Didn’t get a badge to San Diego Comic Con? That’s okay, neither did I. However, thanks to the growth of the convention in the last few years people actually don’t need a pass to buckle down and enjoy a good portion of what the convention has to offer.

As interest has risen, the convention has expanded, and now even those without passes can experience some of the insane geekery that happens during SDCC weekend. From studios setting up in the historic and beautiful Gaslamp District to regular touristy things, San Diego has a lot to offer while the convention is happening.

The Gaslamp District

San Diego is known for its downtown. The skyline, the waterfront, and the neighborhoods packed full of amazing food all add to the charm and excitement that is San Diego, California. The Convention Center is off of the waterfront in the heart of downtown San Diego and that makes everything pretty easily accessible.

While it might drive the locals crazy, it brings in tourism, and there’s something to be said for the droves of people coming into the city to experience a small part of San Diego Comic Con and the city itself. The Gaslamp District is what the main downtown area in San Diego is called, and it begins right across from the convention center.

This is going to be the highlight for anyone who doesn’t have passes but is looking to take part in the convention. Studios who didn’t necessarily want to claim space in the convention set up right across from it to market whatever new series, video game, or product that could benefit from the SDCC buzz. Swag flies around left and right and no one is able to walk even half a block without having a flier or some sort of free merchandise shoved into their hands. There are games to play, exhibits to experience, and no doubt celebrities lurking within the intense crowds of people just waiting for fans to notice them.

There’s a ton of stuff happening this year in the Gaslamp District that doesn’t require a pass. Game of Thrones: Experience the Realm, the Walking Dead Escape, and more parties than anyone could shake a stick at are just a small sampling of what the Gaslamp District can offer both those who have badges and those who don’t.

A number of shows, like Conan and Nerdist will also be offering tickets for special SDCC episodes. All in all, even if you never step foot into the convention center, odds are you’ll be able to find something to occupy your time in the Gaslamp District.

The best resource for figuring out what’s happening around the convention is going to be the Friends of CCI forums.

The USS Midway
The USS Midway

Check out the Waterfront

The San Diego waterfront, all along North Harbor Drive, is a wonderfully fun place to hang out as a tourist. If you need a break from the convention, or if you’re just wanting to enjoy some of what San Diego has to offer outside of the Gaslamp District, then the waterfront is going to be for you!

You can check out an old aircraft carrier, the USS Midway or the beautiful Star of India. Or, if you want to shop, you can check out Seaport Village. There are also a number of parks to enjoy that can provide a place to cool off during a hot day. If you’re hungry, finding food shouldn’t be an issue in the least as there are more restaurants than any one person could ever want.

Experience San Diego’s History

San Diego is as historical as it is beautiful, and there are a number of interior parks and museums to visit. Balboa Park is an area that supports the exploration of history, cultural diversity, and the arts.

Along the same vein, visitors can check out the San Diego Zoo or the San Diego Wild Animal Park and get close and personal with a variety of animals. If sea creatures are more your deal, then Sea World or the Birch Aquarium can meet that need. The number of attractions and learning experiences San Diego has to offer are nearly endless and will no doubt leave you ready to plan your next jaunt into this beautiful city.

La Jolla Shores
La Jolla Shores

Hang out on the Beach

Finally, the last thing those who aren’t able to attend the convention can do is check out the beautiful Southern California beaches. My personal favorite is La Jolla Shores but Mission Beach and a number of others can hit the spot, too. The Golden Coast is the best place to spread out a towel and lounge in the sun with the roar of the ocean in the background.

Since it will be the middle of July, you can also have some fun splashing around in the waves. If none of that appeals to you, then perhaps sitting at a nearby café and people watching will fulfill your need to get away from downtown and take a break from the convention madness. Regardless, the beaches are worth seeing at least once during your trip and are a great place to unwind and relax.

Enjoy San Diego!

Above all else, whatever you do, ENJOY SAN DIEGO! It is a gorgeous, bustling city brimming with history, culture, and fun. Even if you weren’t able to score a SDCC badge, you can still find time to experience the city and everything that goes on around the convention.

Check out the Gaslamp District to have your nerd-needs fulfilled and benefit from the fact the convention has far outgrown the space allotted to it. Go cool off by the waterfront and enjoy the number of historical and just downright fun experiences that overlook the water. Experience a bit of San Diego’s history and check out one of the many museums or historical sites the city has to offer. Finally, take an hour and enjoy the warm sand beneath your toes at one of the many beaches San Diego has to offer.

All in all, enjoy yourself! You deserve it.

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