Seasonal Happenings

Family Things To Do Outside of Comic Con

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Maleficent cosplay.

The Basics - What to know about San Diego Comic-Con 
Comic-Con began as a single day event in 1970 at the U.S. Grant Hotel with about 100 attendees. Today, it is a four-day event (July 20-23) at the San Diego Convention Center that attracts over 150,000 people from around the world. If you were lucky enough to secure a badge, congratulations! Nearly one million people vie annually for about 55,000 badges.

This multi-genre entertainment event covering the latest in movies, television, video games and comics, has outgrown the convention center and spills out into downtown, creating a campus-like atmosphere. Some of the biggest buzz this year will be about Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Bladerunner 2049, The Defenders and more.


Offsite Events

With or without a badge, there are plenty of free activities outside of Comic-Con for families to enjoy. Often fans in costume, walking around the downtown are happy to stop for a photo opp which make fun, family memories!

As things come in to the office, we will continue to update this list with more events!  

(Maybe/Maybe Not? "Family" Events - We are on the fence whether or not to call ALL of these entries "Family" events, so we are leaving them to your discretion)

  • Fans of Coraline, ParaNorman, Kubo and the Two Strings and The Boxtrolls can see props from sets of Animation studio LAIKA at the pop-up shop LAIKA Experience at 520 Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp. Learn how these characters come to life. See the many faces of ParaNorman, fan art, daily drawings and more. Thurs. 11a-11p, Fri. 3p-11p (note shorter hours), Sat. 11a-11p and Sun 10a-6p.
  • "NINJOGA" presented by THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE! Fitness ninja Aree Khodai will lead a yoga/tai-chi/calisthenics class inspired by THE LEGO NINJAGO MOVIE each day from 9am-10am. Free LEGO NINJAGO water bottles and more while supplies last.  Omni Hotel Lawn; Experience open Thur-Sun: 9a-3p. NINJOGA class runs 9am-10am.
  • Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade style balloons of Cartoon Network characters will be seen anchored near the Children's Museum. Great Photo Opp for Families!
  • Amazon hosts a Tick Takeover which will welcome guest "citizens" into themed rooms including an enormous, controllable Tick head room. "Citizens" will help Arthur and The Tick take down a group of evil-doers throughout this multi-room experience. Corner of 1st and J street. Hours: Thur.-Sun. 9am-5pm.
  • NBC is taking over Tin Fish Restaurant(170 6th ave) and turning it into a 4D, supernatural journey into the dark town of Midnight,Texas. Hours: Thurs.-Sun. 11am-6pm.
  • The Sprout network invites kids and families to experience the Kody Kapow: Kapower Up Training Camp. Attendees will be welcomed by the Kapowerful Coaches to get ready for action. Attendees can test their focus and martial arts skills playing the Kinect-based Kapower Up video game, training with a martial arts expert who will lead a quick lesson in a series of both mindful and action-packed moves and testing skills by completing the Warrior Course: sloped vaults, a net crawl, a bag slide, monkey bars, a warped wall ending with a slow-motion jump video into a foam pit. Great for younger kids. Hours: Thur-Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 9am-5pm. Location: Petco Park - 100 Park Blvd.
  • Take a break from the crazy costume filled streets and stop by Gelato Paradiso at the Headquarters (789 W. Harbor Dr). They have partnered with Zenescope Entertainment and will give away souvenir cups and comic books (while supplies last) with the purchase of any gelato flavor. Comic-con inspired flavors include: Van Helsing Vanilla Variegato, Grimm Tales of Double Chocolate Terror and Robyn Hood Camo Pistachio.
  • Visit the "Upside Down" in the Netflix Stranger Things Fan Experience. Hilton Hotel in the Gaslamp Hours: Thurs-Sat 11a-8p, Sun 11a-3p.
  • Stop by the Interactive Zone at Petco Park (Corner of Park Blvd & Imperial Ave) featuring many activations including food, giveaways, games, photo booths, an interactive Escape Room video booth, outdoor laser tag, an obstacle course and a virtual reality experience from Warner Bros. new movie IT. Hours: Thurs.-Sat 9a-9p, Sun 9a-7p.
  • A Kong: Skull Island walk through experience will be on the lawn behind the Omni hotel. Marvel at the gigantic bones of Kong’s ancestors, view the Iwi temple, and creep through the jungles of the island. You may even see the mighty Kong himself. Hours: Thur.-Sun, 8:30am-7pm.
  • Friday, 4-8pm at Ryan Bros Coffee 1894 Main Street 92113. Legendary Heroes Youth Art Show featuring artist ages 4-17 years old.
  • Friday, 7pm look to the seas at the Embarcadero Marina Park South. You may catch a glimpse of a burning 45′ Viking longship in the bay - (a tribute to Ragnar Lothbrok's (HISTORY Channel's Vikings) passing to Valhalla.

The streets are lined with activities and attractions such as South Park and Game of Thrones. Petco Park hosts the Comic-Con Interactive Zone in the Lexus Premier Lot with food trucks, events, a carnival ride, booths and interactive experiences as well as events in Park at the Park. Sadly, Nerd HQ is not taking place this year, but there’s buzz that some of the components will pop-up so check for the latest news.

Video games are a large part of the Fan Fest. In the past there have been showrooms for Lego and Disney Infinity featuring exclusive figures and video game demos, a Call of Duty laser tag attraction, an Assassin’s Creed obstacle course, and a Walking Dead haunted experience. This year Nintendo returns with its Family Gaming Lounge at the Marriott. The best website for all things Comic-Con is

Star Wars is always a good choice for costume at Comic-con

There won’t be a zombie walk this year, but the organizers are promising another “undead” event. If your teens can handle it, visit for the scoop.

If the kids are worn out but you still have energy, there are plenty of nighttime events (most require tickets) such as the Game of Thrones Pub Crawl, Funko Fundays, Pirate Con, “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” Live at the Balboa Theatre, Hop-Con 5.0, Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Concert and even an Underground Lightsaber Fighters Tournament. Some events allow kids. Visit for details.

costumes at comic-con

Giveaways & Promotions
You can’t walk very far without being handed something—a poster, comic book, party invitation or other promotional pieces. Over the years we’ve collected t-shirts, ball caps, posters, pins, sunglasses, virtual reality viewers, buttons and other trinkets. Street teams run around promoting shows like Outlander, featuring shirtless men wearing kilts and women playing bagpipes.

Look for Celebrities
Robert Downey Jr. once donned an Iron Man mask and walked unnoticed through the crowds and Benedict Cumberbatch greeted fans waiting in line for Hall H after midnight. Last year we saw Seth Rogen being interviewed on a balcony at the Hard Rock Hotel and took selfies with the cast from Agents of Shield. You never know who is inside that Spiderman costume or black SUV!

Be Prepared
Comic-Con is an electrifying and amazing experience. It’s also hot and crowded—with lots of waiting and few places to sit and rest. Plan some downtime, such as walking a few blocks away to a less crowded restaurant or heading to Embarcadero Marina Park behind the convention center to sit under a tree. Think twice before taking toddlers or children who don’t do well in large crowds—it’s not for the faint-hearted. For older kids, Comic-Con is something they’ll always remember!

Gina Petrone is a local writer with two teenage boys who were dutifully raised on Harry Potter, Star Wars and all things Marvel. Photos used with permission from the author.

Read 10 Tips for Tackling Comic-Con with Kids for helpful hints on how to navigate Comic-Con with kids.

Twitter is a great way to learn what is happening at Comic-Con in real time. Follow these sources:


Looking for more things to do? Check out San Diego Family's List of Free Summer Concerts

Published June 2017