San Diego Comic-Con on a budget

13 JULY 2013

As you peruse the many doings around Comic-Con next week, you'll begin to notice a theme. Dead Central's cool haunted house ghost hunt will set you back $60-100. Trickster's Symposia $40. The Walking Dead Fan Meet-up is $45. The Final Fantasy Concert, up to $89. 

This can feel kind of gutting if you already spent most of your scratch on plane fare, hotel and badge, and aren't even sure how you'll afford your meals. But there's a lot to do around the Con that's free - and despite all the spendy events you hear about, I'm guessing most attendees save their money for the Exhibit Hall anyhow.

Here's what's free at Comic Con.

Trickster is free (except for the Symposium) and well worth visiting.

So are all the numerous screenings at the Con - film festivals, anime, Star Trek Episodes, Spike and Mike. Really, there is something for everyone.

Night events at the Con. Trivia game shows, that Cosmos airing that I would totally be at if I didn't have plans Saturday night, Kevin Smith, mixers, the Chris Gore podcast - CCI has really stepped up and provided good programming for the after-dinner hours.

Gaming events. Lots of them. Break Invaders at Dick's Last Resort, Team Shifty and the Pac-Man Project Gaming Event at the Hilton Gaslamp, the XBox Gaming Lounge at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, the Assassin's Creed IV Pirate Ship docked behind the Con, the Nintendo Gaming Lounge at the Marriott Marquis. Even GamrCon tickets start at an affordable $16

And there's the Ender's Game Experience on the lawn by the Hilton, the Adult Swim Fun House in the Petco Parking Lot, and the History Channel’s Vikings Interactive Waterway in the  parking lot at 450 Second Ave. 

World's End is hosting a bar crawl for fans on Wednesday afternoon, starting at the Commons. Some attendees will receive tickets to a World's End party that night.

MTV2 is throwing a party for all badge-holders on Thursday. That's their wording - "badge-holder." I never know if that means you can wave your barcode confirmation for Saturday under their nose and get in or if you actually have to already have your badge. Anyhow, it's live music, free food and a one-hour special of Teen Wolf.

The Superhero Party at Side Bar – 9:00 pm at 536 Market Street – is free if you dress as a superhero.

The Lady Geeks’ Thursday Night Mixer in the Hyatt Grand Lobby Bar (remember when that was the place to be?) is free.

You can see the first episode of Michael Bay's pirate drama Black Sails  Thursday night, 8:30 pm, at Reading Cinemas at 701 5th Ave as long as you RSVP.

Ditto on the RSVP for the free Animation Under The Sea Party - 7:00 pm-9:00 pm at Joe’s Crab Shack at 525 E Harbor Dr. RSVP  

As noted earlier, you can go to the Petco Star Wars Yappy Hour at the Hotel Indigo from 4:00 - 7:00 for free AND get a free drink if you wear your best Wookie outfit.

The Freaks and Geeks Party is free at 8:00 pm on Friday at Taste & Thirst on 4th Ave. 

Not counting the cost of your get-up, Saturday's Zombie Walk is free and fun. 6:15pm check-in time at Children’s Park (Island between Front & First) .

Psych the Musical is airing Wednesday at Reading Cinemas at midnight but you must RSVP.

Although I know some of you have complicated feelings about Felicia Day, Geek and Sundry is open to all at Jolt'n Joe's every day. I think a few events might be invite-only but by and large, you can drop by. The Community party is Friday night at 8.

As far as swag goes, I think we can all admit our Comic-Con benefactors aren't as generous as they used to be. I remember when panel t-shirts were de rigeur. Now you get a ticket for a mystery gift, and walk all the way to the Marriott fulfillment room to be handed a cheap tiny flashlight that doesn't work. 
But there will still be plenty of swag handed out. A few things:

Adult Swim will be giving free mini-massages at their booth #3721. Is that creepy? Probably a little for the massage therapists who have to touch sweaty Comic Con attendees.

The Adult Swim Funhouse in the Petco Park parking lot is giving out  a free custom live screen printed t-shirt to anyone who "survives" the fun house. 

And if you donate blood at the Omni, you get a swag bag full of goodies, including a True Blood t-shirt. 

Petco is handing out Yoga dog ears at #2913. Expect to get really sick of seeing these bobbing around the Con.

Finally, there's free food to be had at the Elder Scrolls Online Food Truck at Park Boulevard and Imperial Ave on Thursday from 11:30 am – 3:00 pm. Free Eidarmelt sandwiches with a choice of dipping sauces accompanied with Tangy Ninroot, Corkbulb Crisps and Alocasia Fruit Juice and frozen yogurt. 

Do you know anything else that's free? Post it in the comments.


  1. There's a free bar crawl for World's end Wedsday afternoon at the Commons. They're giving away tickets to the Worlds party that night.