The world’s largest comics and pop-culture convention is upon us again, when hundreds of thousands of people descend upon San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter and convention center for panels, signings, movie screenings and awards ceremonies. But tickets to San Diego Comic-Con tend to sell out faster than the Flash and can get pricey—fortunately, some of the best events, people-watching, parties and activations don’t require tickets at all. Here are five of the best activities you’ll find at 2018’s SDCC, all for free, and all doable without a badge.
The Good Place Experience
While the crushing throngs of attendees, tourists, vendors and pedicabs might feel like the Bad Place, NBC’s clever, beguiling and all-out hilarious show The Good Place is turning a section of downtown San Diego into, well, the Good Place (which in itself is sort of the Bad Place, but maybe less bad than the Gaslamp during Comic-Con). Still with us? Good. Head to 170 Sixth Ave, which is located near the Hard Rock Hotel, and find a small replica of the show’s village for giveaways, photo ops and a few surprises.
The show’s also taking over local seafood spot Tin Fish Restaurant, and flipping it into a Good Place restaurant—featuring branded menus and items you’ve seen Eleanor and others dig into onscreen. By ordering, maybe you’ll earn Heaven points to get into your own eventual Good Place, since the pop-up is donating 50 percent of proceeds to No Kid Hungry. Pre-register for the whole experience here to access the quicker entry line.
DC’s multiverse is a sprawling, complex web between Gotham, Krypton, Atlantis and even the world of dreams. To help you explore it, DC is launching DC Universe, a subscription service that offers access to DC comics, movies, TV shows, interviews, message boards and exclusive series across a range of platforms, because, hey, if you want to do some reading on your Batcomputer, more power to you. At this year’s SDCC, the team is bringing its online offerings to life with a massive walkthrough experience within the Hilton Hotel, complete with interactive spaces, challenges and activities such as avoiding the deadly virus in Swamp Thing, going nuts in Harley Quinn’s chaos room and walking through sewers with Batman. Grab your utility belt and pre-register here.
Taco Bell 2032: Demolition Man Experience
In the year 2023, all restaurants will be Taco Bell—or, at least, so predicts the 1993 sci-fi film Demolition Man. Celebrate the movie’s 25th anniversary with a meal at the “franchise wars” winner, who just so happens to be building a futuristic outpost in the Gaslamp at 658 Fifth Avenue. Expect a setting inspired by the movie, with limited-run items like the brand’s beloved nacho fries served for free (and Taco Bell x Demolition Man merch for purchase). If you’re thinking outside the dystopic bun, make sure you’re only doing it at dinner; the pop-up only runs from 6pm to midnight all days of SDCC.
Can’t get enough? There’s an absurd trailer for a Demolition Man-inspired short film—which follows the chain’s fight against fast-food burger heavyweights—and you can watch it to prep for your visit:
What’s more American than Purge-ing your fellow citizens in a night of lawless violence? Going shopping beforehand.
USA Network is launching a TV show based off the popular movie franchise, and to get you hyped, they’re opening a Purge superstore to make sure you’ve got candles, masks, energy drinks and any other tools for surviving or participating in our country’s annual, fictional Purge, which quite honestly feels like it could become reality any day now. Might as well be prepared, right? Catch this activation at Petco Park (215 Tony Gwynn Dr) where you’ll also find item demos and clips of the new series.
South Park Escape Room
The rest of the U.S. will see this escape room popping up in various cities, but San Diego’s getting it first. Ten guests at a time will get caught in one of Cartman’s insane schemes, entering “the most impossible to escape place ever invented,” and will have to work together to solve a series of puzzles—some of which will require a knowledge of the show and its characters. Find it at the San Diego Wine Center, at 200 Harbor Dr, across from the convention center. There’s no pre-registration for this one and it’s timed per group, so be prepared to wait.
In general, maybe bring a bit of patience for all of these pop-ups; this was our experience in the Gaslamp a couple years back: