SDCC events: where are you going?

4 JULY 2017

Happy 4th of July! As everyone heads off to barbecues, boats and fireworks tonight, it seems appropriate to talk about events.

If you've been listening to the Comic-Con conversation, there's been a common sentiment circulating that there isn't much going on. There have been fewer big parties and promotions announced, fewer contests and fewer press invitations. Given that one of SDCC's greatest attributes is the network of parties, shows, festivals and other events that surround it, this has upset some attendees.

But while I do think that there's been a slight marketing withdrawal from SDCC, there's still plenty to do. CCI shared a few outside events today, and they range from the simple (character balloons) to the more complex (tech demos and VR experiences.)

First-timers, when you see references to "outside events," know that these fall into 2 buckets:

1) Events and activities that are officially endorsed by CCI and part of the SDCC umbrella. Usually you need a badge for these. (Some will let you participate if you don't - but ask before you waste a lot of time in line.)

2) Events operated by outside entities. You don't need a badge for these in most cases, though some organizers will specify their events are for badge-holders only.

The first group used to be dwarfed by the second group - hence the wave of unbadged people who pour into the area during Comic-Con - but this year they're a little more equal. If you were hoping for more, remember that we still have 2 weeks to go. We will hear about more events. Remember also that the line factor and ticket sell-outs makes going to all of them impossible anyhow.

That said, here are some things to keep in mind when deciding where to go and when.

When is the line worth it?

Before you decide that one activation is worth all day in line, check online for what people are saying. I won't name names, but a few highly anticipated attractions of recent years left people cold. They'd stand in line for four hours, only to be whisked through a 90-second experience. Given how much else is going on, there's no reason to sacrifice 20% of San Diego Comic-Con for such a brief event. Team up with a partner for lines as always, but also have a Plan B, C, D and so on if the line for something is blocks long.

What day and time should you go to the all-day activations?

If you're going to something that isn't crazy popular, early morning and dinner time is usually best. In general, visiting the activations on Thursday used to mean shorter lines, with Saturday and Sunday lines being horrible. A lot of extra people will come down on the weekend; the people who didn't get Saturday badges will be looking for something else to do. However, last year was more unpredictable. Some activations will need to be played by ear. Sunday afternoon might be empty; most everyone will line up in the middle of the night, with people waiting 20 minutes by sunset.

Is it worth leaving the Gaslamp for outside events?

Yes. But if you book yourself every night for Balboa Theatre or a club party, it'll probably feel like a chore by the 3rd night.

In general, I wouldn't invest in too many spendy pre-ticketed events because odds are good you'll end up on bailing on some of them. There's a lot going on - things like the Buffy Fandom Party, Ghostbusters Mass Hysteria party at Werewolf, a Batman dance party that's a tribute to Adam West,  Jay and Silent Bob at American Comedy Co., the Dragon Ball meetup at McFadden's, the Heroes Brew Festival and the Suicide Girls Blackheart Burlesque and countless other events. Some of them might involve a car ride but others like Syfy Live are right in the area. I think it's best to only plan for your absolutely can't-miss events and leave yourself open as much as you can. The best Comic-Con adventures usually happen when you go where the night takes you.

How good are the official SDCC activations and events?

These range from dull to magnificent. This year looks decent, in my opinion.

We have the Her Universe fashion show on Thursday - I've never been but people like it. Every year there's some kind of TV show promotion between the Omni and Tin Fish, and this year it will feature Midnight Texas, which promises a "4D experience guaranteed to ignite all your senses." There's also a Skull Island thing behind the Omni, which will show you giant Kong bones and the King himself.

But the most in-demand events will undoubtedly be:

The Tick Takeover, which will have a multi-room replica of the set and a special lounge for Amazon Prime members to watch the pilot. There's also some sort of scavenger hunt.

The Friday night Vikings funeral. Supposedly the cast will be there and it all ends with a burning ship in the water. Previous Vikings attractions were big draws so I expect this will be too.

FX is back in their spot in front of the Hilton Bayfront. They have a history of offering activations that sound incredible but don't really deliver. This year you'll mix it up with various American Horror Story, Legion and Atlanta elements. Probably worth it if there's not much of a line.

AMC Deadquarters. This sounds kind of weak - Negan batting cages? - but maybe it'll be good. Regardless, it's going to pack in the attendees, especially because "cast appearances" were dangled in the description.

Netflix at Hilton Gaslamp is going to offer you swag, sneak peeks at Stranger Things, Bright and more. Given that Netflix is already one of the top buzz winners of SDCC2017, this will be popular. However, attendees often forget about Hilton Gaslamp doings so that could make it more accessible. I know I will swing through, and also head to....

The Tech and Futurism Pavilion at the Omni. VR has been a staple of SDCC attractions for a few years now but it hasn't exactly been all that enthralling. This year sounds like we'll be getting something a little more worthwhile, particularly for attendees who have yet to lose their AR and VR virginity. In addition to a concert, we're getting 9000 square feet of technology, including an AI fair with "ground-breaking robots."

One good rule of thumb when it comes to events is to not get too hung up on them. I've seen people lose their mind because they made the Game of Thrones activations the spiritual core of their Comic-Con, and then they couldn't get in.  It's always worth remembering that's there's a lot going on at the Con - and if you can't access one event, you'll get into another that's just as good.

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