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How To Do Comic-Con Without A Badge

A man in costume at San Diego Comic-Con, July 9, 2015.

Photo by Angela Carone

Above: A man in costume at San Diego Comic-Con, July 9, 2015.

It's Comic-Con week, San Diego!

Though the comic book and pop culture convention is completely sold out, there are still plenty of ways locals can experience a bit of the madness.

From festivals that make you feel as if you're part of the action, to off-site art events that offer just a taste, here's a list of things you can do without a badge.

Fan level: Novice (requires minimal effort, no previous knowledge needed)

Weird Al Yankovic

The musician known for his pop culture parodies isn't on a Comic-Con panel this year, but he is in town as part of his Mandatory World Tour.

Details: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21. Open Air Theatre, SDSU. $25 to $49.50; find tickets.

Fleet Night of Science

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center celebrates pop culture, science fiction and fantasy at its Comic-Con afterparty. Show up in costume for a night of trivia, science talks and special guests, including Hollywood science advisor Andre Bormanis.

Details: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, Balboa Park. $20 and $25; find tickets.

San Diego Symphony Comic-Con Concerts

San Diego Symphony celebrates Comic-Con with two concerts. Final Symphony: Music From Final Fantasy VI, VII and X will feature the award-winning, officially licensed music (before the concert, there will be a presentation with Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. The lecture begins at 6 p.m. and is free for all ticket-holders.) At the Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses - Master Quest, attendees can expect to hear new pieces from “Tri Force Heroes,” the most recently released The Legend of Zelda game.

Details: Final Symphony is at 8 p.m. Thursday, July 21; Zelda is at 8 p.m. Friday, July 22. Both concerts are at Jacobs Music Center at Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B St., downtown. $35 to $90; find tickets.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Balboa Park

An evening photo of Balboa Park.

Balboa Park After Dark

Nine museums stay open late and there will be Comic-Con activities happening, specifically at The NAT, where there will be live performances and a look into the rare books collection.

Details: 5 p.m. Friday, July 22. Throughout Balboa Park. Free to $20 for museum admissions. Additional information.

Summer Movies in the Park Presents "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

This family-friendly series gets in the Comic-Con spirit with "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Snag a spot early, bring a picnic and don't forget blankets and beach chairs.

Details: 8 to 10 p.m. Friday, July 22. Heritage County Park, 2454 Heritage Park Row, Old Town. Free; additional information.

Incredible JoJo's Ol' Fashion Jam-Packed Jamboree

Just across the bay from the Convention Center is an old-fashioned carnival where you'll find log-rolling, bobbing for apples, frog jumping and . . . live wolves? The event celebrates "The Incredible Adventure of JoJo (and His Annoying Little Sister Avila," a film made by two San Diegans that will be screened each night (in 4D).

Details: Event begins at 4 and movie begins at 8 p.m. Friday, July 22 through Sunday, July 24. Coronado Ferry Landing, 1201 1st. St., Coronado. Free; more information.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Helen Woodward Animal Center

A photo of Puptain America from a PAWmicon costume contest.


Perhaps the cutest event of the weekend? Put on by the Helen Woodward Animal Center, there will be a dog (and owner) costume contest. There will also be adoptable puppies dressed in their Comic-Con best, music, games and more.

Details: 10 a.m. to noon, Saturday, July 23. Hazard Center, 7610 Hazard Center Drive, Mission Valley. Free; additional information.

Fan level: Intermediate (includes some crowds and line-standing, prior knowledge helpful)

Cinema @ The Balboa "Aliens" Screening

In honor of Comic-Con, there will be a special 30th anniversary screening of "Aliens" at the historic Balboa Theatre. The story of Lt. Ripley will be shown on a big screen and will feature themed concessions.

Details: 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 20. Balboa Theatre, 868 4th Ave., downtown. $7 to $12; find tickets.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Turning Tydes

Turning Tydes Theatre Company presents two geeky film and opera mash-ups over Comic-Con weekend.

Turning Tydes Theatre Company

"The Phantom of the Empire: Return of the Opera" is a theater piece that mixes the plot of "Star Wars" with the music of "Phantom of the Opera." "Les Midge: An Unexpected Musical of Hobbit Proportions" takes the plot of "The Hobbit" and is put to the music of "Les Miserables." Both pieces by Turning Tydes Theatre Company will be presented over Comic-Con weekend.

Details: "Les Midge" is at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21 through Sunday, July 24; "Phantom of the Empire" is at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, July 21 through Sunday, July 24. The Geoffrey Off Broadway, 923 1st Ave., downtown. $15 for one show, $23 for both; find tickets.

Chuck Jones Gallery

This pop culture art gallery celebrates its 25th anniversary with a variety of events happening over the weekend. From new paintings by Fabio Napoleoni and Mike Bilz to guest appearances by Stan Lee, William Shatner and Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson).

Details: Various hours Thursday, July 21 through Sunday, July 24. Chuck Jones Gallery, 232 Fifth Ave., downtown. Free. RSVPs are recommended for artist appearances at (888) 294-9880 or

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Japanese Friendship Garden

A photo for the Japanese Friendship Garden's Cute, Cute Kawaii party.

Cute Cute Kawaii

Celebrate all things Japanese pop culture at this cute, cute party at the Japanese Friendship Garden's first-ever Comic-Con event. Learn about kawaii (cute) culture at this event that features cocktails, live performances, baking demonstrations, party favors, a photo booth and lots more cute stuff.

Details: 7 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 22. Japanese Friendship Garden's Inamori Pavilion, Balboa Park. $30 and $35; find tickets.

"The Final Girls" Midnight Screening

Ken Cinema's Midnight Madness will screen the comedy horror flick "The Final Girls," with a special appearance by the film's co-writers, John Miller and M.A. Fortin.

