Fun Things to Do Outside the 2014 San Diego Comic Con

Comic Con was over a week ago, but for many who returned from the convention, we're just now starting to get back to our normal routine. That's because the convention itself is only one of the many geektastic activities going on in San Diego that weekend and the more of them you visit, the more exhausted you get.

This year there were stories that the number of big VIP Hollywood VIP parties was down by 40%. As it turns out, that just means there were less exclusive parties and more activities that anyone can partake in. After attending as many of these open-to-everyone events as possible (and one exclusive event), I still feel like Zeon and I barely scratched the surface of outside entertainment during the 2014 Comic Con. Here's a rundown of all the non-con events that took place that weekend.

Wednesday (Preview Night):

Preview night is still the least busy night of the convention. Some exhibitors haven't even set up yet and most out of town visitors haven't even left home yet. Needless to say, there isn't much going on Downtown that day. Even so, there was already plenty of stuff going on that night. At the Mosaic Wine Bar, visitors could pay $35 to hang out with bestselling authors Christina Lauren, Alice Clayton, Kresley Cole and Renee Carlino at the Best-Selling Author's Happy Hour. Henry's Pub hosted the annual Enchantment Under the SDCC party. Side Bar held a Super Hero Party.

The night was a particularly big night for craft beer fans as two different breweries offered entertainment options. Stone Brewery launched their W00tstout 2.0 beer with Aisha Tyler, Wil Wheaton and Drew Curtis, who appear on the bottle, as depicted by Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons. Ballast Point Bewery held a 3DS Pokemon Tournament for Craft Beer Lovers for adults who just have to catch them all while sipping on fine suds.

The Michael J. Wolf Fine Arts Gallery held their opening night party for the "POP! Art of the Geek" show that ran through the weekend. While we skipped the opening party, I did visit the show and it was, in fact, fantastic. It was both curated by and featured art from LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya. Here are a few more pictures from the event.

All Weekend Long:

Starting Friday morning, in the Petco Parking Lot, there was all kinds of awesome action during the convention. The biggest draw in the parking lot was the Adult Swim Fun House and the Meatwad Dome Experience. The fun house was there last year, but they changed it a little since then. The whole thing was bizarre and awesome -even though Zeon and I had to karaoke "Let's Get it On" together (it was pretty painful to listen to). The highlight for me was climbing through the television set in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force's television set into the crib of a giant, creepy baby.

The Meatwad Dome was also awesome, letting you climb inside a giant, inflatable Meatwad and watch an Imax cartoon that was entirely surreal. They even gave out free tee shirts to people who went through the experience, but since we didn't get there until Saturday night, all the tees in our sizes were gone.

Pizza Hut and the Ninja Turtles movie worked together to provide a giant tank that shot cardboard pizza at Shredder and some manhole covers. Shooting the tank was pretty fun even though it was pretty hard to accurately aim, but I still nailed a Shredder. They also gave out free pizza slices during lunch time and had the pizza box furniture used in the Ninja Turtles' living room in the new movie.

The Courtyard by Marriot set up a stage where they offered free zombie makeovers by professional FX artists and then let people take pictures and upload them online in their travel pod that was designed to look like one of the chain's new rooms. That's my zombie makeover as done by Ashley Hooker. Some of the makeovers were even done by Greg Nicotero, who does the makeup on The Walking Dead. They also had cosplay contest and a panel with George R.R. Martin, which was a lot easier to watch than waiting for hours to see one of the big panels in the convention itself.

The Sin City experience featured a collection of awesome classic cars featured in the movie and a driving simulator to let you feel like you were really cruising in the world of Sin City. The Sleepy Hollow experience featured a replica of the bridge of Sleepy Hollow where people could go in and experience an Oculus Rift journey that let you meet the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane. There was also a Box Trolls food truck that let you take pictures with costumed characters dressed like the Box Trolls and enjoy a tasty treat made with bugs -like cricket kabobs, grasshopper tacos, tempura tarantula and more (it was closed when I photographed it). Angry Birds had a station that offered free tees, hair dos and nail paintings depending on the time of day. Hello Kitty had a pop up shop for the second year in a row, Amazon offered a free charging station for those with weary cell phones and there were also plenty of food trucks and ice cream carts there to feed and cool all the tired Comic Con patrons.

