National Geographic's Cosmos opens on Thursday behind the convention Center.
National Geographic’s Cosmos opens on Thursday behind the convention Center. Photo by Chris Stone

By Luis Monteagudo Jr.

Got shut out of Comic-Con again? Don’t fear. There are plenty of sights and activities scattered throughout downtown for fans who don’t have those coveted Comic-Con badges.

Perhaps the best option for those without a badge is the Nerdist House, which will be open from Thursday, July 19, through Sunday, July 22, at Sparks Gallery on 530 6th Avenue. Nerdist will have all-day entertainment and refreshments, special social hours and fan parties, live Nerdist shows, interviews and conversations, meet and greets, exclusive merchandise, photo opportunities, a VR experience and more.

Comic-Con usually leads to hundreds of fans sprawled around outside the San Diego Convention Center waiting for panels and Adult Swim decided to capitalize on that by setting up a summer camp.

The camp is free for fans 18 and over and is right behind the Convention Center at 5th Avenue Landing and Convention Way. It will be open Thursday, July 19, through Sunday, July 22, with fan programming at night. Attractions at the park include games like canoe races and archery contests, chainsaw-wielding wood carvers and a hot dog roaster. There will even be lockers on-site for fans to store their items while they wander around.

Right nearby, FX Network will take over the lawn of the Hilton San Diego Bayfront to showcase its many shows, including “Archer” and the new series, “Mayans M.C.”

Meanwhile, Universal Monsters will take over a downtown store and turn it into a “Boodega.” The San Diego Super7 Store located at 701 8th Avenue will be transformed into a horror experience featuring monster figures and exclusive limited edition and signed prints.

Escape rooms are becoming popular and the folks at “South Park” will offer one called Cartman’s Escape Room. Ten “South Park” fans will have a limited amount of time solve a series of puzzles using what they know about the show to free themselves. The escape room is free and open to the public at the San Diego Wine Center, 200 Harbor Drive No. 12 across from the Convention Center, from Thursday, July 19, through Saturday, July 21, from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 22, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you need an ice cream break, Zenescope Entertainment will be partnering with downtown’s Gelato Paradiso to offer three original new gelato flavors, based on the company’s popular characters. Flavors include Krampus Cookie Crunch, Mad Hatter Mash-up and Skye Mathers Sorbetto. Gelato Paradiso is located at 789 West Harbor Drive and is only a 10-minute walk northwest of the Convention Center.

The gelatos are not free, but if you purchase any Zenescope themed gelato, you will be eligible to purchase a rare San Diego Comic-Con Zenescope metal card limited, while supplies last.

Fans of “The Walking Dead” will get to experience “Dead Quarters,” a walk-through experience featuring a 22-foot zombie slide and a photo opportunity with a flaming bat called Lucille that belongs to the “Walking Dead’s” main villain, Negan.

“Dead Quarters” will be Thursday, July 19, to Saturday, July 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, July 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be located on Martin Luther King Promenade, in front of the Hilton Gaslamp Hotel, 4th Avenue and L Street across from the Convention Center.

Amazon has erected a giant tent on a parking lot in the Gaslamp at 517 7th Avenue where it is showcasing its latest technology, including the new Fire TV Cube, for people to test. And there is an Iron Throne from “Game of Thrones” that fans can sit on and take photos with.

The “Fast Forward to the Future” exhibit is open through Sunday, July 22, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Sunday hours end at 5 p.m.).

The San Diego Experience at the parking lot behind the home plate entrance to Petco Park has several exhibits for televisions, new OLED television technology to explore and food trucks.

Finally, to celebrate Buffy the Vampire Slayer, on Saturday, July 21, 20th Century Fox will hold the first-ever Buffy Vampire Hunt through San Diego. Fans can locate vampire nests across the Gaslamp District and throughout the Convention Center. At each location, fans will be rewarded with a wide range of prizes including figures, stickers, pins, t-shirts, comics and more.

Fans must sign up at to participate and get notices about the hunt.

Luis Monteagudo Jr. is a freelance writer and pop culture enthusiast who has attended Comic-Con for more than 20 years. He has written for The San Diego Union-Tribune, USA Today and numerous other publications.