Comic Conventions · Miscellany

The Once and Future Geeks Guide to “Attending” SDCC without Passes

So you weren’t able to score a four-day or even a single-day pass to Comic-Con this year. Not a big deal. You may not be able to get into the exhibit halls and see your favorite artists and stars, but you can still get the flavor of Comic-Con from afar. What are some ways to do this?

Sign Up for the Robert A. Heinlein Blood Drive

Donate a pint of blood. It still won’t get you a pass to attend but what it will do is get you a commemorative T-shirt that proudly says you donated, and it’ll have a Comic-Con logo attached. In years past, the earlier you signed up, the higher the likelihood you would at least score some Comic-Con memorabilia, like one of those snazzy cool tote bags they hand out at registration and some books to go with it (this year, books are courtesy of Harper Collins). You could probably get somebody to check your raffle ticket in the Sails Pavilion to see if you won any of the daily drawings the Blood Drive hands out.

Check Out Convention Center’s Outdoor Venues

Sometimes the bigger entertainment companies will host outdoor events around the Convention Center, like the Children’s Museum across the street or the NBC/MTV venues over by the Petco Park area. Of course, there are always the trusty exhibits and pre-Con guests at the San Diego library (over by Petco). And if you’re lucky, check out the displays that Comic Con puts out in front of the Convention Center. Sure, it’s not indoors but you can still score some cool selfies with displays and make like you’re at the actual Con.

People Watch Outside the Convention Center

If you hang out long enough in front of the Convention Center’s sidewalks, not only can you score some cool selfies with cosplayers from around the world but you may be able to bribe somebody to offload some freebies that’ll likely end up in sidewalk trash bins. Not the ideal way to attend, but better than nothing.

Check Out What’s Happening with Local Retailers

Just because you didn’t get tickets doesn’t mean you miss the action. Coincidentally, retailers such as Barnes and Noble and local comic shops have their own promotional gigs happening alongside Con in July, and sometimes those artists who’ll be speaking at Con will show up for other engagements at these retailers. It doesn’t hurt to check out the San Diego location events pages on It might surprise you!

Beware the Scalpers

Still not satisfied with the pseudo-Con experience? You always have the option of trying to buy tickets off one of the scalpers for an elevated price. Beware, however; security staff at the Con has been hyper-vigilant during the past five years, and this year, the badging process has changed ( Even though you may not be carded entering the Convention Center, but if you’re caught doing the bad, Comic-Con organizers will ban you for life. This means no Con for you except as the aforementioned pseudo-Con attendee. Also, thinking of scoring via Craigslist? DON’T. Unless you know the registration procedures down pat, you may be paying mightily for something you’ll regret.

So if you’re set on pseudo-attending Comic-Con, we don’t recommend driving down there unless you’re willing to pay an arm and a leg for parking out in the boonies. If you’re coming from points north, consider parking and taking the Coaster in from Carlsbad…Oceanside gets kind of rough, and it’s probably not an area ladies would want to get stuck around come the evening hours.


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