While a lot of the fun parts of Comic Con come from panels, exhibits and cosplay sightings (and don’t forget celebrity sightings), there’s just as much fun to be had offsite…and maybe even a bit more depending on what you’re into. With all this in mind, we headed off to the aptly named Nerd HQ at Petco Park.
The event is hosted by The Nerd Machine, so in order to get a wristband, we had to download a free Nerd HQ app. What does a wristband do, you ask? The wristband is linked either to your email or Facebook account and every Nerdist station has an RFID scanning station to enhance the experience by making it more interactive and engaging. The wristband then sent you an email with special offers or incentives to use when you get back home. Some of our favorite booths were the Sonic Boom booth, the Settlers of Catan game, and an Instagram booth that would upload your picture using a special hashtag so you could keep up with all the other nerds.
Nerd HQ was also hosting a number of small “Conversations” with different writers/actors/creators, including Nathan Fillion and Joss Whedon. These conversations are less structured and more intimate than the official panels inside the convention center but that comes at a cost…of about $22 per conversation. If that seems a bit steep after you’ve bought 50 Game of Thrones t-shirts, you’ll feel better knowing that the proceeds are donated to charity.
Outside of Petco Park, there are even more “fan”tastic events, each hosted by a different TV show or network. There was the NBC “Blacklist” bar/restaurant along with the “Constantine” experience right next door.
Across the way was the “Game of Thrones” experience, which challenges you to “survive the realm.” There were actual props and costumes from the show, as well as the opportunity to virtually climb “The Wall.”
“The Walking Dead” couldn’t be left out, so every night after hours they put on a zombie obstacle course that you could participate in as walker or target on the run. Of course, the stakes aren’t very high because even if you get caught by a zombie, you’re still walking out happy. On the front lawn of the Hilton stands a giant Homer Simpson head halfway buried in the ground, while the city of Gotham towers in the background.
At Petco’s Interactive Zone, “Sleepy Hollow” had an interactive headless horseman and the stars of the show even showed up for part of the experience.
Personally, we really enjoyed the off campus Comic Con experience. The carnival atmosphere made it feel like a different event entirely. Rather than worrying about getting to the next panel or the next line, there was more of a party-like feel. Plus, we really like the free swag – especially the Nickelodeon Reptar bag, which we spent quite a long time hunting down.
It was nice to be able to get outside without getting stuck in yet another line and even though it was crowded, nothing compares to the melee that is the exhibit hall.
As for the future of Comic Con…we think it’s more of a focus on offsite events over the official panels and exhibits. Not that those will ever die out entirely, but as more and more people try to pack into the increasingly small convention center, offsite may be the best and only option for expanding the Con. And if that’s the case, sign us up!