Across the street from the convention, fans could wait in line to play laser tag courtesy of Comedy Central and Old Spice (or at PetCo Park courtesy of Nerdist and Borderlands) or try their hand at being a parkouring assassin thanks to Assassin's Creed (check out Zeon's article here for more on that). Assassin's Creed also partnered with Schick to offer free professional shaves for those interested. Game of Thrones had a "Survive the Realms" experience that seemed totally brutal while Vikings allowed you to dress up like a Viking and then be filmed in front of a number of settings inspired by the show -participants also earned a Viking horn cup that could be used to get discount beers at a number of downtown bars. Cartoon Network also took over the Children's Museum with an Adventure Time experience. Just up the street, the Chuck Jones Gallery featured fantastically fun geek-themed art by an array of artists (including, of course, legendary cartoonist Chuck Jones).

Behind the convention center, there were even more crazy adventures -the most popular of which were the Simpsons-based ones. You could help color in the Simpsons' logo on a giant wall, play a carnival squirt gun game to win an inflatable donut hat or wait in line to go inside an inflatable version of Homer's head. The area also included a zipline in front of the Gotham skyline, a Godzilla art show and an Expendables experience.

For those who wanted to cool down and chill out the Marriot offered a Perk Up Lounge where you could get free food, drinks, massages and facials. Felicia Day's Geek and Sundry also rented out a space in Jolt N' Joes that featured entertainment day and night for geeks ready to take a load off. The Marriot also provided a space for the Nintendo Lounge, where gamers could go and enjoy playing both old and new Nintendo games all day long -they even had an epic Mario Kart tournament.

For those who couldn't get into the convention or wanted to check out other conventions, the Nerd Machine's Nerd HQ took over Petco Park again, offering even more panels, gaming demos and celebrity signings for fans. And there was a Gam3rCon down the way where you could relax and play video games, board games or role playing games. Alternatively, you could just chill out and meet fellow gamers or check out the game-inspired art on display. Gam3rCon was conveniently open until midnight, so it was also a welcome refuge for those who left Comic Con when the floor closed at 7 and still wanted to geek out. This year, they even made the event into a game where you could earn achievements for doing certain activities and then trade them in like arcade tickets for fun prizes and souvenirs.

There are also always tons of Christian protestors at the convention and counter protestors, some of whom are poking fun and some of whom are dead serious in their intentions. I was a big fan of this gal who had a straight-forward, easy-to-understand message.

As for nightly activities, the San Diego Symphony held a different performance every night, each with accompanying videos for the specific score of the night. On Thursday, the theme was retro video games. It was Danny Elfman tracks from Tim Burton Movies on Friday. For Saturday, trekkies could enjoy the timeless music from new and classic Star Trek episodes.

Thursday:

The biggest public event on Thursday night was the MTVu Fandom Awards and Fan Fest, which took place at Petco Park. The event featured performances by LinkIn Park and G-Eazy as well as food, games and drinks.

For those who were too geeky for MTV, the sold out w00tstock 6.0 offered music, short films, comedy and more, all presented by Adam Savage and Wil Wheaton. Alternatively, Kevin Smith had a live Jay and Silent Bob podcast that night at the American Comedy Company. Those against comic book censorship could have also attended the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund party at the Westgate Hotel. There was also a Super Video Game Land, an 8-Bit themed art show over at the Mission Brewery -again, while I didn't make it to the official opening night, I did stop by to check out the art, some of which is below.

One major event during the day was the Her Universe Geek Couture Fashion Show where aspiring designers presented their geektacular duds to the public for an opportunity to design a whole clothing line for Hot Topic. 

That night, Zeon and I attended our one exclusive event during the convention, the Batman Capes and Cowls art gallery, where Vice and DC Comics partnered up to present artistic takes on the famous caped crusader's fashions in preparation for the upcoming Batman: Arkham Knight game. For a more detailed look at the event, don't miss this post by Zeon.

