COMIC-CON 2023: Awesome Activities Outside the Convention Center

Get an “Early Nerd” glimpse of fun activations and opportunities that’ll be in the neighboring Gaslamp Quarter
The 2023 Comic-Con wraps are ready, and so are fun activities outside the convention center.

 Star Trek characters are wrapped around the exterior of the Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina. The Hard Rock Hotel has a new Yellowjackets facade. Even the chichi Pendry Hotel is cosplaying as Walking Dead spinoff Daryl Dixon.

It’s Comic-Con International eve in downtown San Diego. I call this time just before the convention starts the “Early Nerd” days. This is the moment to scout the layout outside the San Diego Convention Center for things to amuse yourself with if you don’t have a ticket to the mega-event.

Entry to the exhibition hall has been sold out for over a year. But like vines emanating from the Upside Down, the Con extends outside the convention center and across Harbor Drive. 

Due to current labor strikes, Hollywood celebs won’t be coming this year. But there are plenty of fun things you can check out in the Gaslamp Quarter to get into the spirit of Comic-Con. Here are a few:

Barbie Sips ‘n’ Snacks

Be a Barbie at The US Grant Hotel. (Courtesy photo)

Enjoy sips, snacks and sweets at the US Grant Hotel’s Grant Grill Lounge inspired by the new Barbie movie. A drink menu includes a Live Your Dream crafted cocktail made with Patron Silver and Prickly Pear Fruit Puree. Sip that along with Hi Barbie, Hi Ken Sliders made with Fried Shrimp and Pinkglow Pineapple Slaw. Save room for sweets including the Strawberry Lemonade Bombe and the Malibu Barbie Milkshake. Or, indulge in Skipper’s Pool Party which includes a selection of our Pastry Chef’s favorite desserts served in a plastic Barbie pool. Menu is only available July 15-23 in the Grant Grill Lounge from 3:00 p.m-11:00 p.m. No reservations. Seating is first-come first-serve.

Malibu Daydreamin’

Need more Barbie? Parq Nightclub is throwing a series of Malibu Daydream parties.Guests can transport themselves into the world of Barbie with photo ops, meet and greets with the Barbie family, desserts and themed non alcoholic and adult drinks. It’s one-hour timed interactive, playful experiences with the residents of Malibu Dream Court. Noon to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19 to Friday, July 21. Tickets are $40.

The Return of Conan O’Brien’s…Assistant 

No, Conan O’Brien isn’t returning to Comic-Con to do his show at The Spreckels Theatre. Sona Movsesian is here, though! She’s the TV/podcast personality’s executive assistant and will be in town to promote her book, The World’s Worst Assistant. Sona will showcase job tips from the book. And, two unqualified job applicants will interview onstage with Sona to win prizes. There’s also a Q&A with the author and a book signing. Priority seating and signing goes to those who purchase a copy of the book from The Library Shop. The event is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 18, at the Joan Irwin Jacobs Common at the San Diego Central Library.

Step Into Jurassic Park

Step Into Jurassic Park. (Universal photo)

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of 1993’s Jurassic Park with a free, timed-entry event called Step Into Jurassic Park. Visitors will embark on a journey through the legendary gates of the movie that starred Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum. The experience promises to transport attendees into a place where they will encounter some of their favorite movie moments, including: the Dilophosaurus attack on Wayne Knight’s Dennis Nedry; and that famous moment on the toilet involving Martin Ferrero’s Donald Gennaro and one hungry Tyrannosaurus rex. Step Into Jurassic Park will be open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 21 and 22. Reservations are required.

Look Behind the Convention Center

Adult Swim is again back to take over a large section of the lawn behind the convention center for its Adult Swim Festival on the Green, with live comedy shows, screenings, musical performances, trivia and more. Reservations are sold out, but fans 18-and-older can join a general admission line each day for access. 

I Scream For…

Cali Cream Homemade Ice Cream! The local dessert company is partnering with Food Network. Comic-Con attendees get two free Cali Cream limited-edition ice cream sandwiches. This happens at Festival on the Green, hosted by Adult Swim at 2 p.m. on July 21 and 22. For attendees that miss this opportunity, Cali Cream is serving limited-edition flavors at their Pop Up inside the convention in front of Ballroom 6, near the Sails Pavilion. These special flavors will also be served at Cali’s downtown shop at 425 Market Street: Groot Beer Float, Malibu Dream and Indiana Jones and the Forbidden Flavor. 

Sonic the Chili Dog

The Sonic the Hedgehog Speed Cafe will be open from July 13 through August 20 at 910 J Street. On the menu, Sonic-inspired eats like the “Sonic’s Classic Chili Dog” or the “Knuckles Sandwich,” a crispy fried chicken sandwich based off the red echidna. Once the Sonic Speed Cafe pop-up run ends, the space will transition back into a Chick’nCone location. The pop-up restaurant will be open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. from July 13 to 18, and from 11 a.m. to midnight July 19 to 23. 

Take Some RISK

RISK comes to EC Gallery. (Courtesy photo)

Meet internationally renowned graffiti artist RISK at EC Gallery in the Gaslamp Quarter on July 21 and 22 from 5 to 9 p.m. Kelly “RISK” Graval has been synonymous with the Los Angeles art community for more than 30 years–from his early days as a founder of the West Coast Graffiti movement to gallery and museum exhibits around the globe.

The Craft of Barleymash

Barleymash in the Gaslamp Quarter is hosting its first ever Artists of the Industry Pop-Up Craft Fair, on Wednesday, July 19, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The craft fair takes place downstairs in Ginger’s. It’ll feature a variety of local San Diego artists with goods such as candles, paintings, terrariums and more. Free. First-come first serve. 

Night at This Museum

The new WNDR Museum, known for its interactive exhibits, will host a Comic-Con after-party. It’s a celebration of ON1 Force, an NFT collection of digital art, and the release of the company’s first comic book. There will be a DJ, digital art cartoonist, and superhero art exhibits. Comic-Con trivia starts at 7 p.m., along with a panel discussion and a cosplay contest. Tickets start at $38. The party is from 6 to 11 p.m. on Thursday, July 20.  SDSun 


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