Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Chik Solo's San Diego Comic Con Adventure, part 1

Greetings!

We have returned home from SDCC.  What an experience!  We managed to do almost everything on our list, bought some toys and games and art, and just had an all-around great time.

We arrived late Monday night.  All of our flights were running late.  We left for the airport at 9:00 am Eastern Time and didn't get to our hotel until 11:30 pm Pacific Time.  Once we had dropped off our luggage we headed straight to the In-N-Out near our hotel for a very late dinner.  Mmmmm Double-Doubles...

Tuesday we slept late, then spent the rest of the day at the zoo.  I was a little put off at the price of the adult single-day passes - the Columbus Zoo is half the price, and my tiny local zoo participates in a program that offers discounts to members of a network of zoos.  On top of that, all the extra stuff - like the guided bus tour, sky tram, and 3-D experiences - that were included in the price of the ticket?  We didn't use those.  The line for the bus was insanely long, my boyfriend is wary of heights and rides like the sky tram, and just walking around looking at the animals completely filled our day.  It would have been nice to buy a discounted ticket that didn't include all that extra stuff, but the zoo is so large and very well run, that I can see why the price is so high relative to other zoos.  I was very impressed that they had employees stationed near major exhibits to answer questions about the animals.  Though the panda exhibit was kind of lame... I'm so glad we opted to wait and go back for that at the end of the day instead of waiting 45+ minutes in the line just to see the pandas sleeping with their backs to us...

After we had exhausted ourselves at the zoo, we hopped back in our rental and made our way to a beach.  My boyfriend had never seen the Pacific.  Once we found a parking space, we took off our shoes and walked in the waves.  A sunset walk on a beach?  How delightfully cliche!

We also stopped by a Target to pick up snacks for our SDCC survival bags.  Trail mix, Goldfish crackers, cereal bars, beef jerky, and apples!  We divided the snacks into portions for each day using plastic baggies, and each morning we just grabbed that day's bags and stuffed them into our backpacks.  Though we over-bought... we only ate about half of everything, except the cereal bars, which we ate for breakfast each morning.

Wednesday we again slept late - it was the last day we could sleep in before the Con started!  We spent the first part of the day switching to our Con hotel and returning our rental car.  Last year my boyfriend spent a lot of time traveling for work, almost the entire summer, and I went on a week-long trip to Disney World with my sister, so we racked up a LOT of Marriott Rewards points and two free reward nights.  Enough that we actually did not pay for our hotel during this Comic Con trip!

We booked our stay during the convention back in March right after we purchased our badges, using our Marriott points to stay at the Marriott in Mission Valley for free.  At the time we weren't sure how many nights we would need bookending the convention, so we left that until we had booked our flights.  We had two free nights that expired in June, and once we had booked our flights and knew that we needed two more nights in the hotel, we called Marriott and asked if they would extend the expiration on those free nights by a month.  They said yes, but in the time between when we used the points to book our stay in Mission Valley and when we went to finished planning our stay that hotel had gone up a class and we could no longer apply our free nights to it!  They told us that because we had booked with our points before then, that stay would be honored and free, but we would have to stay at another hotel if we wanted to use the free nights on this trip.  Because of this, we ended up spending the first two nights of our trip at a different hotel, closer to the airport.

Once we were settled at the hotel in Mission Valley, we got some lunch and decided to explore.  Badges would be available for pick up at the Town and Country resort starting at 3:00 pm, and because we had a couple of hours to kill before then and we could see the sign to that resort from our own hotel, we decided to see how far it would be to walk there.  It was only a few minutes walk away!  And there were people with WB swag bags already!  Instead of waiting for 3:00 pm, we headed straight to the resort and walked into the registration area - no wait, no line!  We collected our badges, got our guide books and swag bags, and walked back to our hotel to relax before heading into the Gaslamp on the Con courtesy shuttle that stopped right outside our hotel.

The swag bag I received was a Constantine bag.  Meh.  I would have been happy with any of the DC bags - the Flash or Arrow TV show bags, the various Batman bags, Teen Titans.  But whatever, I got a swag bag which is way better than no swag bag!  My boyfriend got the Batman DC Comic bag, and with this being Batman's 75th anniversary, I'm happy one of us got a Batman bag of some kind.

After returning to the hotel, we just relaxed for an hour and finalized our schedule.  For the week before the Con I had been planning, making spreadsheets and lists, trying to figure out how we could see as many of the things we wanted to and maximize our chances of getting into panels.  My boyfriend, however, resisted all of my requests to discuss the schedule, and this was the first time I was able to make him sit down and agree to our plans.

At about 4:30 pm we went to wait for the shuttle to the Convention Center.  Traffic on the freeway was thick, but we finally arrived and were dropped off near the outside interactive zone (yay Red Line!).  We followed the crowd up and over the bridge near the Hilton, and walked past the Convention Center where Preview Night was starting.  After crossing the train tracks, we entered the Gaslamp.  We started by exploring, locating the entrance to NerdHQ at Petco Park, the Omni Hotel where the Game of Thrones Survive the Realm experience would be held, and Jolt'n Joes, where Geek & Sundry would host their events.  And we just walked, looking at everything - the early cosplayers, the people working for different TV shows and companies, handing out free swag, the decorations in the stores and on the buildings, and the huge mass of people that had come out for Comic Con.

This is only half of what we were given.

We ran into a group of people handing out buttons for the new "Dig" TV show on USA Network.  I made the mistake of telling them I was actually an archaeologist, because they gave me so many packages of buttons for my archaeology friends back home.  We had thought to leave them in places around the Convention Center, but I think we ultimately forgot and left half of them in the hotel...  That was the only free swag we picked up that night.  I kept seeing people with the large red foam Sharknado chainsaws, but I never looked up where those were coming from.

We eventually stopped for dinner.  We live in New York, and the Mexican restaurants in our city kind of suck, so we were craving some good Mexican food.  We settled on a restaurant called La Fiesta.  I had the mole chicken, my boyfriend has the enchiladas with suiza sauce.  It was very good!

We had planned on going to the Unofficial SDCC Blog's "Under the SDCC Party" and the restaurant we had dinner at was actually right next door, but we were tired and it was still an hour until the party, so after dinner we just walked around some more, eventually going back to the Convention Center.  People were walking around carrying giant Hasbro bags - clearly they had success at Preview Night!  There was a line of campers waiting for the next day's Hall H panels, but it was short compared to the number of people who would be camping out the following nights.

After returning to our hotel on the shuttle, we packed our backpacks for the following day and went to bed.  Comic Con was just starting and we wanted to be ready for it!

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