5 Comic-Con 2017 secrets from a local convention pro

The countdown to Comic-Con International is on!

This year’s event takes place from July 19 to July 23. And whether you’re a Con veteran or a first-timer, I’m willing to share seven secrets that will help you navigate one of the coolest conventions on earth.

What makes me qualified to share such knowledge? Well, I’m no Wonder Woman, but I’ve slept sandwiched between two strangers on the sidewalk outside waiting to get into Hall H and gotten a fist pump from Samuel L. Jackson.


1. Where to see celebrities

Fans, cosplayers, exhibitors and the meida showed up on Comic-Con Day 1 outside and in the lobby of the San Diego Convention Center |Actress Anna Kendrick spotted, headed to the IMDB yacht near Bayfront Park. (John Gastaldo/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Here are four of the best places to spot them:

1. On the south side of the convention center, several mega yachts will be parked in the water and it’s become an annual trend for media companies to do celebrity interviews on them. So you can stand on the sidewalk near the yachts and see celebrities being dropped off to walk to the dock. Last year some signed autographs.

2. The hotels around the convention center are always crawling with celebrities. Sometimes you can see them coming and going from the Hilton San Diego Bayfront (though security is tight). The elevators inside the hotel are also a good place to spot them.

3. In the lines outside late at night or early in the morning, you might get lucky enough to see a star of a show or film hand out food to those waiting in line. For example, Misha Collins from “Supernatural” handed out pizza in 2015 and Benedict Cumberbatch of “Sherlock” and “Doctor Strange” took pictures with fans in line in 2016.

4. Celebrities have been known to wear costumes and masks to hide their identities so they can walk freely around the convention floor without being seen. If you see a guy in a Walter White mask, it could really be Bryan Cranston. Check out 10 times celebrities when under cover at Comic-Con.

2. What to do if you don’t have a badge

Contestants take the stage to competes in a Harley Quinn costume contest in Con-X, at Embarcadero Marina Park North during San Diego Comic-Con 2016. #sdcc2016 (Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

You don’t have to have a badge to see some of the best events and activities the convention has to offer. Last year, I hung out on the backside of the Convention Center and was able to see a huge meetup of people with insanely realistic “Star Wars” costumes on and these people fighting outside with real swords and armor modeled after what was used in the Middle Ages.

Some other super cool things you could see outside.

Events involving zombies

Displays of movie props

Lightsaber fights

Superhero-themed parties

3. Where to do the best people watching

R2-D2 is spotted rolling through the streets of downtown San Diego at San Diego Comic-Con 2016 #sdcc2016 (Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

One of the best aspects of Comic-Con is the costumes people wear. And you can see them all over town as people leave hotels to head to the convention center. Here are two recommendations for where to post up to do some of the best people-watching you may ever do in your life.

1. Hop on any of the Metropolitan Transit System trolleys around downtown. There’s just something hilarious about seeing a man in a full, movie-quality Batman costume casually sitting next to a person in a suit headed home from work.

2. The Gaslamp Quarter comprises 16 blocks in downtown San Diego across from the convention center and is packed with restaurants where you can grab a great lunch or dinner in outdoor seating next to all the action.

4. How to catch surprises as they happen

T-Rex participate in the Zombie Walk at San Diego Comic-Con 2016. The Zombie Walk returned to the SDCC two years after a woman was hit and seriously injured by a driver who drove into the crowd. This is the walk’s 10th year. #sdcc2016 (Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

The best way to find out the crazy and unexpected things happening during the Con in real time is to stay glued to social media, especially Twitter. If you don’t have Twitter, get it now and follow these insider accounts.






Also on Twitter, constantly check the hashtags #SDCC and #SDCC2017. You can check out those tags on Instagram too, as well as the convention center location tag to see pictures that might give you clues for the best places to be and things to see.

5. How to ensure you don’t miss anything

Congressman John Lewis lead a re-enactment during Comic-Con to call attention to the graphic novel, March: Book Three, his story of the 1965 march from Selma, to Montgomery, Alabama. (HOWARD LIPIN SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE/ZUMA PRESS)

Sure, there’s an extensive, highly-organized schedule of events inside the convention center for badge holders, but Comic-Con is always full of surprises, so keep your head on a swivel. That goes for inside and outside of the convention center.

The photo about of civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, strolling through the convention center is just one example. Here are two others to give you an idea of what to watch for:

“Dawson’s Creek” star Joshua Jackson throwing an impromptu mini-convention in honor of his character on the show, “Pacey.”

“Batman v. Superman” director Zack Synder pulling up to the convention center in the “Batmobile.”

You don’t have to take our word for it. Here are some tips and secrets from others out there.


As the countdown continues, we’ll leave you with this video made by editorial cartoonist Steve Breen. Tune in during Comic-Con to see what else San Diego Union-Tribune Ideas and Opinion has cooked up.

Email: abby.hamblin@sduniontribune.com

Twitter: @abbyhamblin


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