Friday:

On Friday, I attended two fantastically nerdy events, starting with SherlockeDCC, an epic party dedicated Sherlock Holmes that was held, appropriately, in the San Diego library. The party featured all kinds of cool Sherlockian merchandise (including stuff from the Baker Street Babes, who organized the event), tasty h'ordeuvres, a fun photo space filled with Sherlock-esque props, a raffle for all kinds of Sherlock merchandise and a Nerf shooting area where you could take down Benedict and Martin. The most popular attraction though was the custom Sherlockian manicures which featured amazing nail designs by two talented manicurists.

After the party, I quickly headed over to the Nerd-A-Thon at The Merrow, where nerdcore and burlesque ruled the night. The two headliners were MC Lars and MC Frontalot, who were both just fantastic, but I was a little bummed that I missed one of the warm up acts -Mega Ran, who raps almost exclusively about Mega Man. The Devil's Playground Burlesque featured gorgeous gals dressing up like your favorite Star Wars characters and stripping down to nothing but their pasties and panties. It was, for the second year in a row, one of my favorite events during the entire convention.

Of course, those were only two of the many events going on Friday night. The Marked Men Party was a pirate-themed event on a ship that was actually used in the Pirates of the Caribbean film. Funko hosted their yearly Funko FunDays party for their fans where door prizes, gift bags and more included collectable toys. A Ghostbusters Fan Party called "Mass Hysteria" took place at the Werewolf. Adam Savage hosted a cosplay party called Incognito at Sidebar and Chris Hardwick hosted a live taping of @midnight at the Balboa Theater.

Perhaps the most unique event that night though was Tim & Eric's Bedtime Stories Jammy Party in the PetCo parking lot, where the duo screened their new series and visitors had to RSVP and show up in pajamas to attend.

During the day, there were some other fun distractions, including the Sony Online Entertainment Block Party, which took place at their San Diego campus (free shuttles were available to take people back and forth to the barbecue that featured free food and beer). Over at the Broken Heart Tattoo parlor, art fans could enjoy the Tattoo & Comic Con Inspired Art Show. The Whiskey Girl held a free arcade provided by Deep Silver and Square Enix.

Saturday:

Strictly by coincidence I happened to get my zombie makeover at the Courtyard by Marriot space the same day I was scheduled to go through the Walking Dead Escape and the same day as the Zombie Walk -which I wasn't involved in at all. The Walking Dead Escape was pretty much amazing -it was basically a massive obstacle course with moving, blood-covered zombies as the obstacles. As press, we walked through the thing so we could take pictures (which still left me pouring sweat as it was so humid and hot outside), but most of the people actually ran through as though the threat was real.

As for the Zombie Walk, it turns out it was good that I missed it as this year the organizers didn't get permits -which meant the streets weren't blocked off by police. The pretend zombies started to attack a car full of people who freaked out and ended up running over some of the zombie walkers. The whole thing was a disaster, leaving one woman hospitalized and a number of roads blocked off by the police.

Those who missed the Devil's Playground Burlesque at the Nerd-A-Thon and those who just didn't get their fill at that show were able to enjoy theSuicideGirls: Blackheart Burlesque performance at the House of Blues, featuring skits based on Game of Thrones, Planet of the Apes and other pop culture references.

Chris Hardwick revisited the Balboa Theater, this time recording his The Nerdist podcast in front of a live audience.

During the day, beer drinking geeks were invited to enjoy two of their passions at once at the Heroes Brew Craft Beer Festival that featured not just unlimited beer tasting, but live music and a cosplay contest. Best of all, the proceeds to the festival went to charity.

Sunday:

After walking around for four days, both Zeon and I had absolutely no energy to do anything after we left the convention. The feeling was pretty common among those who attend the con, not to mention, a lot of people had work the next day, which explains why there are so few events after the convention closed on Sunday. That being said, there were a few fun events -most notably the Comic Con After Party at Whiskey Girl featuring the previously mentioned Mega Ran (pictured below). There was also a meetup party for Agents of SHIELD fans at Henry's Pub.

Keep in mind even this is only a fraction of the many events and parties open to the public (and I left out the VIP parties altogether), though it should give you an idea of how big the spectacle and celebration has gotten during San Diego Comic Con every year. If you're planning on attending the convention even for a day next year (or if you live near Downtown San Diego), consider spending a day or two extra in the city to enjoy these types of activities for yourself. And, if you attended any other events just outside Comic Con, feel free to mention them in the comments.


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