No badge? No problem. Our out-of-the-box guide to Comic-Con 2022

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There may be no experience quite like riding the escalators into the San Diego Convention Center with throngs of fans at the start of a day at Comic-Con, or being swept up in the utter pandemonium of a Hall H panel. But the Comic-Con experience is so much bigger than the Con itself, as each year’s celebration of comic books, video games and genre film/TV attracts thousands of revelers to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, where a new activation, experience, game or photo op seems to be around every corner.

The Times’ cadre of Comic-Con veterans has had just as much fun when the day’s work is done and it’s time to catch a rooftop movie, play an arcade game with an ice-cold beer or even get down at a late-night dance party. In that spirit, we’ve combed over this year’s carnival of options to leave you with 10 ideas for things to do at Comic-Con 2022 without a badge.

Fire up Pac-Man at the Coin-Op Gaslamp

Remember arcades? The dark video game havens were popular in the late ‘70s and throughout the ‘80s — until home consoles helped bring them down. Well, the Coin-Op Gaslamp arcade keeps the spirit of the Con alive outside of the convention center a few blocks away with numerous events (some private, some public), an array of coin-operated classic arcade games and a full menu of food and beverages. The arcade is constantly adding activities and booking parties, so you’ll have to check its site and Facebook page for up-to-date info. Cosplay welcome! —Jevon Phillips


When: 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday; 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. to midnight Sunday
Where: Coin-Op Gaslamp, 789 6th Ave.
Price: Varies

The Times’ restaurant critic, Bill Addison, shares 10 of his favorite restaurants in San Diego, whether you’re an adventurous Comic-Con attendee or just hungry in America’s Finest City.

July 18, 2023

Witness Spider-Man’s induction into the Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame

It’s been a big year for Spider-Man. Following the record-breaking success of “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (which jolted awake the stagnant pandemic box office), this month the webslinger’s history is being explored in an immersive experience at San Diego’s Comic-Con Museum. “Spider-Man: Beyond Amazing — The Exhibition” features interactive installations and set pieces tracing the superhero’s legacy from his inception in the early 1960s to present day. And on July 20 at 6:30 p.m., Spider-Man will be inducted into the Comic-Con Museum Character Hall of Fame in a ceremony that will include cosplay, bites and cocktails. —Sonaiya Kelley

When: Museum open daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Comic-Con Museum, 2131 Pan American Plaza
Price: Induction ceremony ticket: $250; admission to exhibition: $30

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Appreciate the artistry and creativity of fellow pop culture fans’ cosplay


Comic-Con is a convergence of all types of pop culture fans, and they express love for their favorite TV shows, movies and video games differently. Some of the most visible outside of the convention center are the many cosplayers. It’s almost a guarantee you will see at least one Harley Quinn and enough Spider-Mans to re-create the pointing-at-each-other meme, as well as those just as impressively dressed like characters from titles you had no idea even existed. Just remember that it’s polite to ask before you start taking photos of strangers. —Tracy Brown

When: July 21 through 24
Where: Throughout the area
Price: Free (generally)

Catch your favorite comic characters onscreen at Rooftop Cinema Club

On Thursday afternoon and evening, Rooftop Cinema Club Embarcadero celebrates its Comic-Con Day by screening films featuring classic comic book characters, among them “Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014) “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021) and “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” (2021). Located on the fourth-floor terrace of the Manchester Grand Hyatt in downtown San Diego, the open-air screening series offers guests wireless headphones for a seamless audio experience while food and drinks are available for purchase steps away. Reserve either a cushioned deckchair or an Adirondack love seat for this cinematic experience under the stars. —Sonaiya Kelley

When: 4 p.m., 7:45 p.m. and 11 p.m. July 21
Where: Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego, 1 Market Place
Price: $17.50 to $25

Drink up at the Dungeons & Dragons tavern

The cultural significance of “Dungeons & Dragons” has changed significantly in the 12 years since the first — and largely forgotten — live-action “D&D” movie. Today the game is a hot commodity, fueled in part by the popularity of online web series like “Critical Role” and a legion of fans who have found comfort in the game’s improv-heavy experience and the ability to play as whoever one wants. Into this landscape comes a new movie, one that will hopefully erase the bad memories of earlier endeavors. The Chris Pine and Michelle Rodriguez-starring “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” will have its coming-out party at this year’s Comic-Con, complete with an off-site tavern where fans can sip on special drinks — alcoholic and nonalcoholic — while interacting with some creatures from the film. Come with dice rather than weapons, and chain mail is optional. —Todd Martens

