend because there is just so much stuff going on. As long as this article is, I didn't even include every single event outside the convention that people could attend, and, of course, if you attended the convention and found other fun stuff to do outside the convention, please tell us about them in the comments.
On a final note, if you're one of the many people who absolutely loves to see all the great cosplay from the convention, don't miss my gallery featuring over 200 costumes.