Details: 11:59 p.m. Saturday, July 23. Ken Cinema, 4061 Adams Ave., Kensington. $7.50 and $8.50; find tickets.

Photo by Ruby Wallau NPR

The mobile app Pokémon Go is currently the top-downloaded free app in both Apple and Android stores. The augmented reality game allows smartphone users to track and catch Pokémon in real life.

Pokémon Go San Diego Meetup

This is a casual meetup for Pokémon Go players to meet, explore and catch Pokémon.

Details: Noon, Saturday, July 23. Throughout Balboa Park. Free; additional information.

Heroes Brew Fest

Combine costumes and beer and you get this popular festival that features more than 100 craft brews, a Caped Crusader Costume Contest, music, food and more.

Details: 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23. Waterfront Park, 1600 Pacific Highway, Embarcadero. $44 and $54 ($20 for designated driver); find tickets.

Heroes Vs. Villains Art Exhibition

This family-friendly art show features more than 80 pieces of art depicting everything from Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to characters from Marvel and DC comics.

Details: 5 p.m. Saturday, July 23. La Bodega Gallery, 2196 Logan Ave., Barrio Logan. Free; additional information.

Photo credit: Courtesy of DC Comics

A photo of Batman and the Joker from the film "Batman: The Killing Joke."

"Batman: The Killing Joke"

Fathom Events presents this one-night-only screening of "Batman: The Killing Joke," based on the DC graphic novel. The film reunites the foundation of "Batman: The Animated Series" with Bruce Timm returning as executive producer, and actors Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill reprising their roles as Batman and the Joker.

Details: 7:30 and 10 p.m. Monday, July 25 and Tuesday, July 26. Various San Diego movie theaters. $12.50; find theaters and tickets.

Advanced (requires plenty of knowledge and crowd fighting)

Photo by Amanda Conner

Stone Brewery's Hop Con combines craft brew and celebrity appearances.

Hop Con 4.0

While San Diegans are pretty familiar with beer festivals, Hop Con 4.0 winds up in the advanced category because of its celebrity guest stars. Along with custom beers (which are all Con-related inside jokes), guests include actress and podcaster Aisha Tyler, creator Drew Curtis and many more.

Details: 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 20. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, 2816 Historic Decatur Road, Liberty Station. $75 (includes 15 3-ounce tastings, food and games); find tickets.

W00tstock 8.0 A Night Of Geeks and Music

Think of W00tstock as "Geek Vaudeville" or "nerd church." TV host/special effects artist Adam Savage and music comedy duo Paul and Storm present a high-energy night of musical acts, readings, comedy, demonstrations, short films, special guests and other clever widgets born from and dedicated to the enthusiasms, obsessions, trials and joys of geek pride.

Details: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 21. Balboa Theatre, 868 4th Ave., downtown. $40; find tickets. (The show runs four hours and is recommended for mature audiences.)

Comedy Bang! Bang! Live!

As part of Comic-Con weekend, the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and TV show will do a live performance. It stars Scott Aukerman doing a totally improvised program, though it does promise to have plenty of character drop-ins.

Details: 7 p.m. Friday, July 22. The Irenic, 3090 Polk Ave., North Park. $30 to $35; find tickets.

Photo credit: Courtesy photo

A photo of comedian and popular Comic-Con moderator, Chris Hardwick.

Chris Hardwick and The Nerdist

Comic-Con's unofficial spokesman (and comedian and podcaster) Chris Hardwick will be taking his material outside of Hall H. He kicks off the weekend with his Id10t Tour comedy show and then steps back into moderator mode for two tapings of his Nerdist Podcast, which will feature guest stars from Comic-Con's biggest panels.

Details: Id10t tour is 7 p.m. Friday, July 22. Nerdist tapings are at 7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, July 23. Balboa Theatre, 868 4th Avenue, downtown. $37 to $40; find tickets.

Harmontown Live

"Community" creator Dan Harmon brings his Harmontown podcast to Comic-Con. Think of it as a “live therapy session” for Harmon. Only with comedy. And don't be surprised if a game of Dungeons & Dragons breaks out.

Details: 10 p.m. Friday, July 22. Balboa Theatre, 868 4th Ave., downtown. $26.50; find tickets.

A photo of ZombieWalk: San Diego.

ZombieWalk: San Diego

Witness the undead shuffle throughout the Gaslamp. You can dress like a zombie and join the crowd, or just watch as the group passes by. This year, dinosaurs will join the zombie parade.

Details: 6 p.m. Saturday, July 23. Throughout the Gaslamp. Free; additional information.

Fan level: Expert (requires all your stamina, only fun if you know what's going on)

Photo credit: Courtesy of Nerdist

The official logo for Nerdist's Camp Conival, happening all weekend at Petco Park.

Camp Conival

This is event is as close as you can get to attending the convention without a ticket. Nerdist and Geek & Sundry put together this summer camp-themed festival complete with celebrity panels, tabletop gaming, laser tag, archery and lots more.

Details: 11 a.m to 5 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Second floor concourse at Petco Park, downtown. Free; additional information.

Nerd HQ

If video games are your thing, this free, four-day event offers exclusive looks at new games as well as (ticketed) celebrity panels and various parties. Registration is required.

Details: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday, July 21; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, July 22; 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday, July 23; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, July 24. New Children's Museum, 200 W. Island Ave., downtown. Free; register here.

Entertainment Weekly's Con-X

The pop culture magazine hosts this free event that features concerts (Beats Antique, Goldfish) and celebrity appearances ("Teen Wolf" cast, Nathan Fillion). You'll also find picnic areas, food trucks and more.

Details: 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, July 21 through Saturday, July 23; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, July 23. Embarcadero Marina Park North, 400 Kettner Blvd., Embarcadero. Free; additional information.


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