When: noon to 10 p.m. July 21; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 22 and 23
Where: Corner of Sixth and Island avenues
Price: Free

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Get out of the office with the ‘Severance’ experience

Escape from Lumon. That’s how Apple TV+ is teasing its “Severance” experience at the Hard Rock Hotel, which is designed to simulate one’s first day at work for the mysterious, brain-hijacking company. Does that mean we begin it splayed across a conference room table? Details are scant, but we have questions. Will there be goats? Probably not. How about deviled eggs? Our fingers are crossed for at least one, especially because word is that the experience is taking over the hotel’s diner. We’re mostly expecting weirdness, as Apple TV+ says executive producer-director Ben Stiller had input in the creation of the installation. The goal is to get out of Lumon, and even this has us asking questions. If the Comic-Con crowds — and the general stress of life in 2022 — prove too much, can we, um, just stay severed from our normal selves? —Todd Martens

When: 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 21 through 24
Where: Hard Rock Hotel, 207 Fifth Ave.
Price: Free

Relive Bruce Campbell’s ‘Doctor Strange’ cameo

Bruce Campbell made a surprise cameo as Pizza Poppa in “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” and Marvel is extending the character’s legend by offering a themed game that fans can play at the Omni Hotel. In celebration of the film’s July 26 release on digital and on 4K, Blu-ray and DVD, fans will be given the chance to play “Pop-A-Poppa,” take photos against a themed backdrop and win prizes. Because Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange put a hex on Poppa to hit himself continually, maybe the experience involves some bashing? They’re keeping that detail magically concealed. —Jevon Phillips

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 21 to July 24
Where: Gaslamp Diagonal, adjacent to the Omni San Diego Hotel, 675 L St.
Price: Free

Chow down at ‘Patty Hour’ with ‘Bob’s Burgers’

“Bob’s Burgers” often does something to entice fans at Comic-Con, and this year is no different. The “Bob’s Burgers Movie” activation will offer photo ops, a Lucky Duck game and a complimentary burger during the daily “Patty Hour” from 3 to 6 p.m. — while supplies last and on a first-come, first-served basis — touting the film’s digital release July 12 and on Blu-ray and DVD July 19. —Jevon Phillips


When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. July 21 to July 24
Where: Gaslamp Diagonal, adjacent to the Omni San Diego Hotel, 675 L St.
Price: Free

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Play video games outside at the Petco Park Interactive Zone

The not-so-secret Comic-Con experience open to the public takes place in the parking lot across the street at the Petco Park Interactive Zone. The best part about this event — besides that it’s free — is that it takes place outdoors, so those who are still understandably wary of indoor crowds can feel a bit more at ease. The Nintendo Switch Road Trip will be making a stop in the space this year, bringing along the newest version of the Switch console as well as games like “Nintendo Switch Sports,” “Kirby and the Forgotten Land” and “Mario Strikers: Battle League” for guests to play (advanced registration is recommended). There will also be Nintendo swag and photo opportunities. If video games are not your thing, you can also check out the offerings of food trucks like the Star Trek Wrath of P’Khan Coolhaus ice cream truck and the Hello Kitty Cafe Truck. —Tracy Brown

When: July 21 through 24, hours vary but most open at 10 a.m.
Where: Petco Park Interactive Zone, 100 Park Blvd.
Price: Free to attend, purchase prices will vary

Dance the night away to celebrate ‘Tron’s’ 40th birthday

Disneyland fans haven’t forgotten: For a moment in the early 2010s, a section of Disney California was transformed into one of the coolest dance parties in SoCal. Sure, it was to hype the film “Tron: Legacy,” but the azure neon glow that welcomed guests to ElecTRONica led to a dance music wonderland with a nerdy-cool bent (glowing drinks! vintage video games!). For one night in San Diego, the ElecTRONica atmosphere will live again, as Disney’s fan club D23 will host a dance party at the House of Blues to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original video game-obsessed film. While there’s no word on whether the retro games will make an appearance, expect a light-up grid and music from Japanese electronic artist Qrion and Jason Bentley, the longtime KCRW personality who served as a producer on the “Tron: Legacy” soundtrack. —Todd Martens

When: 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. July 22
Where: House of Blues, 1055 Fifth Ave.
Price: $45 to $65, not including service fees. Requires a free D23